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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2558

Software and Hardliners: America’s use of ‘Software’ to understand ‘Internal Affairs’ of Iran

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 19 June (Asiantribune.com): The Obama administration is in an expedition tour to totally understand the unfolding history in Iran. The U.S. administration has adopted a ‘hands-off’ attitude toward Iran at a time thousand are daily demonstrating in Tehran in support of the leading opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi denouncing the alleged vote rigging that produced a landslide electoral victory at last week’s presidential poll to Ahmadinejad.The Obama administration seems to have learned a historic lesson in meddling in the internal affairs of Iran during Bush administration which produced adverse results leading the two nations to a confrontational path.

In 2003 when student-led protests in Iran ignited pro-reform uprising across the nation President Bush took a confrontational path hailing democracy calls of the students which resulted hardliners in Iran to accuse the U.S. of plotting the agitation campaign.

Obama has not left room for that in taking a ‘cautious’ attitude toward the developments in Iran.

Nevertheless, Tehran has started accusing the United States interfering in its internal affairs.

The Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents American interests in Tehran, in protest of what it called “meddling” by the United States into its affairs because of statements by American officials on Iran’s elections. It also summoned the Canadian charge’ d’affaires over the same accusations. Several other European ambassadors were summoned Tuesday.

The U.S. and Iran broke off diplomatic relations after the 1979 revolution. American begun to consolidate its hold on Iran after the CIA inspired a coup to oust the democratically elected Iranian president Mozadec in 1953 when his regime refused to bow down to America demands in relation to its oil industry. In the recent major speech by Obama in Cairo he referred to the overthrow of Mozadec as a mistake committed by the United States.

So this history and Bush administration’s adventure in providing funds to Non-Governmental Organizations and individuals within the territory of Iran to promote its ‘freedom agenda’ not only led to the two countries falling in to a confrontational path but also the hard-line Iranian regime to crack down and suppress dissident voices producing negative results for the Bush administration has made Obama and Clinton-led State Department to adopt a ‘hands-off’ attitude at this moment.

Despite the declared ‘Hands-Off” policy of the Obama administration the United States is using the advanced information technology and its leadership in software technology to closely monitor the ‘internal affairs’ and ‘internal developments’ unfolding in Iran not just to get a glimpse but to understand the overall situation in that country to formulate policy planks toward Iran.

The United States is not blind to the internal political situation in Iran to believe that a Moussavi administration, if any, would abandon the development of the nuclear enrichment program. In fact Moussavi supported when the nuclear enrichment program was undertaken long years ago, and his oldest daughter is currently a nuclear physicist who is very much involved in the enrichment program.

American Software used for US closer look on Iran

The New York Times on Wednesday, June 17 made an unusual revelation about a move taken by the Obama administration to get involved in the internal affairs of Iran using the highly advanced software technology from Washington.

The Times said: “The Obama administration says that it has tried to avoid words or deeds that could be portrayed as American meddling in Iran’s presidential election and its tumultuous aftermath.

“Yet on Monday (June 15) afternoon, a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed the social-networking site Twitter with an unusual request: delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran.”

The request, made to Twitter’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the United States government that an internet blogging service that did not exist for years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country.

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary for public affairs of the U.S. State department, a newly appointed Obama administration official, told The New York Times “This was just a call to say: ‘it appears Twitter is playing an important role at a crucial time in Iran Could you keep it going?”

The State Department interpreted the move as not an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Iran. Mr. Crowley says “This is completely consistent with our national policy. We are proponents of freedom of expression. Information should be used as a way to promote freedom of expression.”

The New York Times editorialized: “The episode demonstrates the extent to which the (Obama) administration views social networking as a new arrow in its diplomatic quiver. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talks regularly about the power of e-diplomacy, particularly in places where the mass media are suppressed.”

The State Department’s public affairs and strategic communication point man of the Obama administration Mr. Crowley says, “We watched closely how Moussavi has used Facebook to keep his supporters informed of his activities.”

Tehran has been buzzing with tweets, the posts of Twitter subscribers, sharing news on rallies, police crackdowns on protesters, and analysis of how the Obama White House is responding to the unfolding drama.

With Tehran authorities increasingly blocking text-messaging on cell phones, Twitter has become a handy alternative for information-hungry Iranians, and of course to authorities in Washington.

Iran has restricted foreign journalists from sending reports and photographs to their networks mostly based in Western countries. The CNN reporter had to leave Tehran last Monday just before his visa expired. Iran wouldn’t renew visas to foreign journalists. The Twitter and YouTube have become popular and available outlets to pass information with photographs and interviews to the Western world which is very closely observing the unfolding saga in Tehran. Iranian visas of many visiting journalists have expired making the corps of international reporters shrinking. The Iranian government is blocking certain Web sites and evicting foreign reporters.

Iran is too much of an important nation in the region for the United States to be in ignorance of developments and in what directions those developments are turning because Washington is in knee deep in Middle East.

It has been revealed now that the Chinese supporters of dissident movement Falun Gong based in the United States are contributing toward breaking the Cyberwall Iran endeavors to build to prevent the Western nations in general and the U.S. in particular from getting an understanding of the unfolding situation in that nation.

“We don’t have the heart to cut off the Iranians,” said Shiyu Zhou, a computer scientist and leader in the Chinese effort called the Global Internet Freedom Consortium.

Mr. Zhou said that the usage of the consortium’s software has tripled in the last week. It set a record on Wednesday (17) of more than 200 million hits from Iran representing more than 400,000 people.

Political analyst Nicholas D. Kristof says that if President Obama wants to support democratic movements on a shoestring, he should support an “internet freedom initiative” in Congress, which would include $50 million in the appropriations bill for these censorship-evasion technologies.

Mr. Zhou, the son of a Chinese army general, says that he and his colleagues began to develop such software after the 1999 Chinese government crackdown on Felun Gong (which the authorities denounced as a cult). One result was free software called Freegate, small enough to carry on a flash drive. It takes a surfer to an overseas server that changes I.P. addresses every second or so, too quickly for a government to block it, and then from there to a banned site.

Responding to the growing use of Freegate in Iran, the consortium introduced a Farsi-language version last July – and usage there skyrocketed, says Kristof.

About the move for the U.S. Congress to get the $50 million approved for the internet freedom initiative columnist Kristof says that for Mr. Obama, this would be a cheap and effective way of standing with Iranians while chipping away at the 21st-century walls of dictatorship.

The sophisticated and highly developed internet software is at present helping the Obama administration to get classified reports of what’s going on in Tehran, and in a way the United States is involved in the internal affairs of Iran to formulate its policy planks to make it easier for the Obama administration to deal with Tehran on many outstanding issues that have emerged in recent times in this volatile Middle East region.

It is a ‘Hands-Off’ but ‘Hands-In’ policy, but at this moment through the extensive use of the information technology and the software associated with it.

- Asian Tribune -

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