Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. (February 16) – PNN reported live from Israel on the closely watched Israeli parliamentary elections and continued its special programming on the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution this week. Other top stories included an interview with the “New York Times” Washington, D.C. bureau chief; a report on relations between Russia and Iran; and human rights updates.
PNN REPORTS ON THE LEAD UP TO ISRAELI ELECTIONS
News and Views February 15 – PNN reported from Israel over three days in the run-up to the country's parliamentary election. Ms. Beglari said that more than 5.3 million Israelis would be eligible to vote in the election. Many Israelis are of Iranian descent living in the Jewish state. In profiling each candidate, Ms. Beglari reported that many believe there would be a shift to the right. In total, 34 political and religious-based parties are competing for seats in the Israeli parliament. "No single party would be able to win enough seats to form a government on its own," she said. Mr. Ahmad Teibi, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, said in an interview with Ms. Beglari that all major party leaders are hostile to the idea of a Palestinian homeland. Ms. Beglari said that most major parties have copied tactics from President Barack Obama's successful presidential campaign. "There is even one party that has adopted the same ‘Yes, we can’ slogan,” she added. Ms. Beglari also said that text messaging and the perceptive use of the Internet could be attributed to President Barack Obama's appeal to the youth in the United States. “A decade after being ousted by Israelis entranced with his rival's promise of peace accords and modest governance, Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to retake power in a country now in the throes of disaffection and war fears,” she said. Ms. Beglari added that, though his former aide Avigdor Lieberman has been pulling voters away to the right of Likud, Mr. Netanyahu goes into the ballot with a lead over the centrist Kadima Party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and looks best placed to form a coalition in a Knesset destined to be among the most rightist in memory. Despite differences on how to bring about peace and prosperity to Israel, there is an unmistakable consensus among the candidates that Iran and its nuclear program represent a major threat to Israel's security. Some party officials said that Iran, by supporting both the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas, could not be ignored by the next Israeli leader. After the election results were posted, Ms. Beglari reported that inconclusive election results sent Israel into political limbo yesterday with both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and hard-line leader Benjamin Netanyahu claiming victory. She reported on what could be weeks of political uncertainty after an election that ended with clashing claims of victory by centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and rival Benjamin Netanyahu. Defense Minister Ehud Barak's long-dominant, center-left Labor Party was cut down to fourth place behind Kadima, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, an upstart ultranationalist party catering mainly to immigrants from the former Soviet Union. It will be up to President Shimon Peres to decide, after hearing recommendations from political parties, whether to ask Livni (a relative newcomer to politics) or Netanyahu (a former prime minister) to try to put together a government. The overall rightward shift in the Knesset will, in any case, dent hopes in President Obama's administration for an Israeli coalition that can move towards peace with the Palestinians and other Arab neighbors after last month's war in the Gaza Strip. PNN also reported on the reaction from the Palestinians who said no matter who leads Israel’s new government, the Israelis will need to commit to a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank before peace talks can resume.
FORMER PRESIDENT KHATAMI ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY IN IRAN
48 Hours February 15 – PNN reported that former President Mohammad Khatami has announced his intention to run for president in the upcoming elections in Iran. PNN aired a debate regarding pro-Khatami and anti-Khatami perspectives with guests Mandana Zand-Karimi and Mohammad Sahimi. Mandana Zand-Karimi is president of the Alliance of Iranian Women. Mohammad Sahimi is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Southern California. Mrs. Mandana Zand-Karimi said most women and youth were disappointed in President Khatami and his failed agenda of reform. As such, she said many would not flock to the polls to throw their support behind him. "He represents a choice between bad and worse. He does not have any credibility with the vast majority of Iranians any longer because they know he doesn't have the authority to deliver on what he promises," Mrs. Mandana Zand-Karimi said. Professor Mohammad Sahimi responded by saying Khatami’s possible return to office would be a huge improvement over President Ahmadinejad. "The Iranian economy was in much better shape, we experienced a Prague spring and the government and its spending were much more transparent," he added. Professor Sahimi said that the ruler of Saudi Arabia is now pursuing President Khatami’s call for a dialogue of civilizations. "If you ask me if he played a positive role, I'd definitely say ‘yes’. Nevertheless, did he accomplish major and structural changes? I do not think so. He did not become president to carry out major reforms," he added. Mrs. Karimi-Zand said that during President Khatami's two-terms he did not respond in a constructive way to Washington's overtures for better relations. "Instead, he tried to flare up conflicts between Israel and Arab countries by aiding and abetting Hamas and Hezbollah. Khatami concealed from the world community that Iran was working on an illicit nuclear program. He also enjoyed a majority in parliament, which he will not have if he becomes president again," Ms. Karimi-Zand said.
