Washington, DC – September 21, 2008… Major developments this week include new IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear capabilities; continuing coverage of the P5+1 diplomatic gridlock including coverage from Berlin; the effects of the apostasy law in Iran; inside analysis on rising petroleum prices in Tehran and new perspectives on U.S.-Iranian diplomacy efforts from our exclusive interview with Ambassador Edward Djerejian.
IRAN TESTING MISSILE CAPABILITY
48 Hours September 21 – In a PNN exclusive, U.S. Envoy to the IAEA calls on Iran to cooperate more fully with the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Ambassador Gregory Schulte told PNN that during a meeting with the top IAEA inspector on the Middle East he was shown new proof indicating that Iran tried to refit the long-distance Shahab-3 missile to carry a nuclear payload. He added that the inspector showed photos and diagrams of Iranian work on re-designing a Shahab-3 to carry what would appear to be a nuclear weapon. He characterized the information as "credible." Ambassador Schulte also discussed relations with Russia and Syria on this topic. Responding to a statement by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in which Lavarov said the West must choose between support of Georgia and Moscow's cooperation in international issues, he said that Moscow initially is cool on the idea of toughening sanctions against Iran, "but in the ultimate analysis they see a nuclear-armed Iran just as threatening as the rest of the international community, if not more.” Further, I'm sure when the push comes to shove they will go along with more punitive sanctions against Tehran." On the Syrian nuclear program, Ambassador Schulte said they are following the same path that Iran has taken in that they've pursued stalling tactics and have refused to turn over the necessary information about their program to IAEA inspectors. Ambassador Schulte called for more cooperation with Iran saying, "Come to the negotiating table. Take that step. Otherwise, you're not serving your people."
FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT CALLS FOR DIRECT TALKS WITH IRAN
News and Views September 19– In continued diplomatic coverage, PNN interviewed former top U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel, Ambassador Edward Djerejian shared his view on diplomacy tactics with PNN viewers, saying that you negotiate peace with your adversaries and enemies, not with your friends. According to the Ambasador, "That is what diplomacy is all about." Ambassador Djerejian said that while pursuing the nuclear issue actively through multilateral means, Washington should take the first steps to start a dialogue with Tehran. This could be an exchange of respective assessments regarding the key regional issues such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Arab-Israeli peace, Lebanon, Gulf security, and terrorism. The Ambassador added, "With the current structure of talks through 5+1 countries and the United Nations, we are not making a great deal of progress in halting Iran's suspicious nuclear program." He concluded by saying that Washington should promote its own positions on human rights, democracy, the role of civil society, and the rule of law as structural parts of the bilateral dialogue. Finally, he said, any confrontation would be costly for both sides; for Iran, it would be devastating.”
IAEA GRIDLOCK ON IRAN
News and Views September 15 – The IAEA released a report saying Iran continues to increase its nuclear capabilities and Iran has failed to provide information that’s would clear up its alleged nuclear weapons-related research. Iranian IAEA Ambassador, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that Iran would continue uranium enrichment. Dana Perino, White House spokesman, says Iran's situation is one that is has chosen itself. The P5+1 is discussing options including continued policy discussions; possibly increasing incentives; or proposing, ratifying and enforcing further sanctions. Sanctions have been called for by the U.S. and France however China believes further sanctions will not resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. However all parties encourage continued cooperation with the IAEA.
News and Views September19 – According to Jackie Shire, Senior Analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security, the latest IAEA report indicates that Iran's centrifuges are operating at a higher level than previously indicated. Further, Shire noted that Iran continues to resist efforts to substantively address its alleged nuclear weapons-related work, which the IAEA says remains of serious concern. "The IAEA has reached a situation with Iran which can only be described as gridlocked," she added. Ms. Shire believes the IAEA has made little progress in resolving a series of outstanding questions raised by the international organization with regard to alleged research into nuclear weaponization issues. According to Ms. Shire, one more troubling aspect of the report is possible assistance from a foreign expert to Iran's alleged nuclear weapons effort. The IAEA has asked Iran to clarify this issue, and according to a senior official, continues to pursue this matter with Iran and other countries.
IRAN-GERMANY TALKS BEGIN
News and Views September 15 – First round talks between Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his German counterpart, Frank Walter Steinmeier began in Berlin this week. Meanwhile, the State Department issued a travel warning to all American citizens in Iran, citing possibilities of harassment or detention. The warning also addressed Iranian-Americans saying dual citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran.
