Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week

Washington D.C. – January 18… Top stories this week include new insights into future U.S.-Iran relations; a new report on Iran’s access to weapons technology; and the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as the future secretary of state as PNN covers the events leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on January 20.


News and Views January 12 – The New York Times reported that the U.S. rejected to finance or provide logistical support for an Israeli operation to attack Iran's enrichment facilities in Natanz. A 15-month-long interview with U.S. officials, international nuclear inspectors, outside experts and European and Israeli officials revealed that Israel approached the U.S. to buy bunker-busters and to use Iraq's air space for refueling and flying to Natanz. According to the above officials, who did not speak on the record, the White House rejected the request outright. The American officials said that President Bush instead launched a covert operation aimed at sabotaging Iran's nuclear program by asking Iran's suppliers to sell them faulty equipment. The newspaper article indicated that President-elect Obama has been fully briefed on American actions in Iran. Several American and Israeli officials interviewed said Israel had hoped President Bush would deal with Iran's nuclear program before leaving office. On Sunday, the online edition of the Washington Post reported on documents from the Department of Justice and the Institute for Science and International Security. These documents outline the details of Iran's illicit trade of sensitive electronics and other banned technologies used in making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The reports detail how Iran has been skirting international law and avoiding sanctions against the country by setting up front companies in Dubai and Malaysia.


News and Views January 15 – A report issued by the Institute for Science and International Security states that Iran has access to some of the best U.S. weapons technology. Senior analyst to the Institute, Paul Brannan, spoke with PNN about the report. He stated that, despite multiple attempts by the Bush administration to halt illegal imports, including sanctions against several Dubai-based Iranian front companies in 2006, the technology pipeline to Tehran is flowing at an even faster pace. "Some of this technology is utilized to build roadside bombs that have claimed the lives of so many U.S. troops in Iraq," he noted. "In some cases, Iran simply opened new front firms and shifted its operations from Dubai to farther east in Asia," he added. According to the report, in the past two years Iran has acquired numerous banned items, including circuit boards, software and Global Positioning System devices that are used to make sophisticated versions of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that continue to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Many of the schemes unknowingly involve U.S. companies that typically have no clue where their products are actually going, according to Mr. Brannan. According to this report, Iran is becoming very adept at using front companies which pose as schools or private laboratories conducting business through seemingly legitimate web sites. Mr. Brannan added that, “The trading companies effectively created a wall between the Iranian entities and the U.S. suppliers, making it difficult for the U.S. suppliers to identify the true end-user of an item.”


48 Hours January 18 – PNN was granted an interview with Gholamreza Afkhami, a senior researcher at the Foundation for Iranian Studies and a former senior government official in pre-revolutionary Iran. Mr. Afkhami said that both President-elect Obama and his future secretary of state Hillary Clinton have promised to open a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy toward Iran. "But both countries have set parameters that they cannot easily overstep. In other words, there are some bedrock principles that both Washington and Tehran cannot disregard as they formulate new policies designed to thaw their frosty relations," he added. Mr. Afkhami said that Iran is not in a position to dictate to the United States how to conduct itself in the international arena. He said that Iran's pre-condition – that Washington needs to change its conduct in the region in order for relations to improve between Iran and the United States – will only damage Iran's national interest. "Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be pacified without Iranian cooperation, and whether we like it or not the downfall of both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have resulted in greater Iranian influence in both countries," he contended. "Iranian leaders need to take into account, however, that there will be greater cooperation between the Obama administration and its European allies and this doesn't bode well for Tehran," he said. He asserted that there should be common ground between the West (which finds a nuclear-armed Iran unacceptable) and Iran (which claims an urgent need for nuclear energy to generate electricity for its growing population). At the end of the interview, Mr. Afkhami said that when the president-elect puts respect for human rights in his foreign policy agenda, it will have more credibility than what President George Bush says because the Bush administration
used human rights as a political tool to advance its foreign policy goals. He also added, “Leaders of the Islamic Republic have resolved this dilemma for themselves.  Are they working to advance Iranian national interest or are they serving a hard-line Islamic ideology?”


