Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – November 26, 2007 . . . Major stories this week included the board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and PNN’s exclusive interviews with the US Ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, before and after the meeting; the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Annapolis; an exclusive interview with State Department spokesman David Foley on expectations for Annapolis; an interview with University of South Florida political science professor Mohsen Milani on its prospects for success; an interview with Gen. Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO; last weekend’s rare head of state OPEC summit in Riyadh; the possibility of another round of US-Iran talks on Iraqi violence; the disappearance of a former student leader in Iran after appearing on a PNN show; the UN’s condemnation of human rights violations in Iran; Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi calling on her government to suspend sensitive nuclear activities; an interview with Rodney Jones, President of Policy Architects International, on political instability in Pakistan vis-à-vis the country’s nuclear weapons power; Congressional debate over policy toward Iran; Iran increasingly coming up in campaigning for the 2008 US presidential election; an interview with the Heritage Foundation’s Ray Walser on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s latest visit to Tehran;
Ambassador Gregory Schulte, the US Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Association was the featured guest on Roundtable with You November 24. His Iranian counterpart, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh also was invited to participate, but declined VOA’s invitation. Mr. Schulte said he was happy with IAEA deliberations on Iran’s nuclear program but expressed surprise that the Iranian ambassador also was pleased. “If Mr. Soltanieh was happy too, then he clearly was not listening. Almost every member of the Board of Governors called on Iran to do three things: First, to cooperate with the Agency more fully and proactively; second, to sign the additional protocol in order to give the Agency more information about the nature of Iran’s nuclear activity; and third to suspend its uranium enrichment. The IAEA report clearly says that Iran has fallen short on all three counts,” Mr. Schulte said. “My report to Secretary Rice would be that we had a satisfactory response here at the IAEA as it would make it easier to pass a third sanctions resolution against Iran at the UN Security Council,” he added. “I hope Mr. Soltanieh is hearing this and conveys this message to the Iranian leadership.” He agreed with a caller’s comment that it would be more cost-effective for the Iranian government to purchase fuel for its reactor being built by the Russians than for Iran to process the fuel itself.
Mr. Schulte told another viewer the US and its allies “have taken pains to make sure sanctions target Iran’s leadership, not its people, so that those in charge of Iran’s nuclear program will bear the brunt of the sanctions.” But he admitted that Tehran’s policy choices may worsen economic conditions for the larger segment of the Iranian public as foreign companies begin to pull out and reconsider doing business with Iran. Mr. Schulte also disputed the notion propagated by Iranian leaders that the US is against Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology. “Please don't believe this story. The United States is a strong supporter of nuclear technology all over the world for peaceful purposes. We have given Iran assurances of fuel supply and promised them to build top-of-the-line nuclear reactors. This offer is still out there. The United States wants to have a different type of relationship with Iran. But are the Iranian leaders willing to give up their support for international terrorism? Are they willing to play a more constructive role in the region and comply with their obligations under the NPT?”
Viewers immediately flooded PNN with e-mails for Ambassador Schulte: “Mr. Schulte, as an Iranian, I would like to thank you and other US officials for your efforts against the Islamic Regime’s dangerous ambitions to get nuclear weapons. Please do whatever is necessary to stop the Islamic Regime from getting WMD. And please get more serious, and push the regime harder because we Iranians don’t want to see the Islamic Regime with nuclear teeth. We hope to see some results soon – before it’s too late.”
“Dear Mr. Schulte, if you really want to prevent the Islamic Regime from getting weapons of mass destruction you should support secular Iranians’ fight against the regime, along with your other efforts at the UN.”
“I just wanted to say that Mr. Schulte is a first-rate diplomat and I see a bright future for him.”
“Tonight you had one of the best Roundtables ever. You had one of the best officials of the US government, who came across as very genuine. I congratulate you all, especially [anchor] Mr. Farhoodi. VOA/PNN has a huge audience in Iran. You need to be congratulated for what you did tonight. You shake the foundations of the regime with your programs.”
PNN correspondent Ali Farhoodi broadcast live from Vienna with coverage of the IAEA’s Board meeting. (VOA was the only television network broadcasting live from Vienna – even Iranian state television, IRIB, with a large contingent of reporters, had to send their reports ftp, or via the internet, ostensibly because of budget problems.)
PNN reported that China encouraged Iran November 20 to abide by UN resolutions and strengthen cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to achieve early solution of its nuclear issue. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing that “China is working on IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei's newly released report on the Iranian nuclear program, which is objective and professional.”
