Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – November 19, 2007 . . . Major stories this week included the IAEA’s new report on Iran’s nuclear program vis-à-vis UN resolutions and reaction from Washington and others; Iran’s former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian being charged by the Iranian regime with spying for Britain; interviews with State Department spokesman David Foley, Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey; Amnesty International researcher Drewery Dyke; Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA); Pakistani journalist Rashid Ahmad; American journalist Barbara Slavin; and independent film director Hossein Martin Fazeli; suppression of student reformists in Iran; security forces and radical Shiites attacking Sufi temples in Iran; ongoing political upheaval in Pakistan and US efforts to resolve the crisis; growing prominence of Iranian-Canadians north of the border; and the launch, today, of PNN’s first foray into the world of blogging.
PNN’s State Department correspondent Ali Farhoodi will be traveling to Vienna, Austria, to cover the Board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency November 22. The 35-member Board will consider the report released last week by Director General Mohamed El Baradei on Iran’s compliance with the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of UN Security Resolutions in Iran. Diplomats say Iran has met a key demand of the IAEA by turning over long-withheld blueprints that show the way to mold uranium into the shape of nuclear warheads. The IAEA had been seeking the documents since 2005. The IAEA and other experts say the blueprint has no other use outside a weapons program.
Within minutes of its release in Vienna November 15, PNN had news of the IAEA report in its hands and shared it with David Foley, spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who happened to be in our studio for an interview. Mr. Foley said that based on his initial perusal of the report, it is obvious that Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA has not been sufficient. In addition, he said, there has been no movement on suspending uranium enrichment, which was the UN Security Council’s key demand. Iran has clearly failed, he said, “to meet the requirements set by the IAEA. The report says that many of Iran’s declarations lacked completeness. In addition, Iran has not been proactive in answering these outstanding questions about their program.” Mr. Foley said the US government would wait to hear from EU representative Javier Solana and then hold a meeting of the five members of the UN Security Council and Germany. “If Iran is not in full compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, then we will work toward another resolution invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.” Mr. Foley dismissed the suggestion that China would be reluctant to go along with further punitive sanctions against Tehran. “The Chinese foreign minister just visited Tehran and impressed upon Iranian officials the need to have their full cooperation with the IAEA,” he said.
News and Views reported additional US reaction to the IAEA report November 16. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “This report sadly makes clear that Iran seems uninterested in working with the rest of the world.” She said, “The United States will work with our partners on the UN Security Council and Germany as we move towards a third set of Security Council sanctions.” Washington also warned China not to block fresh UN sanctions on Iran saying it would bear heavy responsibility if the diplomatic crisis is not resolved. “I don’t think China would want to be in a position to cause a failure of diplomacy to deal with this issue,” US envoy to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters. In reaction to Iran’s president calling for a US apology based on the contents of the report, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it is the Iranian government that should apologize to its people for the continued path of isolation it is leading the nation. David Foley, in PNN’s studios for a third time this week, told News and Views that “Iran will face a third round of sanctions because of its continued defiance of the world community.”
News and Views interviewed energy analyst Bahman Aghaii Diba about the IAEA report on Iran’s compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747. He said the report does not show if Iran intends to use its nuclear power for military purposes. “Iran,” he said, “says it has replied to all of the questions, but western countries have additional questions that need answers.” Mr. Diba said there is a power struggle between President Ahmadinejad and a faction within the government which does not support Iran’s nuclear empowerment. He said this struggle has intensified in the past 2-3 weeks and is behind the recent charges levied against former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian, who has been accused of spying for Britain.
Iran’s Intelligence Minister announced November 14 that former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian has been charged with passing sensitive information to the British Embassy. He had been arrested in May on unspecified security charges. Mr. Mousavian served as Iran’s ambassador to Germany and was Iran’s top envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Mr. Mousavian is a close ally of President Ahmadinejad’s top rival, the powerful former president Hashemi Rafsanjani.
News and Views focused on unilateral sanctions against Iran November 16 in an interview with Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart Levey. On October 25, 2007, the United States Treasury Department announced sweeping sanctions on Iranian entities connected to Iran’s nuclear energy program and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Most importantly, this included blocking certain banks owned by the Iranian government from the US banking system, as well as the sanctioning of several large Iranian companies. Mr. Levey told PNN the US designated three state-owned banks in Iran – Bank Mellat, Bank Melli Iran and Bank Saderat Iran -- as facilitators of WMD proliferation and supporters of terrorism groups. He said the designation is significant because the international financial system will gradually refuse to transact with those banks, turning Iran into an “international pariah.” He said credibility is very important to the international financial system, and no financial institution is willing to jeopardize its credibility by working with institutions involved in illicit activities, “irrespective of the political stance of their respective governments.” Mr. Levey said the US still hopes China and Russia will move against Iran in the Security Council because their banks want to expand within the international financial system, and that will be difficult if they maintain business as usual with Iran.
