Josh Block, Aipac’s former PR flack and media enforcer, has a new perch at the rather inaptly named Progressive Policy Institute, the place where hawkish Democrats go to die politically. Apparently, the PPI hired Josh because they didn’t have enough street cred with the pro-Israel crowd. Josh’s first initiative since coming there is a doozy. He’s trying to exploit the political prominence of the Arab Spring democratic revolutions by hitching a new anti-Iranian so-called “democracy initiative” to them. He’s doing this with another Bush-era neocon darling with a special interest in promoting anti-jihadi views, Freedom House:
With democratic revolutions shaking the Middle East, a Democratic think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, and the pro-democracy group Freedom House are launching a new task force aimed at shifting American policy on its central regional foe, Iran, toward a more aggressive focus on democracy.
The new “Iran Strategy Task Force” is subtitled “Beyond Sanctions…”
You know what “beyond sanctions” is code word for, don’t you? Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. And don’t ya just love that phrase “aggressive focus on democracy?” Since when is the pursuit of democracy ‘aggressive?’ Since when does democracy come from pre-emptive air strikes or regime change such as the anti-Iran hawks propose? And you know that’s what “aggressive” really means.
The names of the “luminaries” chosen for this august undertaking are also revealing, as they show its clear right-wing pro-Israel bias, and the slow drift rightward of some figures who should know better. Among them are: Ken Pollack, Ray Tayekh, Steve Beckerman (Aipac), Rob Satloff (WINEP), Walter Russell Mead, Larry Diamond (Hoover Institution).
Memo to Josh: Iran doesn’t need your meddling. In fact, if you really want democracy in Iran, butt out. All the ayatollahs need to hear is that people like you are cynically trying to hijack the Arab revolution for your anti-Iran agenda, and they will turn around and yoke the real Iranian democracy activists like Moussavi and Karroubi to you. That will be the end of Iranian democracy for the next ten years.
If Iranian democracy is to develop, we cannot be seen to be meddling internally or even lobbying aggressively outside Iran for to become what we want it to become. That’s poison for the reformers that we support and Josh professes to support. The truth is that Josh Block doesn’t care much about the people of Iran or democracy there. Israel is his agenda and advancing the Likudist vision of Iran as an international hegemonic bogeyman is what Josh is really about. If you scratched beneath the surface (or maybe not even), Josh is likely one of the “bomb Iran” crowd. So his alleged support of Iranian democracy derives from his desire for regime change. What he won’t tell you is that his “aggressive” pursuit of democracy really means he’s in favor of attacking Iran, rather than promoting democracy there. If Iran could re-introduce a new Shah who would be pro-Israel, that would likely be fine with Josh and some of this crowd. The only reason Josh doesn’t overtly support monarchism, as many wealthy Iranian-American Jews do, is that it’s declasse in this age of Arab revolution.
Now, would he prefer that the masses of Iranians rise up and overthrow their masters in a bloodless revolution? Probably. But I think Josh would take an overthrow any way he can get it with or without violence, with or without democracy as the ultimate outcome. Claiming to support Iranian democracy is the ultimate political opportunism.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.