Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week

Washington D.C. – November 30 … Terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India caught the world by surprise; President-elect Barack Obama announced his economic advisers for his incoming administration while the financial crisis moves eastward affecting residential and commercial properties in Dubai; PNN highlighted the translated work of Masoud Behnood’s best-selling historical novel on Persia.


News and Views November 27 – Terrorist attacks on Western hotels in Mumbai brought the world’s focus to Mumbai, India. PNN interviewed South Asia expert Cyrus Seifi about the brazen and well-planned attacks. Mr. Seifi reminded viewers that India has been the victim of terrorist attacks since its inception in 1947. "Terrorism is not an unknown phenomenon to the people of India," he said. He stated that Islamic radicalism is becoming an increasingly serious threat to India just as it is in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Indeed, there may be enough dissatisfaction among Muslims in India to spawn a cadre of native, would-be jihadists who do not necessarily need external support to carry out terrorist attacks," he added. The record shows that Islamic terrorist groups keep changing their names although they get inspiration and encouragement from one source. "Unfortunately, the Indian police have not had a successful track record in prosecuting these terrorist groups and disrupting their operations within India," he commented. In closing, Mr. Seifi suggested, "Pakistan's radical Islamic groups were alarmed by the peace overtures of Islamabad toward New Delhi and were anxious to derail any kind of closer ties between the two countries." A PNN follow-up on this story indicates that the death toll from the attacks is currently estimated at 174.

News and Views November 28 – VOA correspondent Ravi Kana provided our audience with the latest development of terrorist acts in India. He said the Indian commandos are in total control, but it seems some terrorists are still resisting. He recounted that terrorists have been planning these attacks for weeks. Mr. Kana referred to a statement by the Prime Minister of India that indirectly accused Pakistan and later referred to Pakistan Foreign Minister’s statement that “we should not rush to a conclusion.” Mr. Kana said the recent terrorist acts would naturally create some problems between the two neighbors. He added that President-Elect Obama has identified the problem of Kashmir as an urgent priority. President-Elect Obama will probably ask former President Clinton to mediate the Kashmir problem withIndia and Pakistan.

48 Hours November 30 – A review of top news stories related to Iran and the Middle East opened up with news of the latest on the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Journalist Alireza Nourizadeh appeared on 48 Hours to provide more insight. He said, "These attacks were well-planned and orchestrated to do maximum damage to India's financial well-being as the 9/11 attacks were aimed at striking at the heart of the U.S. financial nerve center." Mr. Nourizadeh speculated that the Al-Qaeda terrorist network was directly involved in carrying out these attacks. "I doubt if the elements from the Pakistani intelligence services played any role in plotting the Mumbai attacks," he added. On the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the Iranian nuclear program he said that Iranian officials could not have wished for a better friend than Director General Mohammad El Baradei who has been looking for some sort of saving face and exit strategy for Iran, but he has been humiliated by Iranian leaders at every turn by their evasive answers and foot-dragging. Mr. Nourizadeh also dismissed the proposal to develop nuclear power plants jointly with neighboring Arab states in the Gulf amid international pressure on Tehran to halt its sensitive atomic work. "This can only be thought of as a humorless joke. No one is going to take this seriously. The Gulf Arab countries are more worried about Iran's fourth rate technology being used at Bushehr that might endanger the entire environment in the Gulf area. The risk of a nuclear disaster like Chernobyl is real," he added. On the announcement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that a decision on whether to send U.S. diplomats to Iran for the first time in three decades will be left up to the Obama administration, she said "the U.S. Government came to the conclusion that establishing an interest section in Iran would be perceived as a huge concession to Ahmadinejad. Everyone agreed that this would be an unwise move on the part of Washington." On the U.S. security pact with Baghdad, Mr. Nourizadeh commented that Tehran tried to sabotage this agreement, "but two important factors made all the efforts for naught. One was the indirect blessing to this agreement given by Ayatollah Sistanti, the most powerful religious figure in Iraq, and the other was the steadfastness of Nouri al-Maleki and his Kurdish allies." He concluded by saying the agreement was a great achievement of Iraq and its people.


