The Bush administration's $75 million effort to promote democracy in Iran over the long run is likely to backfire, stiffening the resolve of the Islamic regime to hold on to power and landing democratic-minded activists in jail, a senior European diplomat tells U.S. News.
In fact, says the official, who follows Iranian affairs, many would-be antiregime activists are now recoiling from getting involved with any group or meeting that could be seen as tainted by the influence of U.S. money.
"Nobody wants to be associated with that. It's extremely dangerous," says the official, adding, "It's the kiss of death." Speaking only on background, the official said channeling funds to bolster civil society through recognized international agencies, such as UNESCO, was more effective and avoided the taint of American interference. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have strongly backed the program, and Bush has openly expressed his hope for a future Iranian government that, in his view, better serves the Iranian people.
Still, according to the European diplomat, the U.S. effort, even if well intentioned, is hardening the government's hard line on the nuclear and terrorism issues, making any comprehensive resolution more remote.