Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – June 18, 2007 . . . Major stories this week included the conclusion of a special meeting in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear program; US criticism of Iranian support for Taliban forces in Afghanistan; the State Department’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report; Congressional leaders – with the exception of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) – calling for negotiations with Iran; US efforts to encourage European countries to adhere to UN sanctions against Iran; an exclusive interview with AEI Resident Fellow Richard Perle; Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, talking about Israel’s policy toward Iran; Iran’s failing economy; and an English court finding two Iraqi Kurds guilty of murder in an honor killing.
News & Views reported on the conclusion of a special meeting June 14 in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program. The head of the UN watchdog, Muhammad el-Baradei, called on Iran to declare a moratorium on enriching uranium and resume negotiations on its nuclear program. The IAEA chief also said any attack on Iran because of its nuclear program would be “madness.” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, said Tehran could further limit its cooperation with the international agency if the Islamic Republic is slapped with new sanctions. The United States is seeking fresh sanctions against Iran over fears Tehran is seeking to develop atomic weapons.
News & Views reported June 13 on Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who warned that Iran could face new sanctions in “the next week or two” from the UN Security Council unless it comes to the negotiating table on its nuclear program. He said Iran has made a major miscalculation if it believes it has any support internationally for its actions. Mr. Burns also criticized Iran for what he described as a shift in its policy toward Afghanistan, saying the policy is not helping security and stability there. He said Iran’s motivations are questionable as the Islamic regime supports both the Afghan government and the Taliban simultaneously. News & Views also reported on State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who said in his daily press briefing that Ambassador Burns “was giving voice to the concerns that everybody has, that you have a shift in Iranian Government policy from one that has been from either benign, neutral to somewhat helpful in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 2001, 2002 to something quite different that does not promote stability in Afghanistan. That would be of deep concern not only to us but the Afghan Government as well as our NATO allies who are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. So that’s where we stand at the moment. I can’t at this point draw a link – a hard link for you between an Iranian Government-approved program and the transfer of those arms. But as I said, given the nature of this regime, given their past behavior, whether that’s in Iraq or Lebanon or the Palestinian areas, I think we have deep concerns about this transfer of arms from Iran.” Mr. McCormack said Ambassador Burns would be traveling to world capitals to garner support for more punitive measures against Iran for its defiance of UN Security Council resolutions requiring a suspension of uranium enrichment.
News & Views covered the State Department’s June 12 news conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador Mark Lagon, Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons, who discussed the Department’s just released 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report. The report included Iran as a Tier 3 country, or one of the world’s worst offenders, in permitting human trafficking. The report described Iran as a “source, transit and destination country for women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude.” Secretary Rice said only a couple of traffickers have been brought to justice, something which cannot and must not be tolerated. Ambassador Lagon expressed regret that the list of Tier 3 countries has grown to 16. Roundtable with You focused on the report with Morteza Anvari, adjunct faculty member at Strayer and Southeastern Universities and Iran expert, who said the trafficking in persons in Iran has worsened. He blamed this on economic pressures, unemployment and rapidly rising inflation, particularly in Iran’s housing sector, where inflation increased by 300% in the past year. One caller asked about the political neutrality of the report, and Dr. Anvari said the findings did not discriminate between friend and foe.
VOA Persian’s congressional correspondent reported June 12 for News & Views on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) rejecting calls by another prominent senator for a military strike against Iran, saying such a US attack would destabilize the Middle East. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said the US should be prepared to use military force to stop Iran from training and equipping Iraqi militants blamed for the deaths of US troops in Iraq. However, Senator Reid said, “The invasion of [Iran] is only going to destabilize that part of the world more. I know Joe means well, but I don’t agree with him.”
On June 14, VOA Persian’s congressional correspondent reported that Iran came up during the bipartisan meeting that congressional leaders had with President Bush and members of his national security team. She quoted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as saying, “We complimented the President on his efforts to pursue a diplomatic course of action in regard to Iran, and hope that he would stay the course.” Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) said, “These recent developments demonstrate once again that the Bush administration must develop a tough and comprehensive approach toward Iran, with the centerpiece being robust diplomacy coupled with more effective implementation of economic and political sanctions that will bring Iran to the negotiating table, where issues of mutual concern can be discussed and hopefully resolved.”