“NEW YORK TIMES” D.C. BUREAU CHIEF DISCUSSES NEW BOOK ON PNN
News and Views February 12 – PNN interviewed David Sanger, the author of the best- selling book “The Inheritance.” The book discusses a list of intractable problems that the Bush Administration has left for President Obama. Mr. Sanger said, “One of the main critiques of the Bush Administration is that it never made clear to the Iranian people what the economic benefits of setting aside the nuclear program would be.” He added that a major shift from the Bush Administration is represented by both President Obama's call for direct talks with Tehran and the response by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asking for these talks to be based on mutual respect. Mr. Sanger speculated that the Obama Administration would drop its precondition that Iran freeze uranium enrichment for talks to start, but he doubts that the administration would accept Iran having total control over its uranium enrichment program. Mr. Sanger surmised that most intelligence analysts believe that Iran is enriching uranium at its main facility outside Natanz and stated that Washington is paying more attention to this capability now that Iran has launched a satellite into orbit. "At the end of this negotiating process with Iran, President Obama has to decide whether it can live with an Iran that has nuclear capability, which would be different than having nuclear weapons," Mr. Sanger said. He added that the Obama Administration also has decisions to make on how it will handle the nuclear issue in relation to other issues it has with Iran such as Iran’s support for Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah, which the U.S. has labeled as terrorist organizations. On the question of human rights and whether it occupies a place on the U.S. foreign policy agenda vis-a-vis Iran, Mr. Sanger said, "Washington only makes a token gesture toward respect for human rights. The human rights situations in China and Burma are terrible, but all Washington can do is to include them in an annual report on human rights issued by the State Department.”
IRANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SET TO VISIT MOSCOW
NewsTalk February 15 – NewsTalk was joined by Mehrdad Khonsari of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies and Paris-based journalist Cyrus Amouzgar. Discussion centered on the upcoming trip of Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar. Mr. Najjar, who is set to arrive in the Russian capital on February 16, will discuss bilateral military-technical cooperation with Russia. According to the defense ministry of the Islamic Republic, "During his trip to Russia, the Iranian Defense Minister will hold talks with Russian officials and visit a number of defense industry companies." Mr. Khonsari commented on the common interests of Iran and Russia, some of which run counter to American interests. American military bases in some Arab countries are a concern to both Russia and Iran. Mr. Khonsari added, "Iran has not attacked any Arab countries in the southern Persian Gulf but these countries cannot trust Iran because of its nuclear plans." Mr. Khonsari was not overly concerned because "Russia's interest in having a deep relationship with Iran is not overshadowed by its long term relationship with the U.S." Mr. Amouzgar contributed to the discussion by describing how Iran became a bridge for Russia to expand its influence in the region. Mr. Amouzgar addressed the concern shared by many Arab states regarding Iran's interest in exporting the Islamic revolution. "The only hope for Arab countries to counter the danger of Iran's nuclear plan is to have friendly relations with the U.S.," he added. Recent media speculation surrounded possible negotiations between Moscow and Tehran on the delivery of S-300 air defense systems to the Islamic Republic. Russia has consistently dismissed these rumors. Reports indicate that the advanced version of the S-300 missile system, called S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), has a range of over 100 miles. The system can intercept ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes, making the system an effective tool for warding off possible air strikes. Israel and the U.S. are concerned about the possible delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Iran. The systems could be a large improvement to Iranian defenses against any air strike on strategically important sites, which includes nuclear facilities. Iran recently received a delivery of 29 Russian-made Tor-M1 air defense missile systems under a $700-million contract signed in late 2005.
IRAN’S NUCLEAR ARMS INTENTION UNCLEAR TO THE U.S.
News and Views February 13 – News and Views reported on comments by Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence. Mr. Blair told Congress that the U.S. intelligence community does not know whether Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons, but it thinks that Tehran is at least keeping that option open. U.S. intelligence assesses that Iran has not restarted nuclear weapons design and “weaponization” work that it halted in late 2003. The assessment essentially reaffirmed a 2007 intelligence report that at the time was widely seen as a setback to international efforts to put pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program. Blair's predecessor, retired Admiral Mike McConnell, later said it had been a mistake to make public the key judgments of the intelligence assessment because it suggested Iran was no longer pursuing nuclear weapons. Blair acknowledged that Iranian intelligence assessments are a difficult issue to address in a public setting. "I can say at this point that Iran is clearly developing all the components of a deliverable nuclear weapons program – fissionable material, nuclear weaponizing capability, and the means to deliver it," he said. “Iran has made significant progress over the past two years in installing and operating centrifuges at its main centrifuge enrichment plant in Natanz,” he added. "We judge that Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 timeframe," his report said. Nevertheless, it said the U.S. State Department intelligence office believes Iran is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon before 2013 because of foreseeable technical problems. "Nobody in the international community wants to see a nuclear armed Iran, either. The question is ‘What are you going to do about it?" he added. The assessment comes at a time when the new U.S. administration and Tehran appear to be in a diplomatic dance over whether and how to engage in direct dialogue. Asked about Iran's launch last week of a domestically manufactured satellite into orbit, Blair said it demonstrated that the Iranians are mastering multi-stage missile technology that could be used for either peaceful or military purposes. "If they put resources on it, they can make a serious missile force," he said. Blair said the United States should not count on a change in policy in Iran even if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is voted out of office in the June presidential elections. "We expect (Supreme leader Ali) Khamenei will attempt to manipulate the presidential election, largely by limiting the range of candidates," his assessment said. The report adds that Ahmadinejad's re-election prospects are less certain because of his management of the economy. "The sharp fall in global oil prices will add to Iran's economic problems, but Tehran has a substantial cushion of foreign reserves to support social and other spending priorities," it said. "Less energy revenues may also help to dampen its foreign policy adventurism."
