Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – January 7, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included an interview with State Department Middle East spokesman David Foley on US-Iran relations that grabbed the attention of Iranian leaders; live, on-the-ground coverage of the Iowa caucuses; ongoing Israeli-Palestinian tensions as President Bush prepares to visit the region; political repercussions of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan; an interview on Scotland Yard’s investigation into the Bhutto killing with the Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police in West London, Ali Dizaei; an interview with Middle East Institute scholar Marvin Weinbaum on developments in Pakistan; an interview with Swedish parliamentarian Fred Saberi on Iran’s dismal human rights record; and an interview with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar Michele Dunne on a thawing of the frosty relations between Iran and Egypt.
The top story on a popular Iranian government website, www.fardanews.com January 5/6 carried remarks by David Foley, State Department’s spokesman for the Middle East, as a panelist on NewsTalk (Jan 4). Mr. Foley said remarks this week by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, could clear the way for discussion of the possibility of resuming diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran. ▐
رهبر انقلاب: کمترين نشانهای از جنگطلبی در ملت ايران وجود ندارد
آمريکا برای مذاکره اميدوار شد
ديويد فولی David Foley سخنگوی وزارت امورخارجه آمريکا طی مصاحبه ای با بخش فارسی صدای آمريکا خاطرنشان ساخت که اظهارات اين هفته آيت الله خامنه ای رهبر ايران می تواند راه برقراری گفتگوهائی را ميان واشنگتن و تهران و احتمالا از سرگيری روابط ديپلماتيک ميان دو کشور را هموار سازد.
Mr. Khamenei said Thursday he is willing to improve relations with the United States, but that the moment is not right now because it would make Iran more vulnerable to US espionage. He said, “I would be the first one to support these relations, but for the time being [restoring ties] would be harmful and we should not pursue it.” Mr. Foley said, “There are several centers of power in Iran and they are wondering what to do next. The world wants Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and accept our offer to come to the negotiating table. We hope their acceptance will open the door for further negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues between the two governments.” Mr. Foley said the UN Security Council will soon consider new sanctions for Iran and that the US also will continue to raise the issue of human rights with Iran. “The way Iran treats its citizens is not acceptable to us and should not be to anyone else,” he continued. “We will do all we can to ensure that civic society activists can do their work without the fear of being arrested.” David Foley was joined by Shireen Hunter, a visiting scholar at Georgetown University where she directs a project on Reformist Islam. Mr. Foley again addressed Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks about US-Iran relations, saying, “There is an expression in diplomacy: whenever you don’t want to do something you say; well it’s a good idea but now is not the right time. You also can interpret his remarks to mean that now is the time for discussion about this in Iran. I think we’d just prefer to interpret that speech as meaning that they are opening the door for improved relations. And we hope that that happens. We want to have good relations with Iran.” In response to a question about President Bush’s trip to the Middle East, Mr. Foley said, “We have high hopes for the Middle East and for our relationship with Iran. We think there are opportunities for economic development, for greater prosperity, for increases in education in respect to human rights, tolerance and a lot of other areas. We think that is the path to peace and the president is going to talk at length about this.” Ms. Hunter said she believes that by traveling to the Middle East, President Bush wants to show that in spite of the NIE on Iran’s suspension of its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the US and its allies remain on the same page with regard to Iran.
Look Ahead: President Bush travels to the Middle East this week to follow-up on progress made at Annapolis. PNN anchor Setareh Derakshesh travels with the president and will be providing live, daily reports, with on the ground coverage January 8-16 as Mr. Bush visits Israel, the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Bush said part of the reason for his trip is “absolutely” about efforts to contain Iran’s influence in the region, adding that he expects questions about last month’s National Intelligence Estimate. “I will clarify to them,” he said, “that the NIE means that Iran is still a danger. I will remind them that a country that can suspend a program can easily start a program.”
PNN aired a January 4 ALHURRA TV interview with President Bush regarding his trip. When asked if Iran was a threat to the Gulf countries, Mr. Bush said “recently there has been some rapprochement between Gulf countries and Iran. I am sure the subject will come up, and I will remind them that the NIE said that ... Iran had a military covert program. They suspended the program. I will also remind them that a regime that once had a program can easily start the program up again. And that the key ingredients to having a weapons program [are]: one, the capacity to enrich uranium; secondly, the ability to take that uranium and make a bomb; and thirdly, the ability to deliver that bomb by rocket. Well, the rocket program still exists. As you know, they say they only for civilian purposes ... are learning to enrich. Well, if you can learn to enrich for civilian purposes, you can easily transfer that knowledge to military purposes, and therefore, Iran is a threat.”