A Middle East Peace conference is scheduled to begin in Annapolis November 27. PNN will report on the all-day sessions scheduled at the Naval Academy as well as pre- and post-conference bilateral meetings with attendees such as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. David Foley, the State Department spokesman on Middle East issues, told News and Views that President Bush will hold bilateral talks with foreign leaders on November 28 following the Annapolis conference. He said substantial gaps remain in drafting a joint Palestinian-Israeli document to present at the conference that would set the basis for their final status negotiations. Mr. Foley said the Israelis and Palestinians will set up working groups to pursue negotiations, adding that “President Bush and the international community are all ready to help them make progress, and they appeal for the largest Arab support possible.” Although the Annapolis conference will focus on reviving Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, it also will discuss efforts for a comprehensive Middle East settlement.
News and Views interviewed Mohsen M. Milani, Professor of Politics and Chair of the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa, about the Annapolis conference and prospects for its success. According to Mr. Milani, prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East are bleak until there is a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Only through peaceful negotiations will this historical conflict be resolved as there is no military solution to the conflict.” He said he was skeptical about the chances of a breakthrough at the Annapolis conference, quoting an opinion survey in Israel as saying 71 percent of those polled welcomed the conference taking place, but 82 percent said there would be no peace treaty. “I happen to think the 82 percent have it right,” he added. Some of the core issues underlying the conflict – the issue of refugees, Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, and the final borders – are difficult. He said it is essential for Syria and Egypt to participate if the conference is to enjoy any success. “It’s a truism that Arab countries cannot wag war against Israel without Egypt, and cannot make peace with Israel without Syria,” he concluded, adding that Syria is under pressure from Iran and Hamas not to participate.
News and Views reported that the foreign ministers of Egypt and Turkey will attend the peace conference. Other Arab states were expected to decide whether to attend or not during an Arab League meeting in Cairo November 23. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she believes the conference will be a success if it launches Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to create a Palestinian state. She said the United States hopes for a peace deal between the two sides before President Bush leaves office in early 2009. Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, said “In our hearts we know that one day we will have to end the conflicts, in whatever way, and we will have to pay a price.” Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel, said “It’s better to try and fail than not to have tried at all.” He believes a lack of engagement with the Palestinians gave the wrong message to others. It gave a boost, he said, “to the Iranians, to Osama bin Laden, to all of the extremists in the region, to be able to say the Americans don’t care about the Palestinian issue.”
Mehrdad Khonsari, a research consultant with the London-based Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, told News and Views November 24 that both Israel and Palestine need to make some serious changes immediately after the Annapolis conference. “The goal must be a permanent peace,” he said, “not just a ceasefire. We need to see great changes in the Mideast. Israeli policy toward new settlements in Palestinian territory needs to change. Palestinians need to stop suicide bombers.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the peace conference will have no benefit for the Palestinians. But Mr. Khonsari, a former diplomat, said Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “are isolated in the Middle East. They are not Palestinian supporters so much as they are looking to what benefits the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
News and Views reported November 25 that Israeli tanks and infantrymen on a night operation in the Gaza Strip killed two Palestinian militants in a gun battle early on Sunday, just hours before the Annapolis conference is to begin. A few hundred Palestinians in Gaza City held a protest November 24 against the Annapolis, protesting against any potential concessions Palestinian leaders would make at the conference. In Jerusalem, an estimated 500 Israelis rallied November 24 outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s official residence calling on him to make every effort to make peace with the Palestinians. As Mr. Olmert was due to leave for Washington and Annapolis, demonstrators packed the narrow sidewalk and a nearby street junction carrying placards reading: “This is the time – choose peace” and “Yes to a peace treaty.”
News and Views interviewed General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and former presidential candidate on a number of topics, including Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, the 2008 presidential election, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and how foreign policy is playing in the presidential campaign. “There are some unexplained anomalies in the information that has been collected thus far by the IAEA that would let any observer believe that there is some reason to suspect that Iran is actually pursuing nuclear weapons.” He said if outstanding questions aren’t resolved about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, “those who want to use force will have a stronger case. So I don’t think the Iranian leadership should be confident that force won’t be used. Force could be used and could be used relatively quickly.” General Clark said he does not advocate the use of force at this time, but illustrated a few possible military strike scenarios. He also said if Senator Clinton wins the 2008 election, he would expect her to carefully begin a dialogue with Iran, involving experts on Iraq, nuclear issues, economic development, and reparations and properties and other issues of concern associated with the change of regime in 1979. After 30 years of no communication, he said, “there is an awful lot to talk about, but we have to begin the dialogue in the right way.” On Pakistan, General Clark said, “We are going to call on [General Pervez] Musharraf to do the right thing, but ultimately it’s his responsibility. He is the man who seized control in 1999. He is the man who screwed it up. And he is the man who has to fix it.”
NewsTalk contributor Rob Sobhani attended the rare summit of OPEC heads of state last weekend in Riyadh, where he had an up-close encounter with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He appeared on News and Views November 22 and said the two leaders tried unsuccessfully to turn the gathering into a political vehicle, but Saudi Arabia insisted the OPEC leaders stick to the topic – oil and the environment. Mr. Sobhani said the reasons behind the rising price of oil are the decline of the dollar and the demand for energy.
