Washington D.C. – November 16… Major stories this week included a three-part series exclusive to PNN on “blogging diplomacy” in the Middle East; debate and criticism over an alleged new round of missile tests by Iran as Americans and Iranians discuss the possibility of normalizing diplomatic ties; PNN coverage of the signing of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement; and an interview with Marguerite Del Giudice, the author of a National Geographic special on Iran.
PROMISING NEWS FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE QUARTET IN EGYPT
News and Views November 10 – PNN reports that the Israeli and Palestinian governments in the West Bank told international mediators that the set of peace talks, which began last year, are substantial and promising. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed the peace process Sunday with the international Quartet of Middle East mediators in Egypt's resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Quartet consists of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union. The mediators called for the peace process to continue as the United States and Israel undergo political transitions early next year. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is due to take office in January and Israel holds national elections in February. A statement released by the Quartet stated that President Abbas and Foreign Minister Livni are committed to holding continuous bilateral negotiations and that all issues must be agreed upon for a deal to be final. On Sunday, the Quartet reiterated its calls for Israel to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank and for the Palestinians to dismantle militant infrastructure. At the meeting, Quartet special envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Mr. Obama's administration should focus on Middle East peace from its first day in office. Mr. Blair announced, "For the first time we have comprehensive political negotiations through the Annapolis process." He urged Mr. Obama to build on what he called the "foundation" of the Annapolis process. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who also attended the talks, said Israel and Mr. Abbas' government believe in the peace process. Secretary Rice stated, "We have an international strategy now to finally establish the two-state solution which President Bush set as a goal several years ago, and so I believe that the Annapolis process is now the international community's answer and the parties' answer to how we finally end the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis." Western news agencies are reporting that Arab foreign ministers expressed concern about Iran's influence in the Middle East during a meeting Sunday with U.S. and European officials in Egypt. Reuters and the French news agency quote an unnamed participant at the meeting who said Jordan's foreign minister Salah Bashir told the gathering that Iran's quest for "hegemony" has become a "crisis" for the Arab world. Participants at today's meeting on Iran included U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. These talks took place on the sidelines of a Middle East peace summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "The Quartet reiterated its call to the parties to fully implement their obligations under phase one of the roadmap, including freezing settlement activity and the dismantlement of the infrastructure of terrorism."
INTERPELLATION OF IRANIAN MINISTERS STILL POSSIBLE
News and Views November 15 – The state of international affairs was the topic of discussion with guest international analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba. Reports indicate a possible interpellation of Iran’s Education and Agricultural Ministers. Interpellation refers to the formal right of parliament to question a member of government through a formal question submittal process. The respective government minister is then required to respond and validate government policy. This process allows parliament to supervise the activities of the government. Some suggest that the process is similar to a motion of censure. Dr. Diba stressed that the Iranian Majlis would not act upon this issue, because Supreme Leader Khamenei is supporting President Ahmadinejad’s government. Dr. Diba also pointed out that the measure may be fruitless given that the current government will dissolve in seven months. Switching topics, there was mounting interest in the global economy crisis by G-20 Summit leaders. Dr. Diba expects the G-20 to assert more autonomy during future economic crises. Finally, a current hot topic in the United States is the makeup of President-elect Obama’s cabinet. Dr. Diba’s suggestions mirror popular sentiment that several members of Mr. Obama's government would hail from the Democratic Party, but especially from officials who served under former President Bill Clinton.
NewsTalk November 12 – Deputy Editor-in-chief of London’s Kayhan, Mr. Nasser Mohammadi, gave his analysis of parliamentary processes in Iran. He spoke candidly to PNN in reiterating to viewers that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and not the parliament, appoints ministers. In his opinion, this reflects the notion that there is no democratic parliamentary process in Iran. Paris-based journalist Iradj Fatemi commented on the recent dismissal of Interior Minister Ali Kordan from Parliament because of his falsified academic credentials. Mr. Fatemi added, “To choose someone as a Minister like Kordan is not based on qualifications but based on connections.” Mr. Fatemi agreed with Kayhan’s editor in saying that the Iranian Parliament does indeed have limitations as the power is in the hands of the Supreme Leader. The rest of the roundtable examined the differences between elements of democracy that are prevalent in the West and what is coined as “religious democracy” in Iran.
News and Views November 10 – Dissident writer and journalist Akbar Ganji joined PNN to talk about his latest article in the journal of Foreign Affairs. His article “Who rules Iran?” examines structural power in Iran. The article is a reminder to the West that the real decision maker in Iran is Supreme Leader Khamenei, not President Ahmadinejad. His writings address the foolishness in blaming Iran’s problems on the President because this inaccurately suggests that the problems will cease when the President leaves office. He also commented on U.S.-Iranian relations, saying that dialogue between the two countries will promote civil society and the process of democratization in Iran, but only if there is transparency. “What is worrisome is the possibility of having talks with Iran and leaving the people in the dark. Libya is a good example of what we hope would not happen to Iran,” he added.