Roundtable with You January 3 focused on the Iowa caucuses with PNN correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour, in Iowa; Merrill Lynch executive Ali Shemirani, an Iranian-American who lives in Des Moines; and Los Angeles-based Iranian media personality Sassan Kamali. Mr. Dehghanpour explained how the caucuses work and profiled the main Democratic and Republican candidates. Mr. Shemirani, a Democrat, predicted – accurately, it turns out – that Senator Barack Obama would lead the other Democrats in Iowa. Such a victory, he said, would have a significant impact on American society because Senator Obama is African-American and he would have won in a state that is predominantly white. Mr. Kamali walked PNN’s viewers through the US presidential election process, from the caucuses and primaries through the votes cast by the Electoral College, pointing out some of the main differences between the Democrats and Republicans.
Roundtable with You January 4 again focused on the Iowa caucuses with a panel of journalists: PNN correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour in Iowa; VOA News reporter Cindy Saine; and Los Angeles-based broadcaster, Nader Sadighi. Mr. Dehghanpour reported on the solid victories of Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, saying both were a surprise to the political establishment. Ms. Saine said Senator Obama managed to beat Senator Hillary Clinton in a state whose voters are 95% white, while Governor Huckabee was relatively unknown outside of his home state just weeks ago. He was widely outspent by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, but beat him by a wide margin. She said Governor Huckabee owed much of his success to the large turn-out of evangelical Christians. In his victory speech, Senator Obama said, “Hope—hope—is what led me here today – with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”
PNN’s correspondent in Iowa – Siamak Dehghanpour – covered campaign events with Senator Hillary Clinton, former Senator John Edwards, Senator Barack Obama, former Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator John McCain and former Governor Mitt Romney. He met with a small group of Iranian-Americans living in Iowa – PNN’s own “little town hall focus group” – to talk about the election process and their thoughts on the candidates. The group, which met in Iowa City – about 120 miles east of Des Moines – included Dr. Ali Rezai, Professor Emeritus, Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Iowa; Dr. Siroos Shirazi, Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Iowa; Maysam Takapoo, Research Assistant, Department of Cardiology, University of Iowa; Dr. Badree Davaryar, retired physician, Cedar Rapids; and Jahangir Abadi, retired, VA Medical Center, Iowa City. Each supported different candidates, from Senator Clinton to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Dehghanpour also talked with Siamak Hojati, a retired business owner, who is married to an American, is a Republican, and although he favored Mitt Romney, was still undecided before the caucus. Mr. Hojati immigrated to the US from Iran 30 years ago, but still remembers the difficulties he encountered in obtaining citizenship, and one of the key election issues for him was illegal immigration; he said it should not be encouraged in any way. Mr. Dehghanpour had exclusive interviews with a number of officials, including Ray Hoffman, Chairman of the Republican Party in Iowa; Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI); Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and former Governor Ray Mabus of Mississippi – all in Iowa for the caucuses – and all thrilled with the record turnout for both Democrats and Republicans.
PNN reported December 31 that Pakistan Election Commission decided to delay parliamentary elections originally scheduled for January 8 to February 18 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. In the interim, President Pervez Musharraf must keep the calm and stability which are being gradually restored. Stability and security in Pakistan are crucial and critical for the region for the US, and in order to avoid further unrest, President Musharraf must have a national consensus and try to form a government of unity. This, of course, must be done as Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party tries to rally behind its new leaders – Ms. Bhutto’s husband and eldest son: Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Roundtable with You January 6 looked at Scotland Yard’s investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto with the Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police in West London, Ali Dizaei, an Iranian-born Muslim with dual citizenship. A team of British anti-terrorism officers was dispatched to Pakistan late last week after President Musharraf, under intense criticism over handling of the Bhutto probe, agreed to accept outside assistance. Ms. Bhutto was killed at an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi on December 27. Mr. Dizaei explained in great detail how Scotland Yard goes about solving a crime along with its team of forensic scientists. “Unfortunately, for reasons that I’m not aware of, the crime scene was totally compromised as the Pakistani officials failed to seal off the area,” he said. Mr. Dizaei said Scotland Yard goes into this investigation with an open mind and without any preconceived notion as to who might have committed the crime. “We will submit our report to the Pakistani government,” he said, “and it’s up to them to do with it what they want even if the report directly implicates elements within the Pakistani government.”