News and Views November 20 reported that Iran has agreed to hold a new round of talks with the United States on improving the security situation in Iraq. The US envoy to Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, have met two times in Baghdad this year to discuss Iraq's security situation. Their meetings broke a 27-year freeze in diplomatic ties, but did not appear to make much progress – each side blamed the other for Iraq's violence. David Foley, a State Department spokesman on Middle East issues, told VOA in a written contact that the US has said it is always ready for the next round of talks with Iran over Iraqi security. He said details are being worked out.
Hassan Mansour, an economics professor at London’s Schiller University, told NewsTalk November 25 that the US dollar has played an important role in the world economy for over 60 years. But for nearly two years, Iran – OPEC’s second biggest producer – has been reducing its exposure to the dollar, saying the weak US currency is eroding its purchasing power. The international affairs director of the state owned National Iranian Oil Company, Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, told reporters November 19 that Iran has effectively cut all ties with the dollar when it comes to oil revenues. “This is an economic decision,” he said, “and we’ve been proven right. Over time, the dollar has gotten weaker and weaker.” Mr. Mansour said Iran is right when it says the value of the US dollar will reduce the value of other countries’ currency reserves. “But Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comment that Iran will receive more revenue from Euros is nonsense, because the price of oil is based on the dollar, and Iran will receive the same amount of value for its oil whether it’s paid in dollars or Euros.
PNN is scheduled to interview Mike Gapes, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Britain’s House of Commons, on November 28. It will be Mr. Gapes’s first post-trip interview since leading a group of eight MPs on a rare trip to Iran last week, the first such visit by an official British delegation in four years. The group met during their four-day visit with Iran’s new top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili. They also met Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, chairman of the Iranian parliament Gholam Ali Haddad and judiciary advisor on international affairs Mohammad Javad Larijani. British-Iranian diplomatic relations were only restored in 1999 after ties were cut over the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calling for the killing of writer Salman Rushdie. The relationship has been troubled since then on a number of fronts.
Ali Tabarzadi, the son of Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, appeared on Roundtable with You November 21, nearly a month to the day after his father was a guest on the program. The father, a former student leader and Secretary-General of the Iran Democratic Front, appeared on Roundtable October 22. Despite a pledge to keep silent about his treatment while incarcerated for six years, Mr. Tabarzadi had contacted PNN to express his deep concern about the treatment of imprisoned students, saying authorities are resorting to torture, “obtaining confessions” and getting “students to say things they have no knowledge about.” “Torture,” he said, “makes you say what people want to hear.” The son, Ali, told PNN his father was arrested within hours of his appearance on Roundtable. “In the absence of a free press,” he said, “the Voice of America is the greatest source of information for Iranian freedom fighters. Within this context, my father, despite the restrictions imposed on him by judicial authorities, took the risk to appear on Roundtable to voice his deep conviction about the injustices he observed in his daily life.” He said authorities carted his father off to Evin prison following the interview, but “haven’t told him on what basis he should remain in prison.”
Former student leader and human rights activist Hamid Alizadeh, who now resides in Los Angeles, welcomed the UN Human Rights Committee’s condemnation of repeated violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Appearing on Roundtable with You November 21, he was commenting on a vote the UN committee passed the previous day by a vote of 72-50 with 55 abstentions. “These resolutions send a strong signal from the international community to [Iran that its] failure to uphold the rights and fundamental freedoms of [its] citizens is unacceptable, and must end,” said Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, Sir John Sewers, said in describing the vote. From Tehran, student activist Ali Rahimi said the recent crackdown on student activists is not stopping student leaders from planning activities to commemorate Shonda Azar, or Iranian Students Day, on December 7.
PNN reported on Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi calling on the Islamic Republic November 19 to suspend sensitive nuclear activities to avert a “serious” threat of a US military attack. “The drum beat of war can be heard very loudly,” Ms. Ebadi, a lawyer, told a conference of her rights group in Tehran called “No to war, yes to peace and human rights.” She urged all Iranians to support a national campaign aimed at preventing possible US military action. Speculation has grown that the United States may launch air strikes against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which the West fears is a cover to build nuclear weapons. “Iran should respect UN Security Council resolutions,” Ms. Ebadi told reporters after the conference.
News and Views looked at the Iranian nuclear problem from a number of perspectives November 19. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana is to brief EU ministers on options in support of UN sanctions against Iran. Mr. Solana also hopes to meet in the next week with Iran’s new nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in Israel over the weekend that the IAEA report does not diminish France’s seriousness in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. “Paris will not comprise Israeli security,” he said. In Saudi Arabia for an OPEC meeting over the weekend, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Al Arabia TV that Washington’s war talk is just psychological propaganda. From Cairo, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, said he hopes Iranians don’t make a mistake and think the US is afraid or not inclined to stand up to them. In Kuwait, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, said even if Iran was to produce nuclear weapons, its position in the world would not be enhanced. President Ahmadinejad said he wants to talk with Arab neighbors about a consortium to supply enriched uranium to the region, adding that the consortium and the facilities should be in a neutral country such as Switzerland. And from Moscow, President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly announced that Russia will send nuclear fuel for the Bushehr power plant, a reversal of a previous commitment made to Israel.