“BLOGGING DIPLOMACY’ PROVING TO BE A WORTHY UPHILL BATTLE
News and Views November 10 – In a PNN follow up on the recently established Digital Outreach Team of the U.S. Department of State, viewers learned that Iranian newspapers are taking a serious look at “blogging diplomacy.” The office was created to connect to Internet users in the Middle East and to strengthen the State Department’s presence online. The Iranian public started using the Internet and blogging as a means to be heard after the shutdown of more than 200 newspapers in Iran. Despite censorship in Iran, the country boasts a large number of newspapers in circulation. In an interview with PNN, Brent Blaschke, the director of the Digital Outreach Team, spoke about their responsibilities, "You know, this is not our duty to turn the Internet users into supporters of the United States, but we encourage them to take a second look at the USA before they form their judgments." Mr. Blaschke also spoke for the first time about the debate that took place this past spring between the Digital Outreach Team and one of Ahmadinejad's press advisers, Ali Akbar Javanfekr. He said, "One of my colleagues noticed this site by accident and we thought it would be a good idea to go there. So we posted a message and two weeks passed and nothing happened. Then all of a sudden, Boom! There was our message published in his blog with a reply attached to it.” Mr. Blaschke described the exciting interchange that went on between them for weeks. “Then to our surprise, we found out that all of it has been published in an Iranian newspaper.” Mr. Blaschke’s team was delighted, “We noticed that a negative spin was given to it, but we were so happy to see that everything that we had to say was published in an Iranian newspaper inside Iran.” PNN received a copy of the Iranian newspaper that published this debate and highlighted some parts of it. In one part, Ali Akbar Javanfekr says, "Despite your fictional concept and the will of the U.S. against the Islamic Republic of Iran, our thoughtful and futuristic approach to economical problems has made the economy a lot better during the past three years.” Mr. Javanfekr also emphasized that Iran is willing to pursue its nuclear program despite U.S. pressures. Mr. Blaschke explained the press adviser’s reasoning saying, "First of all this is one of the strategies of Iranians to show that this is a U.S.-Iranian problem and we are always cautious about that, saying that this concerns the wider international community.” He pointed out multiple resolutions against Iran in the UN Security decisions. Further, Mr. Blaschke added, “We always say that we recognize the right of Iran to have a peaceful nuclear program. In fact, we and our allies have given Iran so many incentives in the latest package presented by the 5+1." By publishing this debate in an Iranian newspaper, the Digital Outreach Team of the State Department is becoming better known to its audience in Iran; however, PNN has learned that Iranian Internet users are still skeptical about the existence of this team.
News and Views November 11 – Despite the filtering of websites by Iranian officials, the Digital Outreach Team of the State Department has been able to connect with thousands of Farsi speaking users over the past year. A PNN report on this newly established office revealed that subtle shifts in public diplomacy are behind the State Department’s growing medium of online communication, especially in foreign languages. Although the department is just shy of its one-year anniversary, the team continues to make inroads into Persian society. PNN asked how users in Iran have reacted to blog postings. Kiarash Ehfad, a member of the Persian service of the Digital Outreach Team, responded, " If we engage in a dialogue with an Iranian official, it could get tough, but mainly people are happy about what we do since they believe it helps in keeping this connection open." He also added, “We want the people to know that the U.S. has no problem with Iranian people, but the government that is running that country doesn't have a good record in the world." PNN asked the team about its success record. Team Director Brent Blaschke explains, “There is no easy way to measure the change we might have caused in people's opinion…the important issue is that we make sure that they see the message. If you are not talking to people, they are going to form their ideas without that input." Mr. Ehfad followed up his explanation by saying, "It’s like running upward on the hill for us because people inside Iran have been bombarded during the past 30 years with anti-American ideas.”
News and Views November 12 – PNN profiled a U.S. government website which offers a variety of services and information for Farsi readers all around the world. The website www.america.gov/persian delivers information about current U.S. foreign policy. The website also focuses heavily on public diplomacy with its educational content on American life and culture. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs produces it. Jen Edmonson from the Bureau of International Information Programs described the official U.S. site for Farsi speakers worldwide as a place where Internet users can find information on the green card lottery. She also added, “There is a link on our website which directly takes users to our envoy's personal blog at the IAEA, Mr. Greg Schulte.” In describing the site for viewers, she pointed out a tab where users can respond to weekly questions posed by the Bureau. The Bureau of International Information Programs also has publications in Persian for Farsi readers on different topics such as journalism, education and multimedia. PNN learned that since the address to this website was recently changed, attendance to the site dropped significantly. PNN has addressed the address change, listing the new URL for PNN audiences.
Roundtable with You November 14 – A new worldwide video competition called the “Democracy Challenge Video Competition” was the topic of today’s roundtable. Guest Lori Brutten and Jason Katz from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information joined PNN to explain the new program. Ms. Brutten and Mr. Katz noted that through international competition the State Department is serving as a catalyst to encourage youth around the globe to come up with a 3-minute video that describes their perspective on democracy and completes the phrase "Democracy is . . .” Ms. Bruttennoted that the competition is open to any individualover 18 years ofage and should not contain violence, nudity, or foul language. The goal of this challenge is to encourage young people to think about democracy and to visualize it through their own perspective. Mr. Katz noted that there are technical requirements that the video must follow and they are listed at the website http://www.videochallenge.america.gov/fa/. Mr. Katz further noted that seven winners of this project, one from each continent, would have the chance to visit the United States. During their all expenses paid trip winners will have the chance to meet with noted directors and producers, visit various film production sites in Hollywood and New York, and meet other creative minds within the United States
ANALYSTS PONDER OBAMA’S EFFECT ON MIDDLE EAST POLICY
News and Views November 13 – The latest developments in U.S. military policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan were discussed with guest Dr. Aminollah Habibi, a fellow with the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. Dr Habibi commented, “The new administration can have a significant impact on the region.” He pointed out that the Bush Administration did not think of preventative diplomacy or nation building in the beginning; however, now they acknowledge that a fight against terrorism will not progress without helping Afghanistan and Pakistan implement principles of democracy. Dr. Habibi added that the expansion of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan could work. Still, he believes the best solution is to train and arm the Afghan army to fight the return of the Taliban. In response to the question of negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban, Mr. Habibi said, “There are some Taliban members who are willing to join in political activities, but many of the Taliban hardliners will continue the fight and renounce diplomatic measures.”