News and Views January 2 interviewed Marvin Weinbaum, a scholar in residence at the Middle East Institute and former US intelligence official on the political crisis in Pakistan. He said the many calls from the opposition for General Musharraf’s resignation are understandable in light of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. These opposition groups were anxious to cast their vote on January 8, he said, to capitalize on the sympathy vote expected in the wake of her murder. On what needs to be done by the Pakistani government to lay the groundwork for free and fair elections, Mr. Weinbaum said, “It’s critically important that these elections be viewed as legitimate and credible….What needs to be done is for President Musharraf to reach out to opposition parties and answer some of their complaints such as gagging the media.” On the void left by Ms. Bhutto’s death, and whether there is someone on the Pakistani political scene to fill it, he said, “Mrs. Bhutto was the best chance to bring a more democratic character to the Pakistani government. But that hope is now vanished. [And] unfortunately, party leaders are attaching more significance to family lines and name recognition than what’s in the best interest of the country.”
Swedish parliamentarians from the Liberal Party condemned Iran’s dismal human rights record last week and called for a delegation to be sent to Iran to investigate abuses. News and Views January 4 interviewed Fred Saberi, a member of Sweden’s Liberal Party, and he said “Iranian women and student activists call on us in the West to amplify their voices and we in turn put pressure on Western governments to heed their calls for freedom and human rights.” According to Mr. Saberi, the Iranian government has made concessions in the past when confronted by orchestrated pressure from European parties. “We hope that Iran is responsive again,” he said, “and lets a delegation travel to Iran to meet with prisoners and their families.” The Swedish Liberal Party is part of a coalition that rules Sweden and has four cabinet ministers. All of these ministers, according to Mr. Saberi, are vocal on human rights issues.
News and Views January 2 reported on tensions in the Middle East, with an Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip killing six Palestinian militants. In other news, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel may have to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians in any future peace deal, citing international pressure for compromise over the holy city. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Cairo, and the two leaders discussed several issues, including the fate of thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt. A large number of Gaza residents who recently completed the traditional Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca became trapped when the Egyptian government decided that they had to cross through an Israeli-controlled crossing instead of going directly into Gaza through the Rafah terminal.
News and Views January 3 reported that Israeli warplanes bombed the home of a slain Palestinian militant leader in the Gaza Strip Thursday. Officials of the militant Hamas group that controls Gaza said the building was home to an Islamic Jihad rocket maker who was killed in an Israeli air strike last week. Hours earlier, Israeli forces carried out a raid near the town of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. At least five Palestinians were reported killed. An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers were searching for militants who fire rockets at Israel. Meanwhile, news reports say President Bush is likely to have a three-way meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders when he visits Jerusalem. In another development, Egypt allowed Palestinian pilgrims stranded in the country after returning from the Hajj to re-enter the Gaza Strip through a Hamas-controlled crossing.
News and Views January 3 looked at the recent meeting Iran and Egypt held in Tehran last month – a rare meeting between the two countries which broke off ties almost 30 years ago. Arabist Michele Dunne, a scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the motivating factor behind the thaw in their frosty relations is that Iran as a major non-Arab state in the region has seen its role taking on more significance and Egypt is obviously the most important Arab state. Both countries have decided it would be in their best interests to engage each other rather than try to isolate one another. But hardliners in both countries, she said, are resistant to normalization. Ms. Dunne said one stumbling block was Iran’s praise of Anwar Sadat’s assassin as a hero. Egypt, and especially President Hosni Mubarak, felt this was disrespectful. She said Egypt also suspected Iran has tried to foment some kind of Islamic revolution inside Egypt.