NEW SANCTIONS ON IRAN
News and Views September 21– PNN interviewed political analyst Dr. Mehrad Khonsari about the extent to which sanctions against Iran have been effective. According to reports, sanctions against Iran have been working. Still, Iran is not ready to open dialogue with the West. The effects of the election on the sanctions were also discussed; however, Dr. Mehrad believes the result of the U.S. election will not change American policies against Iran.
News and Views September 17 – PNN’s continuing coverage on sanctions featured an exclusive interview confirming that the United States took several actions against the Mayrow General Trading Company, and its global network, for its involvement in providing WMD-related technology to Iran. The Department of Justice has unsealed a criminal indictment against sixteen defendants related to the Mayrow network as well. The Department of the Treasury also designated six Iranian military firms for their role in Tehran’s WMD proliferation. VOA interviewed Ann Donick Somerset, Press Spokesperson and Deputy Director of Press & Public Affairs (Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs) regarding the new sanctions. Somerset emphasized that all these actions are in order to stop Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and to stabilizing the region.
PETROLEUM INFLATION INCREASES IN IRAN
News and Views September 18 – Advancing PNN’s focus on the Iranian economy, PNN said that increasing prices of gas oil and gasoline are leading to gradual rises in inflation as reported by the Majlis Research Center. According to a study of the computation of increases on petroleum products, the economic studies office explained that this inflation will lead to structural inflation and different challenges. A source who contributed to the report said that it has been suggested that effective financial and monetary policies be adopted in Iran in order to modify subsidies to minimize inflation effects of the price. The source, an adviser to Iran's Parliament with a doctorate in Economy, spoke to PNN under the condition of anonymity. He emphasized that the country is not ready for more subsidy cuts this year based on this research saying, "If the government starts selling the imported gasoline at actual cost, it will add up to 28% to the next year's inflation."
LIVE FROM IRAQ
News and Views September 16 – PNN’s Live Report from Iraq confirmed three bombings which killed a total of 34 people; still overall levels of violence in Iraq are low. Syria is sending its ambassador to Iraq after 30 years. In other news, the U.S. assisted in the signing of an agreement by Iraqi and Kurdish authorities in which Iraqi forces will leave the northern city of Khaengin. It is reported that Al Qaeda has an excess of $200,000 in funds in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki met today to discuss the Iraq-U.S. Strategic Security Agreement
News and Views September 17 – Live coverage from Iraq reports that two car bombs killed
9 people, wounding 20. In political news, PNN reports that there are mixed reactions concerning the appointment of top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odiemo. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani in Irbil today. According to reports, Crocker asked Barzani to reduce tensions between the Kurds and the Iraqi government.
News and Views September 18 – Live from Iraq, PNN stringer reports that the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Iran will not renegotiate with Iraq concerning the 1975 Algiers border agreement signed by Mohammad Reza Shah and Saddam Hossein. The disputed area in question is near the Arvad River. Iraqi lawmakers could not agree on Iraq’s provincial elections laws. The Kurds have called for a referendum before Iraq’s provincial elections. The US military released 75 more Iraqi prisoners and said it has freed more than 1,160 militant prisoners held in Iraq during the month of Ramadan.
News and Views September 21 – PNN’s stringer confirmed that a series of bomb attacks were carried out in Baghdad Tal Afar on Sunday, shattering a recent relative calm in Iraq. Al Qaeda released a statement saying their militants are present throughout Iraq, according to PNN’s stringer live from Irbil. In health news, in order to fight cholera the Iraq trade ministry has temporarily halted vegetable imports from Iran. More than 172 cases of cholera were detected in Iraq. Also, Iraq majority lawmakers said they would not pass a top energy bill until the autonomous Kurdish Government in Iraq cancels its oil contracts with foreign countries and firms.
DRUG ADDICTION IN IRAN
Roundtable September 16 – PNN discussed a topic of worldwide concern: drugs and addiction. According to President Ahmadinejad, Iran has half a million drug users, with over 250,000 who are regular opium users. Yet evidence from the Iranian Ministry of Health and Human Services suggests a different number in excess of 1.2 million serious drug addicts, who are in need of intervention by the government. British journalist Nasser Mohammadi of the newspaper Kayhan reported findings from a study conducted by them, which concluded that that Iranian youth are seeking drugs because of their circle of friends' influence, abject poverty, and overall access to cheap drugs. He noted that 3/4 of Iranian drugs are imported from Afghanistan and he further believes that if Iran had better border controls, this issue could be more easily eradicated. Kayhan’s research shows that up to 25 tons of opium is used on a daily basis. A caller into Roundtable noted that drugs in Iran are so cheap that every family knows of one or two addicts. He believes it is the government’s responsibility to assist addicts in seeking treatment instead of always focusing on politics or governmental malfeasance. Dr. Pari Beizavi noted that the best method of combating drug addiction is to empower the people, specifically families, but for this government action is needed.
