Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington D.C. – October 26, 2008…Top stories this week include a PNN exclusive on the telecommunications industry in Iran; continued coverage of the U.S. presidential election as well as beginning analysis of the upcoming presidential election in Iran; and interviews with the father and lawyer of Esha Momeni, a female Iranian-American graduate student who was arrested on October 15 in Tehran.
IRAN ENACTS TARIFFS ON MOBILE PHONE TEXT MESSAGING
News and Views October 20 – A PNN exclusive took an in-depth look into the telecommunications industry in Iran amid reports from different websites and blogs in Iran that customer dissatisfaction is growing. The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) recently increased tariffs on all text messages in Iran sent with Latin characters. Allegedly, the move was made to protect the Farsi language. PNN has learned that the ministry uses a voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) system to transfer the data, which keeps costs at a minimum. Despite this, the ministry has increased the tariffs. PNN has learned that text messaging has become the most profitable service for the ministry. Unofficial statistics show that last year’s ICT revenue topped nearly $1.1 billion dollars. PNN has compared Iran's market with neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. According to research by Bloomberg, the mobile phone market in Saudi Arabia is the most rapidly expanding sector in the region. PNN also reported that many of the services provided in Iran’s neighboring countries are cheaper than Iran.
News and Views October 22 – A PNN follow-up revealed that, based on Internet blogs, customer dissatisfaction from telecommunication services in Iran is intensifying. Hence, authorities in Iran have started counterattacking these complaints by releasing statistics showing that there has been progress made in both the number of customer subscribers and quality of services provided. PNN reported that these numbers contradict the information given by the media inside the country. A non-governmental organization in Iran that concentrates on this sector told PNN that the private sector is currently able to deliver Internet services with much better quality at a quarter of the price. Meanwhile, the ICT ministry recently acknowledged that it has charged customers over the last 5 years for undelivered text messages. According to Hamshahri Newspaper in Tehran, the latest research shows that 10% of text messages sent by customers in Iran never reaches their intended recipients. According to archived information, the judiciary in Iran has shut down 110 Internet service providers (ISP) between 2004 and 2005. The ministry claimed at the time that since these ISPs are providing long distance telephone calls, it has suffered a $32 million dollar loss. Now PNN has learned that although the ministry is using the exact technology to transfer the calls through the Internet, it still charges customers for traditional landline tariffs. A journalist who spoke under the condition of anonymity said, “The ministry has been using VOIP technology to transfer calls over the Internet for the past 3 years, yet it still charges its users a hefty price."
News and Views October 24 – In a final look at the telecommunications industry, PNN took a closer look at prepaid telephone card tariffs. PNN’s investigative report revealed that prepaid telephone card tariffs are 30% higher than normal landline tariffs. A PNN tally of received emails from people with complaints about their prepaid phone cards indicates that when customers enter the code to add credit to their account, the amount added is 5% to 20% less than what should be the indicated balance. A journalist source in Tehran confirmed this statement. PNN compared cell phone services in the United States and Iran. By comparing the tariffs printed on Iran’s ICT official website with rates for T-Mobile USA, PNN has learned that T-Mobile users in the USA pay $59.99 for 1500 minutes of talk and 100 text messages. However, Iranian ICT users are paying $72 to $81 for the same amount of talk time. PNN pointed out that the absence of a unified anti-monopoly law allows the ICT to change tariffs overnight.
IRAN PREFERS A DEMOCRATIC WHITE HOUSE
News and Views October 23 – Iranian Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani said Wednesday that Iran would prefer Democrat Senator Barack Obama in the White House next year. Mr. Larijani also dismissed any idea that the U.S. would attack Iran. "We are leaning more in favor of Barack Obama because he is more flexible and rational, even though we know American policy will not change that much," Mr. Larijani said at a press conference during a visit to Bahrain.
48 Hours October 25 – Researcher and political commentator Hassan Dai, who gave his opinions on the possible options for the next U.S. president with regard to foreign policy on Iran, said that he did not know of a single option concerning Iran that was not discussed extensively during the race for the White House between Senators McCain and Obama. "There is a consensus among all policymakers in the United States, that if Iran reaches the point of no return with regard to the capability of building a nuclear bomb, then a military attack would be inevitable," he added. "Contrary to common belief, the most effective sanction imposed against Iran has been done outside of the UN Security Council mainly by Washington and its allies," he said. "This has led to divestment by major oil companies which are hesitant to invest in Iran's oil and natural gas industries," he added. Mr. Dai surmised that because of Senator Obama's anti-war stance on Iraq, he would have more success in marshalling other countries in confronting Iran's nuclear ambitions. Mr. Dai then gave his views on diplomatic measures by stating, "Diplomacy doesn't mean throwing the towel in with the Iranians. The only alternative that really remains is something that has not been tried before.” He spoke of diplomacy’s game-changing quality because he believes the Iranian government has been operating on the assumption that the U.S. is not serious about pursuing diplomatic relations.