News and Views January 4 reported on the improving of relations between the US and Libya, including the first time a Libyan foreign minister has visited the State Department in 36 years. The State Department said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Minister Abdulrahman Muhammad Shalgam discussed a number of topics, including the outstanding claims between the Libyan government and the victims of such terror attacks as the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland. Libya has admitted responsibility for that bombing but failed to finish paying reparations to the families affected. After the hour-long meeting, Mr. Shalgam said he believes Libya and the United States can work together to fight terrorism and help stop ethnic violence in neighboring Sudan’s Darfur region. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Secretary Rice intends to visit Libya “when the timing is right.” The US announced fully normalized ties with Libya in 2006 and removed Libya from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Roundtable with You December 31 featured the founder of the online magazine New Secularism, writer and editor Esmail Nooriala. He said new secularism is a concept in which ideology is separated from religion and from the affairs of society. With religious and social institutions separated, people from all religions and beliefs become a part of society, participate in social issues and the path to a democratic state is established. Mr. Nooriala said in the case of Iran, if secularism is dependent on the military and police to fight social prejudice, then it turns into an ideology and away from its secular nature. Iran, of course, he said, is a classical example of a theocracy.
News and Views January 1 reported on Pope Benedict XVI’s New Year’s mass at the Vatican, with his first prayer focusing on the family. Addressing thousands of Catholics gathered at St. Peter’s Square, and millions more who were watching on television, the pontiff said denying the traditional family, formed of one man and one woman, will endanger world peace. He said the seed of peace is planted in the traditional family since it is in such a place that men learn how to respect peace. Any violation of this formula, he said, “threatens the very foundations of peace.”
Today’s Woman December 31 looked at a variety of headlines from 2007 after highlighting the ways people planned to ring in the New Year. Panelists discussed political events, including progress in Iraq; the US presidential election campaign; the Bali conference on climate policy; North Korea’s suspended nuclear production; effects of global warming and former Vice President Al Gore’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize as well as an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth; the deaths of well-known Iranians and Americans in 2007; Doris Lessing (who was born in Iran) winning the Nobel Prize for Literature; the wild success of JK Rowling and her series of Harry Potter books; and the work of Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo, whose latest work is on exhibition at Britain’s Tate Gallery.
News and Views January 1 reported on revelry around the world ringing in the New Year, from more than a million people converging on Times Square in New York to two million people gathering at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. In Moscow, thousands gathered in Red Square and listened to the New Year’s speech of President Vladimir Putin. In Paris, people gathered along the Champs-Elysées, while in London, the crowd rang in 2008 along the banks of the river Thames. Cuba’s 81-year-old leader, Fidel Castro, saluted the Cuban people on the approaching 50th anniversary of the country’s revolution. Meanwhile, North Koreans marked the new year with people from Pyongyang laying flowers at the foot of a giant statue of the country’s president, Kim Il Sung. US soldiers serving in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, took a break from patrolling the streets to celebrate the New Year.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments about US-Iranian relations and the US response to his remarks; Britain’s continued reservations about Iran’s nuclear program; the shift in world attention from Iran to Pakistan; French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Egypt (and his comment there that it is very dangerous that Iran “does not honor international treaty and its nuclear program is not peaceful, rather it has military objectives”); similarities between the Bushehr nuclear plant the one in Chernobyl; a report in Der Spiegel that Iranian banks (Sepah, Melli and Saderat) are trying to avoid payments to German exporters but that laws require the Iranian government to honor the banks’ debts; Turkish officials stating that Iran is not a reliable gas exporter; inflation in Iran and how the government has wasted money on imports that it should have been investing in domestic infrastructure; official corruption; Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki saying Iran’s share of Caspian Sea resources has never exceeded 50%; improved Egyptian-Iranian relations; the difficulty of holding free and fair elections in a theocracy; and Ayatollah Khamenei’s distrust of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad evidenced in his use of Ali Larijani in foreign affairs.
