Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington D.C. – January 12… Exclusive interviews with Palestinian lawmaker Hannan Ashrawi and Israeli spokesman Mark Regev began PNN’s in-depth coverage of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Coverage also included insights from regional media sources and an interview with Al-Rai newspaper’s Washington correspondent. In technology news, PNN was live on location at the annual international Consumer Electronics Show to bring viewers the latest in global technology.
PALESTINIAN LAWMAKER DEMANDS END TO ISRAELI OCCUPATION
News and Views January 7 – As the conflict in Gaza waged on, PNN spoke with Hannan Ashrawi to learn more about the current reaction to the Israeli incursion in Gaza. Ms. Ashrawi is a well-known Palestinian lawmaker. Ms. Ashrawi also serves on the Advisory Boards of the World Bank Middle East and North Africa division (MENA), the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the International Human Rights Council. Ms. Ashrawi said that the Gaza crisis has to be seen in the larger context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and cannot be resolved in isolation from other elements of the Middle East peace process. In her opinion, the imposition of the siege on Gaza and the West Bank is a collective punishment that is being inflicted upon the Palestinian people. "They are punishing the people of Gaza through the use of excessive military violence," she added. She commented that the peace process has not yielded any tangible gains for the Palestinian people as far as their livelihoods are concerned. "The buildings of the security wall and the 650 checkpoints that people in the West Bank have to go through have made life unbearable for the Palestinians who are chafing under the occupation.” She expressed dissatisfaction with the level of support given to the Palestinians by the Arab world and stressed the importance of implementing UN Security Council resolutions. "If they are not implemented, then they become meaningless," she added. Speaking about the inner struggles of the Palestinian territory, she stated, "Unfortunately, this is a sad division between the Fatah group and Hamas, which would make working toward establishing a democratic Palestinian state more difficult if not impossible." Ms. Ashrawi wrapped up by explaining what is necessary to end the cycle of violence in the region. "There is an urgent need to work toward a negotiated settlement that allows both Israel and Palestine to co-exist peacefully.” She is adamant that peace in the region will only occur with the end of the Israeli occupation.
ISRAEL RATCHES UP PRESSURE ON HAMAS; DISMISSES CEASEFIRE
News and Views January 8 – Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli government granted PNN an interview. Mr. Regev dismissed suggestions that Israel's response to the Hamas rockets has been disproportionate. "Is it really logical to expect Israel to hold both hands behind our back and do nothing?" said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. "We will act to protect our people," he added. "The military pressure on Hamas will continue until Hamas' capability to threaten Israeli citizens with rocket fire is degraded," he said. “The aim of the Israeli military offense is not to re-occupy the Gaza strip but to safeguard the Israeli public living in the southern part of the country from the threat of Hamas rockets. Mr. Regev added that his government would only accept a cease-fire that stops Hamas from firing rockets into Israel and stops Palestinian militants from re-arming. The whole idea that Israel will unilaterally stop protecting our people when Hamas is sending rockets into our cities to kill our people is not a reasonable request of Israel," he continued. "We are not seeking to topple Hamas,” he added, saying that Israel is "not in the regime-change business."
U.S. ABSTAINS FROM SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON GAZA
News and Views January 9 – The U.S. abstained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the 13-day conflict in Gaza. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that the U.S. is waiting to see the outcome of Egypt’s mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas. She said that after much consideration the U.S. supports the text and goals of the resolution and believes it needs to be allowed to go forward. The resolution, passed by the 15-member body on Thursday with 14 votes in favor, "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." Neither Hamas nor Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed optimism over the resolution. Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger responded to queries on Iran at a Department of Defense press briefing on Thursday. He said Iran might regard the threat of a U.S. nuclear attack as "much more likely" in light of Hillary Clinton's warning during her presidential campaign that Washington will obliterate Tehran if it attacks Israel. William Perry, who served as President Clinton's secretary of defense, spoke at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Thursday. He noted that President-elect Obama would face a "serious crisis" over Iran's nuclear program during his first year in office. He also said, "Israel will not sit idle while Iran takes defiant steps toward becoming a nuclear power." Mr. Perry believes relations must be improved with Russia because of Russia’s influence on Iran.
