The National Interest

Fear and Loathing in Tehran

Like mom and apple pie, supporting democracy in Iran has universal appeal in U.S. politics. So it is predictable that the February 2006 surprise request by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for $75 million in supplemental funding to support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people won ready bipartisan acclaim and the sort of unquestioningly adulatory U.S. media coverage that was all too rare for an administration mired in Iraq and increasingly on the defensive at home. The dramatic new initiative found favor with American pundits and policymakers because it offered something for everyone. It represented a low-cost, feel-good means of leveraging palpable dissatisfaction among Iran's young population and intensifying pressure on the regime—all while bolstering the administration's bona fides on its much-hyped "Freedom Agenda" and placating advocates of more aggressive action toward Tehran.