Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington D.C. – January 18… Top stories this week include new insights into future U.S.-Iran relations; a new report on Iran’s access to weapons technology; and the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as the future secretary of state as PNN covers the events leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on January 20.
U.S. DECIDED AGAINST AIDING ISRAEL ON ATTACK ON IRANIAN FACILITY
News and Views January 12 – The New York Times reported that the U.S. rejected to finance or provide logistical support for an Israeli operation to attack Iran's enrichment facilities in Natanz. A 15-month-long interview with U.S. officials, international nuclear inspectors, outside experts and European and Israeli officials revealed that Israel approached the U.S. to buy bunker-busters and to use Iraq's air space for refueling and flying to Natanz. According to the above officials, who did not speak on the record, the White House rejected the request outright. The American officials said that President Bush instead launched a covert operation aimed at sabotaging Iran's nuclear program by asking Iran's suppliers to sell them faulty equipment. The newspaper article indicated that President-elect Obama has been fully briefed on American actions in Iran. Several American and Israeli officials interviewed said Israel had hoped President Bush would deal with Iran's nuclear program before leaving office. On Sunday, the online edition of the Washington Post reported on documents from the Department of Justice and the Institute for Science and International Security. These documents outline the details of Iran's illicit trade of sensitive electronics and other banned technologies used in making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The reports detail how Iran has been skirting international law and avoiding sanctions against the country by setting up front companies in Dubai and Malaysia.
NEW REPORT: IRAN HAS ACCESS TO TOP U.S. WEAPONS TECHNOLOGY
News and Views January 15 – A report issued by the Institute for Science and International Security states that Iran has access to some of the best U.S. weapons technology. Senior analyst to the Institute, Paul Brannan, spoke with PNN about the report. He stated that, despite multiple attempts by the Bush administration to halt illegal imports, including sanctions against several Dubai-based Iranian front companies in 2006, the technology pipeline to Tehran is flowing at an even faster pace. "Some of this technology is utilized to build roadside bombs that have claimed the lives of so many U.S. troops in Iraq," he noted. "In some cases, Iran simply opened new front firms and shifted its operations from Dubai to farther east in Asia," he added. According to the report, in the past two years Iran has acquired numerous banned items, including circuit boards, software and Global Positioning System devices that are used to make sophisticated versions of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that continue to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Many of the schemes unknowingly involve U.S. companies that typically have no clue where their products are actually going, according to Mr. Brannan. According to this report, Iran is becoming very adept at using front companies which pose as schools or private laboratories conducting business through seemingly legitimate web sites. Mr. Brannan added that, “The trading companies effectively created a wall between the Iranian entities and the U.S. suppliers, making it difficult for the U.S. suppliers to identify the true end-user of an item.”
OBAMA VOWS A NEW APPROACH IN DEALING WITH IRAN
48 Hours January 18 – PNN was granted an interview with Gholamreza Afkhami, a senior researcher at the Foundation for Iranian Studies and a former senior government official in pre-revolutionary Iran. Mr. Afkhami said that both President-elect Obama and his future secretary of state Hillary Clinton have promised to open a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy toward Iran. "But both countries have set parameters that they cannot easily overstep. In other words, there are some bedrock principles that both Washington and Tehran cannot disregard as they formulate new policies designed to thaw their frosty relations," he added. Mr. Afkhami said that Iran is not in a position to dictate to the United States how to conduct itself in the international arena. He said that Iran's pre-condition – that Washington needs to change its conduct in the region in order for relations to improve between Iran and the United States – will only damage Iran's national interest. "Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be pacified without Iranian cooperation, and whether we like it or not the downfall of both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have resulted in greater Iranian influence in both countries," he contended. "Iranian leaders need to take into account, however, that there will be greater cooperation between the Obama administration and its European allies and this doesn't bode well for Tehran," he said. He asserted that there should be common ground between the West (which finds a nuclear-armed Iran unacceptable) and Iran (which claims an urgent need for nuclear energy to generate electricity for its growing population). At the end of the interview, Mr. Afkhami said that when the president-elect puts respect for human rights in his foreign policy agenda, it will have more credibility than what President George Bush says because the Bush administration
used human rights as a political tool to advance its foreign policy goals. He also added, “Leaders of the Islamic Republic have resolved this dilemma for themselves. Are they working to advance Iranian national interest or are they serving a hard-line Islamic ideology?”
IRAN SAYS IT WILL RESPOND AS NEEDED TO CHANGE IN U.S. CONDUCT
News and Views January 12 – PNN reported on Monday that Iran urged President-elect Obama to refrain from repeating what it said were false accusations leveled against the Islamic Republic by the outgoing administration in Washington. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman also suggested Tehran would respond in an "appropriate and timely" way to any change in U.S. behavior toward the country, which is embroiled in a row with the West over its disputed nuclear plans. President-elect Obama said on Sunday he will take a new approach toward Iran that will emphasize respect for the Iranian people and spell out what the United States expects of its leaders. "Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges," President-elect Obama said in an interview with ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." The president-elect said he was concerned about the Islamic Republic's support of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah and about Iran's nuclear enrichment, which he said could trigger a Middle East arms race. President-elect Obama has said he is prepared to offer Iran economic incentives to stop its nuclear program but he also has said tougher sanctions could be imposed if it refused.
