Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – January 14, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included President Bush’s visit to the Middle East with live coverage from PNN correspondent Setareh Derakhshesh who is traveling with the President; Revolutionary Guard speed boats harassing US navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz; two exclusive interviews with Admiral Kevin Cosgriff on the Persian Gulf incident; an exclusive interview with Commander Lydia Robertson, spokesperson for the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain; an interview with military analyst David Isenberg; interviews with Middle East Institute scholars Greg Myre and Paul Scham, veteran Arabist Philip Wilcox, Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian analyst now living in Israel, and Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel on President Bush’s trip to the Middle East; an interview with Asif Ali Zardari, new co-chair of the Pakistan People’s Party and widower of Benazir Bhutto; interviews with Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi, human rights activist Lily Mazaheri, and physician Hessam Firouzi on the increasing use of amputations and other inhumane punishments under Islamic law; victories in the New Hampshire presidential primary by Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and exclusive interviews in NH on politics and on the Strait of Hormuz incident with actor Viggo Mortensen; Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH); Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM); Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL); Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA); Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH); Rep. Jim McGovern (D- MA); ONE Vote 08 president David Lane; Clinton campaign finance advisor Mark Aronchick; and Fergus Cullin, chairman of the Republican party in New Hampshire; an interview with nuclear power analyst Jacqueline Shire on the visit to Tehran of IAEA Director-General Mohammad El-Baradei; an interview with global financial strategist on the serious crisis facing Iran’s banking system; and an interview with author and intellectual Shahla Shafigh on feminism and women’s rights.
President Bush says Iran is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism, and a source of instability in the Middle East. VOA/PNN reported that in the only speech of his Mideast trip January 13, the President urged the people of the region to reject extremism and embrace freedom. Standing on a stage in Abu Dhabi, less than 300 kilometers across the Persian Gulf from Iran, President Bush called for unity against Tehran. “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. So the United States is strengthening our long-standing security commitments with our friends in the Gulf, and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late,” said Mr. Bush. The President said Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, listing Tehran’s support for extremists in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. “It sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world, while its own people face repression and hardship at home.”
News and Views reported January 7 on five Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps armed speed boats harassing and provoking three US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz early in the morning on January 6. PNN provided up-to-the-minute reactions from the State Department, White House and Iranian Foreign Ministry. US forces were on the verge of firing on the Iranian boats in the Sunday incident, when the Iranian boats departed. The State Department said the US government “will confront Iranian behavior” if it threatens the US or its allies. “The example that happened on Saturday was similar to previous cases and is an ordinary and natural issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told Iran’s official IRNA news agency. “This is an ordinary issue that happens for the two sides every once in a while and, after the identification of the two sides, the issue is resolved.” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “We urge the Iranians to refrain from such provocative actions that could lead to a dangerous incident in the future.”
News and Views January 8 reported on the provocation of three American navy ships near the Persian Gulf in what US military and government officials call a serious incident. Officials said Monday that the American ships prepared to fire after the smaller Iranian boats acted aggressively in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Sunday. Five boats, apparently operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, sped toward the US ships before veering away and dropping boxes into the water, directly in a US vessel’s path. In an exclusive interview with News and Views, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, the commander of US and coalition naval forces in the Persian Gulf, said “At one point during this encounter, the ships received a radio call that was threatening in nature, to the effect that they were closing in on our ships and that the US ships would explode.” Admiral Cosgriff said the US ships were in international waters during this incident, adding that, “We are in this region of the world merely to provide security since a large part of the world needs the energy resources of this area. What happened was pre- planned to give us a show of force, and it was highly unprofessional on the part of Iran.” The Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the United Arab Emirates is a key shipping route for oil. Both the Iranian and US navies patrol the waterway.
Admiral Cosgriff spoke again with News and Views January 9 about the confrontation between Iranian speedboats and US warships. He said the US warships were inbound to the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz on the morning of January 6. The Admiral said the ships were in the midst of a routine transit in the early daylight hours when five Iranian Revolutionary Guard high-speed craft came from the north and approached the US ships. “The five boats approached the US formation on its starboard bow in international waters slightly inside the Gulf from the apex of the strait,” Admiral Cosgriff said. He dismissed Iran’s allegation that the US Navy video of the incident is “fake.” He called the behavior of Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats that buzzed the three US Navy vessels as “unduly provocative” and said that the only aim of the US navy in the Persian Gulf is the security and stability of this waterway. The admiral praised the crews of the US ships, saying they followed procedure carefully, with good discipline and with due regard for all the factors. “What the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards did was totally unnecessary,” he said, “and could prove costly for them if repeated.”
News and Views January 8 reported on reaction to the Persian Gulf incident, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying, “I found the action by the Iranians quite troubling actually and a matter of real concern. This is a very volatile area and the risk of an incident and of an incident escalating is real. I can’t imagine what was on their minds with these three little FAS boats aggressively approaching three American warships.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the confrontation was ordinary and suggested it may have been a case of mistaken identity. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a stern warning to Iran, urging Tehran to cease what she called “provocative and dangerous” actions after Iranian ships confronted the American Navy in the Persian Gulf. She said the United States will defend its interests and allies in the region.
News and Views January 9 reported that a top US official says Iran must “bear the consequences” if Iranian boats again confront American vessels in the Persian Gulf. White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the incident could have resulted in “an altercation between the two forces.” The US Defense Department released a video in which a member of the US Navy can be heard trying to contact the Iranian boats and identifying the naval ships as coalition vessels. A voice from one of the Iranian boats can be heard warning by radio that a US ship will soon explode. Iran’s state television cited a Revolutionary Guard official, who called the footage “fabricated.” Iran’s head of parliament, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel dismissed US reports of confrontation as part of a “propaganda campaign” against the Islamic republic. The Iranian official’s comments were published in the Tehran Times newspaper today. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle Eastern Affairs, said the incident was evidence of Iran’s aggressive policies.
