Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week

Washington D.C. – February 2… Major stories this week included extensive coverage of the Iraqi provincial elections by PNN’s Iraqi correspondent; a multi-series report on Iran’s relationships with several Latin American countries; analysis of Obama’s first interview with Al Arabiya television; and coverage of Special Envoy George Mitchell’s trip to the Middle East.


News and Views January 26 – PNN’s coverage of EU policy included a segment on the decision by European Union foreign ministers to remove an Iranian opposition group from the EU terrorist list. The diplomats' decision on Monday in Brussels took effect on Tuesday. The move is expected to increase tension between Tehran and Brussels. The EU is in the process of unfreezing the assets of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The change follows several court rulings that stated that the EU failed to prove the Iranian exile group is a terrorist outfit. Hundreds of Iranians protested Sunday outside the French embassy in Tehran against the EU's plans to remove the group from its blacklist. Demonstrators in Iran chanted against what they called "the hypocrites," a term used by Iranian authorities to identify the banned opposition group.


News and Views January 27 – In a prepared written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers "the regional and nuclear ambitions of Iran continue to pose enormous challenges to the U.S." However, Mr. Gates believes "there are non-military ways to blunt Iran's power to threaten its neighbors and sow instability throughout the Middle East." As an example, Mr. Gates remarked "the lower price of oil deprives Iran of revenues and, in turn, makes U.N. economic sanctions bite harder." Mr. Gates also said Afghanistan is America's "greatest military challenge" and coordination of the fight against the insurgency has been "less than stellar." Mr. Gates told lawmakers that the Pentagon could send two more brigades to Afghanistan by late spring and a third by mid-Summer in an effort to try to salvage a country besieged by corruption and increasing violence.


News and Views January 27 –In an interview with Al-Arabiya, President Barack Obama said the U.S. is not an enemy of the Muslim world. President Obama sent a clear foreign policy message to the Middle East by choosing an Arabic news station for his first formal television interview. President Obama spent much of the interview defining the administration’s new approach to the region. He described his policy as “respectfulness over divisiveness, listening over dictating and engagement over militarism.” The president spoke about how U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell was traveling to the region to "listen" because "all too often the United States starts by dictating." The president spoke about the need for direct negotiations with Iran. Shahrokh Vaziri, an adjunct professor of political economy at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, joined PNN to comment on the interview. He commented on the necessity of bringing such a message to the Muslim world adding, “If there are negotiations with Iran, that country will no longer blame their problems on the U.S.” President Obama responded directly to questions during the interview about Al Qaeda leadership. He stated that the leadership’s ideas are bankrupt. “There's no action that they've taken that says a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them," he added.

News and Views January 28 – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted to President Obama's interview with Al-Arabiya television. Speaking to a crowd in the western city of Kermanshah, President Ahmadinejad said he expected the U.S. to change its foreign policy. He criticized the U.S. for its continued support of Israel. President Ahmadinejad said Iran would be listening carefully to the words of U.S. officials and scrutinizing their actions. He threatened that, should the former administration's policy be pursued, "even in different words" Iran's response would be the same it gave the Bush administration.


News and Views February 1 – PNN reported that good news was coming in from provinces around Iraq regarding the election. Iraqi spectator Sobhi Mandalavi said there were a lot of pitfalls in the election; however, overall it was a very important step on the path to democracy. The Iraqi election commission chief said Saturday’s vote in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces drew a turnout of 51 %, which represents more than seven and half million people in those provinces. Early projection showed that candidates backed by Iraq’s Prime Minister performed well in southern Iraq’s Shi’te heartland. Early reports indicate that the Al-Sadr Party might not even win a seat in Iraq’s provincial elections.

News and Views January 31 – Iraqis welcomed provincial elections, reported PNN’s correspondent who covers Iraq on Sunday. Yesterday, millions of Iraqis cast their ballots in Saturday’s provincial elections. PNN’s correspondent reported that the elections took place without major violence. Iraqi Prime Minister Javad Al-Bulani reported that the elections were secure and without any major incident. Mr. Al-Bulani stated that the elections were welcomed for the improvement of democracy. PNN’s correspondent commented on Sunni participation in the elections and the security improvements in Iraq.

News and Views January 30 – “Security is high,” reported PNN’s correspondent on the day before Iraq’s provincial elections. Iraqi authorities planed to ban road traffic in major cities and near polling centers to prevent possible attacks. Iraq’s provincial elections are seen as a key test of Iraq’s stability. The provincial elections represent a political test for Iraqi’s Prime Minister, who is trying to boost the strength of his small al-Da’vah party.

