March 12, 2009

Iran Conference

Talking to Iran
Next Century Foundation


A one day conference aiming to provide a picture of the current media environment in Iran and the most effective formats for broadcasting to Iranian audiences. Organised by The Next Century Foundation and held with support from The US Media Outreach Centre at the US Embassy

Talking to Iran

Session 1: Iran Today: Domestic Dynamics and External Challenges
Chaired by: William Morris- Secretary General, Next Century Foundation
Panel: Reza Taghizadeh – Analyst, writer and author of Between Communism and Commonwealth, covering the state of relations between Iran and the old Soviet Union during Gorbachev period in office.
Parvis Dastmalchi- Commentator on Iranian Affairs/ Human Rights
Prof. Annabelle Sreberny- Professor of Global Media and Communication, Director of Centre with particular focus on Iran, SOAS

Parvis Dastmalchi: I think that the topic of today’s discussion – namely the current media environment in Iran and the most effective formats for broadcasting to Iranian audiences is a very important one. Therefore, in the next several minutes, as someone who has been active in human rights matters in the course of the last three decades, I will try:
Firstly, to give you my views regarding certain issue that are essential for a fundamental understanding of Iranian regime, and
Secondly, the role and influences which the media can have in directing and shaping public opinion within Iranian society
These two are closely intertwined and without a clear understanding of the former, it is difficult to assess the impact of the latter.
Focusing on the subject at hand, another question that comes to mind is:
“How important really is the role which media broadcasts play in informing and shaping public opinion when it comes to issues like democracy and Human Rights development within Iran?”
Prior to responding to this all important question, it is essential to have a realistic appreciation of the kind of milieu that has existed within Iran for the past 30 years and to which these broadcasts are being directed.
To appreciate the existing milieu, it is important to have a clear picture regarding the following 7 points:

1. Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is a new form of government that is the product of the thinking of “12-Imam’s Shiites” who follow the Doctrine of “Velayat Faqih”, otherwise known as the “Rule of Jurisprudence”. Ayatollah Khomeini who founded IRI was the theoretician behind this new system. According to this system, the Iranian regime considers itself the representative of “God” on earth so long as the 12th missing Imam or “Mahdi” is absent. From this regime’s viewpoint, all its standards and values are the only absolute truth, which must be spread throughout the world in order to establish a “single universal nation created in its own image”.

2. I think everyone here is acquainted with the system of “Apartheid” in South Africa which legalized racial discrimination under the law. People there were divided into two classes, whites and blacks. The reason, I refer to the Apartheid system, is because in IRI the law divides people into seven categories, ranging from those who have full and absolute rights to people whose death is sanctioned by this brand of Islam.
These seven categories are as follows:
• Moslems and non-Moslems
• Shiite Moslems and Sunni Moslems
• Twelve-imam-Shia and other sects
• Male Shia and female Shia
• Spiritual leaders and lay (male) believers
• And finally those whose murder is legitimately sanctioned by Islam.
In today’s Iran, the majority of these groups are denied full political and particularly civil rights by law.
3. Now, I am going to be more specific:
Spiritual leaders (Ayatollahs, Foghaha and Mojtahedan) monopolize and control all institutions and organs of government, and control the decision making process and all of them according to the law.
4. Now, what are the consequences when government

Institutions become monopolized by Shiite clerics as far as most ordinary people are concerned?
This is what happens:
A. 50% of the population of Iran, namely women, and
B. nearly 10 to 15 million people belonging to the religious minorities (including all Sunnis, Christian, Jews, Bahaiis, Zoroastrians, and non Shiite Muslims and even other branches of Shiites) and
C. All male followers of the system who are not Mojtahids and Faghihs, and finally all of the political parties and organizations are deprived of any legal rights to be elected to serve in the political and civic life of their country.
Therefore, it follows that a vast majority of Iranian citizens neither have the legal rights to be elected nor have the rights to participate in the management of the country’s key institutions.
Here, I should add the fact that this is not a topic that is to be reflected upon or discussed in the country’s TV-channels, numerous local radio stations or the written press.

5. From what I have described, and by considering the harsh policies of IRI toward civil institutions and political parties like banning free press, limiting activities of labor unions, suppressing workers, imprisoning of human rights activists, torturing and executing students, dissidents and political prisoners, suppressing women movement, and pursuing international terrorism, one can conclude that Islamic Republic of Iran neither acknowledges the civil rights of its citizen nor honors its obligations and commitments to any of Iran’s relevant international legal treaties if they were perceived not to conform with the state ideology.

6. The Iranian government neither accepts the Declaration of Human Rights nor implements the democratic principles of governing. It thus follows that IRI is nothing short of a new form of totalitarian regime with characteristics of a backward society rooted in Shiite culture

Based on the facts so far presented, it is obvious that Islamic Republic of Iran is very much a closed society as opposed to kind of open societies we have in the West. An important characteristic of all closed societies is the insistence on the part of the state to monopolize and control all forms of news and information flowing to the people. This is the only way in which the ruling establishment can direct society in the direction that is in conformity with its wishes. Again, it is clear that by monopolizing all sources of news and information, the intention of the government is to control every citizen’s “brain or thinking process” and thereby all their actions and behaviors.

IRI has tried and continues to try to impose strict censorship on all forms of domestic media so as to prevent a free and unchecked flow of information within Iranian society.
Many journalists have in the past 30 years lost their jobs or have been jailed, tortured, imprisoned and murdered without much hesitation, because they have dared to deviate a little bit from the official line.
However, combating the flow of information from abroad has been much more difficult, though the state has at no time refrained from trying its best to block satellite TV- and radio broadcasts along with all kinds of internet messaging. But it is a fact, that IRI has been unable to stop the increasing flow of what it believes to be very damaging information, being fed to the public first by the Iranian TV-channels, operating from abroad and later by the likes of VOA and most recently by the BBC Persian TV networks.
It is a fact therefore, that along with the various radio stations that have provided information over the past 30 years, the start of satellite TV-broadcasts have seriously dented the regime’s monopoly on controlling the flow of information to the ordinary people of Iran.

