Fukuyama wrote in 2007 that “Ahmadinejad may be the new Hitler”, but that the use of military force against Iran “looks very unappealing”, and that airstrikes “would not result in regime change”, which was “the only long-term means of stopping” Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The NIAC similarly opposes the use of military force against Iran, and instead “supports the idea of resolving the problems between the US and Iran through dialogue in order to avoid war.”
Following the Iranian election and subsequent violence, NIAC issued a statement saying that “The only plausible way to end the violence is for new elections to be held with independent monitors ensuring its fairness.”
Last November, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad-Javad Zarif charged the U.S. with attempting to orchestrate a “velvet revolution” in Iran. One of the means by which this was being carried out, he said, was by means of workshops. “American officials have been inviting Iranian figures to so-called scientific seminars over the past few years”, he said. “However, when the Iranians attend these sessions, they realize they have gathered to discuss measures to topple the Iranian government”.
The Office of Iranian Affairs
In February, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requested emergency funding from Congress to the amount of $75 million, on top of a previously allocated $10 million, “to mount the biggest ever propaganda campaign against the Tehran government”, in the words of The Guardian. The money “would be used to broadcast US radio and television programmes into Iran, help pay for Iranians to study in America and support pro-democracy groups inside the country.” The propaganda effort would include “extending the government-run Voice of America’s Farsi service from a few hours a day to round-the-clock coverage.” In announcing the request, Rice said the U.S. “will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country.”
The Christian Science Monitor reported candidly on the “implicit goal” of the requested funds as being “regime change from within”, and similarly noted that “The money will go toward boosting broadcasts in Farsi to Iran, support for opposition groups, and student exchanges.”
A former specialist on the Middle East from the National Security Council, Raymond Tanter suggested the U.S. could work with an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK). “If we are serious about working with groups from within,” he said, “it will have to be with the MEK, because there’s no other opposition force the regime cares about.”
Mehdi Marand, a spokesman for the Council for Democratic Change in Iran, similarly said that some in the Congress were ready to remove the MEK from the terrorist list. “If the US really wants to help the democratic forces inside Iran,” he said, “the only way is to remove restrictions from the opposition.”
The problem is that the MEK is on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Based in Iraq, the group came under the sway of the U.S. after the 2003 invasion that overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein.
According to former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was among a few lone voices pointing out prior to the invasion of Iraq that there was no credible evidence the country still possessed weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. was already working with the MEK. Well prior, in 2005, Ritter wrote that the Bush administration had authorized a number of covert operations inside Iran. “The most visible of these”, he wrote, “is the CIA-backed actions recently undertaken by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein’s dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.” The MEK’s CIA-backed operations within Iran included “terror bombings”, Ritter charged.
A State Department cable unclassified in March, 2006 and entitled “Recruiting the Next Generation of Iran Experts” began by asserting that “Effectively addressing the Iran challenge ranks as one of the highest foreign policy priorities for our Government over the next decade.” The document outlines a plan developed under then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to “promote freedom and demoncracy [sic] in Iran.”
To this end, the State Department created the Office of Iranian Affairs (OIA) under the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which would “reach out to the Iranian people” and bring more Iran experts into the Foreign Service and more Persian-speaking officers into the OIA, the Intelligence and Research Bureau (INR), and other branches of the State Department. Part of the “outreach” effort would be based in Dubai, a “natural location” for a regional office due to its “proximity to Iran and access to an Iranian diaspora”.
The Dubai office would be modeled on the listening station in the Latvian capital of Riga, according to the document, which was where the U.S. had a listening station to gather information on the Soviet Union during the 1920s (George Kennan was at one time stationed there). The Iranian media has referred to the station as the “regime-change office.” A State Department official based in Dubai said the office’s purpose “is to get a sense of what’s going on in Iran. It is not some recruiting office and is not organizing the next revolution in Iran.”
But the State Department cable also stated that among responsibilities of the Deputy Director of the Dubai station would be to seek “ways to use USG programs and funding to support Iranian political and civic organizations” and “to alert Washington on [the] need to issue statements on behalf of Iranian dissidents.”
The OIA would also create an International Relations Officer Generalist (IROG) position in Istanbul to advance “U.S. policy objectives with the Iranian [expatriate] community” in Turkey and Israel. A similar position would be created for the same purpose in Frankfurt, London, and Baku.
In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times critical of the Bush administration’s designs on Iran, Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Ray Takeyh, also a senior fellow at the CFR, observed that the objective was “not just to contain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions but also to topple the Iranian government.” Their main criticism with the new “strategy for regime change” is that it was likely to “backfire and only strengthen Tehran’s hard-liners” by giving them cause to decry “U.S. ‘interference’” and thus lending them political leverage to implement a crackdown on dissidents.
When asked whether the OIA was intended to promote regime change, a State Department senior official told CNN it was “to facilitate a change in Iranian policies and actions” before acknowledging, “Yes, one of the things we want to develop is a government that reflects the desires of the people, but that is a process for the Iranians.”
Then US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton acknowledged in October 2006 that regime change was the “ultimate objective” of the U.S. sanctions policy, and adding that it “puts pressure on them internally” and “helps democratic forces” within the country and amongst the Iranian diaspora.
Administration officials told the New York Times that then Vice President Dick Cheney was promoting the “drive to bring Iranian scholars and students to America, blanket the country with radio and television broadcasts and support Iranian political dissidents.” The program was to be “overseen by Elizabeth Cheney, a principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, who is also the vice president’s daughter.”