COLIN POWELL ENDORSES OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT
News and Views October 20 – Senator Barak Obama won the support of former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell, PNN reported on Sunday. Senator Obama’s campaign raised a record $150 million last month, dealing a double blow to rival Senator John McCain's presidential campaign. Senator McCain, despite trailing in opinion polls and fundraising, said he still expects to win the November 4 election and could sense "things are heading our way." Mr. Powell, who served several Republican presidents including George W. Bush as his first Secretary of State, said either candidate would make a good president but he was critical of McCain's uncertainty on how to deal with the economic crisis. He stated, "I think he [Senator Obama] is a transformational figure... His is a new generation coming onto the world stage, American stage." Mr. Powell, who in the past was mentioned as possibly the first black U.S. president, told NBC's Meet the Press that he backed Senator Obama "because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he's reaching out all across America." Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress on Monday that another wave of government spending might be needed as the economy limps through what could be an extended period of sub-par growth. It was the first time the central bank chairman had explicitly endorsed a second stimulus package. The government sent out about $100 billion in tax rebate checks over the summer to try to jump-start the economy, but consumer spending has struggled since then. Mr. Bernanke said, "With the economy likely to be weak for several quarters, and with some risk of a protracted slowdown, consideration of a fiscal package by the Congress at this juncture seems appropriate." Retail sales fell for three consecutive months through September.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES FIGHT FOR KEY STATES AS VOTE NEARS
News and Views October 21 – PNN continued its coverage of the U.S. presidential election. With two weeks to go until the election, Senator McCain and Senator Obama continued their campaigns in the crucial states of Pennsylvania and Florida respectively. Senator McCain campaigned in Pennsylvania where the latest polls show Senator Obama ahead by an average of 10 percentage points. Senator McCain, whom the press sometimes refers to as “Maverick McCain”, showed his characteristic resoluteness that has made him popular. He spoke of his rival saying, "He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans." Senator Obama scheduled a break from the campaign trail later this week to visit his gravely ill grandmother in Hawaii. The Illinois Senator is canceling events Thursday and Friday to be with 85-year-old Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise him. Senator Obama took a moment to speak of his grandmother saying, “She's the one who taught me about hard work. She is the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me, and although she could no longer travel I know that she's watching tonight and that tonight is her night as well." Yesterday, U.S. Senator Obama and former Democratic rival Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton stood together in Orlando seeking to swing the state of Florida to vote Democrat. It was the first time the bitter opponents from the Democratic primaries appeared together since a pair of fundraisers in early July. Senator Clinton (D-NY) spoke to the 50,000 gathered announcing, "Let's get as many votes banked as possible so we don't have any problem on November 4th."
News and Views October 23 – With less than two weeks before the election Senator Barack Obama was back in one of the key battleground states, Indiana. The Democratic Presidential hopeful continued to push his tax plan while attacking his opponent's plan on corporate taxes. This was Senator Obama's final campaign trip before heading to Hawaii to visit his ailing grandmother. On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain took his "Straight Talk Express" on a bus tour across Florida, trying to keep Florida from swinging over to the Democrats. Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama said on Wednesday that if elected, Republican John McCain would continue the policies of the administration of President George W. Bush, which he believes have endangered the country's national security. Speaking in Richmond, Virginia, Senator Obama said that voting Senator McCain into the White House would mean a continuation of current policies that have already put the U.S. economy in crisis. Meanwhile, Senator McCain and running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin seized on comments from Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden that Senator Obama would face a "generated crisis" within six months of becoming president because adversaries across the world would want to test his mettle. Senator McCain stated his preparedness for any possible crisis saying, "Senator Biden referred to how Jack Kennedy was tested in the Cuban missile crisis. I had a little personal experience on that. I was a pilot onboard the USS Enterprise, I was ready to go into combat at any minute. I know how close we came to a nuclear war and I will not be a president that needs to be tested. I have been tested."
SENATOR OBAMA RECEVIES ENDORSEMENT FROM GOP MEMBERS
News and Views October 24 – PNN reported that with 11 days left before Election Day, Senator Obama is leading in the key states of Ohio and Colorado. Both states were cast as red states in 2004. Senator McCain held events in Colorado and another swing state, New Mexico, where voters also favor the Democratic candidate. Meanwhile, Senator Obama is in Hawaii, visiting his ailing grandmother, 85-year old Madelyn Dunham. In an interview with ABC television, Obama said his grandmother is gravely ill and that he was not sure whether she would make it to Election Day. Senator Obama returns to the campaign trail Saturday for a rally in Nevada. Meanwhile, the New York Times endorsed Senator Obama for president on Friday, saying the Democratic hopeful has grown into the kind of leader the United States needs after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. Two former Republican governors, William Milliken of Michigan and William Weld of Massachusetts, endorsed Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Obama. Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, a harsh critic of the Bush Administration, also endorsed Senator Obama for President on Thursday.