7. To summarize, it thus follows that equipped with correct and unbiased news and information, a great majority of Iranians, whose rights are being violated on a daily basis (like women, youth, religious and ethnic minorities) are able to become exposed to a situation that can ultimately help them try and address the various shortcomings that have made life increasingly more inhibiting and unbearable for them. Hence, there is no question that the role of information is vital in any such situation.
Now, going back to my original question:
“How important is the role of foreign broadcasts like TVs and Radios for promoting democratic values and Human Rights development in Iran?”
The answer simply is: They are very, very important.
Let me underline the fact that the Islamic leadership is very well aware of the eroding role which the provision of news and information had, when it came to the collapse of such totalitarian regimes as the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. They have no wish to repeat that experience in their own case.
So can Iran’s version of the ‘Big Brother State’ cope with an unchecked flow of information coming from Satellites TV- stations and alike, especially in a country where people have generally lost faith with the state media and the printed word? The answer is NO! The rest will in time follow a path not much different from what we have seen in other places, where in the end people stand up to injustice and demand that their rights and dignity be respected by their government and the society in which they live.
IRI is based on the velayet al faqih-this is a new system. It is a unique and racist state and discriminates on the basis of religion and gender. The state monopolizes media to control thinking and journalists are persecuted to combat the flow of information. Now with satellite and Internet, it is becoming harder to control. Media broadcasting from outside Iran is very important.
Annabelle Sreberny: I have been working in Iranian Media for 30 plus years so I am pleased that you have all finally caught up! Firstly, it is very hard to come up with a phrase that adequately explains Iran – it is not a closed society, there is so much writing says all these things are illegal and all this things banned. For example, Jim Loin wrote on the BBC that satellites are illegal in Iran. Technically this is true and yet 30 million plus have satellite. Those thirty million have more channels than I have on my freeview box so to say that it is a closed society is wrong. It is clear that IRIB control radio and television. Since the late 1960’s however TV has been privately owned. The press is privately owned but there are about 35-40 publications and they are all dynamic. Some get bought because of their classifications section, others for other reasons, so they are dynamic and full. To understand census is to understand where the red line will fall. The increasingly sophisticated internet providers control access is denied to, among others, Facebook, Amazon and the BBC. However, there is a way round, I was in Iran when the ban on BBC commenced (Jan 2007) but after even an hour of the ban coming into effect you could purchase a filter which could get round it. Everyone can get filters. So the power is diffused.
Secondly, the word oppositional is ambiguous does one in opposition has to want to bring down the framework or can they just have a different point of view? It is a dynamic game of cat and mouse. In terms of channels coming from the outside there are a huge range – Radio Farda, VOA and these are very important. I personally think that BBC Persia is going to give VOA a run for its money. But these aside, there are channels for dating, channels for women channels for life style. Some of the most important channels come from Dubai and the UAE. Western films are dubbed into Persian- some could say Iran is drowning in media. “Blogger sphere” is incredibly important. There is an important debate about the difference between bloggers and journalists? One of the criteria is getting paid, but not everyone working as a journalist in Iran is getting paid so it is very blurred.
So, if they’re drowning what do we need more of? We need more investigative journalism programmes, we need more documentaries, and there is a lack of programmes that inform about policy. We need stuff on pollution to inform people of the Tehran traffic problem. We need good string informing entertainment. Not all the 70 million occupants of Iran are card carrying members of the republic, they need to be helped to build a new society within Iran but this not done bets through media. We need to exchange with them, NGO for NGO, collaborate, talk to them and invite them out.
Practices are more important than policy. More than 25 million have satellite dishes even though they are illegal. IRIB controls radio and TV. TV has been state owned since the late 60s but the press is privately owned. When these papers cross red lines the papers are closed down. It is difficult to know where these red lines fall. There is an increasing ICT infrastructure but there are still controls. Access is denied to Facebook, Amazon and the BBC since January 2007. This does not mean Iran is closed. You can buy filter breakers. The population is young and dynamic and the more it is oppressed the more it resists. Restrictions are fluid and are not always coherent. They change so we don’t know where the red lines fall exactly. There are a large number of TV and radio broadcasters broadcasting into Iran. The most important are the external TV channels. The older generation prefer radio and the youth TV. BBC Persian is big competition to VOA and Iranian TV because it provides a full package. Iranians don’t want only political news beamed at them. They want entertainment. Film and music channels are the most popular. There is also a very active Blogosphere. There is movement from the press to the blogs and vice versa. The lines between journalism and blogging are blurred. The Iranians are drowning in media, they do not need more. Existing media should lead by example with documentaries, good investigative journalism, addressing social issues rather than politics, for example the issue of pollution. Which Iran do we want to engage with? We need t be aware of the generational gap. We need to talk with not to Iran. We need cultural and educational exchange.
