Cablegate: Iran: Tehran Show Trial Again Cites Usg Exchange Progams As

DE RUEHDIR #0349/01 2370814
P R 250814Z AUG 09



E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/25/2019


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CLASSIFIED BY: Alan Eyre, Director, Iran Regional Presence
Office, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: The inclusion of USG public diplomacy programs
and IRPO in a recent indictment read during the second show
trial in Tehran is not a new allegation of US plotting for the
overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Such claims have been made
before, most recently in January, and contain many accurate
details about the programs, but leap wildly to conclusions of
intrigue and far-ranging conspiracies. IRIG responses to our
exchange programs have varied, from tacit acceptance to
obstruction to arrests and intimidation of participants. In the
current climate, the inclusion of US programming in a laundry
list of the "usual suspects" is not surprising, but it may
reflect heightened suspicions of an embattled leadership. With
the situation in Iran so unsettled, we believe it would be
prudent for IRPO to delay any pending exchange programs until
there are clearer indications of IRIG intentions toward the
programs and the participants. End Summary.

2. (C) On August 15, Iran's Revolutionary Court held the second
trial of defendants arrested following street protests over the
results of the presidential election. Prosecutors read a
22-page indictment that described a far-flung conspiracy among
domestic opposition groups and foreign governments. Included in
the indictment were direct references to the USG, the Iran
Regional Presence Office and its officers, VOA, and several NGOs
that have worked with the Department. (Note: A copy has been
e-mailed to NEA/IR.)

Round up the Usual Suspects


3. (C) The indictment alleged, among other things, that Western
powers had sought soft overthrow in the guise of public
diplomacy because wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in conjunction
with Iran's military power had made the military overthrow of
the IRIG impossible. Public diplomacy and by extension "soft
overthrow" sought to influence attitudes of the Iranian public
toward their government and impose Western values to bring down
the IRIG. Although the indictment accurately described public
diplomacy and many of its functions, prosecutors went further in
alleging that the aims of the US public diplomacy program was to
create and broaden rifts between the people and IRIG, to
pressure the Iranian government to change its behavior and to
portray America "as Iran's only savior." Participants in US
programs were also intended as sources of information, analyses
and intelligence about Iran, according to the indictment.
(Note: The indictment also devoted considerable attention to
the British Council, the British Embassy in Tehran and BBC
Persian, even more than was directed at us.)

4. (C) The indictment specifically mentioned IRPO, two previous
IRPO directors and IRPO's current deputy director. IRPO is
"modeled on the Riga [station]" which was set up to engineer the
collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the indictment, and
its goals in Dubai are to attract the Iranian elite and convince
them to act against the interests of the Islamic Republic. In a
description of the International Visitor Leadership Program
(IVLP) run by IRPO, which included details on visa processing
and logistical arrangements, the indictment noted that
participants had returned "impressed" by their trips to the US
and often volunteered to help with future exchange groups.
Iranian authorities also seemed to have conflated public
diplomacy programs with separate democracy programming in
describing US regime overthrow efforts and referred to other
Iran Watcher posts' in London, Baku and Istanbul as being
involved in these programs. Additionally, Iranian authorities
cited VOA, the Department's Digitial Outreach Team, as well as
NGO's Meridian House International, the Aspen Institute and
Freedom House as having some part in trying to undermine the
Islamic Republic.

5. (C) The IRIG has accused IRPO of being the instrument of
regime change before. Semi-official and IRGC-affiliated Fars
News published an interview with an unnamed counterintelligence
official in January that was nearly identical to the details in
the indictment. These details have most likely been gleaned
IVLP participants, who have either provided them in seeking
permission from their employers to participate, and we believe

DUBAI 00000349 002.2 OF 003

that often this information is relayed to various security
agencies, or during interviews conducted by security officers in
Iran upon their return.

6. (C) This latest accusation also follows IRIG arrests of AIDS
researchers, Arash and Kamiyar Alaei, documentary filmmaker
Mohammad Ehseni, and Sylva Hartounian, an employee of IREX, in
2008. Arash Alaei and Ehseni were alumni of IRPO IVLPs, while
Hartounian was working on a maternal and child health exchange.
Another IVLP participant was subsequently harassed so much by
Iranian intelligence that she fled the country, as she was no
longer able to lead a normal life. Another former IVLP
participant fled Iran, and was subsequently resettled in the US,
after learning he was targeted for arrest. Other participants
have had their passports seized and were temporarily banned from
traveling outside Iran. During fall 2008, Iranian authorities
obstructed four IVLP programs by intimidating or threatening
participants so that they withdrew from the programs (reftel).

A Change in Attitude


7. (C) In May, however, we heard from IVLP participants and
separately through a contact with access to IRIG sources that
the IRIG had no opposition to these programs. Arriving in
Dubai to receive their visas, participants in three programs
conducted over the summer told us that they had experienced no
trouble or harassment from the IRIG and were enthusiastic over
the possibility of developing working relationships with their
American counterparts. These programs proceeded without
problems, even during the election and its aftermath, except two
folk musicians sought asylum in the US rather than return to



8. (C) The inclusion of our IVLP programs and IRPO in the
indictment are supporting pieces of the IRIG's larger objective
of presenting election unrest as a product of a sweeping
conspiracy. They are convenient "evidence" of a US bent on
"velvet revolution," and some elements within the IRIG -- most
likely in the IRGC -- believe in such a plot, or see the
utility in using them to foster such belief. At a minimum their
inclusion serves as a warning to reformists and others who would
be more open to better relations with the US at a time when the
regime is under pressure from within. At the same time, there
are factions within the IRIG who understand the true nature of
these exchange programs. We have heard that there are those
within the IRIG, specifically in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and even the
Ministry of Intelligence and Security, who have been supportive
of these programs or at least had no objection to them in the
past. Our success in bringing nearly 250 Iranians to the US,
including those who traveled this summer during the election,
indicates that there have been conscious decisions by the IRIG
to allow the programs to go forward, perhaps as a sign of
Iranian interest in better relations. It appears, however,
that after the election those who see them as a threat are again
dictating the Iranian response.

9. (C) By the Iranians' own admission in the indictment, these
exchange programs have been successful in their stated goals,
and we believe public and cultural diplomacy continue to provide
opportunities for engaging the Iranian people and even some
segments of the IRIG. In the event relations improve in the
future, these activities can be one of the most immediate ways
we could advance a bilateral relationship.

10. (C) Amid the current raised suspicions and flux within the
IRIG, however, we should be cautious in proceeding with further
exchanges out of concern for the safety of the participants.
There are real risks involved to anyone thought to be serving

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USG interests, and we think that right now, the risks have risen
substantially in the current atmosphere. With the situation in
Iran so unsettled, we believe it would be prudent to delay any
pending IVLP exchange programs until there are clearer
indications of IRIG intentions toward them. (NOTE: To
insulate our public diplomacy programs and maintain IRPO's low
profile, IRPO has had no involvement in civil society and
democracy programs run by the Department. Our recommendation
only extends to IVLP exchange programs.)

© Scoop Media

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