News and Views January 10 aired the official Iranian Television version of the Persian Gulf incident, courtesy of Commander Lydia Robertson, spokesperson for the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, who provided a link to the Iranian video that PNN/VOA had been unable to obtain from Iran:
Iran says footage of the incident released by the US government is fabricated and that the audio is fake, claiming its boats approached the US ships only to examine their numbers. The Pentagon called those allegations absurd and factually incorrect. The Department of State said Iran may be projecting its own behavior onto others in terms of what they might do in a similar circumstance. The US stopped short of force, but says it will defend itself if a similar situation – the provocation of its ships – occurs in international waters. Saudi Arabia expressed concern over a possible escalation of tension and voiced willingness to talk to both sides.
News and Views January 11 reported that Iran aired a new tape meant to reinforce Tehran’s argument that the incident between Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrols and US warships on Sunday was a “normal inspections of vessels,” not a hostile act. In an exclusive interview with PNN, Commander Lydia Robertson, spokesperson for the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said the fast boats – highly maneuverable patrol craft – were “visibly armed” and began aggressive maneuvers against the three American ships, steaming in formation into the Persian Gulf. Commander Robertson added that the radio threat may have come from another ship or from shore, though she added that the Iranian boats were moving threateningly before the radio threat was received. She insisted that the Fifth Fleet never claimed Iran made the threat. “No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats. But when they hear it simultaneously to the behavior of those boats, it only adds to the tension,” she said. “If this verbal threat emanated from something.
News and Views January 11 reported that the United States has filed a formal complaint to Iran protesting a disputed incident between Iranian forces and US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, January 6. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said US officials sent the protest note through the Swiss embassy in Tehran. He said the note warns against “provocative” Iranian action on boats in international waters.
Military analyst David Isenberg told News and Views January 11 that incidents such as the one that took place on January 6 are commonplace, adding that Iranian speedboats belonging to the Revolutionary Guards routinely monitor the waterway to stop and search illegal commerce. He said the threat – “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes” – was made through an “open bridge to bridge circuit” and that it would be “very difficult to determine” that it came from the Iranian speedboats. But “when you put that (threat) in the context of the Iranian behavior, it created an uncomfortable situation for the sailors out there,” he added.
The US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and General David Petreaus, the head of US forces in Iraq, met at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait January 12 with a small group of reporters, including one from PNN/VOA. On bilateral US-Iranian talks on Iraq, Ambassador Crocker said, “We are ready, we have informed the Iraqis, we are inviting them, but Iran has not responded to us yet.” Mr. Crocker said that “he cannot say there was a shift in Iran’s position toward decreasing the level of violence in Iraq even though violence has subsided in the past few months. In the last 10 days, EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) attacks have increased.”
News and Views January 11 reported on President Bush wrapping up his visit to Israel and Palestine before traveling to Kuwait. Mr. Bush visited Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and toured holy sites in Galilee after having held separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the past two days, trying to spur negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian state. President Bush said both Palestinians and Israelis have “difficult choices” and painful concessions to make if they are to reach a lasting peace agreement. He gave an outline of a two- state peace accord, saying, “I know Jerusalem is a tough issue. Both sides have deeply felt political and religious concerns. The peace agreement should happen and can happen by the end of this year. Speaking in Jerusalem Thursday, Mr. Bush called on Israel to end its 40-year occupation of Palestinian territory. He urged the two sides to agree on border adjustments and said Palestinian refugees and their descendants should be compensated for the homes they left decades ago in what is now Israel. Mr. Bush said Israel must have secure, recognized and defensible borders, and a Palestinian state must be viable, contiguous and sovereign.
News and Views January 10 interviewed Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian analyst who lives in Israel and who recently co-authored a book on the Iranian president: The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran. Speaking with PNN correspondent Setareh Derakhshesh in Jerusalem, Mr. Javedanfar speculated that the reason the three main parties – the US, Israel and the Palestinians – did not meet at the same time was because Mr. Bush wasn’t persuaded they’d be able to issue a joint communiqué. “He prefers to conduct his diplomacy one-on-one and nudge the parties without others being there.” According to Mr. Javedanfar, the most effective step toward peace would be to improve the economic conditions of the Palestinians. “It is critically important for the Palestinians to see tangible results and witness a marked improvement in their standard of living.” Mr. Javedanfar said that peace-making is a two-way street and that Israel should work toward making the lives of Palestinians more bearable by removing the security checkpoints so that they can go about their daily business. Another issue that deserves attention, he said, is the rampant corruption in the Palestinian government. Mr. Javedanfar said it will have to be dealt with or Western aid will go to waste.
News and Views January 10 interviewed Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel, who acknowledged that President Bush has asked the Israeli government to remove security checkpoints, saying they “create massive frustrations for the Palestinians.” He said Israel plans to remove the checkpoints, but he was non-committal about any timetable. On the issue of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, he said that Israel is not building any new ones but that those already built are needed to accommodate an increased population. Mr. Mekel said that Israel is very sincere in its desire to accept a two-state solution to the conflict whereby the Israeli and Palestinian people can live next to each other in peace. He said the key to a lasting peace would be for President Mahmoud Abbas to rein in Hamas and other radical elements within the Palestinian government. On the issue of Iran, Mr. Mekel said Israel “doesn't have any problem with the people of Iran. We only see the government of Iran as a problem. Our intelligence services believe Iran is still pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and that if they are on the same track, they could have a bomb by 2012.”