The congressional correspondent also reported on the House of Representatives voting for a second time to ban the Pentagon from selling leftover F-14 fighter jet parts sought by Iran. The House first approved the proposal last month as an add-on to military funding legislation. It voted again June 11 on a voice vote, this time as a freestanding bill named the “Stop Arming Iran Act.” Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) said, “We must take responsibility to ensure that our military hardware never falls into the hands of nations hostile to the US and can never be used against our men and women in uniform, and not used against our allies. We cannot take the risk that parts unique to the F-14 could be made available to Iran.”
News & Views reported on State Department spokesman Sean McCormack saying the United States has talked to the Austrian government about OMV, an Austrian energy company, negotiating with Iran and signing a preliminary deal to develop a gas project there. Mr. McCormack said the US would question why at this point, “given Iran’s behavior in the international community, its negative behavior across a whole variety of different fronts, why you would want to encourage these sorts of business dealings with Iran at this particular time.” News & Views also reported from Capitol Hill that Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the European Union and United States must jointly enact powerful sanctions that prevent anyone from doing business with Iran’s energy sector. He said some European nations have clearly decided that it is more important to make money by doing business with Iran than to recognize its threat to society. “Shame on them,” Mr. Lantos said. “If we are serious about cracking down on rogue regimes, the Europeans need to do more on Iran. [President] Ahmadinejad’s abhorrent reign represents the most destabilizing existential security threat on the globe today.”
News & Views reported on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who urged US allies June 14 to help cut off Iran’s banks from the global financial system, accusing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of funding and training Middle East militant groups. Mr. Paulson said that some allies had not yet found the political will to move against Iran’s banks and thereby cut off their funding of militants. He said that US officials were “increasingly focused” on the dealings of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which he said helps fund and train “other terrorist groups.” News & Views also reported that in a further financial move, the Treasury Department June 15 blacklisted two Iranians charged with involvement in Iran’s nuclear program. The decision bars US entities from conducting any financial transactions with the two men and empowers the US government to freeze any of their assets in US jurisdictions.
Late Edition had an exclusive interview with Richard Perle, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Mr. Perle said US policy toward Iran should be “to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people who are oppressed and do not have basic rights.” When asked if the US should help opposition groups and NGOs in Iran, Mr. Perle said yes: “If you are working toward the development of democracy in Iran, there are basic things that you need. For example, you need paper to write your statements on, and a printer to print your papers. Those who do not want to accept such help don’t have to, but they should not be able to dictate their view to others.” On providing munitions to insurgent forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Perle said, “I’m not sure how much of such action is tolerable by the United States, and how much Iran can continue. I know it is dangerous when you send weapons to insurgencies against a government elected by the people of that country.”
Late Edition covered a meeting held at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington with Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, speaking about recent developments in the Middle East, including Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the latest outbreak of violence in Lebanon, and suggestions to re-launch the Arab Peace Initiative. Mr. Meridor expressed concern about the rise of terrorism and fanaticism in the region. “Israel wants nothing more than peace and a two-state solution,” he said, “but Iran is helping Hamas in turning Gaza to a terror base. Iran is involved with spreading terror in the region, and we want to say that all options are on the table, and the world will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.”
On June 17, Late Edition featured Iran experts Patrick Clawson and Ray Takeyh, who debated when, how, and over what issues to engage with Iran. Mr. Clawson, deputy director for research at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said historically, bilateral negotiations have proven useless and Europeans have to take a much more active role for such negotiations to be effective. “The Iranian regime,” Mr. Clawson said, “is paranoid. It oppresses and arrests its own people. This regime will never believe US policy to be one of changed behavior instead of regime change.” Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the recently published book, “Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic.” Mr. Takeyh was critical of US policy toward Iran, saying, “The United States has to decide how much of a nuclear Iran and Iranian influence in the region it is willing to live with. Otherwise negotiations will be useless.”
