International Republican Institute

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The International Republican Insitute (IRI) works closely with the the National Endowment for Democracy and United States foreign policy instruments, including the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, to support economic and political development programs around the world. The organization is almost exclusively funded by the U.S. government and related agencies. IRI, despite what its name suggests, is loosely affiliated with the Republican Party.

IRI's stated mission is to "support the growth of political and economic freedom, good governance and human rights around the world by educating people, parties and governments on the values and practices of democracy." However, it has also been linked to efforts to foment a violent military coup in Haiti. Max Blumenthal reports that Stanley Lucas is the program officer for the IRI's Haiti program. [1]

While based in Washington, D.C., IRI maintains offices around the world, including in Africa (Abuja, Luanda and Nairobi), Asia (Dili, Jakarta, Phnom Phen and Ulaanbaatar), Latin America (Caracas, Guatamela City and Lima), Central and Eastern Europe (Belgrade, Bratislava, Bucharest, Istanbul, Skopje, Sofia, Tirana and Zagreb) and the former Soviet Union (Almaty, Baku, Belarus, Kyiv, Moscow, Tashkent and Tblisi).

"In 1994, the International Republican Institute (IRI) began a relationship with the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), a civil society organization, dedicated to implementing democracy-strengthening initiatives." [2]


IRI is involved in "democracy manipulation" much like what most of the NED constellation of organizations do. Its activities can be broken down as follows:

  1. Fostering favored groups: IRI fosters groups it prefers promoting their organizations in various ways. The favored groups are political groupings, civic groups and journalists.
  2. Surveys. It frequently conducts surveys to determine political opinon around the world. Some of the surveys are conducted in association with political parties, but some are conducted in secret.

A 2004 article in the New Standard which contained analysis of the actions of the IRI and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), stated that whilst both these groups publicly assert that they are nonpartisan, they each have extremely close ties to their namesake American political party and are deeply partial to the perceived national interests of their home country[3] According to the report:

'Both groups have highly controversial reputations and are described throughout much of the world as either helpful, meddlesome, or downright subversive, depending on who you ask. In some places their work has earned praise from independent grassroots democracy advocates, but in many Third World republics, both groups have been tied to alleged covert plans to install US-favored governments'.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the official governmental agency funding the consortium's operations in Iraq. Which according to the New Standard 'contracts with and provides grants to private organizations that uphold its objectives, which include, according to the Agency's own literature, "furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of citizens in the developing world."' In the words of Herbert Docena of think tank, Focus on the Global South, "USAID has learned that ?legitimate? leaders are not just found, they're made,"... "Before the US withdraws from the scene, it first has to ensure that its Iraqis will know what to do." He went on to add that USAID's activity in Iraq, as carried out by non-governmental proxies, is drawn straight out of the Agency's handbook, which advocates "capitalizing on national openings" and "[taking] advantage of national-level targets of opportunity" as they emerge, all while looking for a "strategic doorway" -- called an "entry point" -- that enables an Agency project to "anchor its program and optimize overall impact" in a target area. "In Iraq, the ?entry point? was the invasion," Docena explained. "The ?national opening? was the collapsed state left in its wake."

The New Standard quotes Robinson of the Global and International Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara as calling groups like NDI and IRI as "extensions" of the US State Department. Robinson, who is reported to have researched and written extensively on US foreign political and economic policies, states that the perception of an alignment between the US government and the private organizations it funds is well deserved. He describes that agencies such as those involved in the consortium are in effect "trying to select individual leaders and organizations that are going to be very amenable to the US transnational project for Iraq," In the report he goes on to describe those actors as willing to engage in "pacifying the country militarily and legitimating the occupation and the formal electoral system" and added that developing relationships with "economic, political and civic groups that are going to be favorable to Iraq's integration into the global capitalist economy" would prove even more important for US-based organizations in the long run.

According to Robinson this would include altering Iraq's 'political and economic infrastructure to be more open to international trade and investment, as well as more favorable to global financial lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is stated that Robinson sees the Middle East as one of the few viable areas of the world yet to be drawn into the US's sphere of economic influence, and he is reported to have concluded that, more than a way to exploit oil, the US-led invasion and occupation serve as potential doorways into broader, more advantageous economic engagement in the region.

Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) is reported to have written about the roles of NDI and IRI, where he claimed that the purposes for which both organizations are utilized elsewhere in the world "would be rightly illegal in the United States."[4]

Project Democracy

In 2005, reported an interview with former CIA operative Philip Agee[5]

According to Agee, the CIA had in the past supported "brutal military dictatorships in all of the Cono Sur [Southern Cone]—Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and of course, in Chile with Pinochet". However a "process of new thinking began in the upper echelons of the makers of US foreign policy, the new thinking being that these military dictatorships, with all the repression and the disappearances and death squads and so forth, might not be the best way to preserve US interests in Latin America, or other areas for that matter". Agee goes on to claim that the "new thinking was that the preservation of US interests could better be achieved through the election of democratic governments formed by political elites who identify with the political class in the United States". These were not the popular forces, but the traditional political classes in Latin America, such as the ‘Oligarchies.’ Agee continues by saying "So the new American program, which became known as “Project Democracy,” was adopted and United States policy would seek to promote free, fair, transparent democratic elections but in such a way that it would assure that power went to the elites and not to the people".

To work towards the aims of Project Democracy, Agee reports that the “American Political Foundation” was established in 1979. This foundation was set up with major participation from the main labor center in the United States the AFL-CIO, with the United States Chamber of Commerce and with the Democratic and Republican parties. The four main organizations and the financing for this foundation came both from the government and from private sources. Their job is described as being to study how the United States could best apply this new thinking in promoting democracy and the solution is reported to have been the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its four associated foundations: the International Republican Institute (IRI) of the Republican Party, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) of the Democratic Party, the American Center of International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) of the AFL-CIO, and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) of the United States Chamber of Commerce. According to Agee, "where the AFL-CIO foundation is concerned, they took an existing organization which had worked hand-in-glove with the CIA for many years called the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) and simply changed the name".


It is very likely that the Muslim political parties will make major inroads in the Sept. 2007 elections. There has been much jockeying, speculation, and manipulation. The IRI has been part of the scene, and Wendy Kristianasen summarizes its activities:

Nervous western governments regard Morocco as a test case for Arab democracy. The Hamas victory in the Palestinian territories in January 2006 and the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in Egypt in the 2005 parliamentary elections forced the US to moderate its rhetoric on the democratisation of the Arab world. Washington could scarcely have been reassured by a survey commissioned from a centre close to the Republican Party, the International Republican Institute (IRI). Based on secret polls since late 2005, the survey showed the PJD with 47% support, ahead of the USFP.
This was leaked in the Le Journal hebdomadaire on 18-24 March 2006. Banner headlines announced the “Islamist threat” and many held the Americans responsible. By chance the PJD’s secretary-general, Saadeddine el-Othmani, was in Washington at the time. It was then discovered that the IRI had funded a visit to the PJD from Turkey’s Islamists from the AKP (Justice and Development Party). Many differing conspiracy theories ensued, but all Moroccans agreed the US was guilty of interference in internal affairs.
On 3 April 2006 the ministry of the interior responded to the IRI furore by leaking its own polls indicating a continuation of the status quo: 62% of voters would elect four main parties (USFP, Istiqlal, People’s Movement and the PJD) and 38% would vote for other parties. The PJD made known its own more modest forecast of 26-30% of the vote, and again reassured everybody that the party did not seek a result Morocco could not handle.[6]

Venezuela and Haiti

In 2004, it was reported that the IRI was specifically tied to the 2002 armed coup that briefly removed populist President Hugo Chavez from power in Venezuela. According to Mother Jones, IRI was also involved in sponsoring parties that led to the violent uprising against democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which itself culminated in Aristide's exile and the dissolution of his government on February 29 2004[7]

Prinicipals and Personnel

IRI Board of Directors and Personnel includes major Republican foreign policy voices, and other prominent Republicans.

References, resources and Contact

Contact Information

International Republican Institute
1225 Eye Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington DC 20005
Telephone: (202) 408-9450
Fax: (202) 408-9462
Web site:


Gindin, J. (2005) The Nature of CIA Intervention in Venezuela 22nd March 2005.


  1. Democracy Now Did the Bush Administration Allow a Network of Right-Wing Republicans to Foment a Violent Coup in Haiti? Tuesday, July 20th, 2004
  2. Advancing Democracy in South Africa (Accessed 2 Sept. 2007)
  3. Croke, L. A. & Dominick, B. (2004) Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote The New Standard. 13th December 2004. Accessed 14th May 2009
  4. Croke, L. A. & Dominick, B. (2004) Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote The New Standard. 13th December 2004. Accessed 14th May 2009
  5. Gindin, J. (2005) The Nature of CIA Intervention in Venezuela 22nd March 2005. Accessed 14th May 2009
  6. Wendy Kristianasen , Can Morocco’s Islamists check al-Qaida?, Le monde diplomatique, August 2007.
  7. Croke, L. A. & Dominick, B. (2004) Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote The New Standard. 13th December 2004. Accessed 14th May 2009