News and Views November 24 – The incoming administration of President-Elect Barack Obama may push for larger efforts to stimulate the battered American economy. The president-elect is expected to announce nominees for top economic posts later this afternoon. The president-elect’s actions indicate that he appears to be following through on his word to begin his term in office with an economic recovery plan in hand. The announcements for economic advisers come nearly two months before the new administration takes office. It is expected that the current president of the New York Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner, will serve as the next Treasury Secretary. Meanwhile, U.S. stock markets rose on Friday after various press agencies reported his nomination. Mr. Geithner has been deeply involved in the efforts to save major financial companies. The president-elect is also expected to name former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to head the National Economic Council. President-Elect Obama has said his new economic plan is intended to create or save two-and-a-half million jobs by January of 2011. The government will spend hundreds of billions of dollars on roads and bridges, modernizing schools, and developing alternative energy sources. The stimulus plan will be far larger than the one the Bush Administration used to briefly boost the U.S. economy earlier this year, and much bigger than the 175 billion dollar package proposed earlier by the president-elect. Charles Schumer, a member of the Senate Finance Committee which would have to approve the economic plan, said the plan could cost another five-hundred billion dollars or more. David Axelrod, a senior aide to the president-elect, said on Sunday the new administration is committed to getting an economic recovery package implemented as soon as possible after the inauguration on January 20.

News and Views November 25 – President-Elect Barack Obama is planning steps to trim the federal budget as he simultaneously plans a costly stimulus package to jolt the troubled U.S. economy. Although the President-elect will not take office until January 20, his team continues to work on the details of a two-year financial stimulus package to create 2.5 million jobs. The plan, which is expected to push the budget deficit higher, would be offset at least partially by spending cuts elsewhere. President-Elect Obama said, "We'll have to scour our federal budget, line-by-line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices as well," at a news conference on Monday and promised more detail at a noon Tuesday news conference. Meanwhile, the governor of Delaware has named a replacement for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Vice President-Elect Joe Biden. Governor Ruth Ann Minner named Edward Kaufman to fill the seat for the next two years. Mr. Kaufman is a former aide to the Vice President-elect. After that, Kaufman is expected to retire. This will allow Delaware voters to choose who will fill the seat for the remaining four-year Senate term. Mr. Kaufman served as the former Senator’s chief of staff for 19 years and now runs a political and management-consulting firm based in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Kaufman served on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees VOA, since 1995. He resigned that position Monday.


News and Views November 26
– Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker was named as the head of the newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board under President-Elect Barack Obama. The president-elect made the announcement during a news conference today in Chicago. Mr. Volcker served as chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1987, under United States Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan respectively. Mr. Volcker was a key economic adviser to the president-elect during the campaign. Yesterday, the president-elect named Peter Orszag to serve as his budget director, saying that he will conduct a thorough review of federal spending programs and eliminate excess spending. The president-elect stated, “We are going to go through our federal budget as I promised during the campaign, page by page, line by line eliminating those programs we don't need and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible, cost effective way.” Speaking to reporters in Chicago, President-Elect Obama said, “Budget reform is not an option. It’s a necessity.” Meanwhile, PNN reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has agreed to stay in his job when the new administration takes over in January. According to sources familiar with the discussions, Mr. Gates will remain in the post for at least one year. Mr. Gates, a Republican, has served in President George Bush's administration for two years. He also served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Mr. Bush's father, former President George H. W. Bush. Mr. Gate’s appointment fulfills a pledge by President-Elect Obama to include at least one republican in his Cabinet. According to observers, the expected appointment would provide continuity as the transition from one administration to another takes place and as the United States continues to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The political news website Politico reported that the Pentagon job would be part of a group of national security positions to be announced next week. Politico said retired Marine General James Jones is the president-elect’s pick for White House National Security Adviser. Senator Hillary Clinton continues to appear as the likely candidate for Secretary of State. Also, John Brennan, who had been considered a top pick for the next Director of the CIA, withdrew his name from consideration. He cited a groundswell of criticism about his association with the Bush administration in the sanctioning of harsh interrogations of terror suspects.