Reza Taghizadeh: Khatami’s candidacy has been sanctioned by the so called supreme leader. If Ahmedinejad had the chance to be re-elected he would render the Supreme Leader into a rubber shrimp. The economy and the armed forces are similar to Pakistan. For Ahmedinejad, the main source of power, along with the army, is the media. The bigger we make him abroad the bigger he becomes. If Khatami is elected the political environment we change immensely – as would the media. New newspapers would form etc. Iran is suffering immensely at the moment because all the money from the sky rocketing oil is being squandered. But the Iranian government pretend to feeding everyone, they pretend to be in control they are not.
Question and Answer:
W. Morris: Media is the key to manipulating elections because of the access issue.
S. Tabari: The political space is closed, not society. There are a number of power bases in Iran. The issues that come under censorship in the media are always changing. Therefore there is a sense of insecurity because it is not known what will be permitted. It is arbitrary.
Nouri Malaki: it is optimistic to say that Khatami will win.
What is needed is building up political institutions. The media could lead by example to show how the world operates. Regarding the elections Khatami and Ahmedinejad has declared but not Qalibaf yet. General Safavi has no chance of winning. The main paper is Hamshahri with a circulation of 300,000. Jam-e-Jam has a circulation of 190,000. The average circulation for newspapers is 10-25,000 and people are disenchanted with the press. For democracy a respected, well circulated press is necessary. If the Supreme Leader thinks he cannot challenge the military forces he will turn to Qalibaf, or as a last resort Larijani. But he still prefers Khatami to break the power of the military. Only Mojtedeh are able to participate in the government s the majority of the population are excluded. Most mojtehed don’t approve of the velayet-i-faqih, yet they work within the system. A mojtehed of a higher rank than Khomeini said there should be a separation of religion and state. There is a big drugs problem in Iran. The government has set up a needle exchange programme. In Iran voting is not done by constituencies so voting can be skewed by mobilizing people to go to a certain place. Khatami closed his eyes to the closing down of papers in his second term. He is inclined to the system and he did not remove the selection of candidates. He is a milder face for the regime but he still keeps the status quo.
Nazenin Ansari: The problem isn’t the open space in society; the problem is the political space. The ministry of culture and other institutions will send out a list of what is to be censored and what is not, every two weeks and these results in ambiguity.
Annabelle Sreberny: Nazenin, to understand Iran you have to understand paradoxes. If you go to Iran you see that it is not a North Korea, it is not a Soviet Union. It is easy to sit out Iran and say “down with the Iranian Republic.” Many inside may be happy for the regime to collapse – they’re involved in the opposition, they demonstrate for human rights. It is now about institution building, the BBC should not be speaking TO Iran it should be speaking IN Iran and cutting through hypocrisy.
Reza Taghizadeh: Just to say, I agree with Annabelle that Iran is nothing like the Soviet Union. The average circulation is about 25,000 copies. People in Iran are disenchanted with newspapers they don’t want to listen, they want to be entertained.
Huda Husseini: I wonder if media mentions prostitution and drug trafficking and I also wanted to ask Annabelle, thank you for your interesting analysis but have you ever been to the slums outside Tehran?
Mohamad Hage Ali, al-Hayat Newspaper: Are there any newspapers closer to the Bazaar and Sanjani clan?
Andres Ilves, BBC Persia: I wanted to talk about the word ‘opposition’ – for the sake of the discussion we need to clarify what we mean. 2/3rds of Iran are young; they are under the age of 30. This means that they have always lived under the republic. When they are on blogs voicing frustration with the unemployment ratings or etc, is that opposition?
Annabelle Sreberny: Prostitution remains a taboo subject. Drug dealing is dealt with in Iran; they even have a needle exchange program in an attempt to clear it up in a responsible way. The worst thing is the internal production which is going on. The production and consumption of crystal meth is a problem. There are party scenes in north Tehran were youngsters take crystal meth much to the disgust of the Westerners.
Parvis Dastmalchi: They have one of the strongest women movements in Iran. There are over thirty women radio/television stations.
Reza Taghizadeh: To address the question of drugs and prostitution it is said that 1000 clergy use opium every day. Newspapers know the number of drug users. When it comes to prostitution they don’t mention it officially but they live with it. There are many red light districts in Tehran. Sometimes police will pick them up but they don’t want to arrest them. They refer to incidents surrounding a prostitute in a different way, under different names.
I would also just like to add that despite the term ‘reformist;’ Khatami is not an opposition he is inclined towards the main. If he gets in for a third term, it won’t change a huge amount. He has already closed his eyes to the shutting down of newspapers because they crossed the line.