SHAH’S RESTRICTION ON REFORM CONTRIBUTED TO THE REVOLUTION
NewsTalk February 10 – Mehdi Khanbaba Tehrani, a founder of the Iranian Students Confederation that opposed the Shah’s regime, joined PNN from Frankfurt, Germany. PNN correspondent Nasser Mohammadi also joined from London to talk about the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Mr. Tehrani explained how the Iranian Students Confederation came about by saying, “When the Shah's regime closed all doors to political reform there was no other alternative but revolution.” In Mr. Tehrani’s opinion, the shah restricted dialogue with opposition members. “This problem caused new problems,” he added. The Iranian Students Confederation, which was shaped outside Iran, was not a political organization at the beginning. “Step by step, by closing down the political parties in Iran, this organization became the center for all political ideas,” stated Mr. Tehrani. Mr. Mohammadi did not agree. According to Mr. Mohammadi, “Opposition groups outside the country were exaggerating Iran's problems.” Mr. Mohammadi believed that there was a possibility back then to reach out to all political demands through reform, not a revolution – “When the leftist groups supported the first executions of the revolution, they did not think they were establishing an execution machine which would not differentiate between leftists and other opposition groups.” Mr. Tehrani expressed his opinion that the revolution was the result of mistakes on both the shah’s side and that of the opposition. Mr. Tehrani said, “The shah closed all doors to the opposition. The opposition, especially the leftist groups, made a mistake by choosing Khomeini for their leader.” In conclusion, Mr. Tehrani stated, “The leftist groups made a big mistake by supporting the executions during the revolution.”
DOES THE CONSTITUTION ENABLE THE VELAYAT-E FAQIH?
NewsTalk February 11 – PNN was joined by journalist Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh from London and PNN contributor Dr. Mohsen Sazgara in studio. Dr. Sazgara offered his insights on the role of the Velayat-e Faqih, or the Guardianship of Islamic Jurists in Iran, and its impact on politics. Dr. Sazgara believes the Iranian constitution strictly prevents freedom for political parties because of the constitution’s references to the Valy Faqih, or Spiritual Leader. He explained that this Spiritual Leader is above the law and is not responsible to anyone, neither the parliament nor the people. Scholars debate over the interpretation of the Velayat-e Faqih and whether this implies a limited or absolute form of rule. Iran was the first country to apply absolute Velayat-e Faqih in the government. Guardianship of Islamic Jurists in the Islamic Republic of Iran consists of a Supreme Leader, who must be a cleric. Other leading bodies such as the Assembly of Experts, whose members must be clerics, and the Council of Guardians, half of whom must be clerics, apply this more absolute interpretation of the Velayat-e Faqih. According to Dr. Sazgara, “Most of the Shia Ayatollahs are not in agreement with a Velayat-e Faqih that is to have a Faqih as a leader of the country.” Dr. Nourizadeh followed up on this thought by saying, “Political Islam was not a new idea but Khomeini led a revolution with this idea.” Dr. Nourizadeh remarked that later on Ayatollah Khomeini raised expectations for fundamentalists by encouraging revolutions in other countries. Many say the 1979 Islamic Revolution not only changed the face of Iran, but was also meant for export. The revolution succeeded in making political Islam a force to be reckoned with across the Muslim world and it has enhanced Iran's influence along the way. Even now, 30 years later, that influence continues to find fertile ground in Lebanon through the militant Shi'ite group Hezbollah and with the country's Shia population. According to Dr. Nourizadeh, “The Valy Faqih, or Spiritual Leader, was a role made just for Ayatollah Khomeini, but not for any other person after him.” The discussion turned to the effect of the Velayat-e Faqih on education. Dr. Nourizadeh spoke about Iranian universities and their loss of credibility after the revolution.
EXPLORING THE AFTER EFFECTS OF THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION
News and Views February 10 – PNN's continued coverage of the after effects of the Iranian revolution in 1979 included an interview with Iraj Mesdaghi. Mr. Mesdaghi was held as a prisoner of conscience in Iran. Today a writer, Mr. Mesdaghi described the role of youth in social justice movements and compared it with his own experiences growing up during the revolution. "I am from the generation that was part of the revolution, with hopes for freedom and justice." He explained how the promises of the revolutionists never came to fruition. "What we got instead was prison, torture, persecution, execution, things we never thought we would experience." Mr. Mesdaghi is dismayed at how little has changed after what he described as the great price that his generation was forced to pay. "The new generation is facing one of the highest unemployment rates in the region. There are no programs, no incentives for the youth in Iran," he stated.