Elahe Hicks of the New York-based Human Rights Watch is a regular contributor on NewsTalk. She reports that she recently attended an international human rights conference in Istanbul organized by an American NGO. Many women rights activists from Iran were invited to the conference. Two, who are members of the One Million Signatures Campaign to abolish discriminatory laws regarding Iranian women, specifically mentioned the role of VOA/PNN programs during their presentations. While both of them were extremely supportive of the VOA programs, they were critical of US foreign policy toward Iran. They both said “VOA programs have changed the Iranian family’s lifestyle.” One of the speakers, who was recently arrested, said: “These days Iranian people after work go directly to their homes to watch VOA/PNN programs.” She said the majority who have access to satellite equipment plan their daily schedules around various VOA/PNN programs. She mentioned while the Iranian elites and intellectuals follow the content of VOA/PNN programs with a critical approach, these programs are the only source of information for the majority of the middle class. As a friend (and now a part) of the VOA Persian service for more than 14 years, once again I would like to congratulate you on your efforts to promote the flow of impartial news and information to Iran. I wholeheartedly hope that VOA/PNN will continue to meet the expectations of the extraordinarily demanding audience in Iran.”
News and Views reported November 21 that senior Pakistani officials are indicating President Pervez Musharraf may quit his post of army chief in a few days and begin his term as a civilian president. On November 22, the show reported that the president's hand-picked Supreme Court dismissed the sixth and last legal challenge against his re-election. Opposition leaders continued to protest President Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule. Former cricket star and opposition leader Imran Khan, who was released from prison on Wednesday, says political parties should not participate in “fraudulent” elections that would legitimize emergency rule. Meanwhile, News and Views reported that President Bush said in a television interview that the Pakistani leader has done more for democracy in his country than any other modern leader has, despite the current state of emergency and the crackdown on political opposition.
PNN interviewed Rodney Jones, President of Policy Architects International. His most recent work has been in support of the Advanced Systems and Concepts Office of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) on the transformation of US defense strategy, nuclear proliferation issues and the war on terrorism. He served earlier as Senior Advisor to the START II project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Moscow Center. “There is always a background concern on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal and where it will go,” Mr. Jones said. “But even though the US is not aware of the exact location of these sites, they are secure and the army is making sure that there are safeguards. [General] Musharraf is not defying the White House, he is trying to keep the peace and prevent further problems.”
News and Views looked at the resolution introduced by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) to prevent the Bush administration from attempting to use the 2002 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force against Iraq to justify in any way military action Iran. “We have learned how adept the Bush administration is at interpreting and twisting language to justify military adventure,” the Congressman said. “This legislation clarifies that…. [it] does not justify, allow or authorize military action against Iran.” The identical resolution was introduced in the Senate by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). “Senator Obama and I agree,” Mr. Abercrombie said, “that immediate action is needed that leaves no room for the administration to use military force against Iran without the specific authorization of Congress.” A total of 12 bills are pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate, designed to throw up roadblocks to any decision by the Bush administration to take military action against Iran's nuclear program.
News and Views also reported on Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has introduced legislation condemning the sale of arms to Syria and Iran by Russia. She said the sales only threaten to further destabilize an already volatile region of the world. “Despite the well-known fact that Iran and Syria are active state sponsors of terrorism in the world and despite reports indicating that their governments have supplied weapons, financing, training, and political support to Hezbollah and Hamas, the Russian government insists on arms sales that undermine efforts toward peace and security in the region of the Middle East,” warned Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. She urged sanctions on Russian entities engaged in arms sales to Iran and Syria, adding that as recently as this week, news sources report Iran is seeking to order Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft.
Iran is becoming a more frequent topic for discussion among 2008 presidential candidates. News and Views reported that former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), a Democratic presidential candidate, said in an interview with CBS that, “It is crucial for us, between now and January 2009, to take every step we can take to stand strongly against Bush and Cheney continuing to move forward and on the march to military action in Iran…. I see a continued pattern of behavior that is very similar to the pattern of behavior leading to Iraq.... What we know is that we have a president, Ahmadinejad, who is radical, bellicose in his rhetoric about us, about Israel, about our allies. And we also know that the Iranian people have historically been between the most moderate in the Muslim world and the most pro-American in the Muslim world. I think that presents a huge opportunity to America if we’re smart.” Meanwhile, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a Republican candidate for president, said, “When I first advocated this path to success, people like Senator Edwards called it the McCain strategy, the McCain surge. It wasn’t and it isn’t, but I noticed he doesn’t say that anymore. And I just want to say to you that again the Democrats want to set a date for withdrawal. They tried it again last week. My friends, I can only describe to you the consequences of setting a date for surrender, a date for withdrawal, the way the President of Iran described it a couple, three weeks ago. He said when the United States leaves Iraq there will be a void and we, the Iranians, will fill that void.”