News and Views January 7 reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed hope that a visit by President Bush to the region will “give a push to the peace process.” Mr. Abbas called on Mr. Bush to “to stop the building of settlements in order to give the peace process a push and to ensure the end of the occupation which began in the year 1967.” The Palestinian leader also called on President Bush to push for a two state solution, adding that “Jerusalem is a capital for two states, the eastern part for the Palestinians and the western part for the Israelis.” He said 2008 should become “the year of peace.” Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said while he shared the misgivings of many in the Arab world about the intentions of the US president, he hoped to see concrete developments during the trip. President Bush’s visit is part of his stepped-up effort to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement before leaves office in January 2009.
Greg Myre, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, told News and Views January 7 that President Bush’s trip to the Middle East is as much about Iran as it is about the Israeli- Palestinian peace process. A former correspondent for the New York Times and Associated Press in Jerusalem, Mr. Myre said some Arab countries are reluctant to follow the President’s position, and that it will be interesting to see what the President will say and offer during this trip to get them to side with the US on Iran. He said Arab countries also are concerned about Iran’s role in the region, adding that Israel views Iran as a bigger threat than Hamas.
News and Views January 8 also looked at the status of Palestinian-Israeli relations as President Bush is in the area to meet with Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab leaders. Paul Scham, an Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Institute, told PNN that a peace accord will have to provide borders for Palestine based on a 1967 treaty and that Jerusalem will have to be divided – half under the Israeli flag and half under the Palestinian flag. Mr. Scham said he expects peace talks will be complicated for Israel and the US by the participation of Hamas – which both consider a terrorist organization. Hamas is the largest and most influential Palestinian militant movement and it won the general legislative elections held by the Palestinian Authority in 2006. The group also has operated a terrorist wing carrying out suicide bombings and attacks using mortars and short-range rockets. Mr. Scham said he believes Iran should have a role in the peace process because of its importance in the region.
Roundtable with You January 11 featured journalist and political analyst Menashe Amir. Mr. Amir said President Bush believes peace will be established between Israel and the Palestinians before his term is over in January 2009. He noted that President Bush called for the end of Israeli occupation of the territories gained in1967 war and he also called for Arab recognition of Israel. But Mr. Meir added that Palestinian radicals committed to the destruction of Israel and opposed to peace are the greatest obstacle to realizing this dream. He noted that in Jerusalem, President Bush said, “Iran was a danger, Iran is a danger and Iran will be a danger.” Mr. Meir agreed, saying Iran’s nuclear program is a great danger for peace and stability in the world, and called Shi’ia radicals sponsored by Iran’s ruling mullahs as an additional threat to the international community. He said UN sanctions succeeded against Libya and North Korea, and he predicted they will work against Iran as well. Until then, he said, the Islamic Republic remains the main source of tension in the region.
Roundtable with You January 7 reviewed events in the Middle East and Iran on the eve of President Bush’s visit to the Middle East as well as the eve of the New Hampshire primary in the US presidential election. Reporting from New Hampshire, PNN correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour said Senator Barack Obama is leading Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race by 10 points following his win in the Iowa caucuses, while Senator John McCain is leading on the Republican side. From London, political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh said Tehran looks at Senator Obama as the ideal candidate with whom to deal. He said they are not so keen on Senator Clinton because she is a woman and because she has expressed concern about human rights in Iran. Mr. Nourizadeh said Tehran also dislikes former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani because he opposes reconciliation with the Islamic authorities in Iran. Mr. Nourizadeh said President Bush will try to gain support of Arab leaders for the Iraqi government as well as their support for continued isolation of Iran as a source of instability in the region during his visit.
News and Views January 9 interviewed Philip Wilcox, a veteran diplomat and Arabist who is now president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, on President Bush’s trip to the Middle East. Ambassador Wilcox said the significance of President Bush’s trip is that it is a comprehensive trip, giving him a chance to meet with all major parties in the Arab/Israeli conflict. He said President Bush must raise the level of US credibility in the region because so many Arab countries are critical of US involvement in Iraq and the possibility of a US confrontation with Iran. Mr. Wilcox said the issue of Iran should be dealt with apart from the Arab/Israel peace process, adding that “Resolving the issues between the US and Iran will not necessarily guarantee Arab/Israeli peace because that conflict has its own dynamics.”
News and Views January 13 reported that Palestinian medical workers say two members of the Islamic militant group were killed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday rejected President Bush's vision for the Middle East. Speaking at a rally in Gaza City, Mr. Haniyeh said, “I clearly say that Bush’s vision of the political, security and economic path is rejected and we will not accept it.” Mr. Haniyeh said the President’s views on a peace deal were based on promises to Israel, and don’t serve Palestinian interests. Mr. Bush singled out Gaza, which Hamas violently seized in June, as a problem that could not easily be solved in the 12 months remaining in his presidency.