Roundtable February 13 – As a follow-up to a series on the effects of censorship on the arts in Iran, PNN interviewed Iranian lyricist and playwright Iraj Jannati-Ataei. Mr. Iraj Jannati-Ataei outlined the development of lyric writing and composition in modern day Iran. He explained why musical composition has undergone a major re-alignment stating, "When I spoke of modern lyric writing, I meant that lyrics must have implications of the day, for the people who have lived those moments, who will be able to feel the needs, desires…the happiness as well as sadness of the time." In his opinion, in order for a song or a lyric to be successful, not just commercially, a song "must speak to the audience…make them [listeners] realize their dreams, let them cry at their fears, and empower them to see a future with hope". Mr. Jannati-Ataei expressed his belief that a song is only effective when it brings a message rather than "just a rhythm" to people. He said it is important for songwriters to realize who the target audience is and to understand their expectations. Mr. Jannati-Ataei spoke about the responsibility of the public and the artist in demanding social change. "It is a responsibility for those in the public-eye to deliver those messages, to accept their role, and not just be after commercialized gains," he stated. Mr. Jannati-Ataei spoke about his own efforts with other Iranian singers to create a website focused on "organizing youth against torture and preventing the silencing of the youth and students in Iran."
Roundtable February 10 – A former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) told Roundtable that the Iranian military and the IRGC are on the side of the Iranian people. Davoud Beikzadeh said that aside from some top commanders and a few faithful members to the Shah of Iran, a large majority of the Iranian military joined the revolution. Mr. Beikzadeh described how the role of the military was diminished and structurally weakened in the months following the revolution. He stated that, as a result, the IRGC became stronger to the extent that it overshadowed and expanded the role of the military.
Roundtable February 9 – On the 30th Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, hundreds of students from the all-female Al-Zahra University in Tehran visited the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini as part of a demonstration reemphasizing their commitment to revolutionary values. Female students from other high schools joined them. A few students expressed their devotion by saying, "We weren't there, but when we see the films and reports of the revolution, we become more enchanted with the words of Ayatollah Khomeini." Currently, over 70 percent of the Iranian population is comprised of youth who were born after the revolution. A former Iranian minister of information, Dr. Dariush Homayoun granted PNN an interview. In his remarks he noted, "We ought to differentiate between a revolutionary ideal… [and an actual] revolution." The former minister touched upon statements by the students who visited the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, saying, "We have to carefully examine what were the sources for each of these students, how they got their information, and under what conditions those [sets of] information were interpreted." Also joining the discussion was Mehdi Sameh, defender of the revolution and a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). In his remarks, Mr. Sameh stated that from the constitutional revolution in Iran, there have been three important movements – one of looking outside to foreign elements for help, one of looking to the past, and one democratic. In response to this statement, Dr. Homayoun noted that the group, which Mr. Sameh represents, "thought that the look to foreign ‘western’ elements was wrong, and they looked at other popular and social movements for perspective."
THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION: IRAN’S IDEOLOGICAL EXPORT
News and Views February 15 – PNN interviewed Professor Mohsen Milani, chair of the Department of Government and International Studies at the University of South Florida. Dr. Milani said that the Islamic Revolution is typical of all successful revolutions in the important aspect of its exportation. "Exporting the ideology of the Islamic Revolution after 1979 was a serious project for the regime and was pursued vigorously, but the regime faced a serious obstacle in that its ideology was Shiite and most Islamic countries had Sunni majorities," he said. Dr. Milani contended that the effort by Tehran to export its revolution to Iraq was not a major root cause of the 8-year Iran-Iraq War, but he added, "Iranian leaders were hopeful that they could successfully export their revolution if they vanquished Saddam Hussein.” Dr. Milani claimed that the exporting of the Islamic Revolution could be judged neither as a success nor as a failure. "Before 1979, major political forces in the Islamic world were communists or nationalists, but now we have Islamists as a force to reckon with in most Muslim countries," he concluded.
SAEED RAZAVI FAGHIH ARRESTED BY IRANIAN POLICE
News and Views February 14 – PNN learned that, upon his return to Iran, police arrested a former member of Iran’s largest student group, the Daftare Tahkime Vahdat (Office for Fostering Student Unity). Saeed Razavi Faghih, who had spent the past few years in France continuing his education, was arrested and sent to the Evin Prison six days after returning to Iran. PNN spoke with Mr. Razavi Faghih’s lawyer, Dr. Nemat Ahmadi, who stated that security officers stationed at the airport claimed that Mr. Razavi Faghih was barred from traveling outside Iran based on a Revolutionary Court verdict issued last fall. He explained the likely reasons for his arrest, “His student activism and, in particular, his protest to the death verdict issued for Hashem Aghajeri, as well as his articles in Yase No newspaper, finally led to his arrest on 19 of Tir. He was transferred to the Evin Prison and spent about two-and-a-half months in solitary confinement.” According to Dr. Ahmadi, Mr. Faghih must report to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court. In the past, he worked with several reformist publications, had been studying in France for the past five years, and had not encountered any problems with authorities during his previous three trips to Iran.
NEGOTIATIONS INTENSIFY ON FINAL STIMULUS PLAN
News and Views February 11 – U.S. congressional leaders are engaged in intense talks on a final economic stimulus bill as President Barack Obama continues pressuring lawmakers to have a deal ready for his signature by next week. “So we've got a little more work to do over the next couple of days, but it's a good start," said President Obama. Negotiators are trying to reach a compromise between the senate's $838 billion plan, which passed on Tuesday, and an $819 billion plan passed earlier by the House of Representatives. A key sticking point involves $40 billion in state aid that is included by the house but not the senate. Republicans in the democratic-controlled congress are pushing for a final bill that is more like the senate version, which includes less federal spending and more tax breaks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The president was right to call for a stimulus, but this bill misses the mark. It's full of waste." Leaders of both the house and senate said they expect a massive $800 billion package to be finalized by the end of this week.
