Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – August 6, 2007 . . . Major stories this week included coverage of the rare joint mission of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates visiting the Persian Gulf in a bid to stimulate dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians; an interview with Representative Jerold Nadler (D-NY) on a resolution he co-authored that would block an arms deal with Saudi Arabia and five other moderate Gulf states; an exclusive interview with Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey; a new poll conducted in Iran which indicated that 67% of those questioned would support a “velvet revolution;” an Australian scholar, Homer Abramian, saying Iran’s regime is plundering the wealth of the Iranian people; an interview with Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, about Iran’s role in the renewed Arab-Israeli peace process; and an interview with Issa Saharkhiz, Executive Board Member of the Association for Defending Press Freedom in Iran, about the fate of two Iranian Kurdish journalists sentenced to death.
PNN reported from Israel, Egypt, the occupied territories and the Persian Gulf as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a rare joint mission to the Middle East in a bid to jumpstart Mideast peace talks. News & Views reported August 3 on a recent interview with Secretary Rice on US arms sales to Persian Gulf states in which she stated that the move should send a message that the US will defend its interests and its allies in the Gulf. However, she also said Iran has nothing to fear as these relationships the US has in the region are longstanding. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has asked the Gulf states to step up pressure on Iran, stating that Iran’s nuclear program is counterproductive to the interests of other states in the region. Following her visit to Sharm el-Sheikh earlier in the week, Secretary Rice indicated she is very encouraged that Saudi Arabia will likely take part in an international peace conference in the fall if it is substantially substantive.
News & Views also reported on Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who said “The administration discussed the outlines of the proposed arms sales with a dozen members of our committee, and we have called for a thorough briefing in September. We will see where we are then. We particularly want to ensure that these arrangements include only defense systems, and not items that can be used for other purposes. We welcome the development that the Saudis and other Gulf states have recognized that a nuclear weapons-equipped Iran is a mortal threat to them.” Meanwhile, the House of Representatives began debate on legislation requiring divestiture of current investments in Iran.
News & Views interviewed Representative Jerold Nadler (D-NY) on August 2; the House Majority Assistant Whip is co-author of a resolution that would block the Saudi arms deal. The resolution also calls on the UN Security Council to charge Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide because of his calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. “We should have learned from the past. We gave a lot of arms to the Shah of Iran, and they ended up in the hands of Ayatollah Khomenei. Can anyone assure us that arms we give to Saudi Arabia won’t end up in the hands of terrorists or a terrorist regime down the road? Is the Saudi regime the most stable in the world?” The House leader told PNN that the “major restraint to Iranian power is the natural balance of power that has been there for millennia with Iraq. Iraq has always been a major balance of power to Iran regardless of what regime was [in place].)
News & Views interviewed Salameh Nemat, former Washington bureau chief of Al-Hayat, the London-based Arabic language newspaper, about the significance of the Rice and Gates trip. He said there were news reports prior to their trip saying the Bush administration was unhappy with Iraq’s neighbors for their lack of support in helping to stabilize Iraq. He said the situation in Iraq colors the entire Middle East, particularly “as the United States is anxious to find an exit strategy in order to begin drawing down forces beginning in 2008.” Mr. Nemat said those opposed to US influence in the region are against democracy taking root. He cited the Iraqi government in Baghdad, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the Lebanese government as examples of representative governments elected in free and fair balloting that are opposed by Islamist forces.
News & Views reported that Iran’s nuclear ambition was one of the items discussed by visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Bush. The two leaders spoke to reporters July 31 after two days of talks at Camp David, the first formal meeting between the two men since Prime Minister Tony Blair stepped down last month. Britain has been America’s closest ally in the Iraq war.
In an exclusive interview with the Persian News Network, the Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Assistance, Stuart Levey, said financial institutions around the world are making the decision not to do business with Iran because of its defiance of UN resolutions declaring Iran should abandon its enrichment of uranium. “You have to wonder what the future of business development in Iran is if the world’s leading financial institutions are deciding not to do business with Iran. What you’ve seen the past couple of days is not a matter of businesses not divesting in Iran. It is a matter of institutions stopping doing business with Iranian banks and counterparties. I think bankers do not want to be involved in proliferation. They don’t want to be involved with terrorist financing. This is not pressure being brought to bear by the United States. These are responsible business decisions being made by business institutions across the world.”
Author, researcher and London-based human rights activist Hossein Bagherzadeh told Roundtable with You August 1 that the new wave of executions taking place in Iran are more accurately called “murders.” He said these most of the executions are taking place without any trial, adding that if there is a trial, it is speedy and without the presence of a lawyer or the right of appeal. Mr. Bagherzadeh said he believes most of the executions – including the death of 16 so-called criminals last week – are intended to muzzle the population by creating an atmosphere of fear. He also pointed out that many of those convicted are underage. Speaking from Paris, Reza Moinini a spokesman for Reporters without Borders, said two journalists who are Iranian Kurds have been condemned to death by the Revolutionary Court in Kurdistan. He said the two journalists – identified as Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed Botimar – have been accused of having contact with foreign and Iranian opposition media. Mr. Moinini appealed for the release of the two journalists.
