Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week

Washington D.C. – December 15 … Top stories this week include coverage of negotiations with North Korea over the verification of their nuclear program; an exclusive interview with former Dutch parliamentarian and human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali; insights from a new Zogby poll on Iranian-Americans; and an interview with Iranian pop icon Dariush.


News and Views December 8 – Iran dismissed a ‘carrot and stick’ proposal by President-elect Barack Obama, which the U.S. hoped would influence the Iranian government to change its behavior. The ‘carrot and stick’ measure refers to a diplomatic tactic in negotiations in which a mixture of economic incentives coupled with the threat of sanctions is used to influence policy. PNN covered the latest in the long process of diplomatic negotiations. The president-elect spoke about his proposal in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, saying that the international community could develop a set of incentives that might persuade Iran to alter its nuclear program. However, Iran has seen such an approach before and has rejected all offers of economic incentives by the international community for scaling back its nuclear activities. Hasan Qashqavi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, reiterated Iran’s stance on this approach and told reporters during a weekly press briefing, “The carrot-and-stick policy has no benefit.” Mr. Qashqavi reminded the international community of the right of every state to pursue a nuclear policy. Speaking of the latest U.S. tactics, he stated, “It is unacceptable.” He urged the president-elect to adopt an “interactive policy” instead. The president-elect advocates direct diplomacy as a means of inducing Iran to alter the end goal of its nuclear policy and cease support for militant groups like Hamas or Hezbollah. President-elect Obama also believes Iran should be included in the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan. The president-elect stated, "We can't continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation. We have to see it as a part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan India, Kashmir, and Iran.”


News and Views December 12 – Thousands of people joined hands to form a human chain winding through the streets of Mumbai to commemorate the victims of last month's deadly terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is in the Indian capital of New Delhi to advise Indian political leaders on improving the country's intelligence agencies. Mr. Negroponte was in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Thursday where he met with senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Mr. Negroponte on Thursday that Pakistan would fulfill its "international obligations" by dismantling the well-known Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa which is linked to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. India has implicated Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks. Indian police closed the charity's offices, froze its assets and placed its leader Hafiz Mohammed Saeed under house arrest. During a speech to Parliament on Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Pakistan was not doing enough to dismantle the infrastructure and the "epicenter of terrorism" within its country. In other news, the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan believe the international community should not give up on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is quoted in the journal of Foreign Affairs as saying, “Pyongyang has a number of nuclear bombs. That is why the verification process is necessary.” Meanwhile, North Korea's state media released photographs on Friday of the country's leader recently touring chicken farms and collectives in the countryside – the latest of several such reports apparently aimed at making the autocratic leader appear active and healthy.


News and Views December 8 – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it pains her that the United States went to war in Iraq based on inaccurate intelligence, but believes the operation will turn out to be a strategic achievement. On Sunday in a television interview with Fox News, Secretary Rice said she would "give anything" to go back and know whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S. invaded the country in 2003. She said she still believes the overthrow of Saddam Hussein will be noted as "a strategic achievement, not just for the Bush administration, but for America." She called the late Iraqi leader a "murderous dictator" who caused millions of deaths in regional wars and sought weapons of mass destruction. She spoke of her recent trip to Pakistan and stated that the country's officials assured her that they would cooperate with India. Pakistan announced today that security forces raided a militant camp and arrested the suspected planner of last month’s attack in Mumbai. On CNN's Late Edition, Secretary Rice declined to comment on a Jerusalem Post article that Israeli defense forces are preparing a wide range of options for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities without the coordination of the United States. She said Iran could have a peaceful nuclear program tomorrow if it wanted to, but they have not accepted the conditions "leaving the assumption that perhaps they're not looking for civil nuclear power, but rather for a nuclear weapons program." In other news, The Boston Globe reported yesterday that the oil services firm Schlumberger, headquartered in Houston, Texas, provided Iran with a drilling tool that is powered by a radioactive chemical. The paper has quoted scientists as saying this chemical radioactive substance could be used to fuel a 'dirty bomb'. Legal loopholes in U.S. laws and regulations are allowing international companies registered overseas with a base in the U.S. to circumvent U.S. laws that prohibit companies from doing business in Iran.