PNN had an exclusive interview January 10 with Asif Ali Zardari, who is co-chair of the Pakistan People’s Party with his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Speaking from Larkana, the Bhutto family’s home town, Mr. Zardari, husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, said the ongoing suicide bombings in Pakistan are part of the policy to interrupt the election campaign, to harass people so they will not go out in support of their candidates. He said he is not seeking a parliamentary seat – meaning he can seek the post of Prime Minister. He said he is in touch with other candidates, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sherif, but said it is too soon to talk about a possible alliance between the Pakistan People’s Party and Mr. Sherif’s Muslim League. Mr. Zardari said he respects Scotland Yard and its investigation into his wife’s assassination. But he said the investigation is being done under the Pakistani government’s observation, and it is the Pakistani government that he doesn’t trust. Mr. Zardari said he expects the United States to help the people of Pakistan restore democracy to their country.
News and Views January 10 reported on a suicide bomb attack that killed 22 people in Lahore, Pakistan, all but one of them police officers. The blast on Thursday ripped through a busy square in front of the Lahore High Court where dozens of police had gathered ahead of a planned protest by the city’s lawyers. Authorities said the bomber was riding a motorcycle and blew himself up when police asked him to stop outside the court. Pakistan has seen a wave of bomb attacks in recent months targeting politicians and security forces, including the assassination just two weeks ago of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion was likely to fall on militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
News and Views January 9 interviewed Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi on the protest of the human rights group she founded, Defenders of Human Rights, against the amputation of hands and feet as a punishment in Iran. This is a “new dimension of human rights violations,” she said. “In the past days, several criminals in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan were sentenced to the amputation of hands and legs for actions against security….Punishments include flogging, amputation of fingers, hands and legs, stoning and execution. These exist in the penal laws and contradict international human rights principles.” Ms. Ebadi condemned the amputation and execution sentences, saying that the Islamic Republic of Iran has ignored protests of such punishments under Sharia law, “despite their being against international conventions that Iran has signed.” News and Views interviewed Ms. Ebadi again on January 13, after Human Rights Watch issued a protest against the Iranian government’s crackdown against students, journalists and workers. Ms. Ebadi said, “Unfortunately, the definition of ‘acting against national security’ is used in too many cases by authorities.”
News and Views January 13 interviewed Parvaneh Vahid Manesh, a student activist and the ex-wife of Saeed Habibi. Students in Iran say they are concerned the status of Mr. Habibi, who was arrested 40 days ago in Tehran. He hasn’t been allowed to call from Evin prison since the Ministry of Intelligence arrested him, accusing him and 30 other students of “acting against national security” at a demonstration. His ex-wife said, “We heard a rumor that Saeed is under pressure in prison and that he committed suicide there. But we don’t know if this information is true or not. The officials haven’t released any information about his situation, and they haven’t let him make any calls.” Mr. Habibi is a member of the Office of Consolidating Unity, the leading student movement in Iran.
Roundtable with You January 10 looked at the inhumane punishments handed down in the Islamic Republic of Iran with Lily Mazaheri, attorney and women’s rights activist. Ms. Mazaheri said Iran is one of only a few countries in the world where dismemberment is an accepted form of punishment. She said dismemberment is among the most inhumane of punishments and is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ms. Mazaheri said despite appeals from international human rights organizations, the Iranian government dismembered five young men by cutting off their right arms and left feet, adding that this was done by electric knife by a team of “so-called doctors.” Physician Hessam Firouzi called into the show from Tehran. He has been condemned to one year in prison for treating an imprisoned student activist. Dr. Firouzi said dismemberment “is an insult to the medical profession.” He said he understands “Iran plans punish two young men by blinding them and to throw to others off the top of a mountain.”
Today’s Woman January 8 focused on Qisas, a law of retribution under Islam, with Toronto-based lawyer and women’s studies expert, Leila Pourzand. Ms. Pourzand said that under Iranian law, women are given half the rights that men are given. Under Qisas, for example, if a man murders someone, his family has to pay blood money to the victim’s family. If the victim is a woman, the murderer’s family only has to pay half as much. Ms. Pourzand talked about the discrimination women face in Iran, and compared Qisas – or Islamic punishment law – in other countries ruled by Islamic law: Saudi Arabia and Susan, and formerly, in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Ms. Pourzand also pointed out the biggest problems with Qisas, that the punishment is irreversible, even when imposed wrongly.
The presidential candidates flew to New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses, and so did PNN’s congressional correspondent, Siamak Dehghanpour, who filed live reports from Manchester January 7-9 for News and Views, Roundtable with You and NewsTalk. Senator Barak Obama was expected to handily win the Democratic primary, but Senator Hillary Clinton pulled out a last-minute victory that stunned candidates, pundits and pollsters. Mr. Dehghanpour reported on the heated election, the back-to-back debates held by the Republican and then the Democratic candidates at St. Anselm College on January 5, where Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran featured heavily in candidate comments. He also reported on Senator McCain’s sizeable win over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, despite New Hampshire ostensibly being Romney territory.
PNN interviewed dozens of voters outside polling places about their candidate preferences and issues of the day, ranging from the economy, to the war on Iraq, to immigration issues and the separation of church and state. PNN interviewed actor Viggo Mortensen, best known for his role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but in New Hampshire to campaign for candidate Dennis Kucinich. Mr. Deghghanpour explained the role of celebrities in the campaigns – Oprah Winfrey for Barak Obama, Chuck Norris for Mike Huckabee, Tim Robbins for John Edwards, and how they can bring out the voters. He also talked with Congressman Kucinich, who said, “I will go to Tehran…and I will meet with the Iranian officials and with the Iranian religious leaders if they so desire. And I will work to rebuild the 28-year- gulf that has turned into a chasm. I will open my heart up…understanding the great Persian culture, understanding old Persia as the place of mathematics and art and music and beauty…and to create a reconciliation.”