News and Views November 11 – VOA interviews with American voters revealed that some McCain supporters switched to the Democratic ticket because of economic issues and war policies. One voter said, “John McCain the Republican presidential candidate is not the same John McCain the senator that people knew.” Bruce Miller, a local pollster, attributes party switching to the following two factors: the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as a running mate and the adoption of a Carl Rove style campaign strategy. After Senator McCain’s concession speech, a supporter of Senator McCain felt that this speech came straight from his heart. She believes the decision was simple in that voters voted against Senator McCain and the party and not for Senator Obama. In his concession speech, Senator McCain congratulated his opponent and compared today's America to a hundred years ago when President Roosevelt's invitation of an African American to the White House raised so many eyebrows.
OBAMA TAKES A FIRST LOOK AT THE OVAL OFFICE
News and Views November 10 – The first meeting of incoming and outgoing presidents has been a rite of passage fraught with emotion, surprises and the rare exchange of secrets between leaders of opposite political parties. When President-elect Obama meets with President Bush on Monday, he will be stepping foot in the Oval Office for the very first time. Their first face-to-face meeting is expected to focus on the Iraq war and the nation's faltering economy. Michelle Obama will meet with First Lady Laura Bush and get a tour of her new home, the 134-room White House. Although President-elect Obama heavily criticized President Bush's handling of the economy during his campaign, Pres. Bush and President-elect Obama have struck a tone of cooperation in carrying out an orderly transition of power. President Bush stated, "All of us must ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running." Yet, Obama’s team is also making it clear that they will move quickly to reverse some of President Bush's executive orders on issues such as the environment, embryonic stem cell research, and abortion. In addition, President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly creating a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice. Valerie Jarrett, Co-Chair of the Obama Transition Team, commented on President-elect Obama’s advisers saying, "Putting together the cabinet is like a jigsaw puzzle and he wants to make sure that it represents the diversity of our country, diversity of perspectives, diversity in race, diversity in geography." Meanwhile, Iran says it is not expecting major changes in U.S. policy toward Tehran when President-elect Obama becomes U.S. president in January. A Foreign Ministry spokesman made that remark today in response to a reporter's question about the possibility of President-elect Obama negotiating with Iran's government at some point.
News and Views November 11 – White House officials say President George Bush and President-elect Barack Obama had a good, constructive, relaxed and friendly discussion about major issues the incoming chief executive will face during his administration. President Bush and President-elect Obama met Monday for the first time since last week's presidential election. PNN reported that the pair took a short walk together outside the White House before holding a private meeting in the Oval Office. President-elect Obama's campaign staff issued a statement saying it welcomes Mr. Bush's commitment to a smooth exchange of power. A source familiar with Monday's meeting said President-elect Obama urged President Bush to support immediate emergency loans to the U.S. auto industry, which is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. The incoming president also asked Pres. Bush to push for a broader economic stimulus package during an upcoming end-of-the-year session of the outgoing Congress. President George Bush discussed possible aid for troubled U.S. automakers on Monday. Darrel West of the Brookings Institution commented on the meeting saying, "There must be tension beneath the surface because Obama spent millions attacking the Bush record both in foreign policy and domestic policy." Former U.S. Republican vice presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin says she will pursue higher office in the future if the opportunity presents itself. During an interview televised Monday night, the Alaska governor said her deep religious faith will reveal - in her words – whether there is an open door for her in politics. Governor Palin says she would plow right on through to take advantage of the opportunity even if it is a premature move.
U.S. POLICY REVERSAL BY PRESIDENT-ELECT ON KEY ISSUES LIKELY
News and Views November 11 – Subsequent to the Quartet sideline meeting in Sharm-al-Sheik, Egypt, the Israeli ministers of defense and foreign affairs and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, telephoned Vice President-elect Joe Biden. According to the Jerusalem Post, they urged the U.S. to stand firm against Iran's nuclear program and extremists in the region. IAEA Chief Mohammad El-Baradei also commented on possible policy changes in an interview for Time magazine. He hopes "conditions will be created soon for direct U.S.-Iran negotiations, which are key for durable peace and security in the Middle East.” There is speculation that President-elect Obama may reverse the Bush administration's policies on stem cell research and oil drilling in Utah. John Podesta, Co-Chair of Obama’s transitional team, says the Bush administration wants to approve oil and gas drilling in some of the most fragile lands in Utah, which he feels is a mistake. On the issue of stem cell research, Amy Comstock Rice, President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, said, "We've been advocating that this happen…The concept of time in terms of patients who suffer from these diseases - Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, spinal cord injury - a whole host of diseases - the sooner something can happen and the sooner exciting research can go forward - the sooner people can be helped. Time really matters on this issue and this is an issue that does not require Congress.”