News and Views November 24 – President Bush met with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, stressing that although the U.S. and Russia have had their disagreements, the two countries have managed to sustain their good relationship. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talked about U.S-Russian relations, saying that the atmosphere of the recent meeting between the two presidents has been a very positive one. In other news, North Korea has announced its plan to close its border with South Korea for a week before multilateral talks commence on December 8. Meanwhile, British Secretary of State David Miliband stated that Iran's nuke program is certainly a threat to the global community stating, “"Iran is a global threat and countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be convinced to increase the pressure on Iran in order to convince it to halt the enrichment of uranium.”

News and Views November 25 – The U.S. Department of State criticized IAEA Chief Mohammad El Baradei for giving UN aid totaling $350,000 to Syria. The money was used to build a civilian nuclear reactor. This is a conflict of interest since the IAEA is currently investigating Syria’s nuclear activities. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack commented, "It is wholly inappropriate, we believe, given the fact that Syria is under investigation by the IAEA for building a nuclear reactor outside the bounds of its international commitments". Mr. El Baradei's has stated that the IAEA will continue technical assistance to Damascus until accusations against the Syrian government can be confirmed. In other news, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning a trip to Europe to meet with several leaders.

News and Views November 26 – Republican Senator John McCain promised on Tuesday to seek a fifth senate term and praised President-Elect Barack Obama's choices for his economic team. In his first news conference since conceding defeat to democrat President-Elect Obama on election night three weeks ago, Senator McCain reiterated his pledge to help the president-elect any way he can. Senator McCain, who has represented Arizona since he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, said he would seek senate re-election when his current six-year term expires in 2010. Senator McCain was elected to the Senate in 1986 and he has easily won re-election in 1992, 1998, and 2004.


Roundtable November 24 – In an attempt to grasp how the global financial crisis is contributing to a housing decline in Dubai, Roundtable spoke with Dubai-based real estate broker Pooneh Goldooz. Ms. Goldooz explained that three major government affiliated land developers in Dubai outsourced 60% of their projects to private firms. She acknowledged that the recent global financial crisis has had a significantly negative impact on Dubai's real estate market. She believes that the market will continue to deteriorate. She stated that one reason behind the current gloomy outlook reflects back to the panic by homeowners and the current world financial market causing a decrease in prices. According to Ms. Goldooz, it is unlikely that Dubai banks will lend funds for loans during the next six months. Two major banks have announced that, for the near future, they will not be providing home loans due to market volatility. In a survey conducted amongst the six major builders in Dubai, 8% of their clients are Iranians who have pre-purchased homes. From 2002 to 2006, a major portion of Dubai real estate sales hovered around residential areas. Since 2006, there has been a major push for commercial real estate because it attracted more financially stable buyers. One of the major implications of foreigners buying properties in Dubai is that they are not necessarily the outright owners of the property. Similar to the housing situation in London, many foreign investors only qualify as "lease holders" for 99 years. Thereafter, the property cedes back to the government.


News and Views November 24 – Coverage of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru echoed the G20 Summit held in Washington last Saturday as APEC leaders endorsed principles outlined by the G20. Leaders promised fast action to prevent a severe global downturn. APEC pushed for a revival of the World Trade Organization’s talks. APEC leaders also said that, despite how bad things may get, they will refrain from raising new barriers to trade and investment.

News and Views November 25 – The World Bank has forecasted that China’s economic growth would be slow next year, although a recession in the country is unlikely. American, Asian, and European stocks are up after an economic stimulus injection by the U.S. and British governments

News and Views November 26 – China cut its key interest rate today, the third round of cuts in the last six weeks. China shaved the rate on a one-year loan by 0.27 percentage points to 6.66 percent. The move was made to help exporters deal with the global slowdown. China currently remains unaffected by the credit crises that are crippling the West. Asian markets closed mixed today. Wall Street is poised for a break, thanks to a huge rally over the last two days. European stocks were lower at midday trading today.