News and Views talked with Morteza Anvari, a professor of computer science at both Southeastern and Strayer Universities. He said he believes Iran has welcomed that portion of the IAEA report acknowledging its “sufficient” cooperation with the agency in declaring materials and providing information on its development of centrifuges. But the report points out that until now, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, Iran has still not suspended activities related to uranium enrichment. Mr. Anvari pointed out that since 2004, Iran has denied any activities in Arak and Natanz, but claimed just this month that it had stepped up uranium enrichment by fully running 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear plant. “Iran must abandon the fissile material production complexes at Isfahan, Arak, Natanz and other locations,” he said.
Roundtable with You November 14 invited three specialists to discuss the impact of sanctions on Iran’s relations with the US and others. Hooshang Amirahmadi, President of the American-Iranian Council and Professor of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, believes Iran wants access to nuclear weapons only for the purpose of national defense. “Iran is the only country in the region that does not as of yet have a bomb and claims that it will never divert from peaceful uses to weapon production. Yet the regional contagion will push Iran to also consider the same weaponization option as Russia, Pakistan, India, Israel and the United States.” The problem, he said, is that from the Israeli perspective, “the nuclear geopolitics in the Middle East must remain clear of Iran’s access to nuclear technology” and Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear technology must be forcefully crushed. Farhad Masourian, who is a research analyst with the Center for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights, said Iran fears domestic – not foreign – enemies. “The regime tries to create outside enemies to suppress the aspiration of the Iranian people who hope for democracy and the rule of law.” Menache Amir, a commentator and editor-in-chief of Radio Israel, focused on the historical bond between Israel and Iran since the time of Cyrus the Great, but rejected Mr. Amirahmadi’s assertion that Israel wanted to crush Iran. Mr. Amir blamed the regime in Tehran for the deterioration of Iran’s relations with other countries since 1979.
Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) held a televised town hall in Arlington, Virginia, November 14, saying the Bush administration’s harsh language about Iran in recent weeks only serves to strengthen hard-line factions within Iran, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He also gave PNN an interview. “I want them [constituents attending the meeting] to write to the editors of newspapers and magazines; I want them to talk to their friends and spread the word to their networks…that’s the way democracy works. It’s supposed to work from the grassroots up. So I want to mobilize the grassroots against any possibility war with Iran… I think some sanctions are appropriate, but I think if we engage in talks some of those sanctions can be lifted.” Former Reagan administration official Lawrence Korb, who is now with the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, told the meeting that an invasion of Iran could only be sustained by reinstating the draft. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, also addressed the town hall. He said, “We have an assumption that the Middle East in which Iran is isolated and contained is a Middle East that will be stable. I think over time over time we have seen that is not the case.”
News and Views interviewed Drewery Dyke, a researcher with Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in London, on the execution of minors in Iran and Afghanistan. Commenting on the imminent execution of a minor in an Iranian town, Mr. Dyke urged Iranian officials to comply with their international obligations that prohibit the execution of minors. “Even if someone commits a crime,” he said, “but at the time of the crime he was under 18 years old, his execution runs counter to international standards.” Mr. Dyke also said NATO forces in Afghanistan may be breaching their own operating rules by handing detainees to Afghan security services despite reports that they torture their prisoners. He said Amnesty has released a report detailing allegations of Afghan torture of several detainees.
PNN interviewed the Counselor for Political Affairs at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, Ashraf Haidari. He said the Afghan government has filed a complaint with Iran regarding the forced return of Afghan immigrants. These are immigrants with legal status and work permits. Mr. Haidari said the Afghan government is hoping to arrange for their safe and gradual return at a later date with the help of the Red Cross.