News & Views talked August 1 with Issa Saharkhiz, Executive Board Member of the Association for Defending Press Freedom in Iran, about the fate of Mr. Hassanpour and Mr. Botimar. Mr. Saharkhiz said the Association “discussed their sentences in a meeting last night. Some say they were sentenced to death for their work as journalists. Others say they were sentenced for crimes having nothing to do with journalism. Our association has called on Iran’s top judiciary officials to form a fact-finding committee to be dispatched to Iran’s Kurdistan so that they can look into why charges were brought and sentences handed down against these two journalists.” In describing the environment all Iranian journalists work in these days, Mr. Saharkhiz said there is an “undercurrent of censorship and self-censorship that is getting worse by the day. The government is intent on deflecting criticism away from its ineptness and incompetence and somehow shift the blame to the Iranian press by accusing journalists of organizing a ‘creeping coup d’etat.’”
Roundtable with You August 3 featured Said Jabari, a senior analyst with the LA-based Center for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights in Iran. Mr. Jabari talked about a public opinion poll the CFPD conducted inside Iran during the first quarter of 2007, with the assistance of students, labor union leaders, journalists, lawyers, feminists, economists and leaders within Iran’s ethnic minorities. Through random sampling, 600 respondents from five cities – Tehran, Shiraz, Mahabad, Tabriz and Isfahan – participated in the polling, with an equal number of men and women included. Overwhelmingly, Mr. Jabari said, Iranians want to have access to nuclear technology. They do not want the current regime to have a nuclear bomb and said they do not trust the regime when it claims it is not pursuing such technology. Mr. Jabari said the CFPD poll revealed that Iranians oppose their government’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah. A large majority of respondents said the Islamic system cannot and does not satisfy their needs, and given the chance, would not support an Islamic revolution. The CFPD poll said a majority of Iranians support US and Western support for the promotion of democracy in Iran, with 67% saying they would support a “velvet revolution.”
News & Views interviewed Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, about Iran’s role in the renewed Arab-Israeli peace process. He said Iran is providing substantial support to both Hezbollah and Hamas, and can therefore cause problems in efforts to broker a deal between Israel and her neighbors. He said it is not clear if Iran can play a positive role, but “it certainly can play a very negative role.” Mr. Clawson also talked about a recent article he’d written on the role of Iran’s president in Iran’s body politics. Mr. Clawson said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has done a good job in using the limited powers of the presidency, but said real power is in the hands of the Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who after 18 years has been able to solidify his power behind the scenes.
Scholar Homer Abramian, a specialist on pre-Islamic history and founder of the Center for Iranian Studies in Sydney, Australia, told Roundtable with You August 2 that Iran’s regime is trying to plunder the country’s wealth by dividing Iran by its different ethnic groups. He said Iranians need to learn from the European Union how European nations joined together to make a stronger whole. Mr. Abramian said Iranians need to do likewise, joining together to celebrate Iran’s great contributions to world civilization.
Presidential candidate and ‘08 hopeful Barack Obama said August 2 that as president, he would not outsource US diplomacy in Tehran. During a major foreign policy speech on August 1, Senator Obama (D-IL) promised that as president he would consider military strikes against terrorists in Pakistan if the country refused to root them out. Those comments drew a sharp response from Pakistani officials as well as the Bush administration.
This week’s History Channel segments included a program on “Murder at the Fair: The Assassination of President McKinley” on the sweltering afternoon of September 6, 1901; on breaking the sound barrier in October 1947, when 24-year-old test pilot Chuck Yeager smashed through it in a Bell XS-1 aircraft; on the tools of modern astronomy and their roots in the ancient Mayan city of Chichén-Itzá; a profile of German-born physicist Albert Einstein and how he earned the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics for his general theory of relativity; and a program on “The Homestead Strike” of July 6, 1892 – one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the US labor movement.
Persian News Network’s “On the Record” is a once-a-week program featuring an ombudsman, Kambiz Mahmoudi, who also serves as PNN’s senior managing editor. On the August 3 edition of On the Road, Mr. Mahmoudi responded to various critics who accused PNN of being the obedient lap dog of the Bush Administration because the network receives US government funding. Mr. Mahmoudi disputed this notion of subservience, saying some complain VOA is not conservative enough. He said VOA’s charter requires it to adhere to a strict journalistic code, no matter who is paying the bills.
In another e- mail, a PNN viewer accused VOA of fostering the separation and disintegration of Iran by merely hosting those who discuss the human rights of ethnic minorities. Mr. Mahmoudi said that unlike Iran’s authoritarian media, free media like VOA encourage open and balanced discussions so that viewers can make up their own minds
History Channel programming opens PNN’s daily six-hour Persian-television block with news headlines followed by various History Channel programs, translated and narrated into Farsi, that illustrate the cultural fabric and political landscape of the United States. News and Views, which debuted in 2003, is now a two hour-long program featuring correspondent reports, interviews and the top news stories from Washington and around the world. News and Views is followed by Roundtable with You, Late Edition and NewsTalk, all one-hour shows that together constitute a five-hour daily block of Persian-language television broadcast by satellite to Iran. Roundtable with You, which debuted on television in 1996, takes calls from viewers and features a wide variety of guests discussing issues ranging from popular culture to politics. Late Edition, a youth-oriented program which first aired in July 2006, looks at major world events and issues of interest to young people. NewsTalk, which went on the air in October 2006, opens with a brief recap of the day’s top headlines followed by a panel of experts discussing the day's top news stories. NewsTalk features in-depth discussions of the issues of greatest concern to Iranians and closes with a segment on worldwide media coverage of Iran.
Persian News Network’s six hours of television programming complements the network’s daily radio broadcasts and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. PNN’s Internet site is at www.VOANews.com/persian.