U.S. funding would devastate struggling Iranian civil society organizations
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Among the array of U.S. diplomatic, military and financial tools for influencing Iran, democracy promotion is hardly the most consequential. But in its philosophy and implementation, the initiative is emblematic of the misconceptions and fallacies that have undermined the broader American effort to pressure Iran into abandoning its rogue behavior and to persuade its leadership to adopt a more constructive course. The historical baggage associated with any direct American role in Iranian civil society, prompted a crescendo of objections from a range of prominent Iranian activists and dissidents. Only weeks after Rice's $75 million request, renowned Iranian human-rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani told the Washington Post that the funding would have a "negative effect", and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi described the initiative as "very dangerous to society." Noted dissident Mehrangiz Kar predicted with hard-gained prescience that the U.S. funding "will destroy these newly developed [civil-society] organizations like a storm." These admonitions were echoed by dissident and hunger-striker Akbar Ganji upon his March 2006 release from nearly six years in prison. "Political change in Iran is necessary, but it must not be achieved by foreign intervention", he declared.