News and Views January 12
– PNN reported on Monday that Iran urged President-elect  Obama to refrain from repeating what it said were false accusations leveled against the Islamic Republic by the outgoing administration in Washington. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman also suggested Tehran would respond in an "appropriate and timely" way to any change in U.S. behavior toward the country, which is embroiled in a row with the West over its disputed nuclear plans. President-elect Obama said on Sunday he will take a new approach toward Iran that will emphasize respect for the Iranian people and spell out what the United States expects of its leaders. "Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges," President-elect Obama said in an interview with ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." The president-elect said he was concerned about the Islamic Republic's support of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah and about Iran's nuclear enrichment, which he said could trigger a Middle East arms race. President-elect Obama has said he is prepared to offer Iran economic incentives to stop its nuclear program but he also has said tougher sanctions could be imposed if it refused.


Roundtable with You January 14 – According to a report by PNN, viewers in Iran are reporting mixed feelings about possible talks between the United States and Iran. Global observers welcomed Senator Hillary Clinton’s plans to strengthen America’s relationships with its allies and use “smart power” to make “more friends.” However, the president-elect pledged a “new approach” in an interview over the weekend. It’s unclear what exactly the new approach is. He had said "Iran is a genuine threat to U.S. national security, 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." Some viewers argued that Obama should not talk to Iran since it will legitimize the mullah's regime. Some welcomed the initiation of talks while others worried that any relationship between the two countries may worsen civil society relations and the human rights situation in Iran.


News and Views January 15 – A key U.S. Senate committee approved the nomination of Senator Hillary Clinton as the next secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-to-1 today in favor of the former first lady. The full Senate is expected to confirm her appointment Tuesday after President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. Separately, Attorney General-designate Eric Holder testified at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said he believes the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding is torture and should not be permitted. Mr. Holder said the best way to fight terror is to protect civil liberties and maintain the rule of law. He said the Obama administration will make sure
interrogations are consistent with U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Mr. Holder reiterated that the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be closed. However he stated that closing the prison will not be an easy task since the incoming administration has to figure out what to do with the roughly 250 terror suspects currently being held there. Mr. Holder also faced tough questioning about his work as deputy attorney general under former President
Bill Clinton, specifically about his involvement in Mr. Clinton's decisions to issue controversial pardons during that time. Mr. Holder, who is of Barbadian descent, would be the first black attorney general, if confirmed. Besides voting on the Hillary Clinton nomination, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also heard testimony from President-elect Obama's choice for U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice. Ms. Rice pledged the Obama administration will refresh and renew American leadership at the U.N., and increase efforts to address the crises in Zimbabwe, Darfur and Congo. In other developments, Hillary Clinton and Vice President-elect Joe Biden said their farewells to the Senate today. Meanwhile, the man selected to take President-elect Obama's vacated Senate seat was sworn-in today, overcoming a controversy over his appointment. Lawmakers initially were reluctant to seat Roland Burris because he was selected by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of seeking to profit from appointing President-elect Obama's successor. Mr. Burris is not accused of any wrongdoing.


News and Views January 13 – PNN reported that Senator Hillary Clinton said she will endorse the use of what she calls "smart power" as part of a revitalization of U.S. diplomacy if she is confirmed as secretary of state. The former first lady testified today in a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Clinton said the U.S. and the world face great perils, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats posed by terrorists, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. She endorsed the use of "smart power," whereby the United States would use all of its tools of foreign policy. She said diplomacy will be the forefront of U.S. policy under President-elect Barack Obama. On Iran, Senator Clinton said the incoming administration views with "great concern" the role Tehran is playing in the world, including its alleged support of terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons. She said the Obama administration will pursue a new approach toward Iran with an "attitude toward engagement" but said that no option has been ruled out. Confirmation hearings also were held today for Energy Secretary-designate Steven Chu and the president-elect’s choice to lead the Department of Education, Arne Duncan.