VIEWER REACTIONS TO PROSPECT OF U.S.-IRAN TALKS ARE MIXED
Roundtable with You January 14 – According to a report by PNN, viewers in Iran are reporting mixed feelings about possible talks between the United States and Iran. Global observers welcomed Senator Hillary Clinton’s plans to strengthen America’s relationships with its allies and use “smart power” to make “more friends.” However, the president-elect pledged a “new approach” in an interview over the weekend. It’s unclear what exactly the new approach is. He had said "Iran is a genuine threat to U.S. national security, but I have also said that we should be willing to initiate diplomacy as a mechanism to achieve our national security goals. And my national security team, I think, is reflective of that practical, pragmatic approach to foreign policy." Some viewers argued that Obama should not talk to Iran since it will legitimize the mullah's regime. Some welcomed the initiation of talks while others worried that any relationship between the two countries may worsen civil society relations and the human rights situation in Iran.
SENATE PANEL APPROVES CLINTON FOR SECRETARY OF STATE
News and Views January 15 – A key U.S. Senate committee approved the nomination of Senator Hillary Clinton as the next secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-to-1 today in favor of the former first lady. The full Senate is expected to confirm her appointment Tuesday after President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. Separately, Attorney General-designate Eric Holder testified at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said he believes the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding is torture and should not be permitted. Mr. Holder said the best way to fight terror is to protect civil liberties and maintain the rule of law. He said the Obama administration will make sure
interrogations are consistent with U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Mr. Holder reiterated that the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be closed. However he stated that closing the prison will not be an easy task since the incoming administration has to figure out what to do with the roughly 250 terror suspects currently being held there. Mr. Holder also faced tough questioning about his work as deputy attorney general under former President
Bill Clinton, specifically about his involvement in Mr. Clinton's decisions to issue controversial pardons during that time. Mr. Holder, who is of Barbadian descent, would be the first black attorney general, if confirmed. Besides voting on the Hillary Clinton nomination, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also heard testimony from President-elect Obama's choice for U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice. Ms. Rice pledged the Obama administration will refresh and renew American leadership at the U.N., and increase efforts to address the crises in Zimbabwe, Darfur and Congo. In other developments, Hillary Clinton and Vice President-elect Joe Biden said their farewells to the Senate today. Meanwhile, the man selected to take President-elect Obama's vacated Senate seat was sworn-in today, overcoming a controversy over his appointment. Lawmakers initially were reluctant to seat Roland Burris because he was selected by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of seeking to profit from appointing President-elect Obama's successor. Mr. Burris is not accused of any wrongdoing.
CLINTON VOWS TO REVITALIZE U.S. DIPLOMACY
News and Views January 13 – PNN reported that Senator Hillary Clinton said she will endorse the use of what she calls "smart power" as part of a revitalization of U.S. diplomacy if she is confirmed as secretary of state. The former first lady testified today in a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Clinton said the U.S. and the world face great perils, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats posed by terrorists, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. She endorsed the use of "smart power," whereby the United States would use all of its tools of foreign policy. She said diplomacy will be the forefront of U.S. policy under President-elect Barack Obama. On Iran, Senator Clinton said the incoming administration views with "great concern" the role Tehran is playing in the world, including its alleged support of terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons. She said the Obama administration will pursue a new approach toward Iran with an "attitude toward engagement" but said that no option has been ruled out. Confirmation hearings also were held today for Energy Secretary-designate Steven Chu and the president-elect’s choice to lead the Department of Education, Arne Duncan.
UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES SIGN NUCLEAR DEAL
News and Views January 16 – A nuclear cooperation agreement signed by the United States and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday could pose an early test of the incoming administration's policies on nonproliferation and Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayid Al Nahyan signed a "123" agreement named for a section of the Atomic Energy Act. The agreement promises U.S. cooperation on civil nuclear power in return for safeguards against sensitive technology being diverted to a weapons program or another country. Given the timeframe, President-elect Obama will almost certainly be the one to decide whether to send the agreement to Congress for approval after he takes office on Tuesday. Some U.S. legislators say they would want the United States to use the agreement to leverage more cooperation from the small Gulf nation in pressuring Iran to halt its nuclear program. The U.A.E. is a major trading partner with Iran and has been criticized for failing to implement stringent controls on certain financial transactions and the export of materials with dual civilian and military uses to Tehran. "I and many other members of Congress place a very high priority on the international effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and will be analyzing this and any other nuclear cooperation agreement in the context of how it implicates the attainment of that goal," said Rep. Howard L. Berman, a California democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. At the same time, Rep. Berman praised the agreement as a model for future atomic energy accords. The ranking republican on the committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, introduced legislation on Wednesday to place conditions on the U.S. implementation of the agreement that would force the U.A.E. to make more progress against nuclear smuggling. Rep. Brad Sherman, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Nonproliferation, Terrorism, and Trade, issued a statement saying, "I am disappointed with the reported decision of the Bush Administration to sign the nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates. It is unfortunate that the Bush Administration rushed to sign this agreement before leaving office. The Obama Administration; however, is under no obligation to actually submit the agreement to Congress – the necessary next step in the process of approval. I urge the incoming administration to decline to submit the 123 Agreement with the U.A.E. until, at a minimum, the U.A.E. has taken far stronger action to deal with transfers of sensitive goods and technology to Iran.” He explained how American-made electronic equipment found its way through informal networks to the equipment being used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
SENATOR BELIEVES MISSING AMERICAN IS IN SECRET PRISON IN IRAN
News and Views January 14 – A PNN follow up on Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran nearly two years ago, focused on a speech by a U.S. Senator on Mr. Levinson’s possible whereabouts. During a confirmation hearing for Senator Clinton on Tuesday in Washington, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) revealed that he believed that the former FBI agent is being held in a prison in Iran. However Senator Levinson did not provide any proof as to how he came to this conclusion. Mr. Levinson of Florida was last seen on Iran's Kish Island in March 2007 where he had gone to seek information for a client of his security firm. Senator Nelson said the Iranian government had rebuffed numerous requests for information on Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. Senator Clinton, who is President-elect Obama's choice for secretary of state, said Iran could improve relations with the U.S. by offering information on Mr. Levinson, who was an FBI agent in New York and Florida until he retired in 1998. Mr. Levinson's wife, Christine, said the comments were the first she had heard about her husband's possible whereabouts. She met with government officials in Iran in December 2007, but there has been no word of his fate. Telephone messages left for Senator Nelson’s aides were not immediately returned. The State Department said it has continued to urge Iran to increase its efforts in the investigation and to provide more information. A spokesman at Iran's UN mission was not available for immediate comment. Senator Nelson stated, "There is an American that is missing in Iran. Because he is a Floridian and because he has left behind a wife and seven children, I have gone to the Iranian ambassador at the United Nations who will see me even though his government will not allow him to talk to our UN ambassador. He operates under the fiction that he will see me because I'm a representative of the people of the state of Florida. But the door has been closed at every turn. What I have said to him – and I speak through the lens of this committee hearing – that out of human compassion this is a great opportunity for the country of Iran to crack the door because we think he is being held by the government of Iran in a secret prison in Iran. And if we want to have some renewed relations, this is a good first opportunity.” Senator Hillary Clinton also commented on the situation by saying, “With respect to the Floridian
who is in prison, it would be an extraordinary opportunity for the government of Iran to make such a gesture – to permit contact, to release him, to make it clear that there is a new attitude in Iran, as we believe there will be with the Obama administration toward engagement, carefully constructed and with very clear outcomes attempted.”
News and Views January 16 – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked with Israeli foreign and defense ministers about the bombing of the UN relief agency's headquarters in Gaza City by the Israeli army. Secretary Rice expressed concerns over the attack and emphasized that the Israeli army should be more careful in its operations in Gaza. Secretary Rice said the U.S. will focus on sending humanitarian help and will continue negotiations with both sides in order to reach a durable ceasefire. The Israeli government says that Hamas should stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Today Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with Condoleezza Rice in Washington to discuss possible technological support that the U.S. could provide to Israel in order to stop the influx of smuggled weapons into Gaza.
News and Views January 15 – PNN reported that White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino stated President Bush is following the security development in Gaza closely and consults with his security advisers and the secretary of state on a daily basis. Ms. Perino expressed Washington’s concern over the humanitarian condition in Gaza and emphasized that President Bush will be active regarding any diplomatic efforts to reduce the death toll and to prevent humanitarian crisis. While there are reports indicating that Hamas has agreed on an Egypt-mediated ceasefire plan, Ms. Perino said Washington is taking a “wait and see” approach regarding Hamas’ decision.
News and Views January 13 – Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said an international coalition against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has been formed over the last couple of years. In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary Rice called the coalition one of the Bush administration’s achievements. She said President Bush has been clear in stating that a diplomatic approach to deal with Iran has been the appropriate course emphasizing that, besides Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Tehran’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah also raises international concerns. In another development, the State and Treasury Departments sanctioned 13 people and three private companies for their involvement in the black market nuclear network led by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN TOURS AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN
News and Views January 15 –President-elect Barack Obama had a meeting with Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina. The two recently returned from a tour of war zones and global security hotspots. Vice President-elect Biden and Senator Graham gave the president-elect an initial report on their five-day, bipartisan fact-finding mission to Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the broader "war on terror" at the Obama transition headquarters in Washington, DC. The two will later present the president-elect with a more detailed accounting, including recommendations for action based on
what they saw and heard. Vice President-elect Biden stated, "There needs to be more resources to attend to the situation in Afghanistan, which has deteriorated over the last six years. It has not gotten better. And so, there is going to be a significant shift. The president of the United States, President Bush, has ordered 35-thousand troops into the region. We spent a great deal of time with the commanders in place discussing how they'd be deployed, what the objective was, what the purposes were. But the truth is that things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they get better." Senator Graham said, "I cannot tell you how much enthusiasm we saw in Pakistan for this new president. There is a moment in time here for this country to re-engage the international community, to make sure that we have international support to stabilize Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq."