News and Views January 29 – PNN reported that early voting went smoothly in Iraq. Election officials reported that turnout was high in early voting around the country. Iraqi authorities plan to tighten security for Saturday’s vote by banning vehicles from the streets of major cities, closing airports, and sealing Iraq’s borders with Syria and Iran.

News and Views January 27 –PNN reported that Iraq’s provincial elections are another important step in the democratic process. International observers are looking at Iraq’s provincial elections as a key test of Iraq’s stability. The provincial elections will represent a political test for Iraq’s prime minister who is trying to boost the strength of his small al-Da’vah party. Polling stations will be open for selected groups such as soldiers, police and prisoners. Iraq’s provincial elections are the first nationwide elections since December 2005. Sunnis are expected to boycott the Saturday elections.

News and Views January 26 – PNN reported on preparations by Iraqis for provincial elections on Saturday. More than 14,000 candidates are campaigning for 400 seats on provincial councils in 14 of Iraq’s 18 providences. More than 51% of the population, or 15 million Iraqis, are eligible to vote in the elections. Iraq plans to seal its borders on Election Day.

News and Views January 27 – U.S. President Barack Obama met with opposition Republican Party leaders about his proposed $825 billion economic stimulus proposal. The president waved and smiled at reporters as he arrived for talks at the House of Representatives one week after taking office. He then headed to a meeting with senate republicans. Republicans have increasingly expressed opposition to the huge spending plan, which calls for about $250 billion in tax cuts and $550 billion in spending. The spending portion of the bill is directed at public works projects, including repairing and upgrading roads and bridges. Republicans said there are unnecessary items in the bill, including funds for family planning initiatives for Medicaid – the health-care insurance program for low-income Americans. Republicans want the plan to contain more tax breaks, which they say would provide an immediate boost to the ailing U.S. economy. Debate this week on the stimulus proposal followed confirmation of the new U.S. Treasury Secretary on Monday and a wave of further bad news for the U.S. economy, including huge job cuts at several large corporations. In his first full day in office, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced new rules to limit the influence of lobbyists and special interests on the emergency aid program and ensure that political influence does not affect the awarding of the money.

News and Views January 28
– PNN reported that President Obama visited the Pentagon. The visit was to allow the president to gain an unvarnished understanding of the U.S. defense hierarchy and military system. The new president pledged to boost US forces in Afghanistan. In other news, Democratic lawmakers want to have the $825 billion stimulus plan approved by both houses of Congress by mid-February. Many Republicans say the massive plan contains too much spending and not enough tax cuts. Republicans are wary as to whether the proposed plan will actually stimulate the economy. A House vote on the stimulus package is scheduled for tonight. "It's important that we put aside politics when dealing with the economic challenges that are global and require our cooperation and coordination with other countries as well," President Obama said yesterday after his meeting and talks with members of Congress.


News and Views January 29 – President Barack Obama says he wants the massive economic stimulus plan passed by the House of Representatives improved before he signs the legislation into law. In an important victory for the president, the House approved the $819 billion economic recovery plan Wednesday. President Obama hoped to win broad bipartisan support for the plan, but not a single Republican voted in favor for it. Republicans said the package contained too much wasteful spending and not enough tax cuts. The Senate is constructing its own version – which includes an additional $70 billion in tax cuts – and will debate the measure next week. The two versions will have to be reconciled before President Obama can sign the legislation into law. In promoting the stimulus plan, the President said most of the money in the plan would be used immediately and goes directly towards efforts to save or create three million to four million new jobs. President Obama stated, “The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat - they can't afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that their job will be next on the cutting blocks - they need help now.” The legislation offers funding for numerous domestic projects, and includes billions of dollars in tax cuts.


News and Views January 27 – Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell arrived in Cairo  for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday. During the expected eight-day trip, Mr. Mitchell will visit Israel, the West Bank of the Jordan River, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Europe and possibly Turkey. Before Mr. Mitchell’s departure, President Obama said that the administration intends to listen, learn, and plans to find out what various players in the region are thinking. Robert Wood, the acting spokesman for the Department of State, said yesterday that Special Envoy Mitchell will work to consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza, establish an effective and credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime to prevent the rearming of Hamas, and facilitate the reopening of border crossings. President Obama cautioned people not to expect a quick resolution. In other news, police in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa investigated gunfire near the U.S. embassy hours after the embassy said it received a warning about an attack. The shooting was reported Monday at a checkpoint outside the embassy. The U.S. State Department says Yemeni security personnel exchanged gunfire with an unknown group. No embassy personnel was harmed.