News and Views February 9 – U.S. President Barack Obama will try to boost public support for his economic stimulus plan today with a campaign-style event and a national television appearance. The president began his day by speaking to residents of Elkhart, Indiana, at a town-hall meeting. Elkhart is a manufacturing city that has seen its unemployment rate surge to 15 percent from five percent a year ago. Later, the president held his first prime-time news conference at the White House, giving him an opportunity to promote his $800 billion spending and tax cut plan to a national audience.
TREASURY SECRETARY GEITHNER ANNOUNCES BAILOUT REFORMS
News and Views February 11 – The U.S. Senate is seeking details from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about his plan to reform the bailout program. Mr. Geithner unveiled a new plan Tuesday to inject up to $2 trillion into the financial sector to help improve credit markets. He said, “In a system this fragile, in an economy this fragile today, it's very important that we act effectively to help stabilize our system and to prevent the kind of broad-based catastrophic damage we have seen when the market or the government is unwilling or unable to prevent that kind of failure.” The plan was greeted with skepticism by lawmakers and investors, and stocks around the world plummeted after the announcement. The chief executives of eight leading U.S. banks are also facing tough questioning from lawmakers about how they have spent emergency funding from the government. In other news, U.S.-based automaker General Motors is announcing that it will lay off 10,000 salaried workers worldwide. This figure includes 12 percent of its U.S. workforce. It will also cut the salaries of its remaining workers. The changes are part of a restructuring plan GM submitted to Congress last year.
WILL GREEN ENERGY SPUR JOB GROWTH IN THE UNITED STATES?
48 Hours February 14 – Politicians are advocating green energy projects as a means of stimulating the U.S. economy. PNN was joined by Hamid Arabzadeh to discuss the topic. Mr. Arabzadeh works at the University of California, Irvine, Office of Environmental Health and Safety. He has taught at both UCLA and UCI extension programs on a wide array of environmental health and safety related issues. Mr. Arabzadeh said that he had a very positive view of the energy provisions contained in President Obama’s stimulus plan. "The energy portion of the stimulus roughly doubles the money for a range of programs, including weatherizing homes and upgrading the nation's electricity grid," he said. According to Mr. Arabzadeh, "This level of support for green technology and developing alternative sources of energy has been unprecedented from government." Commenting on why alternative energy is so desirable, Mr. Arabzadeh said that alternative energy normally does not pollute air or drinking water. "It also doesn't contribute to climate change," he added. “Air pollution in U.S. cities cannot be compared with their counterparts in third world countries. Cancer rates and pulmonary diseases have reached epidemic rates in Iran,” he added. "Green technology cannot be separated from the basic tenets of economics. If the price of oil stays low, then it does not make any economic sense to develop alternative sources of energy such as from wind or solar. Upgrading America's electrical grid is critical because a lot of power is wasted while being transmitted," he said. On nuclear power, Mr. Arabzadeh said that this form of energy is not popular nor does it have a large constituency in the United States, although we have come a long way on safety issues and 90 percent of expenditure on nuclear power plants is spent on ensuring its safety." In closing, he spoke about the cost of alternative energy programs – “There is no dichotomy between economic growth and preserving the environment."
News and Views February 13 – PNN reported that Richard Holbrook, the special envoy for Afghanistan, met with American military commanders at Bagram airbase and Afghan officials in Kabul. His exact schedule was kept under wraps due to security concerns. In other news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Washington. The visiting diplomats said they look forward to working with Secretary Clinton, who will travel to Asia on Sunday to discuss regional and international issues with officials in Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. Today, in a speech at the Asia Society in New York, she outlined U.S. policy towards the region. Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg spoke to a group of non-governmental organizations in Washington. He said if North Korea lives up to its commitments on disabling its nuclear facilities and accepts the verification proposal, there would be progress ahead. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns was in Moscow this week to discuss a range of bilateral issues. The Russian foreign minister welcomed the "positive" ideas coming from Washington. The Russian president said his country would cooperate with NATO.
News and Views February 11 – PNN's continued look into North-South relations in Korea revealed that the South Korean foreign minister confirmed its ties with the North would be harmed if Pyongyang runs a test-launch of any ballistic missile. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will firm up plans regarding six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program during her visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. Mrs. Clinton expressed hope that the recent flurry of activity on the part of North Korea is not a precursor to any action that would undermine the peace and security of the surrounding region. A source who requested anonymity told the Associated Press and Reuters that Secretary Clinton might announce former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Stephan Bosworth as the new U.S. special envoy for North Korea before departing for her Asia trip on Sunday. He recently returned from a trip to North Korea where he had a private visit with a group of American experts and met with North Korean officials. He stated he would be discussing the findings of his visit with the president. Ambassador Bosworth also noted that North Korean officials are aware of the time delay necessary for the new U.S. administration to review policy towards Pyongyang. Amid speculation that North Korea may conduct a missile test, the U.S. military has stepped up its monitoring of North Korea. In other news, a new report by the Institute for Science and International Security reports that Iran may be close to exhausting its supply of yellowcake.