Session 2: Media within Iran: Addressing issues of public concern
Chaired by: Julian Borger- The Guardian
Panel: Alireza Namvar Haghighi- Iranian Journalist and Political Scientist. Former broadcaster to Iran for Homa T.V
Meir Javedanfar The Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company (meepas), Tel Aviv
Ali Pedram- Iranian Website Producer, Iran Programme Director at both Durham University and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London
Andres Ilves, Head of BBC Persian

Ali Pedram: Blogging is widely used within Iran and has a great influence. John Kelly conducted a survey on Iranian blogs, the results of which were published in April 2008. The findings showed that the Iranian blog world contained four main categories: the secular reformist; the conservative religious; literary/ poetry; and a mix of social networks. It was interesting that the majority of blogs would not fall into the ‘secular reformist’ category but into ‘conservative religious’. These findings reveal that blogs are not at the moment, the biggest instrument for change. Iran has a lively Internet scene. Not all young people are reformists or secularist.
I think an important question we should be asking, as opposed to ‘How can the West talk to Iran?’ is ‘How can Iran talk to the West?’ How can we enhance people’s skills to express themselves and their society and help them to be able to communicate outwards? is a site that provides a platform for people within Iran and covers a broad range of topics from politics to the environment, social networks to tourism. The aim here is also to provide education in writing, researching and in the editorial process in order to learn how to communicate with the outside world. Durham University also provides a number of good short term courses designed for people in public administration within the Middle East to develop their skills.
Meir Javedanfar: Iran is not a democratic or open society but there is a lively world of news and debating channels. Tabnaq is a very good channel despite censorship issues and its leaning towards the regime. The site opens the way for lots of analysis, particularly economic, covering issues such as oil money, along with analysis of key matters such as sanctions and what is happening with them. Analysis of oil money is of great importance, for example, more than 2,000 million dollars of oil money went missing. Such matters were not broadcast on the news but were discussed on the internet. There is a lively interest in debating key issues amongst the Iranians and all manner of discussion takes place via the internet. Khazeli, for example, has a blog in which he claimed that Ahmedinejad has Jewish blood! This just shows that people are eager to talk and analyse and discuss what is going on in Iran. It is evident, however, that the regime needs to open up. Fardha news, for example, looked at what was happening in Gaza and the Egyptian response to the Palestinians during the crisis and posed the question that perhaps the supreme leader’s policy is wrong. As a consequence of this, Fardha got shut down. The regime has to open up.
I have 3 man points that I would like to share:
• The talks between America and Iran should be welcomed. These talks will empower the people of Iran. Iranians do not want hostilities with the West and do not have anything against the Israelis. These talks, however, must be realistic. The Islamic republic of Iran has shown that it is open to talking about its relationship with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon but that it is not prepared to enter into conversation regarding the nuclear programme. These talks must be realistic and tune in to the issues which are actually open for discussion at the present time.
• The inclusion of Meir Hussein Musavi, the former Prime Minister shows that the government realises that Iran is reaching crisis point. Khameini is a danger to Khatemi and the elephant in the room is the questions that no one seems to be asking which is ‘who is going to replace Khameini when he dies?’. Some have suggested a council, other options have also been discussed but we must talk about this. This issue is vital, more important than discussing who will gain presidency, indeed it is the supreme leader who has the power to decide upon the government.
• Foreign countries and organisations must take an approach towards Iran that gives them the ability to debate amongst themselves. Iranians, then, must become more open and tolerant of the different views expressed within Iran. Iranians need to be able to sit down at a table with each other and discuss things in a civilized way. How Iran develops itself is more important that thinking about the West’s approach to developing Iran.
Websites do a very good job of analyzing Iran. Tabnak is very good. There is also Shahab news that is allied to Rafsanjani. There is a lot of forward movement. Talks between Iran and the US should be welcomed; they will indirectly empower the Iranian people. A grand bargain may be achieved regarding Iran’s spheres of influence in the region but nothing can be achieved on the nuclear issue. The US cannot offer Iran anything of equal value to being nuclear. The possible inclusion of Meir Hussain Mousavi in the election campaign shows that Iran is reaching crisis stage. Karrubi is detrimental to Khatami as he will split the reformist vote. There is also the question of who will replace Khameini as supreme leader, possibly Shahroudi or a council. The issue of who is supreme leader is more important than who will be president.
Andres Ilves: I’ve been asked to speak about reaching Iranian audiences from abroad, which is what my colleagues and I at BBC Persian endeavour to do every day. As Head of the BBC Persian and Pashto service, it is perhaps most appropriate for me the tell you a little bit about the work we do at BBC Persian as well as the most recent addition to our family of offers BBC Persian television.
Let’s start with the vital role the BBC World Service plays in the region, particularly in Iran. For over 70 years we have broadcast in English and Persian to many millions of listeners in Iran, Afghanistan and beyond. In geopolitical terms these services are among the most important we provide.
We also have a wider purpose: through our other language services and the global reach of our English schedules to ensure the wider world understands Iran, its history and the challenges which flow from it.
In a few days time, on 14 February, we will celebrate the one month anniversary of the launch of BBC Persian television. A little over a year ago, we set off on a journey to create a television channel for over 100 million Persian-speakers – a television channel that would build on the journalistic reputation of the BBC Persian radio and, more recently, of BBC Persian online.
In the nearly seven decades that have elapsed since the BBC began broadcasting, just as the map of the world has changed dramatically, so has the landscape of international mass communication. The BBC’s modest evening shortwave programme in Persian during the early days of the Second World War has expanded, over time, to include medium-wave transmission, a dawn programme, a bespoke offer for audiences in Afghanistan and Central Asia, a 24-hour-a-day news and features website, online listening, podcasts, web-based videos, highly-developed options for interactivity including audience emails and SMS text messages and, of course, the new addition to our multimedia offer -- BBC Persian television.
The broadcasting challenges
We are working very hard to make sure the BBC is seen and heard, that the output is relevant and that the thoughtful analytical tone of our coverage can act as a force for dialogue in a region which can be very polarised in its attitudes and where local media is at best patchy in its quality….and operating in environments where media freedom is far less pronounced than in the UK.
BBC Persian
The BBC has always taken the need to broadcast in Persian very seriously. Our radio service was started in 1940 and is well-regarded by many people in the Persian-speaking world.
But the media scene in Iran is becoming very competitive with multiple local and national channels on radio and television, never mind the growth of the net and its vast blogging community.