News and Views October 25 – PNN’s U.S. presidential election wrap up for the week focused on the Vice Presidential candidates. While research shows that both parties have roughly equal chances of winning, both vice presidential candidates are criticized for their economic stimulus plans. In terms of personality, the media has designated Governor Palin as being more accessible than Senator Biden is, albeit her polarizing character is off-putting to some. The latest polls show Senator Obama leading the race by an average of 8 percentage points. A New York Times article commented on Senator McCain’s campaign strategy alleging that it is laden with mistakes and strategists are pointing out that Senator McCain may lose Florida and other southern states.
FALLING OIL PRICES AFFECTING IRAN
News and Views October 25 – PNN was joined by energy analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba for this week’s update on how the current financial crisis is affecting Iran. Dr. Diba answered PNN’s questions about the impact of a possible OPEC decision to reduce oil production. Dr. Diba related to viewers how a drop in oil prices would substantially affect Iran’s undiversified economy. He stated that such a move could cause a financial crisis to develop in neighboring countries. He compared and contrasted Iran’s oil economy to the oil economies of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Iranian Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani, was the next topic of discussion. Mr. Larijani said that a democratic U.S. President would benefit Iran. Dr. Diba disagreed with Mr. Larijani’s viewpoint saying, “Senator Obama’s and Senator McCain’s foreign policy are not that different, especially on Iran. As long as Iran does not change its behavior, a relationship between the two countries would not be possible.”
48 Hours October 26 – PNN continued coverage of the effects of falling oil prices. As declining prices pose a serious threat to the Iranian economy, energy analyst Rob Sobhani said Iran's petroleum and natural gas industry has suffered acutely from mismanagement and lack of transparency over the years. Mr. Sobhani is an energy analyst based in Washington, D.C. with specialization in the Caucuses. Mehdi Firouz-Khaki, a journalist focusing on petroleum affairs, joined 48 Hours via phone from Tehran saying, "Iranian leaders should have invested tens of billions of dollars in the upkeep of Iran's reserves to avoid their current predicament. Iran has enough reserves of natural gas for both domestic consumption and exports.” Mr. Khaki-Firouz said that because of international sanctions and declining investments, the United Arab Emirates replaced Iran as the second exporter of oil in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Later in the talk show, Mr. Sobhani argued that there is always a positive aspect soaring oil prices. "Rising prices are not necessarily a bad thing. People in the United States are now seriously thinking about alternative sources of energy and conservation, which wouldn't have been possible with a barrel of oil costing twenty dollars.” Mr. Khaki-Firouz added that with oil prices plummeting, it would hamper the government's ability to keep government subsidies at bay. "Lower oil revenue would make livelihood more difficult for ordinary Iranians on a fixed income," he concluded.
MINISTER STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF ENGAGING PUBLIC ON AGREEMENT
Roundtable with You October 21 – Former Iraqi Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr. Mishkat Al-Moumin joined Roundtable with You for an in depth discussion of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Iraq. Dr. Al-Moumin is currently a visiting scholar at George Mason University in Virginia. Questions surrounding the influence of the SOFA agreement were discussed. Dr. Al-Moumin noted that Muqtada Al-Sadr is in disagreement with the Status of Forces Agreement. Dr. Al-Moumin suggested grounds for doing so might have self-protective reasons, since Mr. Al-Sadr faces two arrest warrants for the killing of liberal Shia cleric Seyyed Majid Al-Khouei in 2003. Dr. Al-Moumin reminded viewers that in order for the SOFA agreement to be effective like any other political agreement it needed to be communicated to the people of Iraq. Dr. Al-Moumin stressed the necessity of engaging Iraqis at all levels in the process. He emphasized his disappointment that even in Iraq today, citizens are "kept in the dark and they don't have enough information and, as a result, they cannot contribute to the discussion one way or the other". Commenting on Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani role, he suggested that although Ayatollah Al-Sistani is a national figure whose words carry a lot of weight, he is also tired of being in the spotlight and is looking to politicians to take the lead in this matter. In closing, Dr. Al-Moumin spoke of the allegations of Iranian interference in the parliament vote stating that, “Just like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Iran is also trying to protect its own interests in the region and, as a result, wants to be the dominant force in the area, but if the Iraqi government engages its own people, and allows them to know that this is a good proposal for their safety, security, and prosperity, then it would be difficult for outside forces to interfere. Thus Iran will have a diminished role and influence”.