Roundtable with You looked at the suppression of students, workers and women in Iran on November 13 with Akbar Atri, a founding member of Iranian Students for Democracy and Human Rights and a former member of the central committee of Tahkim Vahdat, Iran’s largest student democratic organization. He said President Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Islamic authorities are trying to create a division between students and the public. Mr. Atri cited a recent decision to select students through a national entrance exam, with a good portion of the exam devoted to religious questions. He said it makes university admission more difficult for secular students. Another guest on the program, Kianoush Sanjari – a blogger, student and human rights activist from Norway – noted that two student leaders were arrested recently and sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after appearing on one of PNN’s Roundtable programs: Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, secretary-general of the National Democratic Front, and Ali Niko Nesbati, an activist at Amir Kabir University. A third guest appeared on the program from Belgium: Mehdi Kouhestaninejad, Director of the Middle East and Asian Division of the Canadian Workers Congress. He is in Europe, he said, to start a joint campaign with EU labor unions to secure the release of Mansour Osanloo, the imprisoned head of the Syndicate of the Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company.
Goli Ameri, an Iranian-American, has been serving as one of three public members of the US delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. But PNN reported November 16 that the White House has nominated her to the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs. She most recently served as president of eTinium, a telecommunications consulting firm in Oregon. She has been a guest on PNN programs many times.
News and Views reported November 15 on a chain of attacks against Sufi temples in Iran. Massud Vahedi, a member of the Sufi temple Gonabadi, said Sufis are tolerated in Iran, but they cannot perform their rituals in public. In smaller cities, he said, they can even have difficulties performing those rituals at home. Mr. Vahedi said there was a rumor going around that the government wanted to close the Sufi temple in Karaj City, located near Tehran. Karaj has a population of three million, but even that number wasn’t sufficient for accommodation. “Intolerant Islamic radicals, with their supporters, security guards and police, surrounded Karaj’s Sufi temple late at night last Monday. The Sufi followers inside refused to leave, but after two hours, the attackers were reportedly called off and left. If Iran’s Supreme Leader talks about public about tolerance between Iranians, why do authorities attack and destroy Sufi temples? Why can only some Shiites perform their rituals, while others, of the Sufi sect, cannot? Is there a double standard in Iran?”
News and Views November 18 focused again on Sufi temples, but this time on the complete destruction of the temple, located in the southwestern city of Borujerd after tensions escalated between the followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Islam and Shiite Muslims in the same neighborhood. The radical Shiites, supported by police, injured 250 Sufi adherents while 500 others were arrested. Seyed Mostafa Azmayesh, a Paris-based author who has written extensively on Sufism, said some Shia religious leaders such as Ayatollah Fazel and member of parliament Mehdi Karobi have complained about the temple being destroyed, adding that Iranians have sympathy with Daravish. Sufis have had increasingly uneasy relations with Iran's Shiite clerical regime, and authorities closed down a Sufi lodge in the holy Shiite city of Qom last year.
David Foley, spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told PNN in an interview November 13 that the US government is dispatching Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte to Islamabad this week. Mr. Negroponte, who will be the highest-ranking US official to visit since the crisis erupted, will press for an end to the state of emergency and the retirement of General Pervez Musharraf from the Pakistani military. On the trip of the Chinese foreign minister to Iran, Mr. Foley said that he is visiting Iran to urge Iranian officials to cooperate more fully and with more transparency with the International Atomic Energy Agency. “Iranian leaders must demonstrate compliance with the demands of the international community and UN Security Council resolutions,” he added. Mr. Foley commented further that there is an offer on the table for Iran to resolve this crisis. “Mr. Ahmadinejad has characterized those who do not see eye to eye with his nuclear policy inside Iran as traitors. This is highly regrettable,” he said. “We need to make sure Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.” Mr. Foley also commented on the visit to Beijing of the US Treasury Undersecretary for treasury Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart Levey. “He is going to remind Chinese officials of the inherent danger of Chinese banks making any kind of investment in Iran.”
News and Views reported November 15 that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was expected to appoint a caretaker government that will organize national elections to take place by January ninth. Police lifted the house arrest of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, hours before the arrival of Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte. In Lahore, Consul General Brian Hunt met with Ms. Bhutto, ahead of her meeting with Mr. Negroponte. The former prime minister said, “There will be no more negotiations with General Musharraf. He is very unpopular now and anybody who associates with him gets contaminated.” Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to detain more opposition politicians for defying emergency rules.