48 Hours November 16 – News analyst Alireza Nourizadeh joined PNN for a review of the major stories in Iran and the Middle East. The show started with an announcement that the regime in Iran has begun to hedge on unconditional talks with the new U.S. administration. According to sources, the regime wants to set its own conditions because open and transparent relations with Washington would not be in its interest.Mr. Nourizadeh stated, “The clerics in Iran even told Bolivia's Morales to sever ties with Washington.” He elaborated by saying, "If the Iranian regime is forced to come to the negotiating table, it will be from a position of weakness. At that point, they will begin to make concessions to Washington in order to preserve their power." Turning to the popular debate over the next secretary of state, Mr. Nourizadeh argued that choosing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as the next secretary of state in the Obama administration would be well received around the world. "She is an excellent choice, especially if she comes to this new position along with former Middle Eastenvoy Dennis Ross.” On the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that Washington recently negotiated with the Iraqi government, Mr. Nourizadeh explained that the pact limits U.S. Forces in Iraq because it does not allow them to use Iraqi soilas a launching pad against neighboring countries. According to Mr. Nourizadeh, passage of this agreement in Iraq's parliament will be a hurdle because Iran can exert its influence over members of Parliament to scuttle the pact. The recently held U.N. inter-faith conference highlighted tensions between the Muslim and Western worlds during whichPresident Bush defended the right of individuals to changetheir religions if they wish. Mr. Nourizadeh said, "TheU.S. government has a good track-record of standing for freedom of religion as well as protecting Muslims from harm as they did in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq." He praised President Bush’s dedication to religious freedom. "George W. Bush's insistenceonthe ability to change religion as a fundamental right helps foster more religion tolerance in the world," he concluded.
Late Edition November 13, 2008 - Speaking to analysts from the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, PNN broadcast an original report examining the challenges for President-elect Obama's campaign in the time between his election and his inauguration. PNN outlined a long list of current crises that President-elect Obama needs to be prepared to tackle including two wars, an international financial meltdown, the U.S. bailout of its financial and automotive institutions, a resurgent Russia, and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. In addition, the President-elect needs to pick a cabinet that will work well together, and also mustreach out to Congress as well as the United States' international allies and institutions that will be important to the success of his candidacy. All of this while reminding the world that he is not yet president of the United States.
OBAMA COULD OPEN TALKS WITH IRAN TO SETTLE AFGHAN ISSUE
News and Views November 11 – PNN reported that the Washington Post today cited unnamed national security advisers to President-elect Obama, who say the incoming Obama administration plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan – including possible talks with Iran – and looks favorably on the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and "reconcilable" elements of the Taliban. The newspaper also reports the president-elect plans to intensify the search for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who is widely blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Post quotes a senior U.S. military official explaining mainly Shiite Iran's interest in cooperating as saying Iran does not want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than the U.S. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported the presidential victory of a Democrat calling for change in the U.S. has generated its own set of concerns for Iran’s rulers. Most alarmingly, it could undermine the appeal and the legitimacy of the radical message they espouse. “Although the victory of President-elect Obama virtually puts an end to the probability of a military confrontation over the nuclear issue, Iran’s international problems might become more complicated with tightened pressure and sanctions,” said Sadegh Kharrazi, a former senior diplomat.
News and Views November 11 – London-based Political analyst Farokh Negahdar joined PNN to speak about the possible thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations because of President-elect Obama’s willingness to hold talks with Iranian leaders. He remarked, “This is a fundamental change in policy not only towards Iran but towards the world. In time, there is hope for establishing relations in the Obama administration, more than in the previous one.”
On Iran's sponsorship of terrorism, Mr. Negahdar says President-elect Obama is focusing on the Taliban and al-Qaeda brand of terrorism. He believes the U.S. would probably need Iran's assistance to combat terrorism in the region.
News and Views November 11 – President-elect Obama honored fallen troops Tuesday by placing a wreath at a memorial and making a Veterans Day pledge to the many Americans who served in the military. One week after winning the presidential election, the President-elect took a brief break from his primary tasks of mapping out his administration and monitoring the economic crisis to mark Veterans Day at the Bronze Soldiers’ Memorial between the Field Museum and Soldier Field in Chicago. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost her legs in combat, accompanied the Illinois senator, who will inherit wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from President Bush. She later ran unsuccessfully for Congress and now is veteran’s affairs director for the state of Illinois.
HUMAN RIGHTS UPDATES
NewsTalk November 10 – Human rights again took the forefront of NewsTalk as international activist Elahe Shirafpour-Hicks joined PNN from VOA’s New York studio. She criticized recent police attacks against Tehrani citizens, stating the regime is afraid of freedom and democracy. Increasing pressure on religious minorities in Iran is reflected by the recent unrest in the Kurdistan and Baluchistan regions. Ms. Shirafpour-Hicks also commented on the rising number of state executions of minors, pointing out that only China exceeds Iran in the number of such executions each year. Ahmad Batebi, the well-known leader of the Iranian Student Movement and an activist for human rights in Iran who fled Iran, joined NewsTalk on set. He added his perspective as a former political prisoner saying, “The roots of ignoring human rights in Iran can be traced to the ideology of the regime.” However, he was careful not to generalize saying, “[The] Iranian regime follows a certain teaching of Islam but it does not mean all clergies in Iran are in agreement with that. The encroachment of censorship on the arts was also analyzed in a discussion with musician Parvaz Homai Mastan from Toronto. He spoke about the effect of censorship on his music adding, “I am forbidden to have concerts in Iran because my music and songs describe the situation in Iran.” He is frustrated that he has been unable to hold a single concert in his country yet expressed his gratitude in performing before crowds in Canada, Europe and the U.S. He spoke of his own informal forays into public diplomacy through his efforts to introduce Iranian culture to the West.