News and Views October 24 – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that negotiations on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) are continuing both in Washington and in Baghdad. Speaking to reporters in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, she dismissed Iran's attempt to overturn the proposed Iraq-U.S. Strategic Security Agreement; however, she did not set a date for finalization of the agreements.
A LOOK AT DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN LEBANON AND SYRIA
Roundtable with You October 24 –The show looked at diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria with guest Meyrev Wurmser, the Director of Middle East Studies at the Hudson Institute. Ms. Wurmser stated that although the Middle East peace process is something that may have eluded several U.S. administrations and plenty of politicians in the region, there have been attempts since the Annapolis Conference to resolve the major issues between Israelis and Palestinians. She believes that the two state solution advocated by President Bush is an attainable goal. Ms. Wurmser noted that, in her opinion, the Arab world is also a bit restless in finalizing any type of peace deal because they see continued suffering in the region. In response to a statement that perhaps the Arab world wants to continue this drama and to stifle its own people’s knowledge about human rights violations within their nations, Ms. Wurmser expressed her disagreement. She stated that there are two important aspects in play – the influence of Iran and Syria in the area, and the constant battle of Shiites vs. Sunnis. Ms. Wurmser also mentioned that the new U.S. president would inherit a difficult, but not impossible, goal. It all depends on their approach. In her perspective, Senator John McCain may be better suited to tackle the issues and to bring all sides together simply because leaders know him more and have an established relationship with him. Concerning diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon, Ms. Wurmser noted that Syria is in a defensive mode right now because there is a movement towards freedom and democracy in the Arab world. With major world powers at play, Syria does not want to be seen as backing down, but at the same time, Syria is confident that with Hezbollah gaining more power within the Lebanese government, their interests will be protected. In response to a question of whether the new relationship between Syria and Lebanon is a distraction that has been co-opted between Iran and Syria to cause further trouble in the world, Ms. Wurmser stated that it is possible that Iran and Syria would want to cause an illusion of Arab unity with an indirect attempt to influence the policies of the region.
WORLD MARKETS HOLDING ON DESPITE FINANCIAL CRISIS
News and Views October 20 – Markets around the world opened high Monday morning amid growing credit confidence. News of an upcoming global financial summit in Washington contributed to the stock rally. In Europe, stocks gained 2% and the Dutch government is working to prop up failing banks in the Netherlands. Asian stocks closed with large gains today. South Korea continues to prop up its struggling banks. The NIKKEI index reported a 3.6% higher increase today. PNN’s final report on the world markets noted that interbank lending is easing. In the second part of the segment, PNN spoke with Dr. Siamak Shojaii, the Dean of Business Administration at Central Connecticut State University about recent developments. Dr. Shojaii noted that in response to the global crisis, EU and U.S. leaders have been acting swiftly to bring about stability to the global marketplace. He remarked that President Bush's plan to host an international summit in dealing with the crisis is a bold move that might have the implication of being another Bretton Woods Accord. Dr. Shojaii noted that since the world financial crisis surfaced, major world governments have infused over 2000 billion dollars to keep their financial institutions afloat, and to prevent an economic meltdown. The plan to have an international summit is not, as some might have suggested, an attempt to socialize the markets. Rather the impetus behind the summit is to create a more stable format for the world to follow. Dr. Shojaii noted that crisis would affect Iran indirectly by falling oil prices. This will have a negative impact on the Iranian market, forcing the government to further dip into their foreign currency reserve, which in turn will bring about a deep recession that could take years to overcome.
News and Views October 21 – European equities rose on Tuesday signaling to investors that adjustments to the system could be starting to work. France is slated to inject 14 billion dollars into the country’s six largest banks. Russia reported it would expand a government agency that guarantees retail bank deposits. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia’s economy is well prepared for long-term external shocks. PNN also spoke with Paris-based finance professor Jamshid Assadi about the upcoming OPEC meeting in Vienna in November. According to him, Iran is asking for a reduction in oil production. However, given the worldwide economic troubles it is unlikely that OPEC ministers will approve a price increase during their emergency session. He stated that a price cut would result in a recession for Iran's already troubled economy.
News and Views October 22 – Fears of a global recession overshadowed signs of a bounce back in the British economy. Britain’s leading share index, the FTSE, was down 158 points at midday. Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King stated that a British recession is likely. Many economists have suggested that Britain is already facing a recession. Mr. King said the economic outlook remains very “uncertain.”
News and Views October 23 – According to reports, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress on Thursday he is "shocked" at the breakdown in U.S. credit markets and said he was "partially" wrong to resist regulation of some securities. Despite concerns he had in 2005 that risks were being underestimated by investors, "this crisis, however, has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined," Greenspan remarked on the current situation as he prepared for a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He expressed his disbelief at the current situation by saying, "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity – myself especially – are in a state of shocked disbelief."