News and Views January 16 – A nuclear cooperation agreement signed by the United States and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday could pose an early test of the incoming administration's policies on nonproliferation and Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayid Al Nahyan signed a "123" agreement named for a section of the Atomic Energy Act. The agreement promises U.S. cooperation on civil nuclear power in return for safeguards against sensitive technology being diverted to a weapons program or another country. Given the timeframe, President-elect Obama will almost certainly be the one to decide whether to send the agreement to Congress for approval after he takes office on Tuesday. Some U.S. legislators say they would want the United States to use the agreement to leverage more cooperation from the small Gulf nation in pressuring Iran to halt its nuclear program. The U.A.E. is a major trading partner with Iran and has been criticized for failing to implement stringent controls on certain financial transactions and the export of materials with dual civilian and military uses to Tehran. "I and many other members of Congress place a very high priority on the international effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and will be analyzing this and any other nuclear cooperation agreement in the context of how it implicates the attainment of that goal," said Rep. Howard L. Berman, a California democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. At the same time, Rep. Berman praised the agreement as a model for future atomic energy accords. The ranking republican on the committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, introduced legislation on Wednesday to place conditions on the U.S. implementation of the agreement that would force the U.A.E. to make more progress against nuclear smuggling. Rep. Brad Sherman, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Nonproliferation, Terrorism, and Trade, issued a statement saying, "I am disappointed with the reported decision of the Bush Administration to sign the nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates. It is unfortunate that the Bush Administration rushed to sign this agreement before leaving office. The Obama Administration; however, is under no obligation to actually submit the agreement to Congress – the necessary next step in the process of approval. I urge the incoming administration to decline to submit the 123 Agreement with the U.A.E. until, at a minimum, the U.A.E. has taken far stronger action to deal with transfers of sensitive goods and technology to Iran.” He explained how American-made electronic equipment found its way through informal networks to the equipment being used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in Iraq and Afghanistan.


News and Views January 14 – A PNN follow up on Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran nearly two years ago, focused on a speech by a U.S. Senator on Mr. Levinson’s possible whereabouts. During a confirmation hearing for Senator Clinton on Tuesday in Washington, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) revealed that he believed that the former FBI agent is being held in a prison in Iran. However Senator Levinson did not provide any proof as to how he came to this conclusion. Mr. Levinson of Florida was last seen on Iran's Kish Island in March 2007 where he had gone to seek information for a client of his security firm. Senator Nelson said the Iranian government had rebuffed numerous requests for information on Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. Senator Clinton, who is President-elect Obama's choice for secretary of state, said Iran could improve relations with the U.S. by offering information on Mr. Levinson, who was an FBI agent in New York and Florida until he retired in 1998. Mr. Levinson's wife, Christine, said the comments were the first she had heard about her husband's possible whereabouts. She met with government officials in Iran in December 2007, but there has been no word of his fate. Telephone messages left for Senator Nelson’s aides were not immediately returned. The State Department said it has continued to urge Iran to increase its efforts in the investigation and to provide more information. A spokesman at Iran's UN mission was not available for immediate comment. Senator Nelson stated, "There is an American that is missing in Iran. Because he is a Floridian and because he has left behind a wife and seven children, I have gone to the Iranian ambassador at the United Nations who will see me even though his government will not allow him to talk to our UN ambassador. He operates under the fiction that he will see me because I'm a representative of the people of the state of Florida. But the door has been closed at every turn. What I have said to him – and I speak through the lens of this committee hearing – that out of human compassion this is a great opportunity for the country of Iran to crack the door because we think he is being held by the government of Iran in a secret prison in Iran. And if we want to have some renewed relations, this is a good first opportunity.” Senator Hillary Clinton also commented on the situation by saying, “With respect to the Floridian
who is in prison, it would be an extraordinary opportunity for the government of Iran to make such a gesture – to permit contact, to release him, to make it clear that there is a new attitude in Iran, as we believe there will be with the Obama administration toward engagement, carefully constructed and with very clear outcomes attempted.”


News and Views January 16 – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked with Israeli foreign and defense ministers about the bombing of the UN relief agency's headquarters in Gaza City by the Israeli army. Secretary Rice expressed concerns over the attack and emphasized that the Israeli army should be more careful in its operations in Gaza. Secretary Rice said the U.S. will focus on sending humanitarian help and will continue negotiations with both sides in order to reach a durable ceasefire. The Israeli government says that Hamas should stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Today Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with Condoleezza Rice in Washington to discuss possible technological support that the U.S. could provide to Israel in order to stop the influx of smuggled weapons into Gaza.

News and Views January 15 – PNN reported that White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino stated President Bush is following the security development in Gaza closely and consults with his security advisers and the secretary of state on a daily basis. Ms. Perino expressed Washington’s concern over the humanitarian condition in Gaza and emphasized that President Bush will be active regarding any diplomatic efforts to reduce the death toll and to prevent humanitarian crisis. While there are reports indicating that Hamas has agreed on an Egypt-mediated ceasefire plan, Ms. Perino said Washington is taking a “wait and see” approach regarding Hamas’ decision.

News and Views January 13 – Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said an international coalition against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has been formed over the last couple of years. In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary Rice called the coalition one of the Bush administration’s achievements. She said President Bush has been clear in stating that a diplomatic approach to deal with Iran has been the appropriate course emphasizing that, besides Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Tehran’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah also raises international concerns. In another development, the State and Treasury Departments sanctioned 13 people and three private companies for their involvement in the black market nuclear network led by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.