SEVEN YEARS OF CRUSADES
News and Views September 16 – Al Jazeera TV aired a video of Al Qaeda’s second in command Ayman Al Zawahiri entitled, “Seven Years of Crusades.” The 90 minute video marks the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. In the video, Al Zawahiri accuses Iranian leaders of brainwashing the masses. “The leadership in Tehran is collaborating with the Americans in their occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan,” Zawahiri said. PNN spoke with analysts about this topic. Dr. Alireza Noorizadeh, a London based Iranian analyst, believes that Al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the U.S. However, he believes Al Qaeda could be a threat to the Iraqi government, Iraqi Shiites or even Iran itself. Further, Al Qaeda’s support of Sunni radical groups in Iran could have serious consequences for Iran. Iranian analyst, Hassan Daee, provided PNN with an overview of the history of cooperation between Iran and Al Qaeda. Unlike Noorizadeh, Daee noted that whereas Al Qaeda traditionally pits one faction against another, Iran presents a more united front of different fractions against a common enemy.
TRUCK DRIVERS ON STRIKE
News and Views September 21 – PPN reports over 1,600 truck drivers have been on strike now for more than 2 weeks in the province of Khouzestan, reported Mojtaba Gahestani, a local journalist in Ahwaz. Khouzestan, located in south west of Iran is a vital port for import and exports. PNN learned that the truck drivers have been on strike in order to address a number of issues to authorities, yet authorities have yet to speak with the drivers. Gahestani reported,” This is such a small issue comparing to the importance of transportation in Khouzestan and if the authorities set a meeting with the drivers and syndicate, I sure it would be resolved." PNN learned that one major concerns the 40% to 50% of the transportation fee that the drivers must pay to the syndicate as the commission price. According to them, the law states they should pay only 7%.
VOA News Blog September 19 – PNN covered the State Department bloggers’ roundtable with James Glassman, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and former Chairman of the Board of Broadcasting Governors, the board that oversees the Voice of America. The VOA News Blog was among several prominent public diplomacy and strategic communications focused bloggers who were invited to take part. Much of the session focused on Iran and included a discussion of a recent online exchange between a member of the State Department’s Digital Outreach Team and a senior Iranian official. Behruz Nikzat from PNNONLINE participated in an audio conference with under secretary Glassman who answered questions for bloggers. Nikzat asked about the State Department’s recent launch of Parsloop (www.parsloop.com) as a forum for Iranians around the world to exchange opinions and experiences.
Late Edition September 21 – Late Edition introduced a book called "The Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics" written by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais. Winograd is the executive director of the Institute for Communication Technology Management (CTM) at the University of Southern California. Hais, who served for a decade as Vice President, Entertainment Research of Frank N. Magid Associates, is a political pollster for Democrats in Michigan and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Detroit. Their book goes into the history of U.S. elections. In it, they describe two types of realignment in the U.S. politics, idealistic and civic, analyzing how they have influenced the history and are triggered by the young generation or the "Millenials". The younger generations are sparking a political realignment, revolutionizing campaign and fund-raising techniques. Winograd and Hais also discussed how the Democrats are reaching out to young voters using the same communication techniques found in social networking platforms.
HUMAN RIGHTS UPDATES
News and Views September 16 – In human rights news, Jason Small, Deputy Director of State for Sudan Affairs, spoke about Iranian aid to Sudan and its involvement with Sudan against Darfurians. Despite criticism almost worldwide, the Sudanese continue to wage war against the Darfur province. Karim Pakravan of De Paul University and the University of Chicago, joined News and Views live. A former executive vice president of JP Morgan, Pakravan discussed the economic crisis with PNN, citing reasons behind the crisis and ways in which consumers can protect themselves.
NEW LAWS ON APOSTASY IN IRAN
Today’s Woman September 17 – Continued PNN coverage the recently reestablished Islamic punishment law, which focuses on the articles on apostasy, was today’s featured topic. Apostasy is the formal renunciation of one's religion. In a phone interview, Mr. Mohammad Mostafaee, law expert and lawyer from inside Iran, discussed executions carried out on those who formally left Islam before the Islamic punishment law went into effect, making the executions illegal. The remainder of the show focused on the way the Islamic punishment law violates internationally established human rights, as discussed with Ms. Elahe Hicks, a human rights specialist based in New York. Ms. Hicks argued that the United Nations Humans Rights Commission is not effective in implementing human rights standards. Further, she opined that the United Nations could be more influential in addressing the enforcement of standards.