IRAN TALKS CONTINUE ON NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
News and Views October 21 – PNN learned that diplomats from six world powers have held their first talks in a month on the Iranian nuclear dispute; however, it appears that there is no consensus on how to proceed. Robert Wood, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson, confirmed that diplomats from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China discussed Iran's nuclear program in a conference call Monday. According to Mr. Wood, diplomats reaffirmed their commitment to a dual strategy of offering Iran incentives to stop sensitive nuclear work and imposing sanctions if it refuses. He said the six powers agreed to remain in close contact on the Iran issue, but there was no definitive word on future meetings. In an interview with BBC Arabic Services, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated that the U.S. is prepared to meet and talk with Iranian officials. On Monday Mohammad El-Baradei, IAEA chief, said that Iran would have to opt out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in order to start producing weapon's-grade uranium.
NewsTalk October 22 – Journalist Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh and political analyst Dr. Mohsen Sazgara discuss the upcoming presidential election in Iran, which is set to take place in early spring. Reports indicate that the election has already started to take on a negative tone as various factions have started their attacks on one another. The weekly magazine Sobh-e-Sadegh, which is linked to the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corp, launched allegations that the guests who appeared at a recent conference hosted by former President Khatami received cash payments for their support. Many of Mr. Khatami’s supporters are urging him to run as a candidate in the upcoming race. In foreign policy updates, it was reported that Iran might be trying to strengthen ties with its Arab neighbors. In this regard, Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani, made an official trip to Bahrain to meet with high-ranking officials. The Chairman of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council will travel to Tehran next week. Dr. Sazgara remarked that the intended opening of a U.S. Interest Section in Iran, which has received many harsh comments from Iranian officials, is something that should have happened many months ago. It is Dr. Sazgara’s opinion that the opening of the section would occur after the U.S. and Iranian presidential elections, because current U.S. officials are unlikely to deal with President Ahmadinejad. Concerning a possible natural gas consortium between Qatar, Iran, and Russia, which would be similar to OPEC, Dr. Nourizadeh noted that Russia intends to take the leading role in the development of the consortium. Dr. Nourizadeh mentioned, "so long as Iran's gas and oil is engaged as part of a power struggle within and without its borders, neighbors would want to take advantage of that." A formal announcement on the establishment of the organization is pending.
Roundtable with You October 24 – PNN took a closer look at the upcoming Presidential Elections in Iran by speaking with political analyst Ali Afshari and journalist Issa Saharkhiz. As former President Mohammad Khatami debates the merits in running for election again, former Speaker of the Majlis, Mehdi Karrubi, has announced his candidacy. Other candidates are presently weighing their options. A list of possible candidates includes former Minister Ali Nateq Nouri, Tehran Mayor Mohmmad Baqer Qalibaf, current Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, and others.Yet, all eyes are on Khatami to make up his mind. Mr. Afshari was of the belief that any presidential election in Iran needs to have clarity of thought with respect to national interest and what he defined as national dignity and a dedicated path to democracy. Mr. Saharkhiz was of the mindset that elections in Iran will bring about the opportunity to accomplish things that may not be possible during normal times. He further stated that this is the time for all groups to be engaged, to contribute to the process, and to avoid being a criticizing force. Concerning the potential candidacy of former President Khatami, Mr. Afshari noted that his choice would be effective, because the Council of Guardians will have a harder time rejecting his qualifications, whereas with other candidates this would be a likely obstacle. Mr. Afshari, however, noted that if Mr. Khatami wants to run again, he must make it clear to the people that he can maneuver around the blocking forces that prevented him from achieving many of his goals during the first two terms of his presidency. Mr. Saharkhiz was of the mindset that any social movement in Iran must be sustainable and concrete.
LIVE FROM IRAQ
News and Views October 19 – PNN’s stringer reported live from Iraq that an explosion in Baghdad killed two and wounded five others. Also reported were attacks by Iraqi militants on Sunni militias who are supporting coalition forces. According to reports, five Iranian militants were arrested in Khanegin. No further information was provided. In other news, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the next days are critical for Iraqi leaders to finalize the draft agreement on the future of U.S. troops in the country. Mr. Zebari said that currently in the drafted agreement there are no provisions for a permanent military presence. The current draft spells out a timeframe of three years. Iraqi political analyst, Dr. Abdolreza Karimi, said the U.S. Strategic Security Agreement would be passed by the Iraqi parliament.
News and Views October 20 – Lebanon’s prime minister condemned the recent violence against Iraqi Christians in Mosul. Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered an immediate investigation into the murders of Christians in Mosul. Prime Minister al-Maliki met U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt during Leavitt's visit to Baghdad. Mr. Leavitt said Iraq’s health services have steadily improved. The president of the Autonomous Kurdish Government in Iraq, Massud Barzani, supports the U.S. Strategic Security Agreement. Reports indicate that Iraqi militants trained and backed by Iran have returned to Baghdad to fight U.S.-led international coalition forces.
