Monitoring Bush: aid for Iranian democrats

USA Today reports:

For the first time in a quarter-century of estrangement from Iran, the Bush administration is openly preparing to spend government funds in that country to promote democracy.

Congress has appropriated $3 million, and the State Department is inviting proposals from “educational institutions, humanitarian groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals inside Iran to support the advancement of democracy and human rights,” according to an announcement posted Friday on the Web site of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Although the amount is small — and Iran’s government may try to bar Iranians from accepting funds — the move is a significant departure for the United States, which by policy and treaty has not publicly sought to funnel money into Iran for such a purpose in 25 years.

Of course Iran’s ambassador to the UN denounced it as interference in the country’s internal affairs. And there’s the question of whether this kind of aid– by providing an easy propaganda target for the ruling regime– hinders rather than advances the prospects for democratic change. My impression is that among the Iranian people (as opposed to their rulers), the US is quite popular.

At least it’s a sign that the Bush administration is putting a bit of money where its mouth is.

Marcus adds: Iran threatens to sue the USA in “a special court”.