News and Views November 22 interviewed Parastoo Froohar, the daughter of Dariush and Parvaneh Froohar. Mr. Froohar was head of the small but popular Iranian People’s Party – one of Iran’s oldest secular political groups – when he and his wife were murdered in their house in Tehran in late November 1998. Parastoo said that nine years after her parents’ murders, the justice system considers their case closed. But she said in her view, and in the view of her family’s sympathizers and supporters, the case is still open. It is believed by many that high-ranking agents of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry were responsible for the killings, carrying out orders by some senior ruling clerics.
Ken Berman, program manager for Internet anti-censorship at the International Broadcasting Bureau, talked with News and Views November 20 about ways of circumventing Iran’s filtering of the Internet. He said the Iranian government should pat itself on the back for having one of the most sophisticated filtering operations in the world. “We were under the mistaken impression that the Chinese were the frontrunners in filtering Web sites, but now Iran has overtaken China in achieving this unique distinction,” he said. Mr. Berman said the Iranian government not only employs the latest technology in filtering, but also has stunted the growth of broadband to impede fast access. “There are seven million Internet users in Iran,” he said, “with a population of 70 million. VOA is circumventing the Iranian government’s attempts at filtering those seven million users by providing proxies to visitors to the VOA web site.”
Ray Walser, formerly a US diplomat and now a Senior Policy Analyst with the Heritage Foundation specializing in Latin America, discussed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s visit to Tehran – his fourth – with News and Views. He said it is hard to conclude that expanded ties between Venezuela and Iran will benefit the Iranian people. In response to a statement made by Mr. Chavez while in Iran – that the “dollar empire is collapsing” – Mr. Walser said there is some reason to be concerned about the weakness of the dollar, but that it is unlikely the Euro or Yuan will be able to replace US currency in world markets. “Mr. Chavez, by trying to weaken the US dollar further causes a spike in inflation,” Mr. Walser said, “and this will only hurt the poor whose cause he is championing.” He said some in the West are alarmed by President Chavez’s attempt to use oil as a weapon and put US oil imports at risk. Mr. Walser also said Venezuela, under President Chavez, is increasingly being used as a way station for smuggling cocaine into the US and Europe by Colombian drug kingpins working with corrupt Venezuelan military officers.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Annapolis; Britain’s promise of aid for Palestine in advance of the Annapolis conference; Iran shutting down any attempt at a diplomatic resolution by saying it is not ready to talk about suspension of its enrichment program; Italy failure of Iran to answer all of the IAEA’s questions; and Spain filling the gap of reduced German exports to Iran; how it is cheaper to buy enriched uranium than to produce it, making it financial profitable for Iran to buy from a neutral consortium; Mohammad El Baradei’s report on Iran’s cooperation or lack thereof with the International Atomic Energy Agency; Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi telling the Islamic Republic of Iran to stop enriching uranium; how Ayatollah Khamenei believes a nuclear bomb will guarantee IRI’s security, despite history showing that nuclear weapons didn’t guarantee the Soviet Union’s survival; EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana will be meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili November 30, after releasing his report on Iran’s progress toward suspending uranium enrichment, which is reportedly negative; human rights violations in Iran; the Islamic regime’s ongoing suppression of women, worker and student activists; last week’s rare summit of OPEC heads of state (with Venezuela and Iran blaming the weakness of the US dollar for high oil prices); the Iranian government’s closure of several web logs; the US saying it voted against the newly established UN Council on Human Rights because the United Nations paid little attention to human rights violations in Iran, Burma, Belarus and Cuba over the past year; whether President Bush’s successor will have the stomach for war; Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying the day the US reopens its Embassy in Tehran is the day the IRI’s leadership will have to pack up and leave – something he won’t allow to happen, and something that doesn’t need to happen since he enjoys the support of the Islamic world.