Today's Woman September 15 – PNN follow up on the apostasy law and student protests were the features of today’s show. The Islamic punishment bill, which after 16 years of legislative revisions, has recently been approved into law. The provisions of the law were discussed in a phone interview with Mr. Hassan Asadi Zaid-Abadi, Chair of ADVAR Islamic Student Organization inside Iran. He highlighted the contradictions in the law pointing to the authorization of the execution of minors, a decree that violates Iran’s signatory agreement with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The newly established law still considers the legal status of women as half that of men. The following segment discussed recent student protests in Iran with student activist Mr. Mehdi Arabshahi from inside Iran. Mr. Arabshahi discussed the status of arrested student activists and the appellate process for expelled university students.
FILM ADDRESS THE STONING OF SORAYA
Late Edition September 19 – PNN spoke with actor Fariborz Dian about "The Stoning of Soraya M", a movie adapted from a novel with the same name. This influential film, which tells the true story of a woman who was stoned to death in a village in Iran in 1986, depicts the lack of human rights for women under Islamic Law. Although the film has been criticized because of its controversial nature, Dian believes "The Stoning of Soraya M" exposes the bitter punishment of stoning in some Islamic countries such as Iran. As an actor, Dian said he was greatly interested in the film plot and the message it delivers. He is honored to be a part of the cast. Dian said he hopes that the movie raises a worldwide awareness of human rights, especially the rights of women in Iran.
DECLINE IN MINORITY RELIGIONS
Roundtable September 15 – PNN focused on a four-year study released by the Roshan Cultural Institute (RCI) showing a significant decline in minority religions in Iran. Speaking with Dr. Ahmad Karimi Hakkak, founding director of the Center of Persian Studies of the University of Maryland, PNN learned how limits on religious practice have affected Bahai, Christian and Jewish faiths. Because Iran is a country of multiple religions and cultures, the Center's main focus is to highlight religious similarities as well as differences by producing courses of study leading to a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Persian Studies at the University of Maryland. The recent Conference on Minority Religions in Iran at the RCI examined how variable norms affect society, heritage and the acceptability of minority religions in Iran. Receiving the Christian sacrament of wine or the ringing of church bells, both banned, are examples that reflect the decline in one’s ability to freely practice religion. The center seeks to introduce to people the reality of Iranian culture, background, language and identity
ART, MUSIC AND SOCIETY
Today’s Woman September 18 – Underground rapper Farinaz, based in Holland, was featured on Today’s Woman. The discussion highlighted Farinaz’s family life and musical background. Although she left Iran for Holland at the age of twelve, she suggests that using Farsi is important because there are particular words that only Farsi can convey. Farinaz contended that she hopes her music will send a message to Iranian women that will provoke thought and ultimately change the view Iranian society has on women.
Late Edition September 17 – PNN’s coverage of contemporary art featured the Conference of the Birds, a comprehensive exposition of Modern and Contemporary Iranian art focusing on the stylistic, thematic and visual evolution of the Iranian artistic landscape within the past century. Artists, whose contributions represent the formation of a unique and vibrant visual culture over the 20th century, include modern masters such as Parviz Tanavoli, Mohammad Ehsaee, Jazeh Tabatabai and Hossein Zenderoudi. Younger contemporary artists like Farhad Moshiri, Shirin Neshat, Roya Akhavan and Y.Z. Kami are also featured. One unique element of the exhibition is the portrayal of the artists’ works both from the Diaspora and from their home, portrayed side by side in this compelling exhibition.