Roundtable with You January 15 – PNN spoke with analyst Cyrus Seifi about what media outlets in the Middle East are writing regarding the recent visit to the area by the future Vice President. Mr. Seifi explained that news commentators welcomed Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan’s Anis newspaper wrote that Vice President-elect Biden’s visit “shows Afghanistan will be Obama’s top priority” and advises Afghan officials to “take advantage of the current atmosphere.” Arman-e Melli writes that Afghan citizens are “at the end of their tether with the present government in Afghanistan” and asks the new U.S. administration to help make sure the elections are held “on time.” Pakistan’s The News thinks the future vice president’s one-day visit “went well” and calls on Pakistan’s top leadership to “establish good rapport with the new White House team” in order to “ensure maximum benefit for Pakistan and its people.”
News and Views January 12 – In the president-elect’s first meeting with a foreign leader since the November election, PNN reported that President-elect Obama will discuss trade issues as well as the war on drugs with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. President-elect Obama has promised to nurture close ties with Mexico and with Latin American countries that complained of neglect by the United States after President George W. Bush's foreign policy focused heavily on Iraq and the war on terror. With Mexico's drug violence exploding and amid fears that Obama might seek changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Calderon is eager for a meeting with the incoming president.
News and Views January 17 – News and Views focused on Iranian-French relations in the weekly recap of world news with guest and international analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba. Dr. Diba criticized what he called Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy’s “contradictory comments to French policy on Iran.” He was speaking of the economic trade relationships that some European countries, including Italy, France, and Germany, have with Iran. Dr. Diba stated that these continued relationships place hardships on the United States and the United Nations to enforce existing sanctions and perhaps establish new sanctions against Iran. He is confident that U.S.-French relations on the sanctions issue may improve with Europe’s attitude toward the new administration. Next, Dr. Diba answered a question as to whether a memorandum of understanding, which was signed by both the U.S. and Israel, will be effective in preventing the rearming of Hamas. Dr. Diba was not convinced that this memo holds any special significance. He did comment that it may be interpreted as Israel’s attempt to illicit some guarantees from Hamas in order to end the crisis in Gaza. However, this is unlikely as Hamas was not a signatory to the memorandum. Switching to human rights updates, Dr. Diba briefly spoke about capital punishment. Although punishment by lapidation, commonly referred to as the act of stoning someone to death, has been condemned by international communities, Dr. Diba does not believe that the international outcry has reduced the occurrence rate in Iran. In his opinion, lapidation is based on religious principles. He believes that not even the Supreme Leader of Iran could halt this practice in all parts of the country.
HUMAN RIGHTS UPDATES
POLICE ARREST 9 MORE MEMBERS OF THE BAHA’I COMMUNITY IN IRAN
News and View January 12 – In a PNN follow up from last week, News and Views reported that nine additional members of the Baha’i community were arrested in the Mazandaran province of Iran. The members were subsequently sentenced to imprisonment for the “crime” of being active in the Baha’i community and offering classes. According to reports by the child of one arrested citizen, officials forcibly entered one member’s home, destroyed holy pictures hanging on the wall of their common area and hauled away some of the family’s possessions. The child, who goes by the name of Fars, stated that his father was carried away and his mother was summoned to appear before the police. He also named members from five other families who were taken away – Pegah Sanaieyan; Farshad Asadi and his wife Firoozeh Rayegan; Shahnaz Saladati; Farzaneh Ahmadzadeh and her daughters Anisa Fanaieyan and Emilia Fanaieyan; Sohrab Laghaie and his father Masoud Ataieyan. Little else is known about the present conditions of these people. Reports also indicate that Baha’i cemeteries were recently vandalized in the Iranian city of Qa’emshahr. Since October of 2008, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has been keeping a close watch on arrests of the Baha’i community by members of the intelligence community.
