All hail Joe Lieberman! He has denounced his Democratic Senate colleagues for quietly reducing–by two-thirds!–the funding to support democracy in Iran.
The administration had famously asked for $75 million, but Senator Joe Lieberman told Radio Farda (our Farsi-language facility to Iran) that a Senate appropriations subcommittee had reduced that request to $25 million.
Lieberman, the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and a former Democratic vice-presidential candidate, said he, along with colleagues from both political parties, would submit a recommendation to the Senate floor in the next few days to restore the original figure.
“I was extremely upset when the committee came in with $25 million,” Lieberman said. “Part of their argument is that money from America is dangerous for Iranian dissidents or civil society groups to accept. But most of this is given through third parties in any case and my argument is, ‘Let the Iranian groups themselves decide.’”
There is good news here. First, Lieberman’s courage and character. Second, that Farda put him on the air (in recent years, Farda and the VOA’s Farsi Service have been models of fecklessness, preferring voices of accommodation to the mullahs to those critical of the Islamic Republic). The bad news is that we had to hear of this treachery from the Appropriations Committee from a lone voice on a foreign-language radio transmission. You’d think the State Department would be up in arms at this sabotage of its program. You’d think the White House would be annoyed, too. But no. It takes a Senator.
And of course, if Senators Clinton and Obama are serious about their recent anti-Iranian rhetoric, they’ll put our money back into the democracy program, and then insist it be spent seriously, supporting Iranians instead of the current practice of funneling it to organizations that know as much about Iran as I do about Sanskrit.