News and Views December 10 – PNN’s continued coverage of Iran’s nuclear program relayed a report by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to CBS News Radio. Secretary Rice said that Iran has not made the strategic choice to change its policies and abandon nuclear enrichment. She expressed hope that Iran will choose a different president during the upcoming presidential elections. According to Rice, the diplomatic course can still be successful. In related news, Israeli President Shimon Peres stated that the economic crisis and falling oil prices would slow down Iran's nuclear program. Speaking during a religious ceremony, he added that Iranian leaders could not feed their children ‘uranium for breakfast'. The Israeli president expects the U.S. president-elect to focus on international cooperation and unity among western powers with respect to Iran. Meanwhile, the European Commission in Washington today released a statement in response to the multitude of letters it has received from 'people in the U.S.' The letters urge the EU to join forces with the U.S. in enforcing sanctions against Iran for pursuing its nuclear program and its violation of human rights. The Washington Times today quoted Thomas Fingar, the former deputy director of national intelligence, as saying that he still stands by the NIE report of 2007 that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. A new grassroots initiative was launched in Canada, the U.S., U.K. and Israel on Tuesday to diplomatically isolate Iran and its president. A group of lawyers, politicians, and academics will be lobbying countries to press criminal charges against the Iranian president for his remarks about annihilating Israel. The launch of the initiative coincided with the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The sponsors believe that President Ahmadinejad’s remarks about Israel fall under the convention’s articles that prohibit incitement to genocide. The sponsors want the UN Security Council to hold President Ahmadinejad responsible for his remarks.


News and Views December 9 – In continued coverage of the nuclear talks, PNN reported that delegates from six nations resumed talks in Beijing for a second day on the difficult issue of disabling North Korea's nuclear programs. Today, Chief U.S. Negotiator Christopher Hill said the goals of the talks are to agree on a schedule for delivery of energy aid to North Korea, set a timetable for the final disablement of the North's nuclear facilities, and to establish dialogue on the contentious issue of how to verify denuclearization measures. Late Monday, Mr. Hill said China would present a draft document that will focus on how international inspectors can carry out their verification work. The United States, South Korea and Japan want North Korea to let inspectors take samples from nuclear sites to verify disarmament. Pyongyang denies it agreed earlier to allow sampling. Another potential difficulty is Pyongyang's threat to ignore Japan at the talks because of Tokyo's refusal to send energy aid to North Korea as part of a six-party deal. Japan said it would not provide its share of the aid until Pyongyang fully accounts for Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Asian analysts say North Korea is stalling and waiting for the new U.S. administration. In other news, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaol Mofaz discussed Iran's nuclear program and peace efforts with the Palestinians, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other State Department officials on Monday. Meanwhile, the Russian media reported that Russian officials believe Iran does not currently have the capability to build a nuclear weapon. The reports quoted Vladimir Voronkov, the director of the foreign ministry's Department of European Cooperation, as saying Iran cannot create or deliver a nuclear weapon.

News and Views December 8 – In an update from last week, PNN relayed the latest on the weapons of mass destruction report by the congressional Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism. Their World at Risk report warns, “If Iran should acquire a nuclear weapon in violation of its pledges without suffering severe penalties, other countries might view it as a model to follow - leading to a cascade of proliferation." The bipartisan report highlighted the current level of angst felt by members of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The report stated, "If Iran should test a nuclear device or declare it possesses a nuclear weapon, or if additional evidence should come to light that conclusively revealed that Iran was making a nuclear weapon, it would be the third time since 1991 that an NPT member evaded international nuclear inspectors, using the cover of peaceful nuclear activities to either obtain, or come close to obtaining, a nuclear weapon."

News and Views December 10 – PNN reported that U.S.-North Korea talks failed to make substantial moves towards a common ground in the latest round of talks. U.S. Chief Envoy Christopher Hill said negotiators were not able to narrow their differences over how the North could verify its claims that it has ended its nuclear program. He stated, "I think I told you this was going to be a difficult round and I hate to be proved correct but indeed, it's a tough, long day today. We tried to discuss the Chinese draft and we had some real difficulties getting consensus on moving forward there." Mr. Hill spoke to reporters today during the third day of discussions in Beijing. In a related development, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency says Washington has recognized the North as a nuclear weapons state. KCNA is apparently seizing on a report issued last month by the U.S. Joint Forces Command that places Pyongyang alongside such regional nuclear powers as China, India, Pakistan and Russia. However, the Joint Forces Command, which is responsible for coordinating the U.S. military's combat efforts, says official U.S. policy does not recognize North Korea as a nuclear power.