Today’s Woman November 12 – The recent release of Esha Momeni, the woman’s rights activist detained last month while conducting research in Iran, was the topic of Today’s Woman with guest Ms. Fariba Davoudi Mohajer. Ms. Momeni and Ms. Mohajer are associated with the One Million Signatures Campaign. Ms. Mohajer discussed Esha’s circumstances while in prison, contending that Iranian authorities are more likely to use psychological abuse rather than physical abuse. According to Ms. Mohajer, the primary reasons the Islamic regime targets activists of the Campaign are to frighten current and potential members and to weaken their cause. Ms. Mohajer added that the strategy and goals of the One Million Signatures Campaign are straightforward, clear, and contain no hidden agenda.
NewsTalk November 12 – London-based Journalist Alireza Nourizadeh and PNN political analyst Mohammed Sazegara commented on the state of international affairs. Speaking about recent missile tests by the Iranians, Mr. Sazegara compared the situation to that of North Korea, which has an atomic bomb but suffers due to a weak economy and poverty. While he acknowledged that each country has a right to its own autonomy, he disagrees with Iran’s aim to become a major player in the region through force, instead of through its economy or technology. Mr. Sazegara spoke about how corruption in the government in Iran is a direct effect of dictatorship adding, “When there is no free press or freedom of speech, people cannot monitor or control the government.” Mr. Nourizadeh commented on Arabian-Iranian relations and the mounting distrust of Iran by Arab countries who see the Tehran regime as a “trouble maker.” Finally, the Interfaith Conference initiated by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz which took place last week at the United Nations headquarters in New York was discussed as Middle East leaders look to build peaceful dialogue between differing religious ideologies.
LIVE FROM IRAQ
News and Views November 11 – Iraq’s Kurdish region is actively targeting investors who have long-term goals in Iraq. PNN’s Irbil-based stringer reported. Irbil and Suleimaniya hosted an international exhibit bringing hundreds of local, regional, and international companies together. In PNN’s continued coverage of the U.S. Strategic Security Agreement, Iraqi General Abulkarim Khalaf called on Iraqi authorities to sign the pact as Iran continues its opposition to the security pact. Iraqi lawmaker Mahmoud Mashadani promised to oppose the U.S. pact in parliament.
News and Views November 16 – Iraq approved the U.S. Strategic Security Agreement today, which mandates the presence of U.S. troops in the country. The pact will allow U.S. forces to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011 after the UN mandate expires at the end of this year. The agreement will be forwarded to Iraq’s parliament for approval. Iraqi officials called for changes to the security pact, including an amendment to protect Iran and Syria against U.S. attacks. Pro-Iranian Iraqi lawmakers are attempting to bloc the approval. Fazilat, Sadr, and Islamic political parties are against the security pact. The Islamic Scholars Association is also against the U.S. security pact.
NORMALIZATION OF DIPLOMATIC TIES BETWEEN IRAN AND U.S. POSSIBLE
48 Hours November 16 – PNN guests Houshang Amirahmadi and Mohammad Borghei discussed the prospects of normalizing diplomatic ties between Tehran and Washington. Mr. Amirahmadi is the Director of the American-Iranian Council; Mr. Borghei is a Washington-based political analyst. Mr. Amirahmadi, who was in Washington to give a speech to a think tank on the topic of U.S.-Iran relations, said that prospects have never been brighter for direct talks. According to Mr. Amirahmadi, Mr. Obama does not have a reputation of being hostile to Islam, a fact, he feels, Iranian leaders are well aware of. He added that it would be a mistake to think that these outstanding issues between the two governments are intractable. "The fact of the matter is that the international community has issues with Iran and not just Washington, issues such as support for terrorism or the nuclear program or the Middle East peace process. There is nothing that cannot be negotiated at the negotiating table.” Mr. Amirahmadi argued, "The state of no-war and no-peace between the two countries cannot be sustained any longer." Mr. Borghei said that these issues are much more deeply rooted and cannot be downplayed by both parties. "Washington's beef is apparently about Iran's support for terrorism and its nuclear program, but I don't think the United States finds these two issues troublesome or threatening," he said. "What Washington fears is a strong Iran in the region that would rival Israel. Neither Israel nor the United States wants such an Iran. The Jewish state is Washington's proxy in the region and its superiority is of paramount importance to the United States," he added. "Clerics have a reputation for being ideologues, but in fact they are pragmatic and will make the necessary compromise if need be," Mr. Borghei added.
U.S. SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ALLEGED IRANIAN MISSILE TESTS
News and Views November 12 – Directing its criticism at Iran, the U.S. State Department announced that the new round of missile tests by Iran violates UN Security Council resolutions and contravenes its international commitments. Meanwhile, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood confirmed today that Undersecretary of State William Burns would be taking part in a P5+1 meeting in Paris on Thursday. On Friday, the Iranian President reacted to President-elect Obama who said that Iran's support for terrorism and nuclear capability is not acceptable. President Ahmadinejad said it does not matter who resides in the White House, because U.S. behavior is under scrutiny by Iran and the world. He warned that Iran would retaliate if any power stands in its way. The Turkish prime minister has offered to mediate between Iran and the next U.S. government.