The battle in recent times has been to be heard literally. In a world where radio is increasingly available on FM, like Radio 4 in the UK, the crackle of old fashioned SW may have a nostalgic ring but it is very hard to listen to. In many parts of the world, we have protected and even increased the impact of radio by diversifying away from shortwave onto local FMs, either our own or via partner stations. But this is not possible in Iran now and is unlikely to be the case in the future.
The BBC Persian website works well with audio and video but is blocked in Iran itself unless you have special privileges to use it.
So the biggest challenge in recent years has been how to respond to these limitations. It has been clear to us for some time that the growth of television, especially satellite television, has fundamentally altered the media scene in Iran.
A month ago, BBC Persian TV was launched to great acclaim in the UK and internationally, as well as huge viewer interest in Iran. This is a very mixed schedule of programmes with news at its core along with a varied mix of documentaries, arts, technology and debate programmes because that is what Iranian audience wanted from the BBC.
BBC Persian responding to modern Iranian audiences
Iranians and Afghans are among the most sophisticated consumers of news. They are passionate about news; and debate and discussion on important issues is ingrained in their culture. They have great enthusiasm to take part in debates, and contribute news and information, including video and pictures.
One of the most significant developments in BBC Persian output has paralleled media trends around the world – the increased focus on interactivity and audience participation. More significantly, however, this communication takes place not just between an ‘audience’ and the BBC as an international media outlet, but in fact between Persian-speaking individuals and communities around the world, directly with each other with the programme more a facilitator than a communicator itself.
All of us once lived in a world in which interaction between a medium and its audience consisted, at best, of the ‘letters to the editor’ part of the newspaper, a world that in particularly enlightened places perhaps also involved a weekly ‘listener letters’ programme on radio. However we inhabit, now, a world in which a 20-year-old man at a video cam on his computer in Shiraz can interact with a 50-year-old woman calling in from Toronto, hearing an SMS sent in by a 40-year-old man in Dubai and an e-mail sent in by a 30-year-old woman in Kabul about a pressing social issue – all via a live television programme broadcast from London.
And the topics they discuss include the full range of the modern human experience, with, of course, a special focus on issues of interest to Persian-speakers everywhere. In the weeks since BBC Persian television was launched, its five-days-a-week interactive programme has covered such topics as
How would you introduce Iran to the world?
Who is to blame in the Gaza/Israel conflict?
What would you say to President Obama if you had the chance to speak to him?
Treatment of Iranians at international airports
Should US troops withdraw from Afghanistan?
Relations between Presidents Chavez & Ahmedinejad
All subjects that would be leading to lively debates across continents, generations, social and political perspectives.
New communication channels have opened up in ways unimaginable even a decade ago. Iran’s ubiquitous satellite dishes ensure that where mere newspapers or even radio once had limited reach inside the country, television in all its colour and immediacy can travel unfettered.
Other paths of communication have emerged as well. BBC Persian television is not just news and current affairs channel. Through discussion programmes, a level of debate and discourse can take place that is otherwise unknown in the Persian-speaking world. The dialogue also takes place across generations. Even just by showing films that have not been seen in Iran for over 30 years, BBC Persian television enables a generation of Iranians both within Iran and without to have access to an important part of their past.
BBC Editorial Values and BBC Persian
Let me say something about the editorial values which shape the BBC Persian output. These are BBC services. They have the same aims and values as all the other BBC news outlets.
We aim to be authoritative and impartial in our journalism. In this respect we want to hear from Iranian leaders, opinion-formers and citizens where their views are relevant.
We aim to be trusted for the accuracy, editorial independence and expertise of our journalism. Editorial independence is a commodity in short supply in the region.
We want to use the technology to become a trusted forum for the exchange of ideas across cultural, linguistic and national boundaries. We hope Persian-speakers in Iran and Afghanistan will debate and converse through the BBC with their counterparts in America and Europe.
We will broaden the news agenda for audiences in the region - one which reflects the breadth of their interest, rather than a dominant focus on conflict.
BBC Persian television will exemplify the BBC core values of trust, objectivity, integrity, impartiality and independence. It will be modern, open, warm and outward-looking, with news at its heart. The channel is distinctive, above all, for the quality of its news and factual programmes, and its contemporary, open and youthful style.
The channel joins the already-existing BBC Persian radio and online output, which continues to offer many hours a day of radio coverage and a website that is updated 24 hours a day. Together, they will provide world class news and current affairs programmes, covering international and major regional and local stories from a global perspective, with a strong focus on Iran.
The world of international Persian-language media has changed almost beyond recognition in a very short time. It is, of course, still evolving, and new trends are emerging. Blogs, mobile phones, and other forms of delivery and interaction that are only beginning to emerge ensure that the global Persian-language conversation will continue to undergo an ever more rapid cycle of change and dynamism.
Alireza Namvar Haghighi: Media as the key to revolution. We need an attempt to revamp the newspapers. Khatami encouraged people to carry out political activities through parties rather than newspapers. The roles of the media include 1. The press is successful in providing information especially in small towns. Access to information worries the government. 2. The articulation of demands. The media has not been successful in this. 3. Public discourse 4. Supervisory role. The press has not done this successfully. The media under Khatami was not great. Papers whose editors did not have good connections in the system were closed. Ahmedinejad changed civil society into a Basiji society.
Questions and Panel Answers
- The conservatives have access to media. Among the reformists Khatami does not have access to media. Karrubi has an internet site and a paper. Radical reformists have only the Internet.
- Khatami is not for regime change. When he was president he could not implement changes and his supporters were persecuted. Rafsanjani distanced himself too. Allowing Khatami to stand gives a signal to Ahmedinejad that he can’t expect to have all the power. Lower oil prices are helpful to Khatami but the election result depends on the supreme leader.
- Ahmedinejad tried to take power away from the office of the supreme leader. His populist and aggressive stance has alienated many. This atmosphere may enable Khatami to implement big changes. Khatami said he would not run without assurances from the supreme leader.
- MEK spokesmen refuse to be interviewed by BBC Persian.
- Iranian Israelis have a very strong culture and strong bond to Iran. It is in the interests of Israel that talks are held. The possibility of an Israeli attack depends on Israeli leader and what Obama says.
- The discourse around the nuclear programme involves the pride and standing of Iran so it’s hard to discuss environmental issues.
- Iran wants regional supremacy. It has been a long term goal to obtain a nuclear bomb.