News and Views December 11 – The chief U.S. envoy to the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks says the regime has refused to endorse a proposal to create an independent verification of its nuclear disarmament efforts. Christopher Hill, who also serves as the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, told reporters that North Korea is "not ready" to agree to verification "with all the required standards." The United States insists inspectors must be allowed to take samples of material from nuclear sites to prove North Korea's claims. North Korea says any sampling program is a violation of its sovereignty. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack says there was full understanding about the verification process. He said the U.S. might have to revisit its decision to remove that country's name from the list of countries supporting terrorism. In closing he stated, “We’ll see if North Korea will now take that final step, and, if they don’t, then potentially we’ll go down another pathway.” The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz has quoted a well-placed American source saying earlier this week that "the Obama administration will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran". The paper cites Hillary Clinton’s comments during her campaign for the Democratic nomination that "Iran must know that an attack on Israel will draw a massive response." The same paper quotes a senior Bush administration source, who ridiculed the idea saying, “What would be the use of bombing Iran when Israeli cities have been destroyed?”


News and Views December 10 – The governor of the central U.S. state of Illinois was arrested at his Chicago home Tuesday. Prosecutors said he was caught on wiretaps scheming to sell the senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Governor Rod Blagojevich, a democrat, was later released on a $4,500 bond. FBI agents roused him from his sleep and arrested him on corruption charges. His chief of staff, John Harris, was arrested separately. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said investigators intercepted telephone calls and recorded conversations that directly implicated the governor. Governor Blagojevich, 52, denied any wrongdoing. He and Mr. Harris face charges of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and a count of solicitation of bribery. Mr. Fitzgerald stated that the governor tried to use the power of his office for personal gain, attempting to secure a high-paying job, money or campaign contributions for himself or his wife in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate. The president-elect resigned his senate seat following his victory in the U.S. presidential election. In Illinois, the governor has the power to name a successor. Mr. Fitzgerald said his office made no allegations about whether the president-elect was aware of Blagojevich's actions. Officials said they felt compelled to act now because it appeared the governor was about to act on some of the schemes including the senate appointment. Mr. Blagojevich is also charged with soliciting bribes and threatening to withhold state aid to the Tribune Company unless editorial staff members critical of the governor were fired. Mr. Fitzgerald stated that Mr. Blagojevich also threatened to withdraw funding from a children's hospital unless its executive paid him $50,000. Mr. Fitzgerald said that while Mr. Blagojevich is still the state's governor, it would be much more difficult for him to move ahead with any of his alleged schemes now that they are known to the public. Prosecutors said they started investigating the governor for alleged corruption three years ago.


News and Views December 10 – A Zogby poll commissioned by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian-Americans (PAAIA) revealed that four out of every five Iranian-Americans are registered to vote. In addition, approximately one third of those surveyed have had some form of direct experience in the electoral process beyond voting by having communicated with public officials or donated money to a political candidate or campaign. About one-half of Iranian-Americans surveyed identified themselves as registered democrats. More than half of Iranian-Americans cite domestic U.S. issues, including issues that are not unique to Iranian-Americans, as issues most important to them. PNN interviewed Rudi Bakhtiar and Babak Hoghooghi from PAAIA about the Zogby poll. Ms. Bakhtiar is the public relations director for PAAIA and Mr. Hoghooghi serves as the organization’s executive director. Ms. Bakhtiar elaborated on PAAIA’s mission to unite the Iranian-American community to serve as a powerful voice in the public arena and to provide an accurate and positive image of Iranian-Americans which truly reflects their values and achievements. Mr. Hoghooghi said the purpose of the survey was to gather accurate and timely information about the demographics and views of the Iranian-American community. On matters affecting Iranian-Americans in the U.S., he reported that eighty-five percent of those surveyed want greater understanding between the Iranian-American community and other Americans. Seventy-five percent want to ensure that the image of Iranian-Americans in the U.S. accurately reflects their values and accomplishments. The report also indicated that nearly half of those surveyed had experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity or country of origin or otherwise knew someone who had. The most common types of discrimination reported are airport security, social discrimination, employment or business discrimination, racial profiling and discrimination at the hands of immigration officials. An overwhelming eighty-four percent of all Iranian-Americans support the establishment of a U.S. interest section in Iran that would provide consular services and issue U.S. visas. The establishment of such an interest section would serve American citizens and Iranian-Americans traveling to and from Iran. However, such a move would not amount to the establishment by the United States Government of formal diplomatic relations with Iran.