News and Views November 12 – PNN learned that Moscow criticized the U.S. missile defense system in Europe, saying it is not sufficient and falls short of the basic agreements reached earlier. A State Department spokesman said today that the U.S. has not been officially advised of this view. The Italian prime minister has offered to mediate between Moscow and Washington. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Estonia today for a NATO meeting aimed at showing U.S. support for Ukraine and other Eastern European allies. In an indirect criticism of Russia, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday that Secretary Gates might not have attended the NATO meeting if Russia had not invaded Georgia in August. He clearly stated that Mr. Gates’ attendance is to show the Baltic States, the Ukraine and other European allies near Russia that the United States stands firmly with them.
News and Views November 13 – PNN’s “Washington Report” focused on growing concern in Washington over Iran’s reported missile test. The Bush administration says the missile test undermines UN resolutions and violates Iran’s international obligations. Ann D. Somerset, State Department press spokesperson for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told VOA “Iran must stop carrying out these tests if it wants to gain the trust of the world.” State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that the U.S. would have discussions with its allies about further pressure on Tehran to stop carrying out ballistic missile tests.
News and Views November 16 – PNN reported world leaders set out proposals to prevent financial crises. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke about a summit road map. World leaders are urging fast action on the financial crisis. Leaders vowed to make progress before a second summit scheduled for the end of April.
News and Views November 14 – PNN reported political directors of the P5+1 and an EU representative discussed Iran's nuclear dossier. The participants took note that UNSC Resolution 1835 reaffirmed the importance of the dual-track approach. The meeting allowed participants to review the current situation and discuss plans. While the West says Iran's activities indicate that it is headed towards a proliferation goal, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated that Iran has peaceful objectives. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that a group of U.S. experts, former officials and Ambassador Thomas Pickering will present a report to President-elect Obama that direct, comprehensive, and high level talks—but without conditions– will work better with the Iranian regime than economic sanctions and military threats. In other news, David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security issued a report on Iran's Arak heavy water reactor. The report said that while the world focused on Tehran's enrichment program, Iran has advanced construction of that reactor. Russian President Dimitry Medvedev told a group of French journalists in Moscow that if the U.S. scraps its defense shield designed for Eastern Europe, Moscow would do the same with its plan to station the Iskandar missiles near the Polish border. Pres. Medvedev said, "We might reverse this decision if the new U.S. administration is going to once again review and analyze all the consequences of its decisions to deploy missiles and radars." Robert Gates, U.S Secretary of Defense, responded that the proposal posed to the Russians was for a partnership. He further stated that he could not understand what the Iskandar missiles could accomplish, since the U.S. system is not aimed at Russia. The State Department says it is trying to arrange a meeting for John Rood, Under Secretary for Proliferation and International Security, with Russian officials on the defense shield program.
AUSCHWITZ BLUE PRINTS FOUND AS KRISTALLNACHT COMMERATED
News and Views November 10 – PNN reported that Germany's leading daily newspaper Das Bild has acquired a collection of 28 allegedly original Nazi-era blueprints and maps of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland that date from 1941 to 1943. Israel marked the 70th anniversary of "Kristallnacht" on November 9th , commemorating the so-called Night of the Broken Glass, the beginning of a series of Nazi-incited riots that effectively began their attempt to destroy European Jews. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday called on all Germans to stand together against racism and anti-Semitism as the nation marked the infamous Nazi pogrom.
POLLUTION TO THE CASPIAN SEA DESTROYING THE FISHING INDUSTRY
Roundtable with You November 10 – In PNN’s commitment to environmental reporting, Dr. Hamid Arabzadeh joined Roundtable in a discussion on how pollution in the Caspian Sea is affecting the caviar and fishing industry. Dr. Arabzadeh is an environmental scientist and a professor of Environmental Science at the University of California, Irvine campus. Dr. Arabzadeh noted that the Caspian Sea is under serious threat from pollution by unrestricted gas and oil extraction from its seabed. Mounting illegal industrial waste dumping is putting added pressure on its ecosystem. According to Dr. Arabzadeh, illegal waste dumping occurs by each of the five countries that border the Caspian – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan – yet no country is willing to take responsibility for it. Iran borders the southern bed of the Caspian, where sturgeon fish make their home. This area is rapidly becoming one of the most severely polluted areas of the sea. Student researchers who have visited the area informed Dr. Arabzadeh that oil and gas extraction in the area are causing severe damage to the living environment for the Caspian's fish and other animals. Illegal dumping and leakage of industrial sewage have significantly reduced the number of healthy sturgeon who can contribute to the caviar market of Iran. This is directly affecting the fishing industry, leading to a serious shortage of income to the fishermen and the economy of the region. The Caspian Sea is an enclosed waterway and 130 rivers flow into it. The bordering countries are urged to reach an agreement to significantly reduce polluting agents, restrict oil and gas exploration, and create a better living environment for the sturgeon. This, Dr. Arabzadeh says, will assist the fishing industry and increase the economic viability of the region.
