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Good evening, Iran!

U.S. plans TV assault


WASHINGTON - Adding a new dimension to its support for pro-democracy activists in Iran, the Voice of America is planning a nightly half-hour TV news show tailored for viewers in that country.

"By reporting what's happening in Iran today, we can help further the struggle for freedom and self-determination in Iran," said Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees most U.S. government-sponsored broadcasts overseas.

Recent U.S. statements in support of Iranian anti-government demonstrators have prompted charges of interference by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

He has insisted the U.S. stance has had the welcome effect of generating "greater national solidarity" in Iran.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the White House does not consider U.S. television news broadcasts into Iran to be interference in Iran's affairs.

"We think it is important for everybody there and everybody around the world to be as well informed as possible, and this is a case where we can help out with that," Boucher said.

The administration has become increasingly concerned about Iran's nuclear programs and sees widespread opposition in Iran to Islamic fundamentalist rule as a sign that change may be possible.

'Courageous souls'

Boucher said U.S. officials remain convinced that the solution to many of the difficulties facing Iran are found in the reformist, democratic agenda backed by the protesters.

President Bush paid tribute last month to "those courageous souls who speak out for freedom in Iran" and urged Tehran to treat protesters with "the utmost of respect."

"They need to know America stands squarely by their side," he said.

The first VOA broadcast of the Persian language "News and Views" show will be Sunday from 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Scheduled to run through Sept. 30, the show will cost $500,000 to produce and will feature original news reporting from Iran. It will include world news roundups, analysis and cultural features.

The broadcasts will complement VOA Persian's daily radio service and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program.

Originally published on July 4, 2003

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27 posted on 07/05/2003 5:10:24 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... 4 days until July 9th)
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To: All
Guardian : A Future Poised Between Reform and Reaction

By Martin Woollacott | LONDON, 6 July 2003 |

Next week, on the fourth anniversary of student protests in Tehran which ended with many injured and at least one dead, thousands of demonstrators are expected to burst on to the streets of the Iranian capital. The regime is fearful and divided about the proper response, while the protest leaders are anxious that their show of force should this time have some genuine impact rather than subsiding without any visible result, as on so many previous occasions. Iranians in general are waiting, without much hope, for some resolution of the contradictions of their political system — and for an end to the paralysis which leaves them forever poised between reform and reaction, autocracy and democracy, international isolation and acceptance.

They have waited for such a resolution for years, but two significant changes, one domestic and one international, could mean that what has always in the past been subject to indefinite postponement may not be too far away. The domestic change is the coming of age of the generation born just after the Iranian revolution, men and women with no memory of the Shah or, except for childhood recollections, of the Iran-Iraq conflict. The international change is, of course, the result of the two wars that have put America next door to Iran in Afghanistan and now Iraq — a change which makes the two countries even more important to one another than they were in the past. Iran could possibly undo the Americans in Iraq, if it set its mind to it, while the US has new means, including conceivably military ones, of influencing events in Iran. Yet a military intervention, even a limited one against nuclear facilities, is the remotest of prospects.

What is likely to ensue is a wary sparring for advantage, within Iran and between Iran and the United States and Europe, as competing elements within the Iranian regime and in the Iranian opposition all look for American support. Whoever can play the American card in Iran, delivering at the same time security against the US threat and meeting the aspirations of a youthful population for a nation more open to the world, will win the political game there, at least for a time.

The emergence into adulthood of the generation of ‘79 is the culmination of a demographic explosion that has seen the population of Iran double since Ayatollah Khomeini returned in triumph from Paris. It has added to the mass of doubtful and discontented young people who have been at the center of Iranian politics since the early 90s. They have known nothing but the Islamic republic, but their experience of that republic, especially if they are middle class, is conditioned by their active alternative life as virtual citizens of the wider world, which they know through television, film, and the back and forth circulation of the huge and constantly topped up Iranian Diaspora in America, Europe and Australia.

Even the devout among them have their doubts about a regime whose credentials have eroded after years of exposure to the temptations of office, and after respected clerics have raised anew the question of whether it is theologically right that the clerical class should enjoy political power.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, said last month after a week of student protests that “disgruntled people” who allowed themselves to become “mercenaries” for the Americans would be punished. But he and others know that shooting students in the streets, or even going beyond a certain limit in detentions, would be wildly counterproductive. The wily former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, projecting both moderation in dealing with protesters and a desire for dialogue with the US, shows that he knows that the key to political success in Iran is not to suppress the young but to satisfy some of their demands.

Because a romanticized America, in part a code for a more general opening up of Iranian society, has such symbolic importance for many of the youthful middle class, whichever Iranian leader can claim to have achieved an understanding with the United States would get a big lease on political life, for himself and the regime as a whole. In that sense, Rafsanjani is in competition with the much more genuinely liberal Mohammad Khatami, the current president, who promised so much but has been able to deliver so little.

He is also in competition with less flexible conservatives who may accept that some concessions to the US are unavoidable but still see America as an enemy that must be resisted everywhere in the Middle East. American leverage, therefore, arises much less from American military power than from the fact that almost everybody in Iranian politics probably wants to do some kind of a deal with them, or at least benefit from a deal done by others.

Some readiness to bend has therefore been apparent in Tehran. The UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s visit adds to the evidence that the Iranians are prepared to allow the intrusive inspections of nuclear plants upon which America, with support from Europe, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Authority, has been insisting.

The French swoop on the Mojahedin Khalq network and reports that the Iranians are about to hand over a number of Al-Qaeda men to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt suggest some elements of a bargain are in place. (Although some think the French move is unrelated.) The Americans and Europeans also want, and probably already have seen, some reduction in Iranian support for groups like Hezbollah, or the use of its influence to moderate their behavior.

In the US the idea of inducing a sudden and total regime change in Iran has its supporters, perhaps including Donald Rumsfeld. Many of them set store on the opposition group connected to Reza Shah, the last Shah’s son. Broadcasts in Farsi from his group encouraged the student protesters last month. But few Iranians, however discontented, have any interest in a monarchical restoration, just as few had any time for the Mojahedin Khalq. Backing outside opposition groups is not a serious policy.

The real choice before America and Europe is a harder one. If Iran is ready for some kind of bargain with Western countries, a bargain which Europe, in particular, has been pursuing for years, should that bargain be done with an essentially unreconstructed regime, for whom an American deal would be the glue that would enable it to enjoy a few more wobbly years of power over an unhappy population? Or should we wait in the hope of a more radical transformation, perhaps based on an alliance between the more moderate segment of the regime and the opposition?

That may be wishful thinking, but it is worth a little time to find out how wishful it is. The best policies could lie somewhere between unwise attempts at regime change and support of the Iranian regime as it now exists.

28 posted on 07/05/2003 5:13:53 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... 4 days until July 9th)
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