Panelists on NewsTalk November 21 discussed that morning’s editorial in Jomhuri Eslami, a conservative Iranian newspaper, which issued a rare public critique of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accusing him of behaving inappropriately by discrediting political rivals and private universities. The editorial chastised the president for labeling Iranian officials as traitors and spies if they oppose Tehran’s moves to acquire nuclear technology. The editorial said such cases should be investigated and tried by the proper authorities and that no one should attempt to prejudge court rulings. The Jomhuri Eslami editorial also criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad for saying private universities waste public funds on irrelevant activities. It said education reform should be handled calmly by the appropriate officials, not through what it called “sloganeering.” Direct personal attacks against the president are rare in Iranian media. The newspaper that published Wednesday's editorial is close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
PNN’s Dr. Vahid Behravan and Dr. Shida Rezaei were on Roundtable with You November 23 to discuss the most prevalent diseases in Iran. Dr. Behravan said iron deficiency, such as anemia, is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. As well as affecting a large number of children and women in developing countries, it is the only nutrient deficiency prevalent in industrialized countries. He said iron deficiency is a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen to tissues. It can cause the sufferer to feel tired, reducing work capacity seriously enough to cause economic consequences and impede national development. The two doctors also discussed HIV, the retrovirus that infects cells of the human immune system, destroying or impairing their function. Dr. Rezaei said the disease is asymptomatic in the early stage of infection. However, as the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker, and the person becomes more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
Today’s Woman November 24 focused on obesity and how it is a worldwide problem, not just the disease of rich countries. It has increasingly become a problem in Middle Eastern countries, particularly Kuwait and Iran. The program illustrated the problems posed by fast food, examined the causes of obesity, including genetics, and looked at the role played by diet, exercise and lifestyle. Viewer questions were answered, from “Is it okay to diet if I’m breastfeeding?” to “Can drinking a lot of water make you gain weight?”
Today’s Woman November 21 looked at successful women, including an interview with Shahindokht Mafi, executive director of Home Health Connection Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland, whose company treats patients with infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The staff of the company includes nurses who provide home-services work, plus non-medical personnel who find additional services for patients confined to their homes. She said she started her business to provide support to needy people, adding that her mother gave her confidence in building her career as a businesswoman. Ms. Mafi said another important factor was obtaining an accounting degree, in France, which has enabled her to work independently and efficiently.
Today’s Woman interviewed Paris-based photographer Roshanak Bahramlou, whose work has been published in international magazines such as Paris Match and Marie Claire. She currently has an exhibit at the World Bank. One photograph, Double Life, has two sides, the left side of a young woman wearing her hejab, the right side of the same young woman wearing trendy Western clothes. The photograph is accompanied by the description, “Many young women in Iran lead a schizophrenic existence. In public they must cover their bodies and head with burkas and headscarves. In private they can literally let the veil drop and enjoy their freedom. Ms. Bahramlou said she thinks it is very important to pursue one’s career goals, making sacrifices to achieve success. She said she enjoys photographing women in their ordinary lives, without hiding anything. In a recent trip to Afghanistan, she said she was welcomed and permitted to take pictures of women, as long as their husbands’ permission was granted.
Today’s Woman interviewed journalist and women’s activist Fariba Davoudi Mohajer. She said the November 18 arrest of fellow journalist and women’s rights defender Maryam Hosseinkhah is defenseless. “The charges against her, such as trying to topple the Islamic regime, and propaganda against the system, are unfair. Maryam has played an important role in our One Million Signatures Campaign to secure women’s rights in our country.” Ms. Hosseinkhah is being held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Her husband, Shahab Mirzai, told PNN he found his wife in good health during his last visit, but said their family cannot afford to pay the one million rial bail set for her release. He said Maryam told him the charges against her have not yet been specified. PNN also talked with attorney and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who said she is trying to reduce the amount of the bail.
Board-certified urologist James Elist was our guest on Roundtable with You November 19 to discuss diagnosis of and treatment for prostate cancer. Affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, Dr. Elist said prostate cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in men, as well as the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men. He said the American Cancer Society and the American Urologic Association recommend annual screening of men beginning at age 50, and at age 45 if they are at unusually high risk because of race or family history. He said a biopsy should be performed on all men in these age groups if they have a PSA value which is greater than 4 (nanograms of PSA per milliliter, or ng/ml), irregardless of the findings of a digital rectal exam. The PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood.
News and Views interviewed Thomas Jordan, Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center and professor of geophysics at USC about representatives of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently meeting in Tehran with their counterparts. Mr. Jordan said the Americans have been meeting off and on over the past eight years with senior Iranian officials and scientific leaders to expand cooperation. “Continuing political confrontations between the US and Iranian governments have complicated bilateral scientific cooperation,” he said, “but with perseverance by scientific institutions in both countries, important programs have been carried out.” Mr. Jordan singled out Sharif University of Technology – the meetings’ host – as conducting an impressively high level of academic research. He said one area of cooperation between Iranian and American scientists is to help monitor and deter inappropriate uses of scientific discoveries that cause harm.
Today’s Woman November 22 was dedicated to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, and how it has come to be a day of sharing food – typically turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie – as well as a day of feeding the homeless. The program also touched on the history of the first Thanksgiving celebration back in 1621, a brief introduction to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and how it is the holiday that finds the most Americans on the road as families gather together across the country. The show also touched on the day after Thanksgiving and its big shopping sales, known as Black Friday.