News and Views January 15 –President-elect Barack Obama had a meeting with Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina. The two recently returned from a tour of war zones and global security hotspots. Vice President-elect Biden and Senator Graham gave the president-elect an initial report on their five-day, bipartisan fact-finding mission to Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the broader "war on terror" at the Obama transition headquarters in Washington, DC. The two will later present the president-elect with a more detailed accounting, including recommendations for action based on
what they saw and heard. Vice President-elect Biden stated, "There needs to be more resources to attend to the situation in Afghanistan, which has deteriorated over the last six years. It has not gotten better. And so, there is going to be a significant shift. The president of the United States, President Bush, has ordered 35-thousand troops into the region. We spent a great deal of time with the commanders in place discussing how they'd be deployed, what the objective was, what the purposes were. But the truth is that things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they get better." Senator Graham said, "I cannot tell you how much enthusiasm we saw in Pakistan for this new president. There is a moment in time here for this country to re-engage the international community, to make sure that we have international support to stabilize Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq."

Roundtable with You January 15 – PNN spoke with analyst Cyrus Seifi about what media outlets in the Middle East are writing regarding the recent visit to the area by the future Vice President. Mr. Seifi explained that news commentators welcomed Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan’s Anis newspaper wrote that Vice President-elect Biden’s visit “shows Afghanistan will be Obama’s top priority” and advises Afghan officials to “take advantage of the current atmosphere.” Arman-e Melli writes that Afghan citizens are “at the end of their tether with the present government in Afghanistan” and asks the new U.S. administration to help make sure the elections are held “on time.” Pakistan’s The News thinks the future vice president’s one-day visit “went well” and calls on Pakistan’s top leadership to “establish good rapport with the new White House team” in order to “ensure maximum benefit for Pakistan and its people.”

News and Views January 12 – In the president-elect’s first meeting with a foreign leader since the November election, PNN reported that President-elect Obama will discuss trade issues as well as the war on drugs with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. President-elect Obama has promised to nurture close ties with Mexico and with Latin American countries that complained of neglect by the United States after President George W. Bush's foreign policy focused heavily on Iraq and the war on terror. With Mexico's drug violence exploding and amid fears that Obama might seek changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Calderon is eager for a meeting with the incoming president.

News and Views January 17 – News and Views focused on Iranian-French relations in the weekly recap of world news with guest and international analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba. Dr. Diba criticized what he called Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy’s “contradictory comments to French policy on Iran.” He was speaking of the economic trade relationships that some European countries, including Italy, France, and Germany, have with Iran. Dr. Diba stated that these continued relationships place hardships on the United States and the United Nations to enforce existing sanctions and perhaps establish new sanctions against Iran. He is confident that U.S.-French relations on the sanctions issue may improve with Europe’s attitude toward the new administration. Next, Dr. Diba answered a question as to whether a memorandum of understanding, which was signed by both the U.S. and Israel, will be effective in preventing the rearming of Hamas. Dr. Diba was not convinced that this memo holds any special significance. He did comment that it may be interpreted as Israel’s attempt to illicit some guarantees from Hamas in order to end the crisis in Gaza. However, this is unlikely as Hamas was not a signatory to the memorandum. Switching to human rights updates, Dr. Diba briefly spoke about capital punishment. Although punishment by lapidation, commonly referred to as the act of stoning someone to death, has been condemned by international communities, Dr. Diba does not believe that the international outcry has reduced the occurrence rate in Iran. In his opinion, lapidation is based on religious principles. He believes that not even the Supreme Leader of Iran could halt this practice in all parts of the country.



News and View January 12 – In a PNN follow up from last week, News and Views reported that nine additional members of the Baha’i community were arrested in the Mazandaran province of Iran. The members were subsequently sentenced to imprisonment for the “crime” of being active in the Baha’i community and offering classes. According to reports by the child of one arrested citizen, officials forcibly entered one member’s home, destroyed holy pictures hanging on the wall of their common area and hauled away some of the family’s possessions. The child, who goes by the name of Fars, stated that his father was carried away and his mother was summoned to appear before the police. He also named members from five other families who were taken away – Pegah Sanaieyan; Farshad Asadi and his wife Firoozeh Rayegan; Shahnaz Saladati; Farzaneh Ahmadzadeh and her daughters Anisa Fanaieyan and Emilia Fanaieyan; Sohrab Laghaie and his father Masoud Ataieyan. Little else is known about the present conditions of these people. Reports also indicate that Baha’i cemeteries were recently vandalized in the Iranian city of Qa’emshahr. Since October of 2008, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has been keeping a close watch on arrests of the Baha’i community by members of the intelligence community.  