News and Views November 27 – Stock indexes recouped earlier losses. Worldwide markets continued to bounce back despite the slowing Chinese economy. Asian markets closed higher. U.S. tech shares rose again in yesterday’s trading. European markets were higher in midday trading. Indonesia’s President called for Asian countries to play a larger role in policy-making regulation in global financial institutions. President-Elect Obama named more economic advisors today during a keynote address.


News and Views November 26 – Despite early reaction by Iranian leaders towards the Western financial crisis that is expanding eastwards, Iranian authorities are expressing concerns that the economy may face a large deficit by year’s end. Economists estimate that over the next year, fallout from the financial crisis will appear in OPEC countries including Iran. PNN spoke with Dr. Bizhan Bidabad, a prominent Iranian economist and adviser to former President Khatami. Dr. Bidabad acknowledged that the government has already begun to terminate civil construction projects. When asked about the effect of further sanctions on the country, he responded, “ The financial world crisis has lowered the level on import products, so the prices are falling and it is impossible for one to determine if more sanctions would cause more inflation in Iran." The fact that the strength of the U.S. dollar has increased by 26% in the past two months was discussed. Dr. Bidabad stated, “People are concerned about the downfall of prices and many think the best way to preserve the value of their assets would be to convert it into a strong currency such as the dollar." PNN asked the economic adviser to comment on the so-called Economic Transformation Plan. He mentioned the plan was proposed in order to terminate subsidies on energy resources and to normalize prices. So far, falling prices have made provisions in the plan unnecessary.


NewsTalk November 25 – Energy policy expert Dr. Sohrab Sobhani joined Homa Sarshar, a journalist from Los Angeles and London-based journalist Nasser Mohammadi. The topic was East-West relations. Dr. Sobhani believes that if Iran chooses a favorable policy to the West, it can improve its relations with the world community. He is curious whether the Iranian regime will reciprocate efforts initiated by President-Elect Barack Obama to open up relations with Iran. Turning to censorship and the media, the guests spoke about the differences between the U.S. and Iran. It was noted that, in America, a journalist like David Frost who wrote against President Nixon became rich and famous, but in Iran they execute bloggers like Yaghoub Mehrnad because he criticized the local authorities. Ms. Sarshar believes these issues boil down to basic beliefs in human rights and does not believe the Iranian regime is respectful of rights. Mr. Mohammadi stated that Iranian leaders have openly remarked that they do not believe in all the statutes found within the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

News and Views November 26 – PNN reported that President Bush recently announced that bringing American troops home from overseas would happen gradually. The president also announced that the U.S. government should guard Iraq’s new democracy. In other news, three roadside bombs have killed two civilians and six police officers in central Baghdad. Currently only 319 votes can be guaranteed in favor of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement. Since this is a simple majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani may not be in favor of the agreement since he has stated that he would approve the pact only if members of the parliament would vote positively for it.

NewsTalk November 27 – NewsTalk was joined by journalist Alireza Nourizadeh from London and analyst Mohsen Sazegara in studio to talk about current events in Iran. The two spoke about the relationship between Iran and other countries in the region. They also touched upon problems in the current Iranian administration.