TENSION AT SHIRAZ UNIVERSITIES AS STUDENTS DEBATE HUNGER STRIKES
News and Views January 12 – PNN explored a developing story in which student activists at Shiraz University are calling for the release of two of their colleagues who were detained on January 3, 2009. PNN showed excerpts of a speech made by a Shiraz university student. The speech was made by Mohsen Zarrinkamar in the presence of Ali Larijani, who serves as the Speaker of the Parliament. Mr. Zarrinkamar told Mr. Larijani that he had no questions for the Speaker of the Parliament because he sees Mr. Larijani as the speaker of an illegitimate and an illegal parliament. Mr. Zarinkamar further stated, “I hate three things, first I hate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...” Because of his speech Mr. Zarinkamar has been suspended from the university for two terms. Not surprisingly, Mr. Zarinkamar and three other students, Abdoljalil Rezaiee, Kazem Rezaiee, and Loghman Ghadiri Goltapeh have been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence in the City of Shiraz. The students have been charged with acting against national security and insulting regime officials. At least 13 other students have been suspended and summoned to disciplinary committees in the university. One activist, who requested anonymity, told PNN that the students will begin a hunger strike in the near future. She also said that the Shiraz University students protested the imprisonment of their classmates and asked for their immediate release from prison. Some of the students held placards which read: University is the last barricade of freedom!, Release imprisoned students!, and Since there is prison, we are all locked up! Shiraz University has been the scene for numerous student demonstrations during the past year. This has led to an increase in students who are targeted by the Islamic Regime, suspended, expelled, or summoned to disciplinary committees and the Ministry of Intelligence. After previous events, some 35 students were summoned to the university's disciplinary committee and charged with "causing chaos" and disseminating anti-state propaganda. Shiraz University students recently staged several protests to push for the release of their friends.
SHIRAZ UNIVERSITY STUDENTS APPEAL FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT
News and Views January 13 – Six more students from Shiraz University were detained after they appeared at the Intelligence Office in Shiraz following official summonses. One of the students at the University of Shiraz told PNN that the newly detained students are among 10 of those students who were summoned on January 5, 2009. Six of those who appeared at the Intelligence Office were detained and another, Mahboubeh Khademi, was allowed to leave. The six detained students have had no contact with their families. Intelligence agents detained Saied Khalatbari, Enayat Taghavi, Abbas Rahmati, and Ahmad Kohansal on January 10, 2009, and Hadi Alamli and Arash Roustaiee on January 12, 2009. Four other students, detained on January 3, 2009, have been released on heavy bails during the past two days. January 11, 2009, Mohsen Zarinkamar and Kazem Rezaiee were released on 60 million Toman ($60,000) and 50 million Toman ($50,000) bail respectively. Loghman Ghadiri Goltapeh and Abdoljalil Rezaiee were released on January 12, 2009 on a bail of 50 million Toman ($50,000) each. All of the summoned and detained students faced new charges of “acting against national security” and “insulting the authorities.” One of the students at the University of Shiraz told PNN that the initial charges of simply attending the assemblies at the university were changed to charges of “causing rioting and chaos” and finally acting against national security. The student expressed his belief that the charges indicate that the university does not run as an independently academic institution but rather that intelligence forces are dominant. One of the students at the University of Shiraz told PNN, “We appeal to people from international human rights organization and all college students across the country to support us.”
ONE MILLION SIGNATURES CAMPAIGN WINS SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR PRIZE
Late Edition January 19 – Partow Nooriala, a leading supporter of the One Million Signatures Campaign, joined Late Edition to speak about the campaign. Ms. Nooriala works as a poet and literary critic and lives in exile in Los Angeles. The One Million Signatures Campaign has been awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize. The Simon de Beauvoir Prize is an international human rights prize for women's freedom. It has been awarded since 2008 to individuals or groups who fight for gender equality and oppose human rights breaches. The prize is named after the French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir who wrote a 1949 women’s rights treatise. For the past two years, the prize has been given to recipients on Simone de Beauvoir’s birthday on January 9. Ms. Nooriala said this is a great victory for the Campaign. She spoke about how the campaign puts more pressure on the Islamic regime in Iran. Ms. Nooriala believes the celebration of this award could be a great example of unity for Iranians.
Today's Woman January 10 – For the past two years the Simone de Beauvoir Prize has been presented to those who work to establish women’s rights. This year the award was given to the One Million Signature Campaign in Iran. During a phone interview, Nasrin Sutodeh, a campaign member and lawyer from inside Iran, contended that international recognition of the Campaign contributes to the women’s rights movement in Iran. Ms. Sutodeh stated that pressure from Iranian authorities is not a result of international attention that the Campaign receives. In regards to whether signing the campaign or collecting signatures was a punishable crime in Iran, Ms. Sutodeh stated that, according to Iran’s constitution, signing the campaign is not a crime.