News and Views January 12 – PNN explored a developing story in which student activists at Shiraz University are calling for the release of two of their colleagues who were detained on January 3, 2009. PNN showed excerpts of a speech made by a Shiraz university student. The speech was made by Mohsen Zarrinkamar in the presence of Ali Larijani, who serves as the Speaker of the Parliament. Mr. Zarrinkamar told Mr. Larijani that he had no questions for the Speaker of the Parliament because he sees Mr. Larijani as the speaker of an illegitimate and an illegal parliament. Mr. Zarinkamar further stated, “I hate three things, first I hate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...” Because of his speech Mr. Zarinkamar has been suspended from the university for two terms. Not surprisingly, Mr. Zarinkamar and three other students, Abdoljalil Rezaiee, Kazem Rezaiee, and Loghman Ghadiri Goltapeh have been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence in the City of Shiraz. The students have been charged with acting against national security and insulting regime officials. At least 13 other students have been suspended and summoned to disciplinary committees in the university. One activist, who requested anonymity, told PNN that the students will begin a hunger strike in the near future. She also said that the Shiraz University students protested the imprisonment of their classmates and asked for their immediate release from prison. Some of the students held placards which read: University is the last barricade of freedom!, Release imprisoned students!, and Since there is prison, we are all locked up! Shiraz University has been the scene for numerous student demonstrations during the past year. This has led to an increase in students who are targeted by the Islamic Regime, suspended, expelled, or summoned to disciplinary committees and the Ministry of Intelligence. After previous events, some 35 students were summoned to the university's disciplinary committee and charged with "causing chaos" and disseminating anti-state propaganda. Shiraz University students recently staged several protests to push for the release of their friends.


News and Views January 13 – Six more students from Shiraz University were detained after they appeared at the Intelligence Office in Shiraz following official summonses. One of the students at the University of Shiraz told PNN that the newly detained students are among 10 of those students who were summoned on January 5, 2009. Six of those who appeared at the Intelligence Office were detained and another, Mahboubeh Khademi, was allowed to leave. The six detained students have had no contact with their families. Intelligence agents detained Saied Khalatbari, Enayat Taghavi, Abbas Rahmati, and Ahmad Kohansal on January 10, 2009, and Hadi Alamli and Arash Roustaiee on January 12, 2009. Four other students, detained on January 3, 2009, have been released on heavy bails during the past two days. January 11, 2009, Mohsen Zarinkamar and Kazem Rezaiee were released on 60 million Toman ($60,000) and 50 million Toman ($50,000) bail respectively. Loghman Ghadiri Goltapeh and Abdoljalil Rezaiee were released on January 12, 2009 on a bail of 50 million Toman ($50,000) each. All of the summoned and detained students faced new charges of “acting against national security” and “insulting the authorities.” One of the students at the University of Shiraz told PNN that the initial charges of simply attending the assemblies at the university were changed to charges of “causing rioting and chaos” and finally acting against national security. The student expressed his belief that the charges indicate that the university does not run as an independently academic institution but rather that intelligence forces are dominant. One of the students at the University of Shiraz told PNN, “We appeal to people from international human rights organization and all college students across the country to support us.”


Late Edition January 19 – Partow Nooriala, a leading supporter of the One Million Signatures Campaign, joined Late Edition to speak about the campaign. Ms. Nooriala works as a poet and literary critic and lives in exile in Los Angeles. The One Million Signatures Campaign has been awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize. The Simon de Beauvoir Prize is an international human rights prize for women's freedom. It has been awarded since 2008 to individuals or groups who fight for gender equality and oppose human rights breaches. The prize is named after the French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir who wrote a 1949 women’s rights treatise. For the past two years, the prize has been given to recipients on Simone de Beauvoir’s birthday on January 9. Ms. Nooriala said this is a great victory for the Campaign. She spoke about how the campaign puts more pressure on the Islamic regime in Iran. Ms. Nooriala believes the celebration of this award could be a great example of unity for Iranians.

Today's Woman January 10 – For the past two years the Simone de Beauvoir Prize has been presented to those who