• 24 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 4 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Drop Broadband, Not Bombs

Although plenty of Washington policymakers say the US should “support the green opposition in Iran,” how to do so remains a puzzle.

One proposal in today’s Guardian has caught some attention: provide Iranians with high speed internet access.

One of the pillars of [Iran's] repressive policy has been media propaganda depicting protesters as vandals and stooges of foreign powers. In pursuing this policy, the government actively curtails alternative sources of information in the country (especially the BBC and VOA broadcasts in Persian), thoroughly filters sensitive websites used by protesters to communicate (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc) and reduces internet speed to just about nil to render video streaming or uploading impossible. It has even moved to ban Gmail.

Thus, one answer could be to beam high-speed Internet into Iran via satellites:

The technology to overcome this already exists. Households and businesses in areas with poor infrastructure connect to the internet through satellites. A Japanese satellite, Kizuna, was launched in 2008 to provide mountainous areas of Japan and other parts of East Asia with the world’s highest-speed internet connection using 45cm aperture antennas (the same size as existing communications satellite antennas widely used in Iran). The Japanese intend to expand this project into an international one.

A number of satellites currently covering Iran’s territory can be used to provide internet access. Indeed, the US army, through private subcontractors, successfully provides its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (where infrastructure is poor or inexistent) with near-high-speed satellite access.

One problem, though, is that US sanctions are actually contributing to the Iranian government’s ability to censor information in Iran by impeding the legal distribution of anti-filter software to Iranians and even outlawing downloads of popular networking software such as ‘Google Talk’.

Foreign companies have blocked almost all access to online shopping and financial transactions from Iran. If anyone in Iran buys software from abroad using a foreign account, their internet address will reveal their location and the bank account will be frozen.

Websites selling internet domains and hosting services will not provide services to Iranians and internet phone company Skype, which would provide Iranian dissidents with a safe means of communication via its messenger, does not allow Iranian internet addresses or let Iranians buy credit.

Even a large open source software resource recently changed its rules to stop Iranians from using it.

Access to high speed Internet in Iran is currently subjected to the whim of the ruling elite.   By providing broadband internet access for common Iranians, and giving them a more active, less censored voice, the United States will be able to support the Green Movement, without ever being directly involved within Iran’s domestic affairs.

Posted By Nayda Lakelieh

    4 Responses to “Drop Broadband, Not Bombs”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Nothing about Rigi? Iran just captured their equivalent of Osama bin Laden! And silence from NIAC?

    Here’s the Iran Air Force role in the terrorist takedown: Rigi’s passenger plane with 113 aboard (likely B-737, Kyrgyzstan Airlines QH 454, operated by Eastok Avia), enroute from Dubai (DXB / OMDB) to Bishkek-Manas, Kyrgyzstan (FRU / UAFM), was forced to land at Bandar Abbas TFB.9 (BND / OIKB) by two intercepting Iran Air Force F-4E Phantom IIs. (If the scrambled F-4E Phantom IIs came from TFB.9, perhaps elements of 91 TFS.)

    Congratulations VEVAK and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force!

  2. providing internet phone services in places that can’t get this service in any other way is a blessing for the people that live in Iran. if they will be able to call the world without censorship that will help then a lot.

  3. Eric says:

    But how will the dictator and his little sidekick keep “law and order” if the people have high speed internet and internet access where they previously didn’t?

  4. Iranian-American says:

    The real story about Rigi is that because of the Iranian governments common use of outlandish and transparent lies and propaganda regarding foreign interference (e.g. claims that BBC and Voice of America are intelligence wings of the CIA supported by forced confessions) and its use of torture to extract (often false) confessions, the claims of US involvement will fall on deaf ears in the international community, despite the fact that they may very well be true.

    Rigi’s statement regarding US assistance lacks any details that would lead a reasonable observer to believe him. Nonetheless, it is very possible that the US does in fact support violent terrorist groups like Jundallah. While it would unfortunately not be unprecedented (e.g. support for the MEK), it would be a real shame if it was the case, and as a representative of Iranian-Americans, it would be NIAC’s duty to strongly condemn any such support.

    What is important to understand here is that the Iranian government’s lack of credibility is a failure of the Iranian government, not the international community. The Iranian government is not fit to protect the Iranian people from terrorism. While the capture of Rigi is a good thing, since he is, by all accounts a terrorist, as with terrorism anywhere in the world, such a capture has very little effect in protecting Iranian citizens. In fact, it is quite possible that it will only encourage Jundallah, who has already picked a new leader, to commit more acts of terrorism against the Iranian people in revenge for the capture.

    Congratulating VEVAK and the Islamic Republic without seeing the big picture, demonstrates the same shortsightedness that plagues many American’s who allow the capture of high-ranking al-Qaeda (e.g. Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani) to distract them from the failures and crimes of their own government. The only difference is that the US government is in a much better situation to get international support to fight terrorism against its citizens. If the Iranian government was not continually talking about the destruction of Israel, so vocally supporting groups that blow up busses and clubs, making idiotic statements regarding the Holocaust, and all the while torturing its own citizens and forcing them to make false confessions, it would not find itself with so little credibility.

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