News and Views February 9 – PNN reported that Richard Holbrook, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, arrived in Pakistan today from Munich where he attended a security conference. During the Munich conference, Mr. Holbrook said combating insurgents and establishing stability in Afghanistan would be a much more difficult task than in Iraq. White House National Security Advisor General James Jones said the Obama administration would work closely with NATO and with the Afghan and Pakistani governments to forge a new comprehensive strategy to meet achievable goals. General Jones stated, "Afghanistan is not simply an American problem, it is an international problem." Meanwhile at the Munich conference, Vice-President Joe Biden set a new tone towards Russia and met with the Russian deputy prime minister. The vice-president said, "I come to Europe on behalf of the new administration, an administration that's determined to set a new tone not only in Washington but in America's relations around the world." Russia has offered to allow the passage of U.S. and NATO supplies for coalition forces in Afghanistan given the Kyrgyz decision to close the U.S. base there.
MIDDLE EAST UPDATES
News and Views February 15 – PNN reported on the Turkish government’s response to statements by Israeli General Avi Mizrahi. Earlier, General Mizrahi said that Turkey killed 1.5 million Armenians and 35 thousand Kurds, and that this left Turkey in no position to question the Israeli offensive in Gaza. The Turkish government responded by saying that these comments could call into question the military relationship of the two countries. PNN also confirmed that an American military commander accused Iran of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs including the election of the speaker of the Iraq Parliament.
News and Views February 14 – President Barack Obama’s first televised interview with Al-Arabiya was deemed a positive step in public diplomacy efforts to open communication channels between the U.S. and the Middle East. International analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba joined PNN to offer his insights, stating that the Islamic Republic’s authorities are waiting to see U.S. policy towards Iran and that preconditions were mentioned. Such preconditions request that the U.S. stop its support of Israel, withdrawal its forces from the region, and develop an official policy for its past actions in the region. When asked whether a new U.S. policy towards Iran could create any changes in Iran’s nuclear program, Dr. Diba responded that it is unlikely that Iran will halt its nuclear activities. Dr. Diba was asked whether the violation of human rights in Iran could influence U.S. policy towards Iran. He responded by saying, “If Iran and the U.S. could solve their other differences, they might also be able to talk about the human rights issue.”
News and Views February 12 – PNN interviewed with Aref Taifour, the deputy speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, yielded a response regarding attacks in the north of Iraq. Mr. Tairouf condemned the Islamic Republic of Iran's shelling attacks against villagers and civilians in the northern region of Iraq. He criticized the Iraqi prime minister for "not reacting properly to these attacks." He also commented on the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement, calling on the U.S. to protect Iraq's borders from attacks by the Islamic Republic.
News and Views February 9 – Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has spoken out against Pakistan's release of nuclear scientist and metallurgical engineer Abdul Qadeer (A.Q.) Khan from house arrest. “It is very alarming that A.Q. Khan, the worst proliferator of nuclear weapons technology in history, has been freed," and "It is unclear whether the illicit smuggling network he created was fully dismantled even after he was placed under nominal 'house' arrest." Pakistan placed Mr. Khan, who is credited with transforming his country into a nuclear power, under indefinite house arrest in 2004 after he confessed to running an illicit international nuclear network. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pardoned Mr. Khan and refused to let U.S. investigators interview him about the extent of his network's activities, which may have included trade with North Korea and Iran. A court established by President Musharraf lifted the restrictions today on Mr. Khan's movements, saying that Congress will take this into account as we review and create legislation on U.S.-Pakistan relations and the circumstances under which U.S. assistance is provided to Islamabad.
NAVIGATING THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES
Late Edition February 14 – The United States is one of the most attractive countries for international students, since its universities are rated among the top academic institutions in the world. According to figures from the U.S. State Department, the number of foreign students in American universities has increased to a record 710,000 in the 2008-2009 academic year. However, becoming a student in the United States can be a long and complicated process. In part one of a two-part series, PNN's Ana Ward looked at what it takes to navigate the admissions, visa, and scholarship processes for a college education in the U.S. According to one education panelist, "We like international students and we have a long history of having a lot of international students. They bring a level of diversity and they add something to the classroom experience that you don't have if you only have a group of Americans,"
Late Edition February 15 – In the second segment of a two part series, Late Edition reported on the high cost of the American education system. American colleges and universities are renowned for providing high-quality education, but they are also famous for their exorbitant costs. In addition, prices are still rising. Almost a quarter of all students who study overseas choose the U.S. for a higher education despite the costs, according to U.S. State Department figures. VOA's Ana Ward, along with panelists from the College Board in New York City, the U.S. State Department, and George Washington University, looked at the best sources of scholarships and the smartest way to pay for a college degree in America. One panelist noted, "Funding a higher education is a big stressor for American students, too; it's not just an international students’ issue. The economic downturn now, with costs going up, with people losing their jobs, is also having an impact. The payback is incredibly fabulous, it's worth it in the long run, but the funding is a serious issue for a lot of families."