News and Views January 28 – During an off-camera sitting with correspondents at the    U.S. Department of State, Secretary Clinton underscored President Obama’s position on Iran by saying that he reserves the right to engage in whatever way he deems best, at whatever time he chooses to further American interests. Secretary Clinton clarified that the foregoing is not limited to any one country and applies across the board. She stated there is a clear opportunity for Iranians to demonstrate some measure of willingness to engage with the international community. Meanwhile, Special Envoy George Mitchell held talks in Cairo with Egypt’s president, foreign minister and chief of intelligence, as well as EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana. George Mitchell remarked, "The United States is grateful to Egypt for its leadership in bringing about a ceasefire. It is of critical importance that the ceasefire be extended and consolidated." Mr. Mitchell said the fact that he is in the region is clear and tangible evidence of the new U.S. administration's commitment to resolving the Mideast conflict. Later on Wednesday, Mr. Mitchell arrived in Jerusalem and held talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Mr. Mitchell is also expected to hold talks with the Israeli prime minister and Israeli security officials.


News and Views January 27 – PNN highlighted a January 24 report by Reuters that attempts were made by Western countries to lobby uranium-producing countries to avoid selling raw uranium to Iran. Reports indicate Iran is short on the amount of raw material needed for its enrichment program. Britain, the U.S., France and Germany are among the countries that have asked their embassies in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Brazil to convince host governments not to sell to Iran. An online report from the UK’s Times noted that the vigorous lobbying efforts of the EU and U.S. are essential. The Times reported that both countries must exert pressure on the Iranian government through a direct appeal to the young population of Iran.


News and Views January 28 – On Wednesday, News and Views began highlighting a series of reports about Latin America. In the first package, viewers learned about the history of the relationship between present day Iran and Latin America, which stretches back 105 years. Because of this history, Iranians have a strong appreciation for the art and literature that stems from Latin America. Many books from Latin America have been translated and published in Iran. PNN’s first in-depth country report focused on the political relationship between Venezuela and Iran. The relationship between the two countries improved in the 1990’s with the presidency of Mohammad Khatami. Viewers learned about Venezuelan and Iranian approaches to the oil export industry. PNN talked about the influence of Iran and Venezuela – two powerful OPEC members – regarding OPEC and oil prices. Included in this report was an interview with Mehrdad Khonsari, a political analyst from London. According to Mr. Khonsari, ideology and each country’s policies against the U.S. are the only things that bind Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad together.

News and Views January 29 – In a follow up on Venezuela, PNN released a second package on the economic relationship between Iran and Venezuela. PNN’s report focused specifically on the last 10 years and included the signing of several agreements between Iran and Venezuela. According to Venezuela’s ambassador in Iran, these agreements amount to more than $12 billion dollars. Iranian analysts from the United Kingdom and the United States offered insight on the agreements and spoke about the political relationship between the two countries. A separate PNN package on Bolivia highlighted the signing of several agreements between Bolivian President Evo Morales and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Phone interviews with analysts from New Jersey and London offered commentary on the strength of the economic and political relationships between Bolivia and Iran. PNN’s Paraguay report focused on the country’s political, cultural and economic relationship with Iran. Although the relationship between Iran and Paraguay is new, Iranian officials recently spoke about the merits of technological as well as cultural exchange programs with Paraguay. The Paraguay report included some video from the inauguration of Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo. Iranian Vice President Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi attended President Lugo’s swearing-in ceremony. Vice President Hashemi told reporters, “Iran has one powerful and faithful friend in the region called Venezuela, but as of today, we have two close allies, the second one is, Paraguay.” The report also looked at how President Lugo’s former position as a Roman Catholic Bishop affects his current role as the leader of Paraguay. The report examined the difficulties President Lugo faced with the Vatican in his attempt to run for office. The Vatican has mandated that President Lugo cannot perform any religious services.

News and Views January 30
– In PNN’s third segment, the social and economic climate of Nicaragua was discussed. PNN looked at the poverty rate in what is the least populated country in Central America. PNN examined Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s relationship with Iran and some of his recent trips to the country. A brief outline of the agreements President Ortega has signed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reviewed. In this report, PNN briefed viewers on a plan by Iranian State Television to provide films and television series to Nicaragua’s television channels. This plan is not without critics. Ahmad Raafat, an Iranian journalist based in Italy spoke about the negative reactions by Nicaraguans towards this plan. Political analyst Reza Ghoreyshi also added his views on Iran’s hidden political agenda in Latin America. Next, PNN reported on Iran’s relationship with Cuba. The report began with a look at how the former Soviet Union trimmed down its annual subsidies to Cuba in the 1990s. The fallout effect of $2 billion in reduced subsidies attributed to the collapse of the Cuban economy. The report examined the strong bonds forged between Cuba and Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Cuba’s 2004 energy crisis was eased by Iranian aid to Cuba. The Iranian government recently confirmed a project to build a modern science center in Cuba to allow Cuban scientists to focus on genetic projects. Some analysts question whether such a science center will aid Iran’s efforts to produce biological weapons. Cuba is known for advances in medicine and biology, including work in the field of nuclear oncology.