DATING BEFORE MARRIAGE IN IRANIAN SOCIETY
Today's Woman November 14 – Dating and relationships was the topic of today’s show. Dr. Azita Sayan, a Los Angeles based psychologist, discussed the merits of social interaction and the importance of dating prior to marriage. Acknowledging societal constraints in Iran, Dr. Sayan contended that traditional views prohibiting pre-marital relations are no longer feasible. She stressed the importance of pre-marital courtship, advocating that a couple should be in a relationship at least nine months to a year before considering marriage. Dr. Sayan suggested that gender segregation in Iran has provoked young couples to be primarily interested in sexual relations while dating rather than considering other essential components of a healthy relationship.
Also on PNN…
Late Edition November 15 – Marguerite Del Giudice, the author of the spectacular August 2008 National Geographic cover feature Persian Empire, was the subject of an original report on Late Edition. Ms. Del Giudice made two two-week trips to Iran last year to write a story about Persian identity. The focus of the article centered on the ancient ruins and temples which dot the Iranian countryside. Ms. Del Giudice was stunned to see a friendly, personable side of Iranians that seemed in direct juxtaposition to the narrow perception of Iran portrayed through the media. Sticking to her limit of a 5,000-word article, she focused on parts of ancient Persia that are still evident in modern Iran. She speaks of her impressions of tarouf when describing the loveliness of the Persian culture. Ms. Del Giudice’s writing interests have always revolved more around culture and identity, as opposed to political elements. She did express, though, her belief that democracy is not something that the West or America can teach. In closing, she stated that she believed in the resoluteness of the Persian culture and its ability to survive any hardship.
On the Record November 14 – PNN answered the question for viewers: “Just what exactly is the President-elect?” Ombudsman Kambiz Mahmoudi built on the explanation of the Electoral College from last week by defining the process of presidential transition in the United States from the end of a presidential election to the inauguration of a new President. Until the moment when a newly elected president takes the oath of office, he or she is referred to as the “President-elect.” During the transition, the incoming President usually appoints new government personnel. Cabinet positions, governmental department heads, or heads of agencies are usually the first announcements. In the United States, the presidential transition extends from the day after the election, which is always held the first Tuesday in November, until the 20th day of January. This time is for presidential training and the orientation of new personnel by the President-elect’s transition team.
Late Edition November 15 – A new documentary that touches upon how oppression can stifle all forms of freedom, such as the joy of movement, was showcased on Late Edition. Lila Ghobadi, who lives in Ottawa, Canada, is the Director and Producer of Forbidden Sun Dance. After the 1979 revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, dancing and other restricted areas of art were banned. Although many artists helped shape the revolution, they strongly resisted the censorship rules of the Islamic regime. The artists paid a high price for their strong convictions as several artists were executed, put in prison, or forced into exile. Ms. Aram Bayat is one of those artists. She is an Iranian choreographer in exile who has kept Persian folk dancing alive for the last two decades. In the summer of 2008, Ms. Ghobadiproduced a documentary that focused on her life in exile. The documentary is the life story of an Iranian choreographer forced to leave her country right after the Iranian revolution when dancing was banned by the new Islamic regime. Ms. Ghobadi received invitations to present her film in several film festivals in the United States, Europe and Asia, including the competitive section of a prestigious International Human Rights film festival in India slated for January 2009. Ms. Ghobadi began her career as a journalist. In her twenties, she started working with underground documentary filmmakers. She was the assistant director for Trial, which won the best documentary prize at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2003. Other films in her repertoire include assistance on Moslem Mansouri’s Utopia and Epitaph. Both films deal with the stark disjoint between the Iranian sex-trade and Islamic fundamentalist rule. These films were shown at several international film festivals as well as at the Human Rights Committee at the United Nations.
This week on the History Channel…The History Channel took a look at influential women this week. The Bronte Sisters examined the lives of Emily, Charlotte, and Annie Bronte. These highly imaginative romantics wrote poetry and novels under the male pen names of Ellis, Currer, and Action Bell in the 1850s in England, a time when women could not publish their writings. A Biography portrait on Donna Karan, a woman who has been called the most important female designer since Coco Chanel, reveals how a self-described wacky kid from Long Island who flunked her college design course and was fired from her first job in the business went on to become a fashion giant. A story of the Queen on the Nile traces Cleopatra’s rise to power in Egypt, where her lust for power and romance rocked the state of affairs in the ancient world. Her successes in dealing with foreign conquerors, through an affair with Roman conqueror Julius Caesar and her marriage to Marc Anthony, reveal a strong woman who’s death by suicide continues to intrigue history scholars. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky’s domestic trials, financial troubles, and ill health due to epilepsy are just some of the insights gleaned from a special on his life. Originally schooled as an engineer, he turned to literature as a result of becoming more involved in political revolutionary circles. After surviving exile in Siberia, Dostoevsky returned home to St. Petersburg, where he wrote Crime and Punishment and several other great works. In a follow up to last week’s story on Hurricane Katrina, the History Channel looked at the whys, what-ifs, and what-nows of this terrible natural disaster that destroyed the Gulf city of New Orleans and wreaked havoc on thousands of miles of coastline. The daily pictures from the area highlighted in this feature show a 21st Century America few could imagine.
PNN’s question of the week was “What should be the Obama administration’s priorities in pursuing dialog with the Islamic republic: promoting human rights, stopping the support of terrorism, or stopping uranium enrichment?” Out of 8,034 respondents - 1,098 or 14 percent said “Stop Uranium Enrichment,” 5,303or 66 percent said “Promote Human Rights,” 752 or 9 percent said “Stop supporting Terrorism, while 881 or 11 percent said “None of the above.”