As the voting progressed on January 8, Senator John McCain widened his advantage over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Republican primary. PNN talked to a number of candidates and other politicians about the provocation of US warships by Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz. In an exclusive interview with PNN, Governor Bill Richardson said, “Iran has to act in a civil way to the United States. This incident shouldn’t have happened. But I believe we need to have a dialogue. We have differences, but what we need is a dialogue. If I’m president, I want a dialogue with Iran.” The second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, has endorsed Barak Obama. In an exclusive interview with PNN, Senator Durbin said, “We should be sitting down, trying to work out our differences…I’m afraid President Bush started off announcing an axis of evil. That’s not a good starting point. A better starting point is to say, ‘We’re willing to sit down in good faith and try to work out our differences.’” In an exclusive interview with PNN, Republican candidate Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said, “Well, I think there has to be a clear message to the Iranian military, which is running out with these small boats and harassing American naval vessels. That’s not going to be good for your survival. For those people that would try that…the US Navy is well prepared to take care of itself.” In another exclusive interview with PNN, Congressman Paul Hodes (D-NH), who has endorsed Senator Obama, said, “I think Senator Obama is talking about a real reformation of American foreign policy. And I think rather than talking about whether there will or won’t be conditions, he’s setting a basic ground rule that he will talk to those that oppose us as well as those that are our friends.” Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) has endorsed Senator Clinton. He told PNN, “I hope the incident in the Strait of Hormuz won’t take us to a major conflict. The world is too small. We need to figure out a way to co-exist in peace together.”
PNN had an exclusive interview with the president of ONE Vote 08, David Lane, about the group’s campaign to make global health and extreme poverty policy priorities in the 2008 presidential election. “There are five major issues related to AIDS, and malaria, and child/infant health, also clean water and education, and we’ve tried to get all the candidates to go on the record about what they’re going to do on these issues…There’s no time like every four years in America that galvanizes the public’s attention…All of the major candidates have committed to making development issues a part of foreign policy and that’s a real breakthrough in the United States.”
Before the final vote tally in New Hampshire, Senator Clinton’s finance co-chair in Pennsylvania, lawyer Mark Aronchick, told PNN, “I think we’re going to surprise people. I think we’re going to beat the odds. There are a lot of people who think [Obama’s] going to romp us…and that’s just not going to happen. Edwards is out of the picture. Richardson’s out of the picture. And we’re going to have a one-on-one for four weeks leading up to the political Superbowl [on February fifth] when half of the country votes. We’re going to have . . . two candidates slugging it out, making their case.” The chairman of the Republican party in New Hampshire, Fergus Cullen, told PNN in an exclusive interview that, “One of the reasons that a candidate who wins a primary is given so much credit for it is that it’s among a broad, participatory electorate – not just a select few political insiders or activists.” A ballot inspector in Manchester told PNN that the voters make all the difference in the New Hampshire primary. The candidates “actually go and shake people’s hands and talk to human beings: the voters. The voters really do count.”
News and Views January 11 interviewed Jacqueline Shire, a Senior Analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), on the visit to Tehran January 11-12 by the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad El-Baradei. Ms. Shire said, “The IAEA is tight-lipped, but we know that there is the matter of contamination and questions about the relationship between Iran’s military and part of its nuclear program. The issues of experiments with plutonium and work on P-2 centrifuges were reportedly addressed” by an IAEA inspection team in Tehran this past week. Touching on the issue of Iranian equipment contaminated with arms-grade uranium, she said, “What’s important about this issue is that the IAEA is investigating contamination on equipment at Tehran University, which was purchased by the head of the Physics Research Institute. Iran has always denied [it] had any relationship to the centrifuge program. This issue was reportedly the subject of discussions this week between IAEA safeguards inspectors and Iranian officials. It’s important for the IAEA to get to the bottom of this because it raises issues such as black market procurement and unreported use of nuclear equipment.” Ms. Shire said she doesn’t expect the IAEA to approve of continued enrichment if Iran doesn’t clear up these issues. “The IAEA Director-General,” she said, “has repeatedly called on Iran and others not to enrich domestically, but to use a mechanism established by an international fuel bank, or some other assured fuel supply.”
Roundtable with You January 12 looked at the serious crisis facing the Iranian banking system with global financial strategist Karim Pakravan, who currently teaches at DePaul University Business School and the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. Mr. Pakravan said that while the global banking system has embraced globalization and free markets, the Iranian banking system has gone the opposite direction and has become more centralized with greater state control. He said whatever economic policy position is taken in Iran is based on political expediency and not what’s in the best interest of the country. “Banks are the only game in town in Iran because they are the only investment vehicle for those who wish to save money for their future” he said. “The monetary policy is set here [in the US] by the Federal Reserve and independent of any other body. But in Iran, Ahmadinejad orders the central bank to move interest rates up and down.” In addition, Mr. Pakravan said, “While emerging Third World countries have strived to make setting their monetary policy independent of government, we are witnessing more and more politicization of monetary policy in Iran, which is a recipe for disaster.”
Today’s Woman January 9 looked at Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex, with author and intellectual Shahla Shafigh. The main discussion was devoted to Ms. de Beauvoir, who would have been 100 years old on January 9, 2008. One of the most preeminent French existentialists and philosophers, The Second Sex was her most famous and influential work. Ms. Shafigh talked about the influence of Ms. de Beauvoir’s theories and ideas on feminism and how they apply to Iranian women. She said many women’s rights activists in Iran have been inspired by this philosophy to fight for their rights. Ms. Shafigh said that a women’s magazine called The Second Sex was published in Iran and edited by women’s rights activist Noushin Ahmadi Khorassani. It was closed after two years, she said, and led to the formation of the One Million Signatures Campaign, which calls for an end to discriminatory laws against women in Iran.