Late Edition January 14 –PNN interviewed Hanna Jahanforooz via satellite from Tel Aviv. Ms. Jahanforooz is a singer, songwriter and musician. She was born in Tehran to a Jewish family and lived there until four years after the Islamic Revolution. At the age of 12, her family decided to escape to Israel. Ms. Jahanforooz and her family spent a month traveling through the dirt roads of Iran and Pakistan until they finally arrived to the “promised land”. As a child in Iran she sang for the iyatoolot (Islamic religion ministers) and in Israel her love for music continues. She has spent year studying opera, theater and acting. Her music is inspired from Persian music, soul, opera, ethnic and world music. She sings in Persian, Hebrew, English and Spanish. She created her own unique and personal style, combining Farsi music from the east with western influences. With her broad vocal range, she performs both folk songs and improvisations, and her songs have become increasingly popular. During her interview with PNN, Ms. Jahanforooz answered various questions regarding her life in Israel and her challenges as a woman and artist in Tel Aviv. She gave her message of love and peace to the Iranian people and shared some memories from her days in Iran and added that “humans are humans” no matter where they live. She talked about the similarities between Persian and Israeli culture. She wished for peace in the world and gave a brief insight of how people in Israel think of Iranians.
IRANIAN MOVIE WINS TOP PRIZE AT THE MONTREAL FILM FESTIVAL
48 Hours January 17 – PNN spoke with the director of “For a Moment, Freedom” – a film that took the top prize at the Montreal Film Festival. Arash T. Riahi directed the semi-autobiographical film that depicts the lives of a group of Iranian refuges desperate to reach Europe but who have gotten stuck in a bureaucratic paperwork mess in Turkey. Mr. Riahi explained how he divided the making of the film into three sections. He said, "My aim was to tell three stories about people who were fleeing from their country, based on the experiences of other refugees and what I myself had been through. Each of the stories is meant to exemplify one aspect of the situation.” He described camera shots and the emotions he tried to depict through the use of various cameras. He explained, "So the restless feeling, the sense of moving towards an unknown future for the refugees, was conveyed by means of moving, flowing camerawork. By way of contrast, the central section has a kind of stagnant, immobile quality, and so the style could be calmer. There were certain particularly emotional scenes when it was appropriate to break out of this placid style, when this apparent calmness - which is not really being calm at all -reaches a flashpoint." Mr. Riahi added that his film aimed to denounce the collusion between the Turkish government and the Iranian secret services. "It's a fact that the secret services of these countries work together," he added. Commenting on one scene in the movie in which one of the kids wonders why people need documents to meet their parents, he said, "Unfortunately, bureaucracy is seen as the solution for most of the problems in society. When a refugee jumps out of the window and kills himself because he doesn't want to be sent back to his country, we should reconsider the concept of bureaucracy." Commenting on the cast he said, "It was important for me to find people for the film who experienced it not only as actors but also as human beings - preferably people who had been refugees themselves, or who had been through similar experiences – people who were prepared to go through hell with us while we were filming." The film was shot on location in Ankara, the eastern Turkish mountains of Erzurum and in Vienna and Berlin.
Late Edition January 17 – In Late Edition’s weekly book review, Curtis Sittenfeld’s book American Wife was covered by the show’s hosts. The book, which is a New York Times bestseller, is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. The novel depicts the life of a fictitious first lady named Alice Blackwell. In the book, this fictitious first lady is an intelligent middle aged woman who suddenly realizes that her liberal ideas contradict with those of her husband, the President, who is pushing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New York Time’s critic Joyce Carol Oates called the author a "portraitist in prose," who never deviates from sympathetic respect for her subject. In response to reporters' questions regarding her husband-president's failed policies, the fictitious first lady responds, “All I did was marry him. You are the ones who gave him power."
Late Edition covered many reviews for this book including those featured in the New York Times, Guardian, Independent and the New York magazine.
Late Edition January 17 – The founder and president of the World Academy of Art, Literature and Media (WAALM) granted Late Edition an interview from London. Dr. Mostafa Dorbayani and his wife Marjan Abdi developed the idea of an international awarding body in February 2005 called the Persian Golden Lioness Awards. Their first two annual events included academy awards in the categories of music, literature, dramatic arts as well as a special awards section for news. The ceremony took place in Budapest in 2005 and 2006 where more than 50 of the most outstanding artists and scholars of Hungary and Persia were honored. The third annual event was conducted in London in 2008.
Late Edition January 18 – PNN spoke with Mirza Agha Asgari, a well known Iranian intellectual who lives in exile and works as a writer and poet. PNN interviewed Mr. Asgari in Cologne, Germany about his recently published and controversial book Erotic Literature in Germany. He introduced his book on Late Edition and explained that erotic literature is not pornography. He said, “There is nothing wrong with describing emotion and feeling, it's all about love.” He explained there are many classical examples of erotic literature in Iran. According to him, Froogh Farrokhzad and Ahmad Shamlou are the greatest contemporary writers and poets in this field. He spoke about how erotic literature is taboo in Iran, due to what he believes are religious and cultural factors. He believes the new generation of Iranian writers will pay more attention to the plight of exile writers as a whole and to the genre of Persian erotic literature.
