The New York Times has an interesting article on how to help Iran’s Green Movement and push the country toward Democracy. Don’t issue new sanctions, allow them free software! I think it’s particularly brilliant:
The sanctions will feel cathartic, satisfy the have-to-do-something itch in the Congress, and change nothing. I’m just about resigned to that. But there is a smarter approach to Iran: Instead of constraining trade, throw it open.
Verma wrote: “The Department of State is recommending that the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (O.F.A.C.) issue a general license that would authorize downloads of free mass-market software by companies such as Microsoft and Google to Iran necessary for the exchange of personal communications and/or sharing of information over the Internet such as instant messaging, chat and e-mail, and social networking.”
Now that’s smart! There’s a way to bolster the remarkable, still unbowed opposition movement in Iran as well as weaken the Revolutionary Guards’ stranglehold on society and the economy. And what has O.F.A.C. done about this request in the past two months?
No license has been issued. It’s still illegal for Microsoft to offer MSN Messenger in Iran. Instead, earlier this month, Treasury sanctioned four Guards companies — a meaningless gesture. Treasury has things upside down.
Now if they would only include encryption modules!