News and Views January 29 – The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the United States Institute of Peace held a discussion on “Bridge Building with Iran through Education and Science Cooperation” in Washington DC. The participants included President of the Association of American Universities Robert Berdhal and Glenn Schweitzer, the Director of Eurasian programs at U.S. National Academies. The participants spoke about their trips to Iran and the possibilities of scientific and academic exchanges between Iran and the U.S. at the university level. They also discussed the obstacles and difficulties concerning the security situation in Iran and the lack of communication among government entities, as these obstacles can produce safety risks to academics that travel there. Areas of interest included research cooperation in the fields of earthquake monitoring, cancer, water conservation, agriculture, and drug addiction in Iran. Mr. Schweitzer added that although the National Academy decided to halt sending any groups to Iran due to the security situation in that country, they will continue their cooperation with Iranian-related scientific entities outside Iran. Dr. Berdhal talked about how eager students in Iran were to learn and work with Americans and how welcoming he found the Iranian public towards establishing friendly relationships with the U.S. Both speakers recommended that the new U.S. administration address the issues between the U.S. and Iran separately from cultural exchanges. They urged officials to reduce the security tensions between the two countries and referenced the State Department’s project on the promotion of democracy as an example.


48 Hours January 31 – Saturday's 48 Hours featured a debate between two opposite points of view on how the Obama administration should proceed with the threat from Iran. Fatemeh Keshavarz represented Iranians for Peace, while Hassan Dai represented the Progressive American-Iranians Committee. Fatemeh Keshavarz is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and spoke about how Iranians for Peace released a public letter it had written to President Obama last week. The letter argued that a definitive and lasting solution of the Iran nuclear crisis should include the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone for all the countries in the Middle East, as voted for by the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency." Prof. Keshavarz added, "We think a proper solution can be reached only by initiating a direct dialogue with the Iranian authorities. If carried out in good faith from both sides, this dialogue could lead to a political settlement of various issues inhibiting U.S.-Iran relations.” Hassan Dai, representing the Progressive American-Iranians Committee, said, "The policy of the United States on Iran over the past decade has been full of confusion and shortsightedness. This is not accidental. A key factor in shaping this policy has been a disinformation campaign waged by pro-Iranian circles. The price of this confusion has been heavy and has included the lives of Americans, billions of dollars of taxpayers' money, and even worse, the looming threat of Tehran's mullahs as a nuclear superpower dominant in the region. We must understand this web of the Iranian influence in the United States." In another part of the interview, Mr. Dai said, "Segments of the American Left and the anti-war movement in the United States have channeled their critique of the war and the Bush administration to support the most radical elements of the Iranian regime. These American personalities and groups have clearly crossed the line and have become ardent advocates of one of the most notorious dictatorships of the modern history with no regards for the Iranian people, the prime victims of these dictators. He spoke about capital punishment in Iran by saying that last year, when the mullahs’ wave of public mass hangings was condemned by the international community, Phil Wilayto, who leads the latest ‘People's Peace Delegation to Iran’ responded to “these fallacious allegations against the Iranian regime.” Prof. Keshavarz responded by saying, “Yes, Iran has the death penalty and uses it, but not nearly as often as the United States government.  Neither did we see any evidence of deep, mass anger with the Iranian government. We talked with Iranians from a wide range of occupations and social classes. People grumble about their economic situation, but most seem to blame the U.S.-imposed sanctions.”


News and Views January 31 – PNN interviewed international analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba on the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s arrival in Iran. Dr. Diba described the situation on the day he arrived from exile in France 30 years ago. Dr. Diba said, “I hoped it would be a movement for more freedom in the country, but soon I, like many more, understood that this was not the movement that was expected.” Dr. Diba added that in order for Iran to be prosperous and successful, he believes there must be a separation of state and religion. Turning to President Barack Obama’s interview with Al-Arabiya, Dr. Diba expressed his view that the president’s interview had a positive impact on the Muslim world. He emphasized that the Iranian people and the Iranian government often have different views, especially regarding the upcoming P5+1 meeting. Dr. Diba believes William Burns will represent the U.S. at the meeting and is optimistic that the U.S. will attempt to create more cooperation with other members of P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear issue. He is not optimistic that Iran will be willing to talk as Dr. Diba believes the regime’s interests interfere with its own national interests.