Today’s Woman January 10 featured an interview with Denmark-based social activist Fakhur Moghaddas. She talked about how she coordinated international student exchange programs in pre-revolutionary Iran and how she helped others bridge the gap between cultures. She also talked about how she bridged those same gaps as she herself assimilated into European society after 1979. Ms. Moghaddas talked about her early membership at the Abadan Women’s club, the club’s mission to educate other women, their work with children’s education, and her eventual nomination as a representative of Abadan to the Iranian parliament. She also talked about her work as the editor of a women’s magazine prior to the Islamic revolution.
Late Edition January 12 interview David Mario Farmani, president of the Richmond Hill’s Liberal Party in Ontario, Canada, about the involvement of Iranian-Canadians in politics. He said, “The Iranian community in Canada is vibrant. They are very successful people in different dimensions such as economy, culture, technology and even the food industry.” Mr. Farmani said political activity in the Iranian community has been increasing, particularly in the last year. “Young Iranians,” he said, “have been more involved in political activities.” He also pointed out that Canada has its first Iranian-Canadian member of parliament in Reza Moridi, who represents Ontario. Mr. Farmani said he believes “that political activities in the Iranian community abroad have a positive effect on people inside Iran.”
Today’s Woman January 12 focused on cervical and ovarian cancer in an interview with Dr. Ashkan Emadi, an oncologist and researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Emadi talked about signs a woman has ovarian cancer and how she can realize she is suffering from its symptoms. He said doctors have been advised to take symptoms such as abdominal swelling and pelvic pain more seriously, but said a lot of women ignore these common symptoms of ovarian cancer. Dr. Emadi said women can still develop ovarian cancer even though their ovaries have been removed. He used his own grandmother as an example, saying her ovaries were removed and she still developed ovarian cancer. Dr. Emadi also talked about the Human Papilloma Virus, which is a sexually transmitted disease causing genital HPV infection. He talked about the recent vaccine available to fight HPV also is one of the best and most effective vaccines to prevent cervical cancer. He pointed out that unlike cervical cancer vaccine, the vaccine to prevent ovarian cancer is only in the early stages and has only been used in clinical trials for cancer patients.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about the Iranian provocation of US navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz; the possible consequences of President Bush’s Middle East trip on Iran and Syria; problems confronting Iran’s economy; the presidential campaign in the US; how the different candidates might handle a problematic relationship with Iran; the serious economic problems currently besetting Iran; how the West should focus more on human rights violations in Iran instead of Iran’s nuclear program; the dangers for Iranian-Americans traveling in Iran because they could be subject to Iran’s Islamic laws; the politicization of sports in Iran; how the Ahmadinejad government has to abide by FIFA rules (as opposed to the IAEA or UN Security Council which can be lobbied); whether Portuguese coach Artur Jorge will get to Iran in time to work with the Iranian national soccer team prior to World Cup qualifiers in February; how only five percent of the country’s sports budget is allocated for women’s sports; the lack of free and fair elections in Iran; the impotence of Iranian citizens because their human rights are so suppressed; government-sanctioned destruction of Iranian antiquities and archeological sites; and how Khuzestan province generates much of Iran’s revenue but suffers from high rates of poverty hunger, unemployment and illiteracy.
This week’s History Channel segments included a segment on the Apollo 13 mission which was intended to be a “routine” trip to the moon but turned into a successful test of the accumulated knowledge of all previous Apollo missions when an oxygen tank exploded, leaving the spacecraft crippled and its three-man crew in mortal danger. A two-part segment focused on comets, the celestial travelers that have filled us with fear and wonder for centuries; they lurk in the furthest reaches of our solar system, they come close to Earth as they orbit our Sun, so close they may leave their signature: massive craters or roiling oceans. Could something so destructive hold the key to life? Another segment profiles one of the most internationally renowned of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin – a man of letters, a politician and diplomat, the son of a Boston soap boiler who through intelligence, talent and industry rose to become a figure whom many have called the first citizen of the 18th century. The last segment of the week looks at the massacre at Mystic, Connecticut, in 1637, when a clash between English settlers known as the Puritans and the Pequot Indians turned into the first European wholesale slaughter of a native group.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – answered several e-mail queries. One viewer sent in an e-mail asking, “Why do you allow Iranian separatists to participate in your programs?” Mr. Mahmoudi responded by saying, “First of all, since we do not investigate individuals’ political beliefs, we generally don’t know the guests’ political convictions. Experts are invited on the programs because of their specialties, not because of their convictions or political affiliations. Secondly, if necessary, our program anchors provide balance for a guest’s views.” Several viewers wrote in to say that anchors and program hosts sometimes talked in lieu of their guests. Mr. Mahmoudi concurred, saying “If anchors express their own views instead of asking questions and/or elaborating on some responses, we try to point out this error so it won’t happen again.” Another viewer asked, “Aren’t you interested in knowing the popularity of PNN programs in Iran? And if so, why haven’t you conducted surveys like other foreign broadcasters?” Mr. Mahmoudi said, “We love to have facts about our programs. A scientific survey of this kind must be conducted by experts with a representative random sample of the population of Iran. Though scientific means are available, we cannot access the population. The United States has no diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and we are not allowed to conduct such a study, freely, in Iran.”
