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Do Iran’s hard-liners really believe ‘velvet revolution’ plot?

The indictment of more than 100 Iranians being tried en masse for opposing the regime opens a window onto the world view of those who fear change most.

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The prosecutor says there have been 198 discrete acts of protest against the regime since the election and that 100 of them “were executed in the accordance with the instructions of Sharp for a velvet coup.” The evidence for this? An unnamed Israeli spy currently in detention who, the prosecutor alleges, had been dispatched by Israel.

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The “spies” accusations and evidence meander, at times. He says that Georgia’s Saakashivili is clearly an agent of the plot because he once received a Fulbright grant from the United States. (He in fact received a Muskie fellowship to study law in the US in the early 1990s). Apparently, such educational exchanges are in service of a deeper motive, according to the spy. Saakashvili was apparently “trained” to overthrow Georgia’s legitimate government and become some sort of political Trojan horse.

“After determining the candidate they want, they pour vast sums of social capital on him... After this stage, they choose a graphic and color for this candidate and begin to prepare public opinion to vote for him,” the spy apparently said. Saakashvili came to power after Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution. Iran’s reformers have adopted green, the color of Islam, as their own.

Claims of Gene Sharp, admittedly influential, as plot leader are 'fantastic'
To be sure, Mr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution really do advocate for democracy around the world, as do some of the other groups named in the indictment. The Iran Democracy Project at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Soros’s Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation and the Berkman Center at Harvard are among other groups named as backing the plot.

But Siegel points says the scattershot accusations of a vast – and wildly successful plot – to suborn world governments is “the real clincher that the whole thing is utterly fantastic. The Einstein Institution’s budget is miniscule.”

But however fanciful, the belief that the US has spearheaded a plot to foment another "velvet revolution" has very real consequences. Apart from the show trial and other measures taken against Iranians, it has also vastly complicated the Obama administration’s efforts to reach out to Iran.

“The Obama administration [was] caught flat-footed by this. They wanted engagement, to see if they could nudge them away from the nuclear option and get help in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Siegel. “Those are the priorities, and they’ve become a lot harder.”

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