- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why the reticence?

An ex-State Department official ridiculed his former colleagues and the Bush White House for failing to display aggressive support for Iranians risking their lives to protest the theocracy as it pursues nuclear weapons and drives the country into a financial crisis.

J. Scott Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, criticized the “hand-wringers” in Washington who fear aggravating the Iranian government by supporting pro-democracy reformers. He also faulted members of the U.S. Senate who tried to cut $75 million from funds for the Iranian opposition. Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, led the effort to restore money to the 2008 budget.

“At home, trouble is brewing for [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad,” Mr. Carpenter wrote in an analysis of the visit of the Iranian president to the United Nations last week.

“Despite record-high oil prices, the ayatollahs who really run the show have so mismanaged their economy that they have been forced to import gasoline at huge cost. The result has been soaring inflation, which has most hurt the masses that the populist president said he was elected to help.”

Inflation reached 15.4 percent in September, a steep jump from the 12.6 percent rate in April.

“Labor strikes have swept the country; popular unrest is growing,” said Mr. Carpenter, now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Ahmadinejad has tried using genocidal threats against Israel to distract attention from a brutal crackdown he has launched against his many critics who thirst for change — but the Iranian people, by and large, are too smart to buy it.”

He criticized the Bush administration for a “remarkably muted” response to the “detentions, beatings and arrests.”

“Nearly 10 weeks have gone by since the charismatic labor leader Mansour Osanlou was arrested — with complete silence coming from” the State Department and White House, he said.

“Why the reticence?” he asked. “After all, if sanctions [over the nuclear program] aren’t working and a military option is not a live option, at least for now, it stands to reason the administration would at least strongly back the idea of supporting Iranian democrats working for peaceful change.

“But no — even the ‘soft-power’ approach finds few adherents in Washington.”

Sandinista’s SAMs

The Nicaraguan leader who built up a Soviet-supplied arsenal of anti-aircraft missiles to fight the U.S.-backed resistance in the 1980s is now negotiating with the United States to destroy much of the remaining stockpile.

President Daniel Ortegathis week opened negotiations with U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. Richard Kidd, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, joined the ambassador in the talks.

Mr. Ortega proposed to destroy 651 of the remaining 1,051 SAM-7 missiles in exchange for U.S. medical supplies and aircraft to fight drug trafficking. Nicaragua amassed more than 2,000 of the shoulder-held surface-to-air missiles. Previous governments dismantled more than half of the stockpile.

The United States is eager to eliminate such weapons to prevent them from being smuggled to terrorists.

“I want to confirm my willingness to continue working toward peace,” Mr. Ortega said at the beginning of the two days of talks on Tuesday.

Mr. Ortega, who led the Marxist Sandinista government in the 1980s, returned to power in January after winning last year’s presidential election.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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