NewsTalk June 13 focused on the petition signed by 57 Iranian economists warning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that his economic policies are fueling inflation and hurting the poor. Guest Shahriar Ahi, a political analyst and former advisor to Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, said economic growth is the best indicator of a government’s performance, and cited Iran’s economic growth the past two years at 2% less than the government itself estimated. Mr. Ahi blamed the stagnation of Iran’s economy on decreased production, irregular government expenses and capital flight. He said there is no long-term investment in Iran and that one of the country’s biggest economic problems is unemployment, with the number of people out of work soon to reach 10 million. The deputy editor of Kayhan newspaper in London, Nasser Mohammadi, also appeared on NewsTalk as a guest and said Iran’s economic situation is terrible because the Iranian regime is not spending oil revenue on industry development or infrastructure improvements. He quoted Iran’s minister of welfare as recently saying that he doesn’t believe in a poverty line, but rather a survival line – the line under which people will die. Following the example of some poor communist countries, the minister said his ministry will issue 12 million coupons for poor people in the next few months. Mr. Mohammadi said the Iranian regime is focused on its own survival, not that of the Iranian people.
News & Views featured human rights activist Farshad Amir Ebrahimi on June 14, to discuss the Special Court for the Clergy in Iran and its review of the death penalty handed down earlier on Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi and six of his supporters. The Court, which operates outside the framework of the judiciary, was established in 1987 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to try members of the Shia religious establishment in Iran. Its procedures are considered to fall short of international standards for fair trial. Mr. Ebrahimi said it is highly likely that the Court will uphold the death penalty for Ayatollah Boroujerdi, who believes in the separation of religion from the state. His father was a prominent cleric who refused to accept the principle of velayat-e faqih (rule of the Islamic law), on which the Islamic Republic of Iran is based.
Women in Society included a report on Palestinian women broadcasters who appear on camera on PBC, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation channel. The women, who do not cover their heads, have received death threats by Islamic extremists, leading them to seek protection from Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. The report aired June 12, before Hamas seized control of Gaza and Mr. Abbas dismantled the Hamas-Fatah coalition government. On June 15, Women in Society reported on the honor killing in Birmingham, England, where a father and uncle killed a 20-year-old Iraqi Kurd – their daughter and niece – for having a relationship with a boy not approved of by her family. An English court pronounced the two men guilty of first degree murder. Women in Society broadcast remarks from the spokeswoman of the Organization for Iranian and Kurdish Women’s rights in London as well as reaction from London’s police commissioner, the victim’s sister and the boyfriend. Women in Society also broadcast footage of the victim, who recorded her fears of being killed following an earlier attempt on her life by her father in 2005.
Roundtable with You June 12 commemorated the one year anniversary of a gathering of Iranian women in front of Tehran University who were attacked by police forces. Human rights activist Ladan Boroumand said things have not improved in the past year, and have in fact deteriorated. She said authorities have increased pressure on women, particularly female students, who are trying to change Iran’s discriminatory laws. Ms. Boroumand said a group of women tried to gather again this year, but that police suppressed the meeting by taking over the area and banning any assembly.
News & Views June 16 interviewed Mansour Ossanlou, the leader of the independent, but banned, Vahed Bus Company Trade Union in Tehran. Mr. Ossanlou, who has been detained several times over the past year in connection with his trade union activities, was in London at the invitation of the ITS, or Intelligent Transport Systems and Services. He said Iranian workers are having an especially difficult time these days because of housing costs and job insecurity. He said four more Vahed Bus workers were fired this week and that the situation is becoming unbearable, with workers enduring tremendous economic hardships imposed on them by the anti-labor policies and practices of the Iranian government.
Late Edition interviewed Maryam Seyhoun, owner of the Seyhoun Art Gallery in Los Angeles. Ms. Seyhoun said she opened her gallery in 2004 as an outpost of Tehran’s Gallery Seyhoun, which was founded and run the past 40 years in the Iranian capital by her mother. She said her mother’s gallery presented and promoted virtually all leading figures in contemporary Iranian art. Though her mother was imprisoned for one year after the revolution, she re-opened the gallery and has continued to promote Iranian artists even under the most stringent of conditions. Her own LA gallery has a changing exhibition of famous and still emerging Iranian artists, many of whom have worked with her mother. The artists are based both in and out of Iran, and many come from Los Angeles, home to the largest Iranian population outside of Iran itself.