48 Hours November 29 – An analysis of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic plan included insights from professor Shahsin Fatemi, Director of the European Center for Advanced International Studies in Paris. Dr. Fatemi started by saying that President Ahmadinejad has lost all credibility in the area of economics. "Ahmadinejad signaled seven specific fields - subsidies, taxes, distribution channels, production process, customs administration, banking, and national currency valuation – for reforms, but these are not what ail the Iranian economy. What is ruining the Iranian economy are soaring inflation, rising unemployment and the state-control over all areas of production," he said. President Ahmadinejad recently introduced a highly controversial value added tax (VAT) that was part of a larger economic reform plan. Under the VAT plan, Iranian businesses with higher annual income need to pay 3 percent of their sales receipts to the government. Dr. Fatemi stated, "This was very ill-advised for a country like Iran. A tax system that relies on precise value-added calculations at various stages of production and commerce would have required a long, tedious, and distinct process of education, understanding, trust, and mutual collaboration between tax collectors and tax payers before it could be put to work." On the subject of paying direct subsidies to those in need, Dr. Fatemi said that regular payments of welfare subsidies to a very large majority of the population promote a harmful culture of perpetual reliance on government handouts in a country where people have been traditionally accustomed to seek solutions to all their problems from the state. "This perilous dependence is furthermore not merely an unhealthy trait; it is a highly-charged political issue as it encourages future presidential candidates to outbid each other in promising larger and larger doles," he added.

NewsTalk November 29 – NewsTalk took a look at events in Iran and the world with international affairs analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba and Dr. Mehran Barati, a senior research fellow at the University of Berlin. Nader Sadighi, a chief correspondent at Radio Liberty, also joined in the discussion. With respect to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Dr. Diba noted, "India and Pakistan's relationship, due to their religious differences and geopolitical disagreements, have always been tense and this terrorist attack reignites those feelings.” Dr. Diba believed that, in this regard, it is in the interest of both parties to work together and not be antagonistic towards one another.On the same subject, Mr. Sadighi pointed out similarities between what took place in Mumbai and what occurred in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, since both attacks were coordinated efforts on various fronts to cause massive chaos. "These attacks were meant to have local effect and they were meant to have international implications." With respect to IAEA's meeting on Iran, Dr. Barati noted that IAEA Director-General Dr. Mohammad El Baradei has released another report in which Iran’s non-cooperative behavior was criticized. Dr. Barati is of the belief that IAEA has refused to name its sources with regards to gathering of information about Iran's ambitions and Iran has been furious about that. On one hand, the agency is concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions and the fact that Iran has not paid attention to the UN Security Councils' demands, but on the other hand, Iran is blaming the agency for innuendos and biased reports. Regarding the issue of the elimination of subsidies, Mr. Sadighi noted, "On one hand, Ahmadinejad is talking about an economic growth, and on the other hand, the Iranian nation’s GDP is only 2 to 3 percent. The rate of inflation is 20-30 percent, and that leaves a lot about the real truth to be desired for.” In comparison, Mr. Sadighi noted that during the 1990s, when Turkey was under the premiership of the late Bulent Ecevit, the country had an inflation rate of 76 percent, and Iran was at 23 percent.Yet today, Turkey’s inflation rate has gone down to 4 percent, whereas Iran’s has increased from 23 percent to 30 percent. Mr. Sadighi implied that the truth about the economy would remain hidden as long as the Iranian government continues to ignore issues of transparency.


News and Views November 27 – PNN has learned that the United States is waging an undeclared financial war on Iran as part of its efforts to persuade Tehran’s government to abandon plans to acquire nuclear weapons. Last week, U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Terrorism Stewart Levy noted that Iranian banks are still operating in Dubai despite UN sanctions against them. News and Views spoke with Iranian economist Dr. Bizhan Bidabad and businessman Mojaba Kazazi to gain further insight. "The huge investments of Iranians in Dubai make it harder for the Dubai government to tighten the sanctions on Iran," said Dr. Bidabad. However, PNN has learned that although the Iranian private sector must overcome significant hardships in order to do business in Dubai, they still import the goods through third party channels. According to Mr. Kazazi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has gone even further than the requirements of the UN sanctions by prohibiting all of their banks from opening any letter of credit or financial support for any transaction that would be transmitted through Iran. He also added, “The situation was never easy for us. Sometimes it is hard and the other day it got harder.” Iranians have gotten used to the regulations. When asked if the new imposed sanctions and all purchases made by third parties would affect prices in Iran, Mr. Kazazi said, “My impression is that, since general prices are falling, it would not make things worse in Iran. But these sanctions work best for middle men outside Iran who would benefit from these conditions."


