US Congress targets Iran for regime change

By Guy Dinmore in Washington

Financial Times

Published: January 18 2005

Support for “regime change” in Iran is growing in Congress, encouraging new exiled opposition groups supported by Washington's neoconservatives to spring up in the hope of receiving US funding.

Having adopted legislation in the past aimed at Cuba and Iraq, Republicans and Democrats in both houses are starting to champion political reform in Tehran.

The activity comes amid a magazine report that the US has been carrying out secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran in preparation for possible military strikes.

However, Dan Bartlett, a counsellor to George W. Bush, US president, said the article by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker magazine was “riddled with inaccuracies”.

Lawrence DiRita, Pentagon spokesman, said Mr Hersh had been fed with “rumour, innuendo and assertions about meetings that never happened, programmes that do not exist, and statements by officials that were never made”.

One Washington exile group the Alliance for Democracy in Iran describes itself as an opposition umbrella group that would act as a “clearing house” for US taxpayers' money dedicated to advancing the cause of democracy.

“Our true purpose is to empower the Iranian people, to change the regime to become more democratic,” said Kamal Azari, the alliance president. He stressed that the group renounced violence.

In Congress, the proposed Iran Freedom and Support Act calls on the Bush administration to back “regime change” and promote alliances with opposition groups that renounce terrorism.

A similar bill in the House does not mention regime change but would back pro-democracy groups.