Los Angeles-based psychologist Noshin Sabeti talked about the challenges of being a single woman on Today’s Woman November 23. Dr. Sabeti defined single in Iran as including widows and divorcees as well as women whose husbands are addicts or have a disability. She said women as breadwinners face special challenges in Iran, especially as the government does not provide them with any financial support. She said educated single women can survive better and make better choices. Those women who escape forced marriages, she said, typically are uneducated and cannot earn a living except by doing menial work which makes them ashamed. A 32-year-old single mother from Tehran wrote in an e-mail that she has suffered from depression for three years since divorcing her husband. “Should I remarry just to survive?” she asked. Dr. Sabeti answered by using her own life as an example, noting that she is living in the US, but has been able to raise two daughters as a single mother over the past 14 years. Some of the best tools, she said, are reading books, joining social groups and using education to become economically independent.
Roundtable with You November 22 featured Iranian-Canadian director and producer Masoud Raouf. Appearing from Montreal, Mr. Raouf discussed his prize-winning documentary, The Tree that Remembers. In 1992, a young Iranian student hanged himself on the outskirts of a small Ontario town. Having escaped the Ayatollah’s regime and found a new home in Canada, he could not escape his past. With The Tree that Remembers, Mr. Raouf assembled a group of Iranians – all former political prisoners like himself – who were active in the democratic movement. He blends their testimony with historical footage and original artwork “to honor the memory of the dead and to celebrate the resilience of the living. I was a political prisoner in Iran for a while because of what I believed as a human being. Unfortunately there is no freedom of expression in Iran and the Islamic Republic doesn’t tolerate any different ideology and it’s an absolute dictatorship. I left Iran in 1988 and immigrated to Canada to live in a free society as an artist. The Tree that Remembers is my reflection on the betrayal of the 1979 Iranian revolution and the tenacity of the human spirit.” Mr. Raouf has since completed two animated shorts, Blue like a Gunshot and Waves at Birth, both of which, like his documentary, have won a number of film festival prizes.
This week’s History Channel segments included a two-part segment on James Bond gadgets, examining the ultra-sophisticated spy gear used by Secret Agent 007 to foil villains on the silver screen; the segments included footage from inside the cockpit of the world’s smallest jet and rare home movies taken on the underwater set of the movie, Thunderball; a segment on “Freedom Summer,” a watershed moment in the American civil rights movement following the June 21, 1964 murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi; the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll in the US on September 19, 1956, when Elvis Presley first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” reaching 82% of the television public – some 45 million viewers – reaching more people than had ever collectively witnessed any event in America; and a program on July 16, 1939, the day Albert Einstein, the world’s most famous scientist and ardent pacifist, signed a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt urging him to explore the development of an unthinkably powerful new weapon, the atomic bomb. Einstein would later call the message the message to FDR the one great mistake of his life.
PNN’s question of the week was: Are the internal conflicts within the regime responsible for Iran’s domestic turmoil? One viewer wrote, “Yes, and that internal conflict is the cause of the chaos in the country.”
Out of 6,975 respondents, 68% said yes, 28% said no, while 4% did not know.
The Persian News Network’s television programming complements our simulcast 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. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four adult Iranians tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs are also streamed on our website, 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 news breaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, PNN’s newest program, had its debut September 27, 2007. The one-hour program features influential women from around the world discussing a full spectrum of topics, including social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, is now 2 hours in length, and 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 new 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.
From the head of a web log company in Tehran: “In Iran, we are confronting a variety of difficulties these days. On the one hand, our government has created many restrictions for us, and on the other hand, we have to go to different courts to respond. At the end of the day, there is no calm. After work, we begin the evening with jangled nerves. I used to think that conditions would have to be just so for me to leave Iran. But now, there is no condition. It is time to leave. I am tired of this situation. I am depressed. I have no patience with anything. And I am only 27 years old. Please tell us more about the institutions and organizations that support us, and how we can leave Iran more easily.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “Spraying acid on women in Iran has been going on long enough to become accepted, making it an ethical problem of huge proportions. I am a man, but I am very saddened when I see so-called civilized and so-called cultured people, barbarous men who lack common sense and commit such acts so courageously, over and over. (Apparently, having thousands of years of civilization, literally, is a cock and bull story. There is no civil-ization in Iran.) I hope you will discuss this subject in a program and invite experienced physicians to give advice on how to cure acid burns. Thank you for providing such an informative program, especially for women. My mother is fond of your program and sends her best regards to all of you.”
From a viewer in Shiraz: “I saw an interesting scene that made me think of VOA. I took this photo so you could put it on the air for everyone to see. It is a picture of the differences between men’s rights and women’s rights in Iran. Front rows in the bus are allocated for men. Many seats are vacant and it is easy to find an available seat. But the back rows are crowded, and the bar separating the two sides prevents the women from taking any of the free seats. It is interesting that our government has been calling these women “our sisters” for the past 30 years!!!!!”
The viewer on the left sent in this photograph to show how she works around microwave interference by the Islamic Republic of Iran by repositioning her satellite dish.