Also on PNN…
Late Edition January 16 – Late Edition’s coverage of the Democracy Challenge was recognized by Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman. The Democracy Challenge asks contestants worldwide to send in a video completing the phrase “Democracy is…”. The democracy video challenge is an initiative of the International Information Bureau that aims to create an open participative global dialogue on democracy. Contestants can enter fiction or documentary, animated or live action videos in English or with English subtitles. Seven winners, one from each geographic region, and one anonymous winner will be announced in mid-June 2009. The winners will receive all expense paid trips to Washington DC, New York and Hollywood where their films will be screened. Winners will also gain exposure to filmmakers and the U.S. film and television industry. Also included are meetings with democracy advocates from the government, media and civil society. So far, Iran has outranked every other foreign country in submissions of videos for the competition. Secretary Glassman attributes this number to PNN’s efforts to showcase the project on Late Edition.
News and Views January 14 – PNN’s lead-in to next week’s inauguration coverage began this week with interviewing VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson. The interview with Ms. Wolfson traced the history of the 'transition period', as we know it today, to Harry Truman. She explained for viewers that matters of national security necessitated that incoming presidents be well aware of the country's dealings with world countries. PNN also heard from the domestic policy transition director for President Clinton, Al From, who said that the transition is not just
about turning the keys over to the next president. He explained, “Since only 30% of President
Bush's senior National Security Council members had been confirmed when 9/11 happened, Congress passed a law allowing presidential candidates to submit a list of people they are considering for their potential administration to ensure the White House would be able to function properly. Mack McLarty, the first Clinton chief of staff, and Department of Justice transition head Paul McNutly described what the transition process involves. They explained that all differences between the two parties were set aside once the results of the election were out. Further, sincere and full cooperation had already been underway, which assisted in a smooth transition. Mr. McLarty stated, “There is no way to accomplish this without organizing.” Mr. McNutly said, “The transition at the DOJ requires dozens of people working in an audit-like approach.... meeting with officials of the same component of the department, getting an idea of the budget…looking at the hottest issues on the table.” In closing, Ms. Wolfson explained, “As I said before, 9/11 really made these people focus on the need to keep the national security apparatus going from one day to the next to make the transition seamless as much as possible. They all know that there is so much at stake here and that there can’t be a moment of vulnerability.”
News and Views January 12 – A talented poet and political activist was interviewed by PNN regarding the protests in Tehran over the war in Gaza. Simin Behbahani commented on two opposing protest groups who took to the streets in Tehran to oppose the war in the Gaza Strip. Ms. Behbahani believes that the group who disrupted the anti-war rally are really the "same bunch of thugs" that she herself has had to endure at her own political activists events. She commented that this particular group always “shows up to do whatever they possibly can to disrupt and disorganize such gatherings and rallies.” Ms. Behbahani voiced her heavy criticism against the war. In her opinion, Hamas is responsible for beginning the war and victimizing a large number of the Palestinian people.
On the Record January 16 – Friday’s segment was devoted to the presidential inauguration taking place on Tuesday January 20, 2009. PNN Ombudsman Kambiz Mahmoudi gave a brief history of presidential inaugurations in the United States. He began with an overview of the celebrations surrounding George Washington’s inauguration as the first United States president on April 30, 1789. One of the most significant factors of this year’s presidential inauguration is that President-elect Barack Obama, who is an African American, is part of a group of Americans who were excluded from voting only decades ago. On Tuesday he will take an oath of office for the highest executive position of this country. VOA/PNN will broadcast four and half hours of the inaugural ceremonies live for our audience. Some 230 years ago it was difficult, if not impossible, to predict that this small and newly established republic might grow and prosper to become a major world power and one of the most democratic societies of the world. Dr. Mahmoudi acknowledged the shortcomings of the United States and reminded viewers that there are still many obstacles to overcome. “Still, there is little doubt that the U.S. is moving toward the ideals of its founding fathers. The mere election of an African American individual to the highest executive rank of the country in 2009 is a sign of such progress,” he added. He explained that after the president-elect is inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States he will make his inaugural speech. The costs of these ceremonies are paid voluntarily by American tax payers. In closing, Dr. Mahmoudi stated, “The ceremonies that you will witness live on January 20th are unique and historical. Mr. Obama, like all his predecessors, was elected democratically to serve this nation.”