HUMAN RIGHTS BRIEFS
NewsTalk February 9 – PNN’s update on human rights in Iran included a discussion with Abdolkarim Lahiji from the International Federation of Human Rights in Paris; Dr. Rahmin Ahmadi, a human rights activist from Yale University; and regular contributor Elahe Sharifpour-Hicks. Mr. Lahiji began by giving a synopsis of the shah’s regime. He said, “We were asking for human rights such as freedom of speech during the shah's regime, but the regime did not listen to us. When the shah's regime closed down all political parties, there was no choice but for the people to follow Khomeini.” He spoke about how many Iranians were against the executions that took place in the first days of the Ayatollah’s return to power in Iran. He talked about one of the reasons political groups supported the Ayatollah. “The political groups that supported Khomeini thought he would give them a share in the power, but it never happened.” Mr. Ahmadi added to the discussion, “It is very sad when we see a person like Mr. Lahiji and many other Iranians who cannot go back to their country.” The discussion turned to the role of human rights in international relations. Mr. Ahmadi commented that in today’s world it is becoming increasingly difficult for any regime to ignore human rights because the world is like a small village now due to the role of the Internet and mass media. “Iran has an obligation to recognize international agreements on human rights and the leaders in Tehran cannot ignore that. Iran is playing a double standard game. On one hand the country does not want to withdraw its membership from the United Nations, and on the other hand, it does not respect human rights.” Mrs. Sharifpour-Hicks added to the discussion by stating, “When a Suni or Christian or Bahai cannot be the president in Iran, we cannot say there is freedom of religion in Iran.” In closing, she spoke about recent statements by Amnesty International, which condemn Iran for its violations of human rights.
Roundtable February 12 – A PNN update on the effect of blogging in social justice initiatives included an interview with Iranian journalists Arash Sigarchi and Mashallah Shams-el-Vaezin. Internet blogging remains hugely popular with Iranian youth. In 2005, there were reportedly more than 700,000 blogs in Farsi, according to John Kelly, an academic at the University of Columbia. The journalists explained that blogs are popular because they are generally difficult to regulate as compared to other forms of expression in Iran. The program centered on the central question: "Can the Internet be the next revolution in Iran?" While the government does indeed block many sites, the Internet remains a great forum for the debate and expression of the current state of Iranian politics and freedom. The guests compared Internet usage in Iran to that of Egypt, where the Internet and social networking sites are used by youth to organize political messages and attempt street demonstrations.
Today’s Woman February 12 – In an extraordinary live broadcast, Today's Woman host Hamideh Aramideh and co-host Poopak Raad interviewed Mr. Hossein Mansouri, the adopted son of the late Iranian poet Farook Farokhzad. Forty years ago, Mr. Mansouri, a 6-year old orphan, lived in Iran's notorious leper colony. Ms. Farokhzad met and later adopted him while filming "The House is Black," her documentary about the colony. Their lives as mother and son were cut short due to her tragic death in a car accident a few years later. Mr. Mansouri broke his forty-year-long silence about his adoptive mother on Today's Woman, saying he can still recall the touch of her hand and that her voice still sooths him at night. The interview included clips of the soon-to-be-released documentary "Moon Sun Flower Game," which juxtaposes black and white film from the original documentary with recent video of Ms. Farokhzad's contemporaries.
MORE THAN 17 STUDENTS ARRESTED IN SHIRAZ LAST MONTH
News and Views February 13 – Sahar Yazdanipour, the wife of jailed student activist Younes Mirhossaini, was detained by authorities. Mrs. Yazdanipour was arrested after she went to court to ask about her husband, who is reportedly on a hunger strike. During her interview with PNN, she said, “My husband is in his fifth day of his hunger strike in Shiraz prison. I am very anxious and hope that Iranian judicial authorities listen to my grievance.” Her brother, Hanif Yazdani, also spoke to PNN and described the growing pressure the family is facing from authorities as well as the close monitoring of their activities. Mr. Yazdani said security agents arrested Mr. Mirhosaini in front of his wife on Thursday when they entered his home. According to Mr. Yazdani, they took Mr. Mirhosaini’s personal belongings including his computer, books and his writings. On the same day, Ministry of Information agents also entered the home of another student by the name of Esmail Jalilvand and arrested him. The agents took the necklace of his wife with them while leaving the home. Initially Mr. Mirhosaini was transferred to Shiraz prison.
Roundtable February 11 – Roundtable spoke with Porochista Khakpour, the author of "Sons and Other Flammable Objects." Ms. Khakpour received the New York Times Editor’s Choicer. The Chicago Tribune listed her book as a “Fall Best”. Ms. Khakpour described the changes in Iranian society since the shah was ousted and how the Islamic Republic was born out of the revolution in 1979. She spoke mostly about the perspectives of those Iranians born after the revolution, a number she estimates to be 60% of the total population. According to Ms. Khakpour, these Iranians learned about the revolution and the misery of the shah's rule through their parents, government-written schoolbooks, and groups with political agendas. "Now they live in a country with 25% inflation, where more than 3 million are unemployed, but yet most of these are highly educated young people," she added. She commented on President Ahmadinejad's $1.3 billion "love fund," which subsidizes marriage for poor Iranians. She raised the fact that many young people are indeed angry with the government today but she asked, "Are they mad enough to demand change? What do young people want? Where will they lead their country?"