Roundtable with You January 6 – According to the Department of State, Israeli observers are questioning their government’s decision to continue its “offensive” against Hamas while global commentators look on, expressing concern over President-elect Obama’s “persistent silence” on the issue. Israel’s Maariv urges the government to work “carefully and wisely on a good, thorough and quick cease-fire agreement” and to “shake off the false fantasy of eradicating Hamas and rooting it out from Gaza.” Yediot Aharanot worries the Israeli Security Cabinet may be exhibiting a “gambling” streak. The Jerusalem Post wonders “if supporting the continuation of this war will do Israel more harm than good.” The Jordan Times calls President-elect Obama’s lack of response “worrisome,” and opines, “This is no time for silence. This is a time to tell Israel that enough is enough.” The United Kingdom’s Guardian fears that President-elect Obama’s chances of making a fresh start in U.S. relations with the Middle East are “diminishing” as “the Gaza casualty headcount goes up and Obama keeps his head down.” Ilan Berman argued that the president-elect’s foreign policy would be similar to that of the current administration. Mr. Berman believes little has changed in the region, yet the U.S. still faces the same issues. Ilan Berman currently serves as Vice President for Policy of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC.
LOOKING AT THE GAZA CONFLICT THROUGH THE EYES OF ARAB NATIONS
Roundtable with You January 9 –The Washington correspondent for Al-Rai newspaper, Hussain Abdul-Hussain, spoke with PNN about the perspective of Arab nations on the conflict in Gaza. He commented first on the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1860. The resolution, which passed 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining, urges both sides to agree to a cease-fire. With respect to resolution 1860, Mr. Abdul-Hussain noted, "generally, resolutions don't achieve their intended purpose.” He cited resolution 1701 between Lebanon's Hezbollah and Israel in the summer of 2006 and stated that hostilities between both sides still continue saying, “The UN and member nations easily forget about their demands and they don't see to it that the purpose of the resolution gets implemented.” Regarding the role of Syria and Syrian President Bashar Assad's reaction to the incursion, Mr. Abdul-Hussain noted that Syria is speaking "from both sides of its mouth -- on one hand, it continues talks with Israel, and on the other hand, it supports Hamas. And, in the case of Hezbollah, supports them to launch rockets into northern Israel". Mr. Abdul-Hussain is of the belief that the most recent rocket attacks to a senior citizen center in northern Israel were a "clear and transparent message from Damascus that Israelis better remember Syria and its role; otherwise, they will have to fight a two-pronged war.” On the issue of underground tunnels, Mr. Abdul-Hussain noted that they are the main source of smuggling food, medicine, as well as weapons and rockets to Hamas. He explained that Hamas and Hezbollah leaders have confirmed in the past that they purchased weaponry from the black market. He spoke about how in some corners "it becomes obvious that some other nations are getting those weapons to the militants." Mr. Abdul-Hussain answered viewers’ questions. One audience member asked him what Hamas should do to end the violence. Mr. Abdul-Hussain answered that for the sake of peace and security for the 1.5 million occupants of Gaza, Hamas has to admit the right to exist for the State of Israel and shift the burden to Israel to cooperate. Concerning the issue of Iran's involvement, Mr. Abdul-Hussain mentioned that it is incumbent upon everyone to realize that there is a division between the leadership of Iran and its people. According to Mr. Abdul-Hussain, “The leadership has to make a choice between becoming a part of the world of nations or becoming involved militarily with the powers of world, especially Israel and its allies.” In response to another question from the audience as to whether Hamas will eventually cease its military actions and become a political party, Mr. Abdul-Hussain noted, "They will never change because their foundation is such that their sets of values permit them to enjoy death under the guise of 'martyrdom', so they will continue their radical rhetoric without regard for the human toll it is taking on innocent people."