This week, Late Edition launches “The Youth Factor” – a five-minute segment that will air three times each week. “The Youth Factor” will provide an in-depth look at the social, political, economic and cultural issues facing students and other young people in Iran. Producers of the segment are young themselves: two are students who have spent time in prison for their activism and one is a recent graduate of American University. “The Youth Factor” will be interactive, and will address concerns of VOA/PNN’s younger viewers.
PNN’s question of the week was, “Is the government doing enough to cope with problems caused by the severe snow?”
Out of 7,415 respondents, 22% said yes, 73% said no, while 5% did not know.
News and Views January 13 talked with Iranian journalist Peyman Pejman about the gas crisis in Iran during a particularly harsh winter. He said a wave of cold and snowstorms have hit the north and west of Iran hard, while the government’s mismanagement has caused gas shortages and skyrocketing energy and food prices. Mr. Pejman said the poor performance of state agencies has literally paralyzed cities across the country, adding that people in the hardest-hit cities plan to file grievances against the government with requests for compensation for their suffering.
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 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.
PNN INSIDER – VIEWER PERSPECTIVES
A viewer in Iran e-mailed the picture below with the caption, “Ahmadinejad’s bread” – referring to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s unfulfilled pledge from his presidential campaign to bring bread and butter to every Iranian’s table.
“NAN E AHMADINEJAD !!!!!!!!!!!!”
From a viewer from Mahshahr, a city on the Persian Gulf: “I don’t know which problems of the Iranian people to talk about. There are likely no happy days ahead. Freedoms have been taken away from us. We have inflation and high prices. Even those who can afford things have given up, let alone those who can’t. I think we will see people sleeping in cartons in the not too distant future, and that old-fashioned black tents will reappear. Iranian officials think that by doubling home loans from 18 million toumans to 36 million toumans [from approximately $18,000 to $36,000], they are paving the way for people to buy homes. Such practices from our ‘genius’ officials are [not] a big help. Mr. Ahmadinejad, Are the middle class and average civil servants able to pay off home loans of 400,000-450,000 toumans [$400-$450] per month?”
From a male viewer in Iran: “After 10 years of listening and watching VOA, I am sending you my first e-mail. I was on my way to work today for a private company when the government announced a two day holiday. A radio reporter stopped me for an interview and actually had the audacity to ask me to thank officials for city services . . . when all city services [during the difficult days of this blizzard] have been stopped! This is the kind of news we hear on the radio in the Islamic Republic. Please send me information on the news given a few weeks ago regarding the ‘green plan’ in the European Union and the conditions of working in the European Union. Thanks.”
From a viewer in Gilan: “These days, many parts of Iran are snow-covered, and very cold weather is a big problem for people. Of course, we knew about the freezing weather in advance, but unfortunately, help is slow in coming. There are very long lines in front of bakeries. There is no gas at the gas stations. Many roads are closed. Also, there are power and gas outages in many regions of the country. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot take of these problems; however, in theory, the government has ambitions of becoming an atomic power!”
From a viewer in Sari, the capital of Mazandaran province: “Please tell the world that Ahmadinejad not only wants to destroy Israelis but also Iranians. It is two weeks [now] that the northern regions of Iran have not had natural gas. Though the cold is excruciating, the government has not done anything for the people, and we are hoping to get international help. Mr. Ahmadinejad came, but he has given us only promises – no action. Now the children and the elderly are dying from the cold. Please send me e-mail contacts for human rights organizations and the UN, so I can send them e-mails.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “After wishing you the best, for the poll you have mentioned in your website, VOA/PNN, the vote is as follows: We are NOT satisfied with the government’s reaction to the problems resulting from the heavy snowfall in the capital and also in other districts. Kindly be informed that this vote is for two persons.”
A viewer in Tehran sent in the link to the following URL of a recent public execution of so- called criminals on the streets of the capital: http://sarbazevatan.multiply.com/video/item/198
This still photograph is from moments before the nooses are tightened.
From a viewer in Tehran: “It is rumored that the physician(s) involved in the barbaric dismemberment of five prisoners were threatened with the lives and dismemberment of their children, and not their own. This fact doesn’t lessen the brutality or shift the blame of the act, but let us for a moment imagine the choice these physicians have had to make.” [Editor’s Note: This e-mail note and the one that follows refer to the amputation punishments carried out in the southern province of Sistan-Baluchestan; it is not clear when the amputations were carried out, nor is it clear whether the doctors were just physically present or whether they helped in this enforcement of the Islamic penal code.] "
From a female physician in Babol: “The doctors who have performed this repugnant procedure [amputation of limbs] have taken the Hippocratic oath. As of this year, taking this oath has been banned and doctors now are asked to swear instead on the sanctity of Islamic values and the revolution. If you start your medical career by pledging allegiance to these criminals, then you can expect them to do much worse later on.”
A viewer from Iran wanted to be sure PNN didn’t miss the story about the recent executions and amputations in Sistan-Baluchestan, and sent in an article dated January 11, 2008, written by Reza Hossein Borr with a London dateline: “The Congress of the Nationalities for a Federal Iran, as the largest Iranian coalition, draws the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, all democratic governments, thinkers, writers, political activists and human rights defenders to the plight of the Baluch people of Iran. The Iranian authorities cut the right hands and left legs of five Baluch men in Iran. Thirty Baluchis were executed in seven days, from December 28 to January 5 in Iran.”