News and Views January 26 – Senator George Mitchell, U.S. Special Envoy for the Middle East, is finalizing preparations for his travel to the region next week. Senator Mitchell is slated to ensure the implementation of a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. He will also be working on efforts to limit arms smuggling and to prevent Hamas from rearming. In other news, the U.S. will participate in the next P5+1 meeting on Iran.

News and Views January 27 – German media reported that former Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will travel to Iran next month to discuss the nuclear issue. On Monday, Germany's Foreign Ministry confirmed that former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would be traveling to Iran, but did not give any dates. Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner insisted Mr. Schroeder's trip was not government sponsored. PNN interviewed a senior research fellow at the University of Berlin about Mr. Schroeder’s upcoming trip. Mehran Barati explained that Mr. Schroeder would most likely speak about Iran’s nuclear program and German exports to Iran.


News and Views January 29 – In continued coverage of the President’s cabinet, PNN reported that the Senate confirmed President Barack Obama's selection for Director of National Intelligence, retired Navy Admiral Dennis Blair. Senators confirmed Admiral Blair late Wednesday by a voice vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee also voted to approve President Barack Obama's choice for Attorney General, Eric Holder. The vote on Wednesday was 17-to-two. The nomination now goes to the full Senate, which is expected to confirm Mr. Holder as the country's first black attorney general. In another development, former Vice President Al Gore urged Congress to take "decisive action" this year and pass legislation that cuts greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. Mr. Gore testified on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He praised President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan for including investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, a national energy grid, and so-called "clean cars." Mr. Gore called on lawmakers to put a limit on carbon emissions by instituting a cap-and-trade program.

News and Views January 30 – President Barack Obama is considering Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire for Secretary of Commerce. The administration is asking key senators if Senator Gregg would be acceptable. Up until last week, Silicon Valley executive John Thompson had been the leading contender. The source confirmed that the Obama selection team apparently backed off in favor of Sen. Gregg. If Sen. Gregg left the Senate, the state's democratic governor, John Lynch, could name a Democrat to replace him. If that occurred and Al Franken survives a court challenge to his apparent narrow victory in Minnesota, the Democrats would have a majority of 60 seats in the Senate, enough to prevent procedural roadblocks to legislation. Nevertheless, the source predicted Gov. Lynch would more likely appoint a republican, saying that naming a fellow democrat "could be a highly unpopular move in the state." Obama's first pick for the commerce post, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew from consideration earlier this month in the face of a legal inquiry.


News and Views January 29 – According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the Obama administration is drafting a letter aimed at unfreezing U.S.-Iranian relations. The report said the U.S. Department of State has been working on drafts of the letter that would be a symbolic gesture to mark a change in tone. The Guardian report said one aim of the letter is to assure the Iranian government that the U.S. does not want to topple the Islamic regime. Sources are unsure as to whether the letter would be addressed to the Iranian people but sent directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or released as an open letter to the citizens. However in the briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood refused to comment on the letter. Mr. Wood said, “But there are certain things that Iran knows it needs to do if it wants to get back into the good graces of the international community, particularly with regard to its nuclear program, in terms of its activities in supporting terror in the Middle East region." Meanwhile, U.S. Special Mideast Envoy George Mitchell traveled to the West Bank and met with Palestinian authority officials. Mr. Mitchell stated, “The President has said that the United States will sustain an active commitment towards reaching the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security.” Javier Solana, EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, noted that the Israelis promised to facilitate the passing of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.


Roundtable January 29 – A PNN follow up on new media revealed that social networking has provided people under oppression in the Middle East with a digital platform in which to express their thoughts, convey subtle criticism against governments, and organize activities. Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders condemned the wave of censorship that has hit many Iranian and foreign Farsi-language websites since January 24th. Many of the censored sites contain articles critical of the government and the Iranian president, whose term is set to expire on June 12th. Many international news media websites, including Deutsche Welle, Radio France, and sections of Al-Aribiya have been blocked since January 26th. Georgetown professor Samer Shehata joined Roundtable to discuss the reasons behind the latest wave of government censorship.


48 Hours February 1 – Today’s news segment offered a close look at Iran's upcoming presidential election and the reform movement with guest Roozbeh Mirebrahimi. Mr. Mirebrahimi is an Iranian Journalist and blogger born in 1978 in G