Pakistani journalist and best-selling author Rashid Ahmad says the worsening political crisis in Pakistan is not sustainable and is not all that different from the Iran of 1979. In an interview with PNN, Mr. Ahmad said, “The military government of General Musharraf has taken into custody more than 10,000 people and more are being added every day. Benazir Bhutto on the other hand is encouraging the public to resist emergency rule and calling on them to join street protests.” He continued, “The United State is also putting pressure on Gen. Musharraf to restore democracy. He should know that while this situation is continuing, he cannot rely on the support of the Pakistani army indefinitely.” Mr. Rashid said he didn’t think Gen. Musharraf can last. “He has lost his standing with Pakistan’s civil society as well as with the international community.” The only alternative to the general, Mr. Rashid concluded, “is another coup by the army to remove him from power.”
Roundtable with You focused on US-Iran relations from the perspective of an American journalist, Barbara Slavin, who has traveled to Iran six times and interviewed many of the actors both in Washington and Tehran. Ms. Slavin is senior diplomatic editor at USA Today and author of Bitter Friend, Bosom Enemies. She says both countries have missed many opportunities in re-establishing ties. “I came back from my last trip from Iran believing that the two countries were on a collision course. And the kind of rhetoric you hear right now in Washington is eerily similar to what we heard in the precursor to the Iraq war,” she said. In writing the book, she talked to many Iranians both in the government as well as women activists, labor organizers and students. “But I reached the conclusion that these forces are not strong enough to overthrow the regime, so I’m an advocate for establishing some sort of dialogue with the regime. This dialogue, if it takes place, will relieve some of pressure that is now on human rights advocates in Iran. The regime in Iran has misused Washington’s democracy promotion efforts in order to further crackdown on its dissidents.” The best way for change to take place in Iran is peacefully and through elections, she argued. In response to a viewer’s question, Ms. Slavin quoted a Pentagon official who told her that he’d put the probability of a US military attack against Iran at 20 percent.
Late Edition interviewed John P. Fisher, a leading stem cell researcher at the University of Maryland about his work and the $250,000 grant he recently received from the state, the largest ever given to a university for stem cell research. A member of the University’s bioengineering faculty, Mr. Fisher’s work focuses on craniofacial bone repair, articular cartilage engineering, cell signaling in synthetic biomaterials and creating novel biodegradable materials – all of which advance science to a higher level.
NewsTalk looked at US policy on Pakistan and the recent US criticism of President Pervez Musharraf; talks between President Bush and new Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (confronting concerns about North Korea and Afghanistan that have frayed relations); whether Iran will or won’t comply with UN resolutions to avoid further sanctions; Israel and the US criticizing the performance of IAEA head Mohammed El Baradei; OPEC’s concerns about increased oil demands; Russia and China using Iran to gain leverage with the US; the newest IAEA report causing dissension among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, likely delaying a third round of sanctions; and human rights abuses in Iran.
Roundtable with You November 16 focused on Iranian-Canadians, who are getting more involved in Canadian politics. Nearly 100,000 Iranians live in Canada, nearly half in Toronto. (In fact, so many Iranian immigrants live in Toronto that some have nicknamed the city Tehranto). Reza Moridi is the first Iranian Canadian in Canada’s legislature. He told Roundtable he was elected to the Ontario legislature earlier this year. “Before joining government, I worked as a professor, senior lecturer and scientist in physics. I received an award from the Canadian Nuclear Society for my work in promoting radiation protection and safety issues.” Mr. Moridi, who immigrated to Canada in 1990, lives in Richmond Hill. He is married, has two children and two grandchildren.
“Movies should be fun to make and to watch,” independent film director Hossein Martin Fazeli told Late Edition. “A day spent on making a movie should be a day spent on having fun. If it’s not then something is wrong!” Mr. Fazeli, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, said “Documentary movies should be made in a genuine manner and avoid manipulating the audience. Movies should avoid stereotypical and simplistic approaches. But most importantly, cinema is a good medium to promote human rights.” Mr. Fazeli’s films have won 33 international awards and have been broadcast on networks such as SBS, ARTE and Canal +.
Roundtable with You featured Monika Jalili, a classically trained vocalist born in New York City who currently devotes much of her time to bringing “the beautiful songs of Iran” to as many people as possible with her group NoorSaaz (noor means “light” and saaz means both “creator” and “musical instrument” in Farsi). She joined Roundtable live from PNN’s New York studio November 15 to talk about Persian music. “I was born to a German-Dutch family in the United States,” Ms. Jalili said. She has a degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music and another in French literature from Columbia. She sings in Farsi, French and English. “In this spirit of exploration, I aspire to create understanding through an appreciation of the beauty of Iranian culture. I try to bring to life the rich history of Iranian culture through my music and poetry. This entrancing selection of songs spans time and place; traditional Persian folk favorites stand alongside love songs from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a time of great cultural change in Iran.” One viewer responded to the program with this e-mail message: “You have done many great shows, but today’s show with Monica Jalili was exceptional.”