From Ali Dizaei, senior police official in London, interviewed on Roundtable with You January 6 on Scotland Yard’s investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto: “It would have been remiss of me not to e-mail VOA and let you know about the incredible feedback I have had due to my interview. You may recall that the last time I had an interview with VOA, my Yahoo e-mail account collapsed as I received over 1000 emails in 24 hours! That is why I was reluctant for VOA to put my e-mail address on the screen this time. However, I decided to increase the size of my inbox and the response has been incredible. It seems our community, like [most people], is fascinated with anything to do with the police. Police dramas are often the best watched in UK and probably across the world. This may explain why when the viewers see a senior police officer, they become fascinated with the story. But I believe there is a sense of patriotism at play here in the Iranian community. I think people feel particularly proud when they see a senior Scotland Yard officer who is of Iranian origin on their TV screen, especially in Iran where young people’s opportunities to find their true potential is constrained. This may explain the reason for this massive response.”
From a female viewer in Iran: “Thanks for your just and complete news coverage. The opinion poll segment is very interesting. [I am] hoping for a free Iran.”
From a viewer in the capital: “It is a very cool and breezy winter in Tehran. The weather has forced many offices to shut their doors in the past week. In fact, I haven’t been able to watch your programs the last few days because satellite dishes have been frozen and I don’t know how to break the filters on the web.”
From a male viewer in Iran to ailing anchor Luna Shadzi: “Hi. I hope you feel better soon. My friend and I watch all VOA programs every night – especially Late Edition.
From a viewer from the northern provincial city of Sari: “I am one of Late Edition’s biggest fans. I’m also a big fan of music, especially Rock and Jazz. Hence, I am so honored to introduce you to a very proficient musician and singer in Iran. He has recorded a CD named TANHA TOO KHOONE in Iran. It is a new brand of Latin Jazz music with Persian lyrics. One of its special attractions is that the music is pure and not manipulated. We all surely know that Late Edition is a new way for Iran’s gifted youth to meet the world.”
From a young woman viewer in Iran: “Why don't you talk more about movies from Iran?”
From a male viewer in Iran: “I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful NewsTalk program about ‘tarighat’ [or the way]. Your program reminded me of the teachings of Molavi.” [Editor’s Note: The December 31 program featured Seyed Mostafa Azmayesh, an Islamic scholar specializing in Sufism.]
From another male viewer in Iran: “I thought your program of DEC 31 regarding ‘Tasavoof’ or Sufism in Iran was a wonderful program. Very good points were discussed and criticized. Please keep up these programs particularly with respect to Sufism in Iran.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “VOA is the figurative university for Iranians.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Thank you so much for your NICE programs. But, in Iran, because of parasites, we cannot watch an entire program. It would be very highly appreciated if you could solve the difficulties and problems.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “Hi to all of you at VOA. I wanted to let you know that I am among the thousands of internet users who are stifled by filtering in Iran. Please help us. Thanks.”
From Dr. Ali Rezai, Professor Emeritus, Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Iowa, who participated in an on-air “focus group” last week to discuss the Iowa caucuses: “I was pleasantly surprised to hear from many of our relatives in Iran and Sweden about your interview with us on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. This was completely spontaneous and we had not alerted them beforehand. They also had many positive remarks about you [PNN correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour] personally. I commend you on your good work.”
From a woman viewer in Tehran: “You said in the beginning of your show that it was a great step in women rights when the government, in the past, took off the hejab. I disagree. I don’t believe in wearing hejab, but I do believe it is wrong when people are forced to wear it or to take it off. Because it is a personal matter. It is not the [government’s business.]. Also, progress is made in women’s rights when the culture of force changes, when school training is upgraded, when freedom of speech exists.”
From a male viewer in Tehran: “Thank you for your very nice program. I watch VOA and [Today’s Woman] every day. Last week I watched your program about diabetes. It was very interesting and informative.”
From a woman viewer in Ramsar: “As long as there are uneducated people in Iran and [others are in a position] to take advantage of their beliefs, [we will] have to observe crimes like amputations. The best remedy for all the long-suffered problems in Iran would be exposing [people] to free information and the chance to compare themselves with others around the world in order to see what is going on in civilized countries. This is the exact thing the [Iranian people] have been deprived of for three decades.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “These pictures [below] show students at a primary school in a village in Fars province. All have suffered [severe] burns [from accidents involving] non- standard oil heaters. As you can see, they still continue to live in a [poor] environment, [and these accidents] happen every day and every week in a country that invests billions of dollars in its nuclear program, military forces, etc.
From a viewer in Tehran: “Many thanks for your tireless, round-the-clock efforts for informing us. As you know, we are suffering from a wicked regime that censors nearly everything in the state-run media. It is very similar to the bat, which is extremely fearful of light! I really appreciate [your] newly established service. However, I have a query. I would very much like you to send a news bulletin and proxy to some of my friends. How can I do that? By the way, it would be my honor to help you, [in any way that] I can. Please let me know if you think I can be helpful in anyway. I do believe in this: Live freely or die!”
From a viewer in Iran: “To the attention of viewers who believe in democracy in Iran: According to new rules and regulations, candidates in the upcoming parliamentary election have only one week for campaigning and filing a lawsuit if they are disqualified and want to protest it.”
From a fan of PNN correspondent Setareh Derakhshesh: “Tonight you were reporting from Israel and interviewed an Iranian reporter. I salute your reporting and I am happy that an informed woman can make the world more perfect. Thanks.”
One viewer in Iran had a suggestion for VOA/PNN’s question of the week: “May I suggest that you ask the following question on your website: Do you think that observing elections under the aegis of the Guardianship Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran – which has not been stipulated in Iran’s Constitution – could just as easily be called ‘the leader’s designations’ elections?”