Being afraid of the blog

A curious story about the power of the web, Iranian/American relations and the inability of officialdom to silence alternative voices (via the Boston Globe):

U.S. officials took it as a quiet sign of good will: In October, the Iranian government gave permission to Iranian bloggers to travel to the United States to write about its presidential election. But minutes before the bloggers boarded the plane in Tehran, Iranian security officials reversed the decision, confiscating the bloggers’ passports.

“It was like a dream,” said Fariba Pajooh, a 28-year-old blogger who was slated to spend three weeks visiting American colleges and newspapers, including Harvard University and The Providence Journal.

The abruptly aborted trip illustrates an ongoing power struggle within the Iranian government over how to relate to the United States on the eve of a new – and perhaps more receptive – administration. One faction favors increased dialogue and exchanges with Americans, while another, apparently more powerful, group opposes such contact.

But the canceled blogger trip also illustrates the significant role that the Internet is already playing in fostering communication between Iran and the United States, even as the two governments remain embroiled in internal debates about whether or not to re-establish relations.