Session 3: Reaching Iranian Audiences from Abroad
Chaired by: Dan Sreebny- Senior Advisor for Regional Media, State Department.
Panel: Sonja Pace- Representative of VOA Persian Service/Persian News Network
Menashe Amir- Israeli analyst and broadcaster, specialist in Iranian and Arab affairs.
Alireza Nourizadeh- Iranian Journalist, broadcaster and Political Commentator for the radio channel Voice of America, senior writer for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.
Shahran Tabari- Journalist and Chief Correspondent in London for Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty)

Sonja Pace: I am representing VPA Persian service. I do not speak Farsi and I am not an expert on Iran. I want to touch on a number of issues. Firstly about VOA, it started in 1942 and has continued (on and off) up until today. It began its regular broadcasting in 1979. The Persian news network is a relatively new one. There are a number of challenges which face VOA. On the practical side there is the problem of visas. Last time I was in Tehran was in 2001, and that is not through lack of trying. Because of this restriction it is sometimes very hard to present all sides of the story so you have to work around it the best you can. It is important that we do not give someone too much of a platform, all the views have to be argued through, challenged, mandated and constantly checked. It is not just about Iran, we report what is going on around the world; we give context and say what is going on. The question of how we increase our audiences is that we move with technology to keep ourselves credible, accurate and timely. VOA is news driven. It is hard to recruit ‘new blood’ from within Iran because of fears about going back or consequences for the families. Objectivity is important to be credible. They can’t promote an agenda.
Shahran Tabari: Iran has a highly educated and very literate population but they are very hidden from technological advances. It is most important to establish trust and this is both within the work area and between the radio speakers and recipients. It is important to clarify who the audience is and ask the question as to whether you want to address a specific group. You have to ask what your aims and objectives would be. Our objective is news, analysis and discussion, we are committed to democracy and civil rights, our phrase is “reporting is out job, judgement is yours.” We want to reach analysis and discussion but how are we to maintain balance in this world? Analysis and discussion inevitably ends up in opinions which aren’t impartial. It is most important to remember that your audience is funny and intelligent. There is a saying that reflects the Iranian populations relationship with politics and that is “one does not have to be a master chef to distinguish the difference between good and bad food.”
Iranian people are highly educated and technology-savvy. To reach an audience you need to win their trust. First it is necessary to identify the audience, to target opinion makers like students, academics and policy makers. Also need to be clear about objectives and how these will be delivered. Their objectives are to promote democracy, human rights and civil society. There is a consensus on territorial integrity. Must provide accurate, impartial information in a professional way. Citizen media is growing, it is interactive, and connecting. Emails and texts are received from all over Iran every day. This is a powerful way for reaching and building relations with the audience.
We are not in the business of domestic journalism and there are many grey areas. But we aim to increase constructive forums through which people can exchange views. New forms of communication particularly with SMS and voice mails etc makes it easier to contact us and we have some very loyal listeners, on average we get 50,000 clicks every day. During the American elections we had the highest ratings and a huge number during the Arab-Israeli war.
Menash Amir: The role or electronic media will have a fateful ramification on Iran both its state and its people. Not just satellite but the internet, Facebook, blogging. Due to the suppression in Iran and the restriction of websites no alternative can emerge from within. However, the state has not managed to get rid of them completely. Iran has one of the youngest majorities in the world. This generation is both eager and open to learn about innovations in order to make contact with the outside world. The young have overcome these restrictions and entered into these sites and are now regular users. They are, therefore, possible to reach. The suppression is not as bad as the Soviet Union. I have worked on Radio Israel for 52 years. In general our sources are verified. We are on air 1 1/2 hours a day 5 days a week and 1 hr on Fridays and Saturdays. We do not want to criticise other states, our goal for the broadcast is to stop missiles and to help get a democracy that will not interfere but add to the Middle East and not fund terrorist activities in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories.
Electronic media is very important in determining Iran’s destiny. 15 million people use the Internet. Israel has been broadcasting to Iran in Farsi for 50 years. Continuity is important. Radio Israel has agenda to explain Israeli policies and promote democracy.
The editing department has a free hand in editing news bulletins and they are not restricted by directing staff. Electronic media will play an important role in the future of Iran.

Alireza Nourizadeh: Apart from being a commentator I do have a daily show called ‘Window to my fatherland.’ I have no expensive and ultra modern light nor do I have sophisticated Camera I just have a small camera. Enabling me to talk to my people every day.
I know a 26 year old young writer who was a blogger. In his blog he said Dear Khamanei; I wish you loved me as much as you love Shiite youth in Lebanon and Palestine. For this he was arrested and he is serving now two and a half years imprisonment. This is what the young want; they want freedom to express themselves like they do in the West. (Nourizadeh
Has a popular programme on Channel one TV network Window to my Fatherland. As a prominent Journalists abroad He plays an important role in getting secret in formations out of Iran through his sources and broadcasting them in his programme).in the next phrase of his speech nourizadeh talked about Hussein Darukshan a blogger who visited Israel twice and suddenly became a solid supporter of Ahmedinejad. He returned to Iran and was arrested. Derakhshan waiting trial and accused of spying for Israel.

Nourizadeh also said:

I had to leave my country because I was close to Dr Shapour Bakhtiar last Prime Minister before revolution and a prominent nationalist who has been imprisoned many times since 1953 codetta against our nationalist leader Dr Mohammad Mosadeq. The VOA offered me a way to voice my opinions to Iran.

Alireza Nourizadeh: As far as jamming concerned, they used to use terrible methods of jamming, they used a micro wave eventually the authorities stopped using it.