Late Edition covered a news conference with ABC-TV Nightline correspondent John Donvan honoring the World Affairs Journalism Fellowships, a program administered by the International Center for Journalists that sends 13 US journalists from small- and medium-circulation newspapers abroad to report on topics that relate to their communities. Mr. Donvan talked about why it is more important than ever to tell global stories to a local audience, sharing his experiences covering hot spots around the world. His most recent major assignment was covering the Iraq war, which won him recognition by the Chicago Sun Times as one of the top ten war correspondents.
Roundtable with You looked at the lobbying efforts of the Islamic regime in the United States with Hassan Dai, an independent researcher based in Arizona, and Hooshang Amirahmadi, Director of the American Iranian Council as well as Director of Rutgers University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Mr. Dai argued that several organizations, including Mr. Amirahmadi’s American Iranian Council, are fronts for Tehran’s lobbying efforts in the US. Mr. Amirahmadi, who is well-regarded by a broad spectrum of experts, defended the Council, saying it is made up of distinguished American public servants with long careers in American government, adding that it would be unthinkable for them to disregard America’s national interests and do Tehran’s bidding.
The Persian Service had extensive coverage of the Iran Solidarity conference where over 300 Iranians from around the world comprising a variety political background met in Paris. Persian stringer Mohammad Reza Shahid filed reports from conference over the weekend. At least forty one people spoke on the need for unity among the disparate opposition groups. While each represented a different point of view, everyone was in accord for the need for continued dialogue and unity when it came to opposing the current regime in Iran. They agreed on a platform for establishing democracy in Iran and twenty-one people were selected to present their views and coordinate their activities globally. A number of delegates were interviewed including Mr. Shahriar Ahy, a former advisor to Reza Pahlavi, Hossein Bagherzadeh, a journalist and human rights activist, and Ahmad Rafat, a journalist based in Rome. On News Talk, Maneche Amir, fmr. Radio Israel's Persian Service Chief, was interviewed for an outsider's perspective of the conference. Mr. Damon Golriz, a political activist from Holland and an attendee in Paris, joined A Roundtable with You to discuss the conference along with Dr. Ghaem Magham, a physician and a member of the executive board of the National Front party.
History Channel programming included a two-part series on George Washington called “Washington the Warrior,” focusing on America’s first president before he became an enduring national symbol, when he was a soldier. The series looks at the events that shaped Washington’s legacy, beginning in 1753 when he was 21 and obtained an officer’s commission in the Virginia militia. An episode of “10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America” focused on Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American history with more than 23,000 casualties on both the Union and Confederate sides. History Channel programming also included profiles of tennis legends Chris Evert and Pete Sampras.
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History Channel programming opens VOA’s daily five-hour Persian-television block with news headlines followed by various History Channel programs, translated and narrated in Farsi, that illustrate the cultural fabric and political landscape of the United States. News and Views, which debuted in 2003, is an hour-long program featuring correspondent reports, interviews and the top news stories from Washington and around the world. News and Views is followed by Roundtable with You, Late Edition and NewsTalk, all one-hour shows that together constitute a five-hour daily block of Persian-language television broadcast by satellite to Iran. Roundtable with You, which debuted on television in 1996, takes calls from viewers and features a wide variety of guests discussing issues ranging from popular culture to politics. Late Edition, a youth-oriented program which first aired in July 2006, looks at major world events and issues of interest to young people. NewsTalk, which went on the air in October 2006, opens with a brief recap of the day’s top headlines followed by a panel of experts discussing the day's top news stories. NewsTalk features in-depth discussions of the issues of greatest concern to Iranians and closes with a segment on worldwide media coverage of Iran.
VOA's Persian television shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio broadcasts and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. VOA's Persian language Internet site is at www.VOANews.com/persian.