News and Views October 26 – PNN’s stringer recapped for viewers how the Iraqi
Government declined to back the U.S. Strategic Security Agreement last week unless the agreement is modified to remove immunity clauses. The agreement, which will replace the current UN mandate set to expire on December 31, would allow U.S. forces to stay in Iraq for three years. According to Iraqi officials, the two nations are currently working on modifications. Political analyst, Sami Shouresh, blames Iran for the failed accord in the Iraqi parliament. According to him, some members of the parliament are under Iran’s sphere of influence. Mr. Shouresh told PNN’s stringer that he believes the U.S. pact is good for Iraq’s interests. He also expressed his beliefs that Iran has played a pivotal role in the deterioration of relations between Iraqi Kurds and Iraq’s central government. In closing, he reiterated that Tehran has long called for the removal of U.S. forces in the region.
IRANIAN-AMERICAN STUDENT BEING HELD IN EVIN PRISON
Today’s Woman October 21 – Today’s Woman continued its coverage of an Iranian-American student being held in Evin prison. Esha Momeni, a graduate student from Californian State University Northridge, was doing research for her graduate thesis in Iran. Ms. Momeni was taken into custody on October 15 in Tehran on “suspicion of committing a traffic offense” while driving on the Moddaress Highway, which is Tehran’s main north-south highway. Police then searched the family home in Tehran where she was staying. Her computer and video footage of interviews she conducted during her research were confiscated. Ms. Momeni’s family was told she would be released quickly if the family did not publicize the arrest. Today’s Woman began with a news brief that included a phone interview with Dr. Mohammed Ali Dadkha, a lawyer from inside Iran representing Ms. Momeni. Ms. Momeni, who is also a women's rights activist, is a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign from California. Dr. Dadkha contended that Ms. Momeni’s arrest was made without legal justification and that he has been prohibited from providing her with legal counsel. The remainder of the show discussed a topic popular with viewers – the definition of infidelity. Different aspects of “cheating” while in a relationship were discussed with guests Dr. Fosjan Zaini, a psychologist based in Los Angeles, and Mr. Akbar Karimi, an analyst from inside Iran. Dr. Zaini suggested that every couple has particular boundaries, therefore, “cheating” criteria and reactions to “cheating” are different depending on the couple. Mr. Karimi contended that the act of “cheating” has increased due to modernization; however, Dr. Zaini refuted this idea, arguing that no excuses should be made about the act of “cheating.”
Today's Woman October 25 – PNN updated viewers on the status of Esha Momeni, the Iranian-American graduate student and women’s rights activist who was arrested on October 15. The show included a phone interview with the father of Esha Momeni, Mr. Reza Momeni, who spoke from inside Iran. Esha Momeni is a women’s rights activist associated with the California sector of the One Million Signatures Campaign. She was arrested last week in Iran where she was conducting research for her thesis on women’s rights in Iran. Mr. Momeni contended that Esha committed no crime and that her actions were not politically driven. Mr. Momeni stated that Esha’s prolonged and difficult experience of obtaining a divorce in Iran led to her activism in women’s rights. The discussion also included a phone interview with Esha’s lawyer from inside Iran, Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkha. He stated that Esha was arrested without any legal justification and that there is still no official charge.
IRANIAN ACTRESS DEBUTS IN HOLLYWOOD FILM
Roundtable with You October 21 – PNN analyzed the latest human rights issues with human rights activist Elaheh Sharifpour Hicks. Ms. Sharifpour Hicks stated that Human Rights advocates as well as journalists continue to be arrested and harassed by the Islamic Republic's security forces citing Iranian-American graduate student Esha Momeni’s arrest on October 15. Masoud Kurdpour, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, is still detained and under arrest since August 2008. The second segment of the show captured the reactions to the appearance of Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani in the Hollywood film Body of Lies. The uproar in Iran is a result of Ms. Farahani’s appearance alongside actor Leonardo Di Caprio. Towards the end of the film, viewers see Ms. Farahani uncovered. The Minister of Islamic Guidance in Iran stated that, "whoever demolishes or disobeys the Islamic Republic's laws, will be demolished.” However, President Ahmadinejad, in a meeting with filmmakers in Tehran stated, "Hollywood portrays America's purpose, so it is up to you to portray the purpose and perspective of our society." Ms. Farahani has acted in over a dozen films in Iran. Iranian actress Pegah Ahangarani criticized the official ban on her documentary in an open letter to her critics. She stated, "the imposition of this ban is not a weird event, and ought not to come to anyone as a surprise, because we have grown accustomed to this type of affairs.”