This week on the History Channel… The week began with the second part of a feature on post-Impressionist painters Van Gogh and Gauguin. "The Studio of the South" was Van Gogh’s attempt to create a community where artists could work together and help one another spiritually and financially. Gauguin joined Van Gogh in hopes that the influential art dealer would jumpstart his career. Vincent Van Gogh’s dreams ended tragically in one of the most dramatic moments in the history of art - Vincent's act to cut off his ear. Next, a look at Laura Bush. There's no question that Laura Bush is a devoted - and fiercely loyal - wife to former President George W. Bush. She was dubbed George Bush's "secret weapon" for her personality and persuasion skills. In interviews with Laura Bush herself, the former president, their friends and family, A&E went behind the perfect public image to meet the real Laura Bush. Viewers gained insight into Laura the mother and Laura the wife of the then most powerful man in America. Moving from the East Coast to the West Coast, “Flex Appeal” looked at the rise to fame of Arnold Schwarzengger. As a child, Arnold was strictly disciplined by his police chief father and taught impeccable manners and cleanliness by his mother. Those habits still remain today. When Arnold strolls into his California restaurant "Schatzie on Main" for his frequent breakfasts, he checks the kitchen before being served his favorite...fresh strawberries with the tops cut off. BIOGRAPHY had special access to unmatched footage of Arnold's conquest of Hollywood. Arnold's BIOGRAPHY includes behind-the-scenes action that the world has never seen -- private, thoughtful, and humorous moments from the man whose films have made over $10 billion dollars at the box office. While Arnold was developing his acting career, he also had a majestic plan for his personal life. After meeting Maria Shriver at the RFK tennis tournament in 1977, the couple began a long and storied courtship ending in marriage in 1986. A bold risk-taker, shrewd in business, and with unequaled determination, Arnold's formula for success is simple. He sets his sights on what he wants and gets it. And he wants it all.
PNN’s question of the week was “Would a Khatemi presidency make a difference in your life?” Out of 39,678 respondents: 4,190 or 11 percent said yes, while 35,488 or 89 percent said no.
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, featuring influential women from around the world who discuss a full spectrum of social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business topics. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, 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 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.
Bahman from Tehran: “Regarding the Anniversary of the Iranian revolution, the fact is that people did not actually participate in the march and celebration. They just gathered to watch the show, and to do some shopping. One could see peddlers on the sidewalks who offered their handicrafts and foodstuffs. Those who chanted slogans were the few hundred Basigis. I, a bank employee was forced to participate in the march, so that my pay might not be garnished! I believe the Islamic Revolution is the biggest defeat of the Iranian nation in its struggle for democracy.”
Kurosh from Tehran asks: “How come Khatami has once again entered the arena and nominated himself for presidential election, while, according to the Constitution, Khamenei has the final voice? In the past, Khatami, as the President, admitted that he was only a ‘supplier’, and had no power. What changes have occurred in the Iranian Islamic System to encourage him to be elected? To me, Khatami intends to deceive, once more, the Iranian youth.”
Ehsan from Iran writes: “We, the retirees of the Social Security Organization, each receive a monthly pension of only two hundred sixty four thousand Tomans. We are still under the poverty line. How in the world does a retiree, after paying social security contributions for 30 years, stand under the poverty line?”
Mahsima from Varamin: “The only difference between today’s Iran and the Middle Ages is that the Courts of Inquisition have changed their names into “Monitoring Board” or “Department of Religions” and the like. Right now, more than ever, Iran needs the help of legal international institutions.”
Kamran from Iran comments: “In response to Mr. Adel, former Speaker of the Parliament, who boasts of being a ‘big-reader,’ I would say: In a country whose leaders simply negate any scientific findings, and reject any constructive ways in running the country, what would be the benefit of being a “big-reader”? The writer then advises Mr. Adel to concentrate on the management styles in the Emirates, Turkey and India (and not to the West, to avoid “Westernization”!) so that he can get a better idea of management of a country.”
A viewer requests: “I have listened to Today's Woman program about male implications in the One Million Signature Campaign in Iran (14/02/2009) and I would like to know how I can get in touch with Mrs. Shahrokhi? I am working on women's movement in Iran and I am interested in the paper that Ms. Shahrokhi has written about male involvement in the One Million Signature Campaign that you mentioned in the program.”
Mehdi from Isfahan responds: “It is up to the Iranian people to elect President Ahmadinejad or President Khatami or anyone else. All the options for the best and right person to meet the needs of great Iranian nation are out there, we choose to make atomic bomb or not, we choose to launch satellites or not, we choose to keep our economy growth up to 6% and not depression, recession, we choose to support hezbolah, hamas, to attack terrorist and criminal Israeli regimes or not. We choose to have more and more influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, south America,….or not. We choose to develop sophisticated weapons or not, You "the satanic voice of America " better talk and discuss fully the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons, depression, unemployment, corrupt senators and governors all over the Several states of America (SSA).”
Dare and Amer write: “I and my wife would like to thank you for great Today's Woman program. Thank you for having programs about girls and women in Kurdistan in Iraq. Without doubt, the women in Kurdistan share the same problems as the woman in Iran's Kurdistan. And finally my wife and I hope that your program time is extended. Thank you very much, Dare and Amer from Kurdistan, Iraq.”