ANTI-ISRAELI PROTESTS IN U.S. CALL FOR PEACE IN GAZA
News and Views January 5 – Anti-Israeli protests were held across the U.S. including protests in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans. In Chicago there was demonstration of support for Israel. Protests against Israel continue throughout the world. In his weekly radio address on Saturday President Bush stated that Hamas instigated Israel's reaction because of its rocket attacks on southern Israel following expiration of the cease-fire agreement. The State Department on Friday released another statement calling for a durable and sustainable cease-fire. Both the White House and State Department have expressed concern over civilian casualties. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said Israel's targets are Hamas militants and not civilian Palestinians. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erikat told CNN that the Palestinian authority is examining plans to execute a ceasefire should the Israeli attacks on Gaza stop. According to Reuters, Iran's foreign minister sent a letter to his Egyptian counterpart asking for authorization to set up a field hospital on its soil near the Gaza border to treat the wounded. Reuters has also reported that an Iranian military commander has asked Islamic countries to stop exporting oil to European supporters of Israel and the U.S. An OPEC source told Reuters that a positive response to this call is unlikely. In other news, the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad was inaugurated today. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, and Iraqi President Jalal Talebani were present at the ceremony. Mr. Negroponte said, “It is from the embassy that you see before you that we will continue the tradition of friendship, cooperation and support that began by the many dedicated Americans who have worked in Iraq since 2003."
News and Views January 8 – Michael Ledeen, a democracy consultant at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that most observers have come to recognize that "the most important terrorist organizations, from Islamic Jihad to Hezbollah and Hamas, are essentially Iranian proxies." This was mentioned in a note to media and the White House dated January 4 and titled “Is Iran in Trouble?” In the note, he explains that this is the second Iranian-Israeli war, the first being the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon. Mr. Ledeen believes Iran is showing signs of urgency to the point of panic – demonstrations in front of various embassies in Tehran, offering a reward to anyone who kills the Egyptian president, and intensifying assaults on and suppression of the Iranian people. According to Mr. Leeden, the Iranian government is raising money to continue funding their proxies in the Middle East and Europe due to low oil prices. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA analyst who is also with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, discussed Iran’s Hamas policy in the Washington Times yesterday. He also said, "Tehran has been aiding Hamas for years with the aim of radicalizing politics across the entire Arab Middle East.” According to Mr. Gerecht, Israel's response to the Hamas rocket provocations appears to be uniting Sunnis and Shia who will side with the Tehran regime on Israel. Mr. Gerecht says that while Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, believed in soft power, his children are firm believers in hard power, covert action, duplicity and persistence.
CONDOLEEZA RICE SPEAKS BEFORE UN SECURITY COUNCIL
News and Views January 7 – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke before the UN Security Council (UNSC) about the conflict in Gaza. Secretary Rice said the situation before the current events in Gaza was clearly not sustainable. She spoke about how the ongoing attacks against Israel and the decision that Hamas made not to respect the previous period of calm reveals that when this situation ends there must be new arrangements in place, not a return to the status quo ante. She said Israelis have been living under the daily threat of rocket attacks. She also stated that the people of Gaza watched as insecurity and lawlessness increased and as their living conditions deteriorated because of the action by Hamas, which began with the illegal coup against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. Secretary Rice said that a ceasefire needs to be concluded quickly so that a period of true calm that includes an end to rocket, mortar and other attacks on Israelis can exist. This ceasefire would also allow for the cessation of Israel’s military offensive and it must include an end to the smuggling into Gaza and a reopening of crossings so that Palestinians can benefit from humanitarian goods and basic supplies. She said a way must be found, with the consent and full cooperation of likeminded governments, to prevent any arms or explosives from entering Gaza. The goal must be the stabilization and normalization of life in Gaza. This will require a principled resolution of the political challenges in Gaza that reestablishes ultimately the Palestinian Authority’s legitimate control. Secretary Rice said she had discussed the humanitarian crisis on the ground in detail with Prime Minister Olmert and with Foreign Minister Livni. The prime minister informed her that as of tomorrow Israel will open a humanitarian corridor so that there can be some relief for the people of Gaza.