Late Edition September 19 – One of Iran’s best young vocalists, Hamed Nikpay, was the highlight of today’s segment. Not only a singer, but also a song writer and composer, Nikpay began writing his own music and performing in concerts as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, with some of the highly acclaimed music ensembles before wide audiences in Iran, Europe and Asia after earning his B.A. in music composition. Nikpay’s songwriting skills can be seen in several motion pictures made by some of the most distinguished directors of the Iranian cinema. His most recent work was the hit theme song for the widely broadcasted TV series "Ahooyeh Mahe Nohom", composed by Ramin Behna, one of Iran's best cinematic music composers. Since arriving in the U.S., he has performed in numerous concerts before enthusiastic audiences throughout the U.S. Nikpay currently resides in Palo Alto, California, where he teaches, writes and records music
Late Edition September 20 – Farhad Besharati, an internationally acclaimed musician and composer, was featured on PNN. Instrumentally talented, Besharati’s major instrument is the Ghanoon, which is a traditional Persian instrument. Besharati is known for adept skill at fusion music by mixing Eastern and Western sounds. Besharati said that although the Ghanoon is a very old instrument, it has the capacity of being used to play modern music. He has recreated world-known songs such as "Unbreak My Heart" by Tony Braxton and he has even worked with the rock legend The Eagles in recreating one of the most famous songs in American history, "Hotel California". Because of the talents portrayed in his four instrumental albums and other works, Farhad Besharati is considered one the most successful artists in the fusion music genre.
ALSO ON PNN…
Late Edition September 16 – VOA spoke with returning students this week on Late Edition about how students away from home are tackling their new life on their own. This month millions of students have started classes at colleges and universities across the United States. Among them are the first year students or freshmen. For most of them, going to college is the first time they live away from home. Freshman students at the University of Maryland offered VOA viewers some good advice saying, “What students don’t realize is they have to make it the best years of their lives and the way you make it the best four years is you do well academically and you get involved in the campus.”
Late Edition September 16 – Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been the center of great media attention since John McCain nominated her for vice-president of the United States three weeks ago. Voice of America talked to a few female students and staff at George Washington University to see how America women perceive the new vice-presidential nominee. The women interviewed believe it would be good to have a woman in such a high position however they do not advocate the election of someone based on their gender or race.
On the Record September 19 – PNN’s Kambiz Mahmoudi responded to PNN viewers about the question ‘How important is the free flow of information and what is the role of the Internet in general and the PNN web Site in particular?” He said that the human thirst for knowledge and information is not new. However, after the launch of the first communication satellite in the early 1960s, the free flow of information became an important subject throughout the world. The advent of the internet has had an unheralded affect on democracy and the free flow of information, which Mahmoudi believes are inseperably. Authoritarian governments attempt to halt this information flow by using all available means to block the free flow of news and information. By jamming signals or blocking internet sites, they use the advanced technology to prevent their citizens from receiving unbiased and genuine information. According to studies, one out of every four Iranians watches PNN television programs and about 3,000,000 Iranians connect to PNNs website. Although in free societies the Internet is one of the ever growing means for getting information, in dictatorial or totalitarian societies like Iran, people connect to the PNN web site for access to unbiased and balanced news. This is vividly reflected in hundreds of the PNN audiences’ e-mails and telephone calls. PNN’s website is now under renovation and expansion to increase its text, audio, and video capacities. Though availability and easier access is essential, it is the quality of the information is most important to PNN audiences, as mentioned by our audiences’ mail and telephone calls.
This week on the History Channel – Who was President Mikhail Gorbachev and why did he dismantle the awesome Soviet empire? In a candid interview on the History Channel, Mr. Gorbachev recounts how growing up in the oppressive shadow of Stalin provided him with the catalyst for a lifelong crusade to change the Soviet system. But as the tide of change he started became an unstoppable wave, Gorbachev could only watch as the Soviet Union dissolved into anarchy around him. As he wrestled to bring democracy and order to his people, his rivals plotted to overthrow him. Despite the historical nature of what he has achieved, ultimately Gorbachev found himself the victim of his own phenomenal success. The History Channel also featured two American icons in film and sports. Actor Sylvester Stallone, recognized the world over for his performance in films like Rocky and Rambo, was the Hollywood feature on the History Channel this week. Stallone created characters that hold a special place in the public consciousness. Rocky and Rambo are two of the most widely successful movie franchises in history and are sold worldwide. The History Channel also featured one of the most enduring and influential players in tennis. Jimmy Connors is the leader in men's tournament victories, having won a record of 125 singles titles, including eight Grand Slam titles and nine Champions Tour titles, in addition to his 21 doubles titles. Between 1974-1977, Connors was ranked number one for a record 159 consecutive weeks. In 1991 Connors amazed the tennis world by reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Open at the age of 39.
PNN’s question of the week was “Can questioning of President Ahmadinejad in the Majles (Parliament) be interpreted as a sign of public’s desire to see a change in the status quo?” Out of 6249 respondents, 37 percent (2323) said yes, 59 percent (3709) said no, while 3 percent (217) did not have an opinion.
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.