Late Edition October 24 – Director and producer Masoud Asadolahi joined Late Edition to discuss Golshifteh Farahani, the young Iranian actress who stars in the film "Body of Lies" in Hollywood. Mr. Asadolahi believes this is a great achievement for Iranian cinema because of the level of international recognition, which he hopes will spill over to other aspects of Iranian cinema. He criticized the Islamic Republic’s reaction to the film, labeling it as political propaganda. Iran's cultural minister, Safar Harandi, attacked Ms. Farahani last week, promising to punish anyone who ignores the laws of Islamic teachings. Mr. Asadolahi said young Iranians are intelligent and talented in many different fields. He commented on the number of young individuals who do what they can to leave Iran. He spoke about the reasons behind this brain drain, holding the Islamic regime responsible for this situation. Ms. Farahani was born after the 1979 revolution and she is a popular Iranian actress who has played in many successful movies in Iran. After her appearance in the Hollywood film, Iranian officials attacked her for appearing without a hejab. In closing, Mr. Asadolahi stated that he was disappointed the regime was not encouraging in Ms. Farahani’s cinema achievement. It is unlikely that Ms. Farahani will return to Iran anytime soon. “This is a big loss for Iranian cinema,” he added.
DOCUMENTARY FOCUSES ON SPIRITUAL ASPECTS OF IRANIAN HISTORY
Late Edition October 25 – PNN spoke with Los Angeles-based director, producer and writer Aryana Farshad about documentary cinema. Ms. Farshad spoke about her new film "Mystic Iran, The Unseen Word" which is a spiritual documentary of Iranian history. She traveled throughout Iran for 25 years to produce her first full-length documentary. Late Edition showed viewers spectacular moments of Shia, Zoroastrian, and Dervish religious ceremonies in different holy places. "Mystic Iran" was shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It has also received accolades at several film festivals and recently aired on PBS television. Her film won the Audience Award at the 2008 Noor Film Festival in April in Beverly Hills, California. Ms. Farshad talked about "Magic of Persia, Age of Awakening" which is a cultural documentary on Iranian civilization. This is her second independent work. The documentary is a journey to the ancient sites of Persia, Pasargadea, Persepolis and Susa. This documentary was shown at the British Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts.
Also on PNN…
Roundtable October 22 – PNN aired viewer perspectives on the recent defeat of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations on its quest to gain a seat on the Security Council. Viewers such as Saeed from Tehran expressed disappointment that the UN will not allow a country that is not their "friend" into the Security Council. Reza from Mashad stated his belief that the decision is because "the name of Iranian politicians and policymakers is smeared with negativity and shame" therefore, the world community is "afraid of associating with them." A caller identified as Hamid asked, "How come the U.S., China, Russia, UK, and France got to be permanent members? Why shouldn't they stand for elections?" In response to Hamid, Manijeh from Qom noted that the UN charter mandates those countries remain permanent members. The mandate also allows other nations to become rotational, non-permanent members. Hamid reminded the other callers that this also requires steady payment of agreed-upon dues and contributions to forces in the UN's peacekeeping missions throughout the world. In closing, Ghodrat from Qazvin thanked VOA for “giving us the ability to speak our mind, and to have given us a voice."
On the Record October 24 – PNN’s Executive Editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman educated viewers on an integral piece of politics and government in America by explaining the role of “think tanks.” A think tank is an organization that does research in the area of politics, science, the economy or social issues. A think tank can be funded privately or by the government. Dr. Mahmoudi responded to viewer queries on the role of these groups in the U.S. government by first explaining the multitude of political and social organizations that exist in America. He stated that individuals who are engaged in research and studies in general establish think tanks. They convene conferences, discuss related topics, and publish the results of their studies. Think tanks also invite scholars, authors, former government officials, journalists and subject mater experts to discuss current events. Most of the topics discussed by experts are of vital importance to democratic or international affairs. Dr. Mahmoudi emphasized that the element of freedom of speech allows such groups to publish data, which may be contrary to that of the U.S. government. He stated that some think tanks are conservative; others are liberal but most fall somewhere in between. In response to a question about who funds these groups, he responded, “These foundations are funded by a variety of sources such as endowments, subscriptions, and grants.” While these foundations are non-governmental in nature, he stated that some groups might support general policies of the political party in power. He mentioned that think tank findings are often cited by the American media in their reporting of a topic. Dr. Mahmoudi said, “We cover topics that are related to Iran such as oil, nuclear activities, human rights violation as well as some of the important international subject with global impact.’
