THEY TRIED TO WARN US. Time's Scott Macleod has an excellent round-up on how pro-democracy activists in the U.S. and Iran tried to warn the U.S. State Department that its new funding for Iranian civil society groups was going to hurt their efforts:

The Bush Administration had trumpeted its $61.1 million democracy program, including Farsi-language broadcasts into Iran, education and cultural exchanges and $20 million worth of support for "civil society, human rights, democratic reform and related outreach" as an important effort. However, sources tell TIME that several key Iranian reformers had repeatedly warned U.S. officials through back channels that the pro-democracy program was bound to expose them as vulnerable targets for a government crackdown whether they took Washington's funds or not.

Iranian civil rights activists contacted by TIME say that the cases against the Iranian-Americans have fostered the most repressive atmosphere inside Iran in years, making democracy advocates terrified to work or even speak on the telephone....

TIME's sources, who do not want to be identified for fear of retribution, say that they repeatedly warned about the negative consequences in informal talks that have been taking place for several years between figures in the U.S. and Iran who are close to their respective governments. Similar warnings were delivered to U.S. officials by others, including Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. "We had talks with the State Department and with lawmakers," Parsi told TIME. "We pointed out the dangers. Our advice was not taken into consideration. Things have turned out worse than we expected." Parsi says that, in the past, individual democracy activists have been arrested without a pretext, but that the Bush Administration's program gave the regime an opportunity to go after as many as 10,000 non-government organizations and their memberships.

The reverse-Midas touch of this administration is really a thing to behold.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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