U.S. democracy promotion efforts have sparked repressive crackdown against civil society groups in Iran
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The near-term outcome of U.S. democracy promotion has been a fierce backlash from the regime and a corresponding freeze of Iranian civil society, curtailing Iranians' ability to engage with international organizations or accept external support. For Washington, the losses from the current wave of repression are more profound than the new scarcity of Iranian participants for Track II dialogues and other exchanges. By fostering debate and channeling political activism, Iran's semi-governmental organizations and intellectuals have played a critical role in advancing its political evolution. The ongoing intimidation of Iranian civil society and academia means that these parts of society, that had improbably managed to thrive within the fierce political and cultural restrictions of the Islamic Republic are now under siege. This leaves a void in Iran's political life and in the organizational and ideational development of any future opposition movement.There is some merit in the administration's argument that the current round of repression is a predictable outcome of Iran's dogmatic leadership, particularly Ahmadinejad and his appointees. Still, the U.S. tendency to evade its own responsibility in exacerbating the regime's paranoia and inciting a new crackdown bodes poorly for the prospect that the administration will exercise prudence in navigating the minefields of Iranian politics.