PRESIDENT BUSH BLAMES HAMAS FOR ONGOING CONFICT
News and Views January 6 – PNN reported that for the first time on camera since the new Israeli-Hamas war, President George Bush blamed Hamas for the ongoing conflict. At the end of a meeting with the Sudanese first vice president, President Bush said he understands Israel's desire to protect itself. He said the U.S. wants to see an end to the violence, but not at the expense of an agreement that does not prevent the crisis from happening again. Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack elaborated on its stance for a "durable and sustained" ceasefire yesterday. He said there are three elements to this that Secretary Rice is working on. She made 17 telephone calls over the weekend to various European and Arab leaders involved in trying to bring about a ceasefire. She leaves Washington tonight for New York to attend the international gatherings at the UN discussing the Israeli-Hamas conflict. Mr. McCormack also mentioned the 2005 "Movement and Access Agreement" between Israelis and Palestinians that Secretary Rice negotiated about the crossings. In general, the U.S. government wants all means of rearming Hamas blocked, i.e., the tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border through which Hamas smuggles arms into Gaza. When Mr. McCormack was asked about Iran's role in the ongoing conflict, he told reporters to pay attention to what Iranian government officials have not said. He mentioned "if you just look at the comments from the Iranian Government leadership, it is not – they have not been comments that have advocated bringing a peaceful resolution to the Palestinians and the Israelis living side by side in peace and security."
SENATE LEADERS STAND SOLIDLY BEHIND ISRAEL
News and Views January 5 –The leaders of the U.S. Senate are standing solidly behind Israel's ground operation against Hamas. They say Hamas is a terrorist organization that threatens Israel by firing rockets from Gaza into the Jewish state. The senators say Israelis are victims of attacks by Hamas and that Israel is doing everything possible to protect its people. Meanwhile, President-elect Barack Obama is heading to Capitol Hill to push for quick action on a broad economic stimulus package that congressional leaders are saying will not be ready until mid-February at the earliest – almost a month later than the president-elect wanted. President-elect Obama planned to meet Monday with House and Senate Democratic leaders and with a bipartisan group of key lawmakers. In addition, the cabinet that President-elect Barack Obama picked has an unexpected opening with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson withdrawing under pressure of a federal investigation into how his political donors landed a lucrative transportation contract. Mr. Richardson insisted he would be cleared in a grand jury probe. In the meantime, Illinois U.S. Senate appointee Roland Burris is leaving for Washington on Monday afternoon for a high-stakes showdown on Capitol Hill about whether he will succeed President-elect Barack Obama in Congress. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday that democrats would not seat Roland Burris.
HOUSE FOLLOWS SENATE IN SUPPORTING ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO DEFENSE
News and Views January 9 – On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in offering staunch support to Israel as the conflict rages on in Gaza. They called on Hamas to end rocket attacks. "Today we reaffirm that Israel, like any nation, has a right to self-defense when under attack," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "The rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza which were increasing in frequency and range constituted an unacceptable security threat to which Israel had a responsibility to respond." Ms. Pelosi backed the Bush administration’s position that the cease-fire should address the root causes of the conflict to forge a peace that is "durable and sustainable." The resolution calls on Hamas to end rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and verifiably dismantle its terrorist infrastructure. It says civilian lives must be protected to the "maximum extent possible" and the resolution expresses condolences to innocent Palestinian and Israeli victims and their families. The resolution, passed unanimously, also reiterated that "humanitarian needs in Gaza should be addressed promptly and responsibly." The resolution criticizes Iran for aiding Hamas and says Hamas has increased the range and payload of its rockets, reportedly with support from Iran and others, putting hundreds of thousands of Israelis in danger of rocket attacks from Gaza. On Thursday, the Senate passed a similar measure, saying Israel had an “inalienable right" to defend itself from attacks by Hamas.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY ELICITS FEW REGRETS IN EXIT INTERVIEW
News and Views January 5 – In a rare interview, Vice President Dick Cheney said the U.S. was not consulted by the Israeli government about its decision to retaliate against Hamas, but it came as no surprise. On the CBS network’s Face the Nation, Vice President Cheney reiterated that Israeli officials have said on multiple occasions that if Hamas rocket attacks continue, Israel would have no choice but to take action. The exit interview began with host Bob Schieffer asking the vice president, "Are we better off now than we were eight years ago?" The vice president conveyed his belief that the U.S. is better off in many regards. He explained that he would make many of the same decisions if given the chance again. In an exclusive interview with ABC network’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos Israeli President Shimon Peres rejected international call for a ceasefire. "We don’t intend to occupy Gaza or crush Hamas but crush terror," Mr. Peres said. "Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it."
