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Iran-US advisory group recommends technology-based policy

27 Mar 2010 16:158 Comments
15646-iranian-schoolgirls-chat-online-at-an-internet.jpgAn advisory task force comprising U.S., EU, and Iranian members was convened by The Century Foundation's Inside Iran project in collaboration with the National Security Network -- two policy research institutes among Washington's most liberal think tanks. Over the next year, the group will assemble recommendations for U.S. policy on Iran, focusing specifically on ways to empower the Iranian opposition inside the country.

The group's first meeting in February examined the Iranian government's tightening restrictions on information technology, designed to limit channels of communication, the free flow of information, free expression and activism among Iranian citizens.

The task force's Iranian participants (whose names have not been disclosed and have only been described as "prominent activists") emphasized the central role of information and communication technologies for Iran's opposition, widely viewed as a broad social movement calling for political reform in the face of the ongoing political crisis triggered by last year's controversial presidential election.

The Iranian advisors in the task force agreed that the United States "should embark on a clear policy to liberalize the power of digital technology," insideIRAN.org reported earlier this week. They meanwhile opposed tougher general sanctions and any moves that would provoke harsher crackdowns by the regime on civil society.

The force's initial set of policy recommendations sent to member of Congress include providing free, secure email access and Skype credits to Iranian internet users; funding web developers to partner in building Persian-language websites for civil society; sanctioning companies that assist the Iranian government in Internet filtering and surveillance; providing the use of satellites equipped with noise filtering and anti-jamming capability; facilitating the provision of high-speed satellite-based internet to increase Iranian public access to unfiltered, unmonitored Internet, and other measures.

"Such a policy focused on technology would be a much more effective strategy to eventually bring political reform to Iran, rather than broad-based U.S. sanctions that are likely to harm the Iranian people," said Inside Iran editor Geneive Abdo, who convened the group.

Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network, added: "There is a rich mine of options for dealing with Iran -- and a deep bench of talented people thinking hard about the problem -- beyond the sterile Washington debate on sanctions. If Iran policy is to succeed now where it has failed before, we need to listen to their voices."

How likely is it that Congress will incorporate these measures into a working policy?

"There is a significant appetite for this information. People in Washington understand that Iran policy is one of the most important discussions," said Joel Rubin, deputy director of the National Security Network. "Policy discourse is currently stuck in engagement versus military action, its very static. We convened the working group to come up with concrete recommendations on how to keep the Iranian people on the forefront for fixing the [Iran-U.S.] relationship. Responses are that this is invaluable and we need to hear more. It seems like it's striking a chord. They are very open to hearing creative and concrete ideas."

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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It has taken 31 years for U.S. to wise up and take some meaningful steps to support the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom.


But What took so long?

How many more Iranians have to be murdered, tortured, rapped and imprisoned without any charges brought against them for the world to realize it is truly time to do away with an insult to hummanity called the Barbaric Republic?

Niloofar / March 27, 2010 9:15 PM

Advocating a more creative policy of US assisted subversion from within? This is EXACTLY what the IRGC says it is combating. This validates the IRGC's efforts against a soft power threat.

No, instead, US policy should offer sincere engagement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, in a manner advocated by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.


Pirouz / March 28, 2010 7:21 AM

Why don't you add George Galloway to Leveretts.
They all receive hefty checks from the same bank.

Aryajet / March 28, 2010 7:54 PM


According to you we should refrain from doing anything that God forbid would inconvenience your beloved IRGC thugs. How thoughtful of you.

Leverett who? The time for foreigners making decisions about our country is over.

Disposal of the Barbaric Republic is the only logical way of engagement as demonstrated by the vast majority of the Iranian people. Goooodbye.

Niloofar / March 28, 2010 9:04 PM

@ Niloofar

And what would you like to replace the current government with? Based on the uncompromising and bullheaded tone of your ramblings on TB, I would have to guess you are a monarchist. So that means you want the CIA/AIPAC-linked Reza Pahlavi to take his "rightful place" as dictator; because in the 21st century, monarchies are the most efficient and modern form of government.

Iran would benefit greatly from some proper reforms to personal freedoms, foreign/economic policy etc which most Iranians want. But your statement that the world needs to "realize it is truly time to do away with an insult to hummanity(sic) called the Barbaric Republic" sounds like a thinly veiled advocation for Western-backed regime change. Is invasion and subjugation of Iran as a nation really a fair price to pay to achieve your preferred form of dictatorship?

The ultra-radicals such as the MKO & monarchists are precicely the reason that the reform movement has faced so much adversity in achieving its goals. It is these fringe groups piggy-backing the Greens who give the principlists an excuse to label the entire movement as a foreign conspiracy. The long hard road towards democracy in Iran started in 1979. As much as we can disagree with the policies of the Islamic Republic, it is still an independent/self-sufficient government and not a dictatorship receiving orders from a foreign power. What Iran needs is meaningful reform to truly become a full-fledged republic. The old generation of radicals (like the monarchists) were kicked out and marginalized by a new generation that knew it didn't want dictatorship but didn't know exactly how to replace it. The same is happening again and the new generation of today has greater hindsight. Just as the monarchy and its small group of supporters were relegated to the annals of history by revolution, the same will happen to the principlists as a result of reform.

Mirza Kuchak / March 28, 2010 9:11 PM

Dear Mirza Kuchak,

Thank you for your foresight.

I am a proud CIA/AIPAC, Radical, oh sorry I meant ultra-radical Monarchist dictator.

You are a proud independent/self-sufficient generation with hindsight. My congrats.

Greens? What Greens?

Allow me to repeat myself and clarify my position once more so there will be no doubt as to where I stand in life and I am sure I am younger than a lot of people here.

How many more Iranians have to be murdered, tortured, rapped and imprisoned without any charges brought against them for the world to realize it is truly time to do away with an insult to humanity called the Barbaric Republic?

Does that make me a CIA/AIPAC Radical, sorry I keep forgetting, ultra radical Monarchist dictator? I am proud of it.

Be assured the likes of me will never, never rest until this insult to humanity is removed from our sacred soil for a system of Iranian people's choosing based on a free referendum.

One word of advice, before we are a domocratic Republic or a Monarchy or any other, we need be free from an insult to humanity called the Barbaric Republic. Sweet Green dreams dear.

Today it is the Iranian woman that wears the pants in our country and I am proud of it. Stay tuned, it will be done.

Love you too my fellow countryman.

Niloofar / March 28, 2010 11:21 PM

Unfortunately the United States continues to have an interventionalist foreign policy, a colonilist attitude in a post colonialist era. This accounts for this countries continued set backs both in foreign policy and in domestic economic policy. A global view that is not only bankrupting this nation, but it is bring us disrepute the world over.
Mr. Obama has changed nothing except putting a smile on the policies of George Bush. Consequently, we can only expect failure to be repeated.

Pouya / April 1, 2010 10:38 AM

Some great comments going back and forth.

Anyone with a solution? Or even anything close to it?

How can we move from analysis paralysis to what needs to be done to create a free progressive Iranian/Persian Republic?


Any ideas? Any thoughts?

Jamal / April 26, 2010 1:19 AM