March 15, 2006

Regime Change 101.

Had the class not have been so hush-hush, that's the name that might have appeared on the syllabus of a class for potential regime changers conducted last year in Dubai. Asia Times has a very interesting article based on a series of interviews with an Iranian woman who participated in the class:

Once in Dubai, Nilofar was booked by one of two organizations running the program into the Holiday Inn. She recounts that the course organizers were a mixture of Los Angeles-based exiled Iranians, Americans who appeared to supervise the course and whose affiliation remained unclear throughout, and three Serbs who said they belonged to the Otpor democratic movement that overthrew the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

The highly secretive nature of the workshops meant that they were misleadingly advertised in the lobby of the hotel as a conference by the "Griffin Hospital". The organizers, instructors and students identified themselves through aliases and were instructed to communicate with one another after the course was over through Hushmail accounts, an encrypted e-mail service that claims to be hack-proof.

In class, the Serbian instructors organized role-playing games in which the participants would assume the personas of characters such an Iranian woman or a Shi'ite cleric. Throughout these exercises in empathy and psychology, stress was laid on the importance of ridiculing the political elite as an effective tool of demythologizing them in the eyes of the people.

"They taught us what methods they used in Serbia to bring down Milosevic," Nilofar said. "They taught us some of them so we could choose the best one to bring down the regime, but they didn't mention directly bringing down the regime - they just taught us what they had done in their own country."

Cyrus Safdari, an independent Iranian analyst, said: "As I gather, the idea was to fund and train activists to be agents provocateurs along the lines of the Otpor movement in Serbia. Their job was to utilize various techniques, such as anti-government graffiti etc, to embolden the student movement and provoke a general government crackdown, which could then be used as a pretext to 'spark' a mass uprising in Iran that appeared to be spontaneous and indigenous."

Neither the class participant or Asia Times' reporter knew who was behind the classes, but Safdari speculated that it might be 'one of the right-wing Washington think-tanks that has a proven track record of providing inspiration for Bush administration policy initiatives in the Middle East.'

Given Washington's increasing bellicosity toward Iran, this magpie bets that there are a lot of these classes going on.

You can read the full article here.

Posted by Magpie at March 15, 2006 12:19 AM | International | Technorati links |