Roundtable December 11 – Former Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi-Ali joined PNN to talk about the status of women in Islamic societies. Ms. Hirsi-Ali is a Dutch feminist whose autobiography Infidel created a worldwide sensation when it was first published. In 2005, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She is a prominent critic of Islam. Ms. Hirsi-Ali wrote the script and provided the voice-over for Submission, a film produced by Theo van Gogh, which criticized the treatment of women in Islamic societies. Both Ms. Hirsi-Ali and Mr. Van Gogh were targeted with death threats in the Netherlands. While walking down an Amsterdam street in 2004, Mr. van Gogh was stabbed to death and nearly beheaded. Since then, Ms. Hirsi-Ali has lived with constant security protection. In responding to the question of living in fear, Ms. Hirsi-Ali mentioned that, "I live under threats, but to defeat fanaticism I swallow my fear. Because if I don't, radicals will continue their way and we cannot create a better society as we envision it in words." Ms. Hirsi-Ali noted that she "was born into a clan, a tribe, with ultra religious beliefs, where it ruled all aspects of life". As a five year old she was subjected to genital mutilation. In 1992, at the age of 22, she was on her way to Canada for an arranged marriage. However, she boarded a train from Germany and went to the Netherlands to follow a more "secular and rational lifestyle, free of religious shackles, realizing that I would have to bear all consequences for this serious deviation from the expectations that were on me.” According to Ms. Hirsi-Ali's view, Islam was founded in an Arab desert culture, where women were treated as objects, "concubines to bear children and to be subservient to their husbands and/or fathers, brothers, grandfathers.” Concerning women in Iran she noted, "What women in Iran are enduring, living under Sharia law, is far worse than what I have ever experienced, and I feel for them." She further mentioned that in her view, "we need to take the Koran away from abstract, and show its realities, and allow people to have a frank discussion without attacking one another and without fear." In response to an e-mail about a 30-year-old woman who lives in Dubai but cannot marry unless she has her brother's permission, she said, "We ought to speak out about the hardships women are enduring in Islamic societies in order to improve the position of women and to remove the 'point of guardianship' from their lives so that they are not downgraded by traditions and can exercise their freedom." As a final message to women in Iran and all Islamic societies, Ms. Hirsi-Ali stated, "Mothers, I urge you to bring up your sons to treat your daughters with respect, equal with themselves, and to know that as women we have the responsibility to train tomorrow's generation of men to be respectful of women and treat them as equal."


News and Views December 8 – PNN shared with viewers President-elect Obama’s latest stance on the U.S. auto industry. On Sunday, President-elect Barack Obama said that the struggling U.S. auto industry could not be allowed to collapse, but that any bailout would require a complete restructuring of the industry. U.S. lawmakers are expected to cast a vote this week on a multi-billion-dollar rescue package for the U.S. auto industry - a package being crafted in talks between the White House and congressional negotiators. In addition, the establishment of a government “auto czar” is advocated in order to ensure any bailouts of U.S. automakers follow the proposed terms of government requirements.

News and Views December 9 – U.S. lawmakers and White House representatives say they have made progress in talks on proposals to rescue the country's troubled auto industry. Today U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes an agreement will be ready for a vote soon, perhaps as early as today or Wednesday. If passed, the rescue package would provide $15 billion to General Motors and Chrysler to keep them in business for the next few months. Auto executives have come under intense criticism from lawmakers, the White House and taxpayers who said the executives mismanaged their companies and ignored the need for more energy-efficient cars. White House officials and President-elect Obama believe the United States cannot afford to lose the auto industry, a key part of the country's manufacturing sector. The proposed bailout would require the auto companies to eliminate some benefits including corporate jets and dividends. It also would give the government stock in the companies equal to 20 percent of any loans. The loans would come from an existing Department of Energy program to improve vehicle fuel-efficiency. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the restructuring would require tough concessions from management, labor, creditors and others. The draft bill sets March 31 as a deadline for the companies to submit detailed, long-term restructuring plans. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, who is leading negotiations on the measure, said he was optimistic that the differences between the White House and democrats could be resolved. Meanwhile, energy and climate change will be the main topics of conversation when U.S. President-elect Barack Obama meets today with former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore in Chicago. The former vice president won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on environmental issues, and political observers say today's discussion could be critical as Mr. Obama prepares to announce more appointments to his cabinet. The president-elect is expected to nominate the heads of the Energy and Interior Departments in the coming days, as well as a new administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. All three share responsibility for environmental and energy issues. Advisors to Mr. Obama said the former vice president is not under consideration for any of the posts, but during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama said he would rely on Mr. Gore for his expertise.

News and Views December 8 – Amid a political season of historic firsts, PNN reported the election of the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress. In Louisiana, Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao defeated eleven-term incumbent William Jefferson, who is facing corruption charges. Although a relatively obscure candidate before the historic win, Mr. Cao is being heralded as a new hope for the Republican Party. Mr. Cao spoke humbly of his victory by saying, “This win is not for one person but it's for the whole community. It is for every Vietnamese American in the country. I hope that this is the first step in which more of our young people will become involved politically in the future."