This week on the History Channel … The week began with a feature that chronicled the amazing engineering feats of ancient and primitive civilizations. In “Mega Movers: Moving History” the men, methods and machines of structural moving that have been pushing the limits of imagination and technology for over 5,000 years were explored. The segment chronicled the amazing feats of mega moving from primitive civilization through the Industrial Revolution into the 21st Century – including the evolution of technology which allowed a 3,000-ton building to be driven down the street by remote control! From the 40-ton granite blocks of Stonehenge, to the awesome Vatican obelisk, to the 208-foot tall Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the ambition and ingenuity of these thinkers has continued to defy convention, break records, and achieve the unthinkable. Also this week, “Bridge” examined the tools of the past and present that help engineers build mega-sized bridges. To get a tool’s-eye view of just how a mega-bridge like this gets built, the show focused on the following types of construction: the clamshell dredge, the pile driver, the concrete truck, steel cable, and the submerged arc welder. During another feature called “Skyscraper” viewers caught a glimpse of the history, evolution and latest developments of the tools that can take man into the sky. “Skyscraper” spotlights the construction of three new buildings around the country – a 30-story tall hotel tower for the Palms Casino in Las Vegas; a 52-story tall office building in Manhattan that will be the new headquarters of the New York Times; and a 92-story tall residential and commercial building in Chicago – the Trump International Hotel and Tower. The final feature of the week was a biography of WWII General Omar Bradley. General George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff in WWII, called Omar Bradley, "The finest group commander in any nation's ground forces. His was the military brain that put the edge into Eisenhower's leadership and brilliantly exploited the ferocious loose cannon that was George Patton. He went from commander and remaker of the fabled infantry school at Fort Benning to commander of three armies and 1,000,000 fighting men of the Twelfth Army Group. More than anyone else, he was at the center of building any amateur army into the whirlwind that tore through North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, and Germany. This biography uncovers the history and complex character that drove this peerless fighter not only up to and through WWII, but in the critical years after it.
PNN’s question of the week was “Given the views of the Iranian and other relevant world leaders, do you think there will be a cease fire in Gaza any time soon?” Out of 5,051 respondents, 1,996 or 40% said yes; 2,760 or 55% said no; while 295 or 5% did not have an opinion.
The Persian News Network’s television programming complements its radio broadcasts. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four Iranian households tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs also are streamed on www.voapnn.com.
PNN’s 7-hour program block opens with Today in Washington, a brief look at the latest news developments in Washington, as well as the content of PNN’s upcoming programs. Then we present cultural programming translated into Farsi from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of newsbreaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, featuring influential women from around the world who discuss a full spectrum of social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business topics. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, features live news coverage of the latest headlines from Washington, Iran and across the globe. Roundtable with You is a talk show with expert guests, featuring discussion of current events, politics, popular culture and global health. Viewers and listeners from Iran and around the world participate in the show via phone calls and e-mails. Late Edition begins with a wrap-up of the day’s news and a close look at the day’s top story. Targeted to a younger demographic, the show also features segments on health, technology, sports, entertainment and culture. NewsTalk is a journalists’ roundtable discussion program that features a news update followed by an examination of the day’s top stories and an in-depth look at issues relating to Iran.
PNN INSIDER - VIEWER PERSPECTIVES
Sadeh comments: “Today’s Woman program is part of the current woman movement in Iran. It is part of women’s movement history. In the future, there will be research about the impact of this show in Iran. With your effort the show will continue to be an important chapter in Woman’s history in Iran. I have a question; I have signed the one million signature campaign electronically, would that be valid for it to be counted?”
A Today’s Woman viewer suggests: “Please inform the Today’s Woman anchors when they are announcing news about wars or violation of human rights cases they should not be laughing. This will have a negative impact on the viewers. Thanks you.”
Babek writes: “In one of Today’s Woman programs you had a phone interview and the guest said that the vigilant in Iran they get paid to crackdown peaceful demonstrations. I have to add to her argument that many of these people do not necessarily get paid. They are just ignorant people.”
Shahram: “The religious regime of Iran is corrupt from head to toe. When law and order bodies of the country such as the police openly and blatantly extort money from people – who are their fellow countrymen – you can feel the depth of corruption with your flesh and bones.”
Ahmad writes: “In my view, Iran, Israel and Hamas are the three angles of a triangle, and work together accordingly: Iran’s diplomacy and actions strengthen Israel’s position and Israel’s decisions and actions strengthen Hamas; but the third angle in incomplete, because none of these are helpful for Iran.”
Yashar from Iran suggests: “As a permanent viewer of VOA, I appreciate your programs. But I should mention that now you have a competitor named BBC; this means you need to improve the quality and quantity of your programs to keep your viewers loyal, and attract more viewers. Other Persian TV channels that broadcast from outside Iran – especially from the U.S. – are not competitive, and have to improve drastically, or they will soon be forgotten by Iranian viewers.”
Ahmad writes: “During the eight years of Iraq-Iran war, the then leader Ayatollah Khomeini called the war ‘a blessing for the Iranian people’; and thus Iranian authorities made no efforts to end the war. But now they are against Israel’s war on Hamas, and nobody says that “war is good for the Palestinian people. Is war good for one nation but bad for another? Weren’t Iranian people “human beings’? Weren’t Iranian children as innocent as the Palestinian children? The regime that is in power in Iran spends the entire nation’s wealth on war in different parts of the world.”
Farshad from Tehran comments: “At the threshold of the 1979 revolution in Iran, I think the following: We (the Iranian People) revolted in order to remove the King and Royal family from power; now the power is in the hands of mullahs and their families! We revolted to bring religion and politics into reconciliation; our efforts ended in political religion! We revolted to enshrine freedom in Iran; instead, what we have is camouflaged captivity! Our search for a humanitarian economy ended up in materialistic human beings! Yes, this Iran, thirty years after the Islamic Revolution.”