IRAQI PRIME MINISTER MAKES TWO-DAY TRIP TO TEHRAN
News and Views January 5 – PNN reported on the Iraqi Prime Minister’s visit to Iran. This signifies a new chapter in Iran-Iraq relations following the signing of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement. Over the two-day visit, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will attempt to allay Tehran's concerns about U.S. influence in Iraq. This is Mr. Al-Maliki’s fourth visit since his election. The week before, the U.S. handed over control of Baghdad’s Green Zone to Iraq as the first step in a process to withdraw all American troops by the end of 2011.
VIEWS ON IRAN
News and Views January 10 – Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba gave a few brief words about his opinion on how U.S. foreign policy towards Iran will shift under the new administration. Dr. Diba, an international analyst, said that the exact parameters of the new administration’s policies are not yet clear. He did say, however, that it is unlikely that the Islamic Republic will show much interest in improving relations with the United States. Dr. Diba was asked about the recent level of silence among leaders regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He responded by saying, “First of all, the global financial economic crises and energy issues have gained priority. Also, the UN and P5+1 members are waiting for the new U.S. administration.” It is unlikely that there will be new dialogue on U.S. policy towards Iran until the new administration is in place.
News and Views January 9 – The president-elect still favors a course of diplomatic talks with the Iranian regime, although he increasingly sees Iran as a “genuine threat.” When asked about his stance on Iran at a news conference, the president-elect said he would not go into detail about his policy toward Tehran because he is not the current president. "I have said in the past during the course of the campaign that Iran is a genuine threat to U.S. national security," he said. "But I have also said that we should be willing to initiate diplomacy as a mechanism to achieve our national security goals, and my national security team, I think, is reflective of that practical, pragmatic approach to foreign policy." President-elect Obama, who takes over as president from George W. Bush on January 20, said he would have more to say about Iran after the inauguration.
THE 111th CONGRESS CONVENES DESPITE UNFILLED SEATS
News and Views January 6 – The 111th Congress, controlled by Democrats in both houses, convenes today with the ailing economy expected to dominate the early days of the session. Lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives are being sworn in while two seats in the Senate remain in question. Senate officials turned away democrat Roland Burris, who was appointed by embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to succeed President-elect Barack Obama as that state's junior U.S. senator. Senate leaders say the Burris appointment is invalid because state officials did not approve it. Senators also have said they will not seat anyone named by Mr. Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to profit from the appointment process. In Minnesota, aides to Republican Senator Norm Coleman vowed to challenge the state certification on Monday that democrat and former television comedian Al Franken is the winner of that November Senate race. The Coleman staff said some ballots were mishandled and others were left out of the recount.
OBAMA CHOOSES NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR AND CIA DIRECTOR
News and Views January 9 – PNN reported that President-elect Obama has chosen retired Admiral Dennis Blair as the National Intelligence Director and Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency. He called them "public servants with unquestioned integrity, broad experience, and strong managers with the core pragmatism that we need in dangerous times." The president-elect said he has given the men the clear charge to restore the United States' record on human rights. "I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest ideals," he said. Mr. Blair, a former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, pledged to uphold the standards that the president-elect articulated and stressed "the intelligence services will support you with facts, interpretations, and assessments in a straightforward manner and we will tell you how well we know what we know and what we don't know." Mr. Blair won high marks for countering terrorism in Southeast Asia after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He worked closely with foreign partners in crafting offensives that crippled the Jemaah Islamiyah terror faction in Indonesia and the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines. Mr. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff and budget director with no direct intelligence experience, will have the president's "complete trust and substantial clout," President-elect Obama said. Mr. Panetta added that he "will work tirelessly to defend this nation and to provide you, Mr. President-elect, with the most accurate and objective intelligence that you need to lead this nation in a time of great peril but also a time of great opportunity." The president-elect praised the intelligence professionals working at 16 U.S. agencies, even as he criticized the Bush administration for directing them in carrying out harsh interrogation and secret rendition policies. Current CIA Director Michael Hayden said in a message to employees Friday that he had been asked to remain at the agency until the Senate confirms Mr. Panetta. Reporters asked President-elect Obama whether he would continue a policy of harsh interrogation. He said he had told CIA Director-designate Panetta and Mr. Blair that he expected the Geneva Conventions to be honored.
