Obama kills funding for Iranian human-rights watch agency

The Iran Human Rights Watch Documentation Center can be excused for thinking that this year might make them more indispensable than ever.  After all, the Iranian mullahcracy rigged a presidential election and brutally suppressed widespread protests and demonstrations against the ruling elite.  Their Basiji irregulars murdered and maimed people in the street.  The State Department’s agency for documenting such human-rights abuses in that country would have to work overtime in the next several weeks just to catch up on all of the data they need to review from the last eleven weeks.

Instead, they’re going to pack their bags and go home next May, thanks to a decision by Barack Obama to kill their funding as a sop to the mullahs:

“If there is one time that I expected to get funding, this was it,’’ said Rene Redman, the group’s executive director, who had asked for $2.7 million in funding for the next two years. “I was sur prised, because the world was watching human rights violations right there on television.’’

Many see the sudden, unexplained cutoff of funding as a shift by the Obama administration away from high-profile democracy promotion in Iran, which had become a signature issue for President Bush. But the timing has alarmed some on Capitol Hill.

“The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center is at the forefront of pioneering and vitally important work,’’ said Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, in a statement yesterday. “It is disturbing that the State Department would cut off funding at precisely the moment when these brave investigations are needed most.’’

Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington-based think tank, said, “It is a shock that they did not get funding.’’ A reason, he asserted, may be that “the Obama administration is so focused on engaging Iran that they don’t want this information to get in the way.’’

If anything, the response of the Iranians should have underscored the need for documentation of their human-rights abuses.  After all, this office does not set policy or launch covert programs aimed at undermining the mullahcracy.  The IHRDC keeps records of the actions of the Iranian government, which is a critical set of data when attempting to determine whether the Iranian mullahs keep their word on any agreement to liberalize their policies.  Without any tracking of these abuses, the State Department will have no evidence on which to base recommendations for diplomatic action.

This is truly a breathtaking step.  Obama has signaled that he doesn’t care at all about human-rights abuses, and that he in fact cares more about making the ruling mullahs happy than in how they treat the subjects of their oppression.  After all, the mere documentation of abuses doesn’t constrain Obama’s policymaking choices; it merely informs them.  He can choose any direction he wants, but one would expect an American President to make those choices on the basis of intelligence and research.

Instead, Obama has made it clear that those issues won’t even enter into his calculations, and will stop spending money on collecting that data.  That will save us a few million dollars a year, but will cost us much, much more in credibility in the long run.  It’s a setup for appeasement.

Glenn Reynolds agrees, saying, “They’re planning a sellout[.]”   Obama keeps talking about outstretched hands to the mullahs, but this is an outstretched finger to Iranians looking for freedom from oppression.  (via The Corner)

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