News and Views November 24 – In separate statements, the Iraqi President and Ministry of Finance have warned Parliament that failure to approve a U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement would endanger the Iraqi economy and security. A recent survey shows that a majority of Iraqis support the agreement. According to this survey, 66% of the Kurdish population also supports the agreement as Iran increases its activities in northern Iraq. In other news, members of Iraq’s Oil Ministry entered Irbil to talk with KDP minister Noshirvan Barzani. After a female suicide bomber detonated an explosion just outside Baghdad’s heavy fortified Green Zone killing five people, the U.S. military enacted a zone wide-curfew that lasted for hours.

News and Views November 25 – Iraqi President Jalal Talebani, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maleki, and a number of lawmakers are making the final push to line up necessary support for the parliamentary vote on the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement. The agreement is expected to pass despite opposition from pro-Sadr lawmakers. Iraq’s ruling coalition, which holds 171 of 275 seats, is expected to support the U.S. pact tomorrow.

News and Views November 26 – In a surprise announcement, Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said lawmakers would delay a vote on the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement until Thursday. Some political fractions continue to wrangle over some conditions of the agreement, including those referring to the freedom of Iraqi prisoners. Mr. al-Mashhadani said he still believed the agreement would pass. PNN reported that the Al-Arqieh fraction would also support the agreement. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maleki addressed the parliament in a final push to line up support. Iraqi Shi’ite and Kurdish parties have been urging Sunni fractions to back the deal to give it greater legitimacy.

News and Views November 27 – The Iraqi Parliament approved the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement, allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country until 2011. A majority of Iraqi lawmakers approved the U.S. security pact by a show of hands, including the parliament’s main Shi’ite, Kurdish, and Sunni fractions. Lawmakers loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr opposed the deal and shouted slogans as the assembly voted.


Roundtable November 27 – Ehsan Zahedani, the President of the Iranian Students Union of North America (ISAUNA), joined Roundtable to educate viewers about the non-profit organization. ISAUNA isa diverse network of Iranian students, scholars and academics across North America. They introduce, implement and support groundbreaking ideas towards improving the social life of the Iranian community in the United States. ISAUNA is a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization. Organizations from various educational institutions all over North America declared their common goal towards creating a multi-ended bridge among Iranian scholars to spread knowledge and social awareness in the Iranian-American community. ISUNA achieves its goals through providing public education, supporting research on Iran and Iranian society, and promoting Iranian culture. ISAUNA has also tasked itself on self-awareness and creating a platform for a salutary dialogue among the members of the community. Moreover, the mission of the Iranian Students Union is to create an organized system to engage successful Iranians who live in the U.S. to become more involved with the issues affecting Iranians. Another major objective of the organization is to attract young successful Iranians such as Google's Senior Vice President of Development Mr. Omid Kordestani, or Mr. Majidimehr, Vice President of Business Development at Microsoft, to become sponsors of student organizations. Mr. Zahedani noted that students outside Iran have been very successful in their academic achievements. However, he noted that they have not been in-tune with the well being of their counterparts inside Iran. He also said that, conversely, students inside Iran have not been able to express their opinions for the fear of retribution and arrest. Because of months of conversations amongst student leaders in various colleges and universities, there was a decision to create an Iranian Student Union to become the voice of the voiceless in Iran.


NewsTalk November 24 – The latest updates on human rights were discussed with human rights activist Elahe Hicks from New York, Ahmad Batebi in studio, and Sohrab Mokhtari, a young writer based in Berlin. Mr. Mokhtari voiced his opinions on censorship saying, “Censorship is a religious issue in Iran. This is more dangerous than any kind of censorship.” He spoke briefly about the death of his father and other writers and researches that were killed in Iran saying that the Iranian government “arrested our families, not the murderers. Can we call this justice?” The discussion led to the treatment of minorities in Iran. Mr. Batebi stated that pressur