Shahran Tabari: We have an auditing system, we have reprisal sessions every year and we’re very pleased with our large audiences. Four years ago we changed to Radio Fardo and became a 24 hour broadcaster. We do not have any restrictions in funding and this is important as it is important that we have trust. We would welcome input and visitors from the system, from the government, and our funders have the confidence that we do our jobs well and responsibly.
Menashe Amir: We need to try and teach the importance of neutrality but there are ways of picking up the news. Radio Israel is considered very credible in Iran but we are not impartial. We give the other side – we want to give them the side they do not hear. VOA, BBC and Radio Farda, you waste your funding, you do not need to give Iranian this information, this debate, and we should work to change the regime by telling people the other side.
Shahran Tabari: I think that you need to respect them by giving them both sides and letting them make up their own minds. We are trying to do this.
Sonja Pace: By bringing in both sides we are showing by example- we bring in points of view and show that this is what free society is like, you don’t talk down to you audiences.
Hude Husseini: VOA- you are so wound up and nervous about wasting the tax payer’s money, to Nourizadeh, have you ever managed to stop the executing of minors?
Mohammad Hage Ali: To Mr Amir, Israel is not popular in Iran, how can you think that your message with your reputation can be accepted? The language of democracy does not come from Israel. When thousands of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and constantly killed, when you invade Lebanon and kill so many Arabs, you are not in a position to speak of freedom democracy.
Nourizadeh: Broadcasting to Iran is, and has been a very good way of getting early release of activists.Sonja Pace: VOA is funded by the government and the tax payer and generally yes we bring to the radio and explain US policy and US positions but we are not a mouth piece for the government but we show the importance of arguing and they are fair.
Menashe Amir: You give exaggerated examples. Arab Israeli have more rights than any other Middle Eastern country.
Dan Sreebny: And on that nice political note, I am afraid it is time for us to finish this session, but can I ask you joining me in thanking our panellists.

Session 4: Looking Ahead; New Initiatives?
Chaired by: William Morris – Secretary General, Next Century Foundation
Panel: Mehrdad Khonsari- a former Iranian diplomat, Senior Research Consultant at the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London
Barry Marston- Arabic and Persian spokesperson for the Foreign Office.
Nazenin Ansari- Diplomatic editor of the London edition of Kayhan, Voice of America, Persian Television Service.
Dr Farhang Jahanpour- Former Chief Persian Monitor and Editor for the Middle East and North Africa at the BBC Monitoring and a part-time tutor at Oxford University

Mehrdad Khonsari: In the previous sessions, expert colleagues with years of experience have set the stage for what I am about to say by presenting a very realistic picture of the domestic dynamics and the external challenges that have confronted the Iranian nation in these tumultuous times as well as the increasingly sophisticated way in which Iranian audiences have been reached in one way or another by a variety of messages either domestically or through external channels.
There is no doubt that in the 30 years since the advent of the Islamic Revolution, public opinion regarding key issues of general concern such as economic opportunities, social justice and individual liberties as well as over all support for the Islamic regime has gone through a great transformation.
Quite apart from the subtle evolution which has taken place within the written press inside the country as opposed to state controlled radio and television broadcasts that have remained doctrinaire, I believe that the role played by the media outlets outside Iran – starting with simple radio broadcasts from the likes of BBC, VOA, Radio Israel and Deutche Welle as well as the clandestine radio broadcasts that became active from a variety of political organizations across the political spectrum in the 1980s
Which have now evolved to the much lengthier and satellite TV broadcasts of today irrespective of the qualitative differences that might exist amongst them– have all played a major role in the way that public opinion amongst Iranians has been shaped.
This indicates that there is an audience that is yearning to listen which also has a potential for responding when it can make such a call. This is a fundamental factor which has already been demonstrated by Dr. Bakhtiar’s in 1980s and more recently by the student protest and seen to have succeeded.
The question now is where do we go from here and what is it that we ultimately expect from audiences inside Iran. It is obvious that the best results can only be attained if the message they receive is both uniform and robust. The danger lies in the confusion which different messages may create, which is essence has the downside of delaying the kind of mobilization which any such kind of activity seeks.
Here, it is clearly possible for the objectives of governments – i.e. those who in contemporary terms, run the likes of the BBC or the VOA to vary with those say broadcasting from Los Angeles or bloggers who are attempting to promote cohesion for collective action amongst targets like women, students or unions.
Hence the need for taking careful note that public diplomacy – as exercised on the part of big governments using the media as a vehicle – should not deviate from the kind of messaging that is put out say by the advocate of democracy and human rights in Iran.
Obviously, public diplomacy objectives are pursued on the basis of perceptions concerning one’s target audience. Today, we are entering a new era in this respect with the advent of Barak Obama and his call for ‘engagement’ with the Islamic regime. While in political-diplomatic terms, a well thought out engagement strategy which has a defined objective and time frame may be what is needed to reduce the possibility of confrontation, how this strategy is presented to the Iranian public is critical, bearing in mind that the majority of disenchanted Iranians are both the regime’s Achilles Heel as well as the West’s most natural allies.
Therefore, how President Obama’s new strategy is presented to the Iranian people is critical. The Public Diplomacy aspect of this should not be watered down in advance for the sake of what one might for choice of a better word call, “pragmatic feelers”. Thus, in any new initiative promoting democracy and human rights in Iran should not be watered down for the sake of possible engagement that might or might not lead to something.
The Iranian public is not stupid and understands full well that issues such as the threat of proliferation, WMDs and terrorism is much more important to the West than say any insistence on issues like promoting democracy and human rights. Indeed, a cursory glance at what has happened in Libya where it appears that after extricating himself from terrorism and WMDs, Mr. Qaddafi has more or less been left to his devices on matters relating to democracy and human rights, is something that is quite obvious to any intelligent Iranian observer.
Given the less flexible nature of the Islamic regime, and the fact that disengaging the IRI from a number of activities such as its nuclear program or its policies of negative interference in places like Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan is unlikely to happen for a considerable time, were any engagement to take place any time soon, without wishing to sound cynical, I would suggest that every effort should be made to continue convincing the Iranian public that they along with their dreams and aspiration will not be sold for any price.