News and Views December 9 – PNN spoke with Assad Matin about corruption in Afghanistan. Mr. Matin is a former Afghani diplomat to the United Nations. He said that corruption is evident at all government levels. He believes that the cooperative agreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan were forged under U.S. pressure and are only active at the highest levels, but rarely implemented locally. He advocates structural change within both governments.

News and Views December 12 –Reuters reported that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the people in charge of Abu Ghraib to use special aggressive interrogation techniques. On Thursday, a report was released by the Senate Armed Services Committee on the nature of those interrogations at the prison. The Democratic chair of the committee is Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. Senator John McCain also serves on the committee. The report’s executive summary stated that Mr. Rumsfeld contributed to the abuse by authorizing aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay on December 2, 2002.

News and Views December 13 – VOA’s correspondent in London spoke with Ambassador Gregory Schulte, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Office in Vienna, about Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. ambassador insisted that the U.S. policy towards Iran’s nuclear program would continue even when the current administration is replaced by the incoming Obama administration.


News and Views December 9 – Iran's policy towards the new administration was discussed during an interview with Professor Ervand Abrahamian. Dr. Abrahamian is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baruch College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He has published several books on Iranian history and politics and has taught at Princeton, Oxford and Columbia Universities. He believes that Iranians face a dilemma until they can be certain of the new administration’s official position. He acknowledged divisions in the government as to how to respond to the U.S. He also said, “Internal politics in Iran have their own dynamics and should not be mixed up with foreign policy.” He believes that if there is less pressure from abroad and less fear of national security, then the Iranian government may see the opportunities of opening up for dialogue. He said, “This would not affect the standing of the regime, since it has said that its program is not for nuclear weaponry – so the public is not associating a nuclear bomb with national pride.” Speaking of the power change in Washington, he stated, “It’s becoming clearer that the new administration is much more willing to negotiate. That subtle shift in focus gives room for maneuver and negotiation.”

News and Views December 12 – PNN interviewed economist Dr. Fariborz Raiesdana on the privatization of state companies according to Article 44 of the Iranian Constitution. Mr. Raeisdana said the issue of privatization of state run industries has remained a monopoly of those who were most closely connected to the Islamic regime in Iran. In other words, a sort of “industrial nepotism” dominated the process of privatization. Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani criticized state bodies for failing to understand the obstacles preventing the implementation of Article 44 of the Constitution, which calls for the privatization of state companies. He insisted that, according to the fourth plan, the development of great economic projects belongs in the private sector. Mr. Rafsanjani also acknowledged the basiji, or volunteer, spirit and called on basijis to pursue the matter in an academic manner.

News and Views December 13 – International analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba joined PNN to discuss international relations between France and Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry summoned the French Ambassador in Tehran because of the French president’s remarks regarding the Iranian president. The French president expressed regret that Iran has the “misfortune” of being represented by a leader such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Dr. Diba suggested that the comments by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, which coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, might be viewed as a strong request from Iranians to change the political situation. Dr. Diba also discussed news of a possible nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He said that the failure of western countries to stop Iran’s nuclear program has concerned Arab countries. He believes that if other countries join the UAE to develop a nuclear program, it could decrease the security of the region

48 Hours December 14 – London-based journalist Alireza Nourizadeh talked about the increasing likelihood of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s candidacy in the spring presidential election in Iran. In a response to a viewer query as to why the West supported the return of Mr. Khatami, he suggested that western officials thought Mr. Khatami was a more reasonable political figure to deal with than President Ahmadinejad. Mr. Nourizadeh dismissed President Ahmadinejad’s claim that the United States was directly involved in planning the Mumbai attacks as ridiculous and pure fantasy. "This fascination with conspiracies could come from the sick mind of Ahmadinejad who would like to deceive the Iranian public by casting the United States and Israel in a negative light," he added. Mr. Nourizadeh believes that President Bush has been after changing Iran's behavior, not the regime itself. As far as Obama's approach to Iran, he sided with an op-ed that was published in the Los Angeles Times that said "the Obama administration has no need to swing into action. A rush to negotiate would only embolden the mullahs, extract unnecessary concessions from the U.S. and subject Iranians to clerical rule for the foreseeable future. If the new U.S. administration wants to negotiate from a position of strength or affect change in Iran, it should act in a slow and deliberate manner, mak