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.
Bistoon writes: “The Iranian women will have a significant role for the future of Iran. I am a supporter of equality for men, women, and your program Today’s Woman. I hope to watch your program everyday. I wish success at Voice of America for your historical mission of enlightening Iranians.”
A Today’s Woman viewer responds to a segment on depression: “Hello. My name is Zhilam and I am a refugee that has moved to Belgium seven years ago. Dear Ms. Aramideh, I am very sad and I cry a lot. I am loosing my vision and I have visited doctors that have informed me that I am severely depressed. I always think that my close relatives are going to die. I have been using anti-depressants for seven years now. Can you ask the doctor why I always feel as though someone in my family is going to die, and I start to cry?”
Nima writes: “Hello there, I live in Iran and had an American tutor, a 43-year-old woman who had been abused by her Iranian husband over here. The husband’s religious family took hostage of her two sons, and her mother-in-law used to work and torture in the Islamic prisons. They threatened and accused her of having relationships with her students and lawyers. After 8 years of ordeals and hard work, she finally got the custody of her kids by the help of some friends and flew to the U.S. in Illinois back to her hometown. She has given many interviews and is writing a book about it. Local papers in her hometown wrote about her a lot. I would like you to invite her in your program in Zanane Emrooz [Today’s Woman]. She is a graduated, talented lady who can understand Farsi very well. She has got many friends inside and outside of Iran who happened to be her students, doctors, engineers and so on. I am going to send the article that the local newspaper wrote about her. If you are willing, please writeme back, I will give you her phone and email address. This handwriting is "her product ". [Meaning, that the tutor taught him English]
A Today’s Woman viewer suggests: “Hello to all VOA workers and specifically Today’s Woman. I have two suggestions that I think other viewers share with me. First, the music of the bumpers is very intense. Second, the sofas are very busy. It would be better have one large couch with lighter colors. However, I like the color combination of Today’s Woman more than News and Views. Finally, I thank you for the great work you are doing and we are grateful of your interesting program. With hope for equality for everyone, regardless of gender; with hope for real democracy in our beloved Iran.”
Viewer Perspectives this week also include personal notes to President-elect Obama which were read live on PNN programming throughout the week.
A resident of Tabriz writes: “Mr. President- I congratulate the U.S. on your election. As you have said, this election shows the power of U.S….The Iranian regime needs an enemy to be able to make crisis. This is how they govern their country, and I think negotiating with Iran is harmful for Iranian Government and they will not do it.”
Hamzanlui says: “Dear Mr. President- With all respects: I am happy about your success. As you already know there are many Iranian students who can't study in the United States simply because they can’t get a Student Visa. I speak for moderate students inside Iran and I would love to see a softer policy regarding issuing Student Visa for Iranians.
A resident of Tehran says: “The current Iranian government never gets the concept of democracy. They are using force against their own people. The only way they we can change this regime is military action. Please do something for Iranian people.”
An unknown viewer writes: “Dear President Obama,Congratulations. I hope that you have become successful in solving financial problem all over the world.. I am not American, but like you father, I'd like to go to U.S. and continue my study at the best universities of the world. It is not easy for us to do this nowadays. Please help.”
An Iranian youth says: “I am a 23-year-old Iranian and I like John McCain more than you, because he said Iranian government is dangerous.”
Leila says: “My name is Leila and I am 25. I live in Iran. Congratulations. I would love to meet you, you are my hero and I wish I could reach my goals like you did and help my people and my country.”
Irandoos says: “A short message for a great president. Dear Sir, I hope you fully understand that it is impossible and illogical to sit down and negotiate with Iranian officials. Please, please never talk to dictators, never mention their names since mentioning their names gives credit and legitimizes them.
Ghulam from Kabul says: “I am Ghulam from Kabul, Afghanistan. Congratulation to president Obama and I hope that he will be successful in his work As a young boy in Kabul I would like to say that we want peace with United States. Please make higher education your priority for people in Middle East.”
A young girl writes: “Congratulations for being elected. I am an Iranian girl and I live in Iran. I want you to understand that Iranian women suffer from lack of equal rights between men & women. There is no law to support us women. Some women are being damaged physically or mentally because of prejudice and there's no strong law to punish these men.”
Parham says: “I saw your great speech from television and I think it was more than a president of the United States. You spoke for all people in the world, and I wish Iranian people elect a president like you.
Azadeh says: “Dear President! I am an Iranian human rights activist, a poet and writer living in exile. I am not living in America but my heart was with all Americans who were crying when you got elected and I cried too. I am very happy for those simple and humble people who tried hard to start a new day in the history of their country and I am sure you deserved so much love and support that your people gave you in this historic election. About the Iranian people who are under oppression and cruelty of a fascist religious dictatorship and their expectations of this new America, I can say that the only thing they all would ask you is that " Do not sell the Iranians to these Cave men, do not sit at a table with them”. They are just some poisoned snakes, some wild dinosaurs from two thousands years ago. They are worse than the Taliban in Afghanistan, and you know that their ideology is to export their fate and their beliefs to all countries .Do not put your trust in them, any appeasement policy make them more aggressive and more dangerous to the world. Please be in the side of oppressed and not oppressors. Please be with Iranian people and not those mass murderers, who stone the people to death and cut the hands and their laws are upon Hammurabi’s Laws, Eye for Eye. God bless you and your family and your people.”