This week’s History Channel segments included one that explored how modern farming traces its roots to China, where advanced farming technology was invented and used over 1000 years before the west; a profile of legendary director Cecil B. DeMille, the man who ruled Hollywood for 40 years and is credited with creating special effects, the special promotion of films and huge box office hits, including The Ten Commandments; a segment on the origins of weapons of mass destruction, showing how computer guided nuclear warheads, anthrax, and Sarin gas all had their beginning over 2000 years ago in ancient Greece; a profile of the Apollo 13 mission that was intended to be a routine trip to the moon but turned into a special mission to safely return the crew to earth; and a profile of Grace Kelly, the actress who worked with some of the biggest stars in film and with some of the greatest directors before marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – answered a question posed by multiple viewers: “How does VOA/PNN cover the primary elections in the US presidential race, and is VOA obliged to support any particular party?” Mr. Mahmoudi explained that there are two main political parties in the United States – the Democratic and Republican parties – and that the primary elections are held to select each party’s presidential candidate in advance of elections scheduled for November 4. Although is funded by the US Congress, Mr. Mahmoudi said that VOA s banned from taking sides on political issues, including the election. “We report not only on US elections, but on all major world elections, which currently means Pakistan and Kenya. We just report. No political party or branch of government can instruct us on what to say.”
PNN’s question of the week was, “According to the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), the inflation rate in Iran has reached 19%. Is the current government responsible for the increased rate of inflation in Iran?” Out of 8,584 respondents, 91% said yes, 7% said no, while 1% did not know.
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 news breaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, PNN’s newest program, had its debut September 27, 2007. The one-hour program features influential women from around the world discussing a full spectrum of topics, including social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, is now 2 hours in length, and features live news coverage of the latest headlines from Washington, Iran and across the globe. Roundtable with You is a talk show with expert guests, featuring discussion of current events, politics, popular culture and global health. Viewers and listeners from Iran and around the world participate in the show via phone calls and e-mails.
Late Edition begins with a wrap up of the day’s news and a close look at the day’s top story. Targeted to a younger demographic, the show also features segments on health, technology, sports, entertainment and culture. NewsTalk is a new journalists’ roundtable discussion program that features a news update followed by an examination of the day’s top stories and an in-depth look at issues relating to Iran.
PNN INSIDER – VIEWER PERSPECTIVES
From a retired Revolutionary Guard colonel: “I watch your programs. Please be informed that unlike the claims made by VOA and the US government, all Revolutionary Guards are not terrorists....I think you and me, through the great influence of VOA can bring the two nations together....I’ve given you my name and my telephone number in Karaj. If you could provide me with a secure Internet line, I can talk with you more freely.”
From prominent women’s rights campaigner Noushin Ahmadi-Khorasani: “I really thank you and I hope with everything Today’s Woman is doing, they (women’s activists Jelveh Javaheri and Maryam Hosseinkhah) will be released soon...I don’t know what [the Iranian government] is planning to do with them and why they are keeping them [in prison] so long. Without what you’re doing, [the government] would hold them for several years.”
And several days later, on January 3, another e-mail from Ms. Ahmadi-Khorasani: “We thank you for all your help. They (Jelveh Javaheri and Maryam Hosseinkhah) have been released and are very happy. Congratulations to all of you. We really thank you for everything.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Please be informed that about the vote which is mentioned on the VOA/PNN website, Yes, the government is responsible regarding the inflation increase in Iran. The above mentioned vote is for two persons. Thanks & Best.”
From Esmail Nooriala, an antiquities historian, writer and editor of the new online magazine, New Secularism, who was a guest on Roundtable with You (12/31/07): “In the last hours of the old year, I would like to thank you for your excellent management of today’s program. I have been receiving tons of e-mails. 10,000 more people visited the site (http://www.puyeshgaraan.com/Esmail.htm) today. Your contribution to our cause is much appreciated. Have a very nice, successful and prosperous new year.”
From a female viewer in Isfahan: “Recently I have noticed an interesting and regrettable point in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s TV programs. They are paying too much attention to Russia and displaying its military and scientific advancements as well as comparing it with the west and with the United States in particular. A variety of news stories on Russia are broadcast repeatedly, but news regarding the west is always negative. Why do you think they are doing this?”
From a female viewer in Paris: “VOA/PNN has been turned into a free university to raise the level of our education and awareness. In this battle between the forces of darkness and light, you should prepare yourself against attacks. Their only objective is to shut down your enlightening discussions. That’s why they have callers constantly calling your Roundtable [call-in program] to harp on the number of inmates in US prisons and especially in Guantanamo when, say, you’re have a discussion on the state of the Iranian economy.”
From a viewer from the small town of Bojnord: “I learn a lot from the Today’s Woman program. I want to know how women live in small villages in the US. Would you