Late Edition featured segments on museums in Houston: the Health Museum, where visitors can walk into giant human body to explore different organs; the Museum of Natural Science, which uses interactive exhibits to explain complicated science in simple language; and the Space Museum, located at the Johnson Space Center, featuring one of the largest collections of original space crafts in the world.
Today’s Woman addressed women’s rights November 16, featuring human rights activist Golrokh Jahangiri. Although she is exiled in Germany, Ms. Jahangiri appeared live from PNN’s Washington studio to talk about her life inside Iran, life in prison and her activities since she left the country. She talked about producing musical pieces on torture, violence and the situation inside Iranian prisons in the1980s based on imprisoned poet Iraj Mesdaghi. “I sing the poetries of time in prison, which addresses our past. I want Iran’s future to be one without torture, violence or human rights abuses. Iran’s Islamic regime is the main barrier against democracy and human rights.”
Today’s Woman November 14 focused on women in sports. One segment looked at Iran’s women’s soccer team beating their Indian opponents, but the Iranian players complained their coaches didn’t treat them properly during the soccer match, trying to make them wear their scarves and to cover their arms and legs. Other segments focused on track and field star Marion Jones pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova’s life as an immigrant and her financial aid to victims at Chernobyl. Another report focused on exercise options for women after menopause.
Today’s Woman focused once again this week on depression and postpartum depression, looking to a review of the causes of depression, how it differs from manic-depression or bipolar disease, and symptoms of depression. The show talked about medication helping sufferers cope, from improved sleeping and eating patterns to living significantly better. One segment addressed how depression evidences itself differently in men and women, while another reported on the depression some women experience with pregnancy.
Today’s Woman November 18 focused on women in the work force and obstacles they can face. The latest research in the US shows that despite an increase in the number of women with higher education, women still get paid about 20 percent less than men. In Iran – and particularly in developing countries – women hit the glass ceiling even more frequently. A woman in Iran with a law degree can become lawyer, the show reported. However, she has no hope whatsoever of being selected as a judge or other senior-level posting. Research from the BBC shows that some women skip motherhood altogether to save their jobs, with many professional women at the age of 40 having no children. Today’s Woman looked at maternity leave and how it can affect a woman’s career. The woman who takes a lengthier leave has a higher chance of losing her job.
PNN health reporter Dr. Vahid Behravan talked about osteoporosis on Today’s Woman November 17, from how the disease develops to forms of treatment. Dr. Behravan said it helps slow and/or prevent osteoporosis to stop smoking and drinking alcohol, and to eliminate some forms of strenuous exercise like tennis, running and jumping, which place more stress on the bones. The program also looked at prevention and the significance of awareness, using footage of actress Sally Field, who has testified before the House of Representatives on osteoporosis awareness, and of Prince Charles and his wife visiting NIH during a visit to the US, again to promote awareness of the disease.
This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of General Douglas MacArthur – an able administrator, a swashbuckler and a statesman – unrivaled by any other American military man as such a dramatic and controversial figure; a profile of Sir Isaac Newton, known as the Father of Modern Science, whose major work, the principia, has become to science what the Mona Lisa is to art; a segment on the telephone, from Alexander Graham Bell’s crude “liquid transmitter,” to today’s high-speed wireless networks; a profile of explorer Christopher Columbus, whose discoveries changed the world, but who received little credit in his lifetime; and a segment on James Bond gadgets, the toys Agent 007 uses on the silver screen to foil villains.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – answered three viewer questions. “What is the purpose of the weekly survey on the VOA/PNN web site?” Although it’s not a scientific survey, the poll gives us more insight into the opinions of our viewers. So far, the survey has been well-received and the number of respondents has surprised us. “Why do you have news briefs?” We want viewers to have breaking news, even though they might be watching a non-hard news program. The 60 or 90 second news briefs let our audience stay in touch with world developments. “How does the media differ under different political systems?” In free and democratic countries, you not only have freedom of speech, you also find a multiplicity of media, none of which is controlled by the government. This multiplicity provides almost all viewpoints and at the same time, provides an atmosphere for diverse opinions to be expressed. Dictatorships control media and market hem uniform and one dimensional. One can easily distinguish television under an autocratic regime from a democratic one – even if one does not understand the language of the broadcaster.
PNN’s question of the week was: Do you agree wi