Barry Marston: Reaching Iranian audiences
A strong stance is needed but at the same time we don’t want to prove right the stereotypes that the west is hostile. We want behaviour change not regime change. That is a decision for the Iranian people. There are issues for cooperation eg. drugs. There is a need to maintain a link with the domestic press to be able to reach everyone. We need a 2 way exchange of views.
• Long term vision of strong, positive and productive relations - conditional on changes in behaviour by regime.
• Challenge the myths (not trying to prevent Iran from accessing modern, civil nuclear programme...), overcome mistrust.
• What do our policies really represent?
• Recognising historical grievances, but moving forward.
• Presenting a picture of 21st century Britain; ie; not colonialist, imperialist power as regime seeks to portray us.
• Challenge perceptions of anti-Islamic UK/West
Deconflicting; opposition to regime policies - not opposition to Iranian people behaviour change - not regime change
Challenges: opportunities for 2-way communication limited; closure of BC etc
• Statements/speeches constructed with Iranian (& regional) audiences in mind (FS blogs)
• Material translated into Farsi
• Farsi speaking spokespeople
• Public diplomacy; bilateral contact, relations with the media...Working with EU & other partners to ensure we are speaking with one voice on human rights, nuclear etc. Responding to incorrect reporting; our position on MeK, Gaza...Electronic media (recognise growing importance of medium)

Prospects for 2009: Urgency, but no magic solutions - continued diplomatic pressure/incentives
• Support for Obama's prioritisation of Iran file
• Need to ensure that Iranian audiences properly understand what international community has to offer;
• Iran underperforming
• Stands to benefit from better relations
• No opposition to Iran playing a positive & influential role in the region
Nazenin Ansari: The strategic thrust of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy has not altered, despite the shift in US policy towards Iran which began under former President George W Bush’s administration. Furthermore, whilst the two countries have engaged in talks to build confidence on issues of common interest, the IRI has strengthened its clenched fists at home and increased its clamp down against Iranian citizens. To date President Obama, unlike President Bush before him, has remained silent on the issue of human rights in Iran. Indeed the shift in US foreign policy has been the abandonment (at least for now) of the previous administration’s promotion of democracy. For the sake of Iran and the international community emphasis on good governance and respect for human rights and civil liberties should be central to western policy towards Iran.
President Barak Obama is now the 5th US President who has to grapple/ contend and deal with Iran since the birth of the Islamic Republic. In his February 9th Press Conference President Obama once again spoke of engaging in direct diplomacy with the regime in Tehran and said “but I think that there's the possibility at least of a relationship of mutual respect and progress. “
In return President Ahmadinejad declared a readiness for talks with the US "based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere" during the rally of celebrations of 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.
Vice President Joe Biden provided the first glimpse of U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama at the Munich Conference. He said, “Our administration is reviewing policy toward Iran, but this much I can say: We are willing to talk. We are willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon your illicit nuclear program and support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives.”
Many have questioned whether this is a dramatic shift in US foreign policy. The former administration was equally prepared to talk to Iran given those preconditions. Indeed the building blocks of the current stage of US-IRI engagements were established in 2007 when both sides held talks over Iraq.
The Nuclear Dispute
Dr. Akbar Etemad, an eminent Iranian well-informed about the Iranian nuclear programme told me last week while both sides have no other choice but to negotiate and engage, Iran will insist on enriching uranium in Iran and will not accept the proposal to enrich uranium in Russia. Citing the Eurodif case he said, “Iran remains a shareholder of Eurodif but has not received anything in return. Now they tell us to go and invest for another 10 years in another project. The Russians are 100 times worst than the French.”
Dr. Etemad also said that inspection of military sites will be off limits as most IAEA inspectors will be probably be spies. He also portrayed the scientists and technicians working in the programme as mostly young and nonpartisan.
He continued that the global financial meltdown and the worsening security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan have tied western hands. On the Iranian side as well, the situation in Iran today is very fragile. With control over 40% of the economy the centre of not only political but also financial gravity, with unprecedented power and influence is the IRGC.
On the other hand social malaise, such as drug addiction, prostitution and corruption is further fuelled by increasing unemployment, inflation, housing crises and corruption which in turn exacerbates the division and personal animosity within the clerical, business, bazaar and technocratic groupings.
The question remains: would not "direct negotiations without pre-conditions" affect the 3 Chapter 7 United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding IRI to suspend uranium enrichment? What effect would this have on the standing of the UN? Would the international community be prepared to negate such an authoritative enactment as a UNSCR?
Why did Ayatollah Khamanei agree to Mr. Khatami’s candidacy?
Mr. Khatami represents the smiling face of the Nezam (the regime). He is known as a "moderate," primarily because he has a more lax attitude towards social issues. But he is a firm believer on the fundamentals of the Iranian Revolution.
One possible explanation would be if Khatami were elected- given the dissent and anger towards Ahmadinejad and the terrible shape of the Iranian economy, he has a chance-it would take a lot of pressure off Europe and Japan for increasing sanctions against Iran.
Dr. Etemad said, “Iranians too are in difficulty. Negotiations with the US are very