From a government worker in Iran: “We support and enjoy your programs. But you had an interview with photographer Maryam Amoozegar on an exhibit she had in Paris called Hejab and Sports. I was very sorry and angry about what she said about hejab not being a barrier but a bonus for women. How can someone be so ignorant and so shallow? Our dedicated women athletes, especially in track and field, swimming and gymnastics are ruined, their talents dead, and their souls killed by Islamic rule. How dare she say that the hejab has given them a better chance? It seems she was sponsored by the Islamic Republic, and it is a shame that VOA reflects such biased information. Please consider women athletes who have been sacrificed and deprived of their basic rights and do not have any chance of progress. I WANT MY NAME AND EMAIL TO BE CONFIDENTIAL SINCE I WORK IN A GOVERNMENT OFFICE. THANKS AND BEST OF LUCK.”
From Canada’s first Iranian-Canadian member of parliament: “Thank you for having me on your program. Right after the interview, I received many calls and e-mails from friends, family and others (people whom I did not know at all) residing in Iran, the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia. I am glad to see that my election to parliament has created lots of excitement amongst Iranians everywhere. Surely, VOA has an important role in delivering this exciting news to our fellow Iranians around the world. I am personally grateful to you and to VOA.”
And some of our favorite e-mails this week follow. This first one is from a physician who watches PNN from Iran: “As I believe one of your main focuses is to broadcast about issues in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. If this is the case, why don’t you consider have changing the VOA/PNN logo to reflect a map of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. You could at least show a drawing. I’m sure your experts know what to do.”
From a viewer in London: “I thought you might be interested in knowing that I recently concluded a research project regarding women and education in Iran, specifically seeking the reasons why girls are more successful than boys at the university level. We polled 179 women at different universities by giving them questionnaires to complete. I also interviewed three lecturers at three different institutions. The research has not yet been published, but I have already been invited to talk about it with one of the Iranian television stations in the United. However, if you are willing, I would prefer to discuss it first with your Today’s Woman program, as you have a bigger audience. I would be grateful if you could contact me as soon as possible. Thank you, and good luck with your useful and interesting Today’s Woman.
Many independent Iranian organizations and news services want to make sure PNN is on the cutting edge of domestic Iranian news. They provide us with news stories and alerts on a regular basis. Here are two recent items from Rooz Online, an Amsterdam-based Iran-related news service funded, in part, by the European Union.
Activist Maryam Hosseinkhah Arrested http://www.roozonline.com/english/archives/2007/11/activist_maryam_hosseinkhah_ar.html Journalist and editor of the Zanestan website, Maryam Hosseinkhah, was arrested and sent to Evin prison yesterday as she appeared in court following a summons. A week after the Zanestan website was banned by Islamic Republic officials, Maryam Hosseinkhah received from a summons from the Ministry of Intelligence to appear in court. Mahboubeh Niknahad http://www.roozonline.com/english/archives/2007/11/mahboubeh_niknahad.html Some political circles interpreted recent attacks by Ahmadinejad and his supporters against the faction close to Hashemi Rafsanjani (head of the Experts Assembly on Leadership who formerly was President and Majlis leader) as signs of increased control by hardliners over the Islamic Republic’s leadership. But, recent anti-Ahmadinejad remarks from one of Qom Seminary School’s most prominent ayatollahs and the Friday prayer leader of Shemiran (in northern Tehran) indicate that Hashemi’s supporters among the clerics are not ready to abandon him in political disputes just yet.
Another viewer sent all of his contact information with the following message: “I am one of those people who have been using your website for a long time but it is not easy for us to use it freely because it has been filtered by the (Iranian) government. I am really interested in participating with you in different ways. If you want to receive challenging news from Iran I would be at your service. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.”
From a viewer in Pars province: “I thank you all for your great show. My family and I watch Today’s Woman. We are very thankful that you broadcast such an educational program in Farsi for us.
From a 21-year-old woman in Isfahan: “I started working at the age of 18. Unfortunately I have witnessed how men abuse women at work. After some time, work relations turn into non-defined relations without limitations. And since you are dependent on the men, you are put in a difficult situation and are in danger of getting abused by them. Thank you for your useful and great show.
From a viewer in Mashad: “Thank you for your great program. Please produce more programs about women’s rights. I have a master’s degree in literature and am ready to cooperate with your show. I can send you my articles about the subject. Please mention my name in the program so I can know you have received my email. Thank you very much.”
From a viewer “against Islam”: “Up until two months ago, child care [in Iran] cost about 25,000 tomans ($28) per month. It is said that soon we will have to pay 110,000 tomans ($123) per month. Tell me, Mr. Antarinejad [using a play on words, the writer turns Ahmadinejad’s name into “Mr. Ape”], and [Ayatollah Mohammed] Emami-Kashani, what is more important . . . Iran? Or Palestine and [Venezuela’s President] Chavez?”