Late Edition October 25 – PNN’s Late Edition introduced Bob Baer's new book “The Devil We Know.” Bob Baer has long focused on Iran, sometimes presenting policy views unpopular with the U.S. Government. Mr. Baer is a former case officer at the CIA. He is also the author of highly acclaimed books such as "Sleeping with the Devil" and "See No Evil." His latest book is titled "The Devil We Know. Dealing with The New Iranian Superpower" and it was released in September 2008. In his new book, Mr. Baer analyzed American politics towards Iran during the past 30 years following the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In his opinion, Iran is a bigger threat than the West realizes. He writes, "This isn’t a war the United States has years to prepare for. It is half-fought and already half-won-by Iran. The sooner we understand the Iranian paradox – who they are, what they want, how they want to both humble us and work with us – the sooner we’ll understand how to come to terms with the new Iranian superpower." Mr. Baer believes that Iran is run by a secretive, calculating, rational government that has an imperial drive and is moving towards the conquest of the Middle East. In this book, Mr. Baer describes what the U.S. should learn in dealing with the "New Iranian Superpower".
This week on the History Channel – The week began with a look at former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s life. In part two of the Biography series, viewers learned about his rise to power from his family’s base in the tribal Sunni Muslim area of Tikrit. He was later found hiding in a dirt cellar not too far from where he was born after the deposed leader was caught by coalition forces. Turning to comedy, Biography highlighted the life of Bill Cosby. For eight seasons on primetime television he played the father figure, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, on “The Cosby Show.” He was a devoted comedian who later made it his mission to preach personal responsibility to poor blacks. Some laud Cosby for telling it like it is, but one critic has labeled it a "blame the poor tour."The History Channel’s next segment called “Ship” uncovered the secrets of the mightiest warships, starting with the essential tools that shipbuilders have been constantly improving over the centuries. Viewers learned how a modern-day aircraft carrier is like a floating city: with 5,000 crewmembers, 80 aircraft, and a four-and-a-half acre flight deck. It is nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall, and has its very own 20-story skyscraper balanced on top of it. Constructing one of these is as much a marvel as the ship itself. Next, Biography looked at Scottish actor Sean Connery. To many he is still the quintessential Bond... James Bond. His role as James Bond was almost accidental; initially Carey Grant was asked to play the part but demanded too much money. Since landing his breakthrough role, the actor has gone on to leave an indelible mark on the film industry playing a wide range of no-nonsense tough guys. Turning to technology, viewers learned about the lives of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. These two Stanford PhD dropouts created the Google search engine, which today receives over 200 million queries each day from people looking for information on the Internet.
PNN’s question of the week was “Do you agree with the idea that the Reform Agenda (proposed by the reformists linked to former President Khatami) can help end Iran’s isolation in the world?” Out of 4,572 respondents, 1,664 or 36% said yes, 2,709 or 59% said no, while 199 or 4% did not have an opinion.
The Persian News Network’s television programming complements its radio broadcasts. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four Iranian households tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs also are streamed on www.voapnn.com.
PNN’s 7-hour program block opens with Today in Washington, a brief look at the latest news developments in Washington, as well as the content of PNN’s upcoming programs. Then we present cultural programming translated into Farsi from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of newsbreaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, 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.
Hamid from Tehran writes: “A glance at the performance of the Islamic Regime in Iran during the past 30 years show that this regime has never had a clearly-defined foreign policy based on the international norms and standards. The result: increased isolation and tension in the international scene. Example: Although the government always criticized the United Nations, and says that it does not believe in that legal body, it continuously attempts to join the Security Council. So, we see substantial contradiction in the Regime’s policy.”
Amir from Iran comments: “It is now a while that the Bazaars in major cities have been closed, semi-closed, or tense. The reason is clear because of protest against the new law for “Value Added Tax.” VAT is common in many countries, and the rate is high. Turkey collects over 160 billion (b) US Dollars VAT per year. In those countries, people pay the tax, buthave the right to protest when they see a shortcoming. There, people have the right to go on strike. But in Iran nobody has any right to protest. To me, the conditions and groundwork should be laid down first for collecting Value Added Tax. Without such pre-conditions, nobody is willing to pay the tax.
A Today’s Woman viewer writes: “Would you please send us the news through email? We live in a deprived area in Iran and we cannot afford to have a satellite dish. If you send us the news through email, we can check it once in a while.”
Gholamreza and Nahal (members of Ale-Yasin group) ask: “Article 38 of the Iranian Constitution prohibits torture. For whomis this article formulated? How come the agents of Ministry of Information are careless about this Article and do the torture? It would be better to add a “Note” to this Article that the agents of that Ministry are exempt, and they can violate all the laws.”
Amin writes: “Hello, my name is Amin and I live in Iran. I have started to watch Today’s Woman three months ago. I have been a steadfast fan ever since. I wish you luck.”
Fatemeh from Iran writes: “Thank you so much for this great program [Today’s Woman] I got a B.A. in English Literature and now I study for a M.A. (English Translation) in February 2009. Would you please do personal interviews with the ladies of V.O.A. such as, Mrs. Aramideh, Mrs. Deraghshesh and Luna Shad. I would like to know how a person could come to V.O.A.? What qualities must he or she have??”