GREEN TECHNOLOGY DOMINATES AT CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW (CES)
Late Edition January 9 – PNN traveled to Las Vegas to cover the largest technology tradeshow in the world this weekend. The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) draws upwards of 100,000 electronics industry experts to show off the latest in computer and electronics gadgets. This year’s largest exhibitors included Intel and Microsoft. The objective of all companies at CES is to exhibit their achievements in the following four areas: minimizing product size, extending battery life spans, increasing data processing speed, and improving network connectivity. Intel introduced Atom, a high-speed processing unit with a size of 25 square millimeters. The Intel Core i7, which is considered the fastest processing unit in the world, was also exhibited. During the opening speeches of the convention, Microsoft’s new Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer commented on the economic crisis and its effects on our digital lives. He talked about the significance that technological advancements have on the quality our daily lives.
Late Edition January 10 – In PNN’s continued coverage of the CES trade show, Late Edition focused on how technology is improving the world’s search for smarter sources of energy. The use of alternative sources of energy as power generators for electronic devices was a significant trend at this year’s show. Harnessing solar and wind energy to charge batteries was a dominant theme of many exhibitions. Berkley-based Better Energy Systems displayed portable solar and recyclable electronic chargers. Power Film presented an incredibly thin and flexible solar panel for use in the solar industry. Keynesis introduced an electronic charger that functions with a dual wind turbine and solar panel energy system. PNN looked at other electronic technologies that promote the conservation of energy and introduce efficient ways of utilizing energy.
Late Edition January 11 – During the third day of the CES convention, PNN covered the northern fair of the colossal convention space at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This section featured robots that assist people with their daily tasks. Modern electronic technologies have helped engineers design and build robots that can bring more comfort to our lives. Anybot’s QA is described as a “humanoid robot” that can be controlled by internet from a far distance, helping with some common business tasks. Another robot functions as an instructor for children. Lawn mowing robots, floor sweeping robots, and pet robots were among the many other intelligent but peaceful creatures that attracted many visitors in CES. The show wrapped up with a lead into Monday’s segment which looked at the most innovative technologies showcased during the CES convention. Among the technology products that won awards, PNN showed viewers the newest in mini computers and digital cameras.
HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT SLAMS IRAN’S CRACK DOWN ON THE KURDISH
News and Views January 9 – Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division Joe Stork appeared on PNN to discuss the findings of a report that Human Rights Watch published on Friday about Iran's treatment of its Kurdish minority. Mr. Stork said that the Iranian government has moved to repress peaceful activities by critics and dissidents throughout the country, including those in the Kurdish regions of Iran. Routinely invoking "security" concerns, the government accused activists, journalists, and writers of "stirring trouble and ethnic and racial conflict," often accusing them of "working with opposition groups." In persecuting journalists, writers, and activists in the Kurdish region on security grounds, the government of Iran often accuses them of having connections with opposition Kurdish parties. In bringing forth such charges, the government has at its disposal a set of articles within Iran's Islamic Penal Code entitled "Offenses against the National and International Security of the Country." These "security laws" give the government wide scope for suppressing a range of peaceful activities and for denying security detainees basic due process rights. Similarly, Iran's Press Law contains broadly worded articles that allow the authorities to ban or deny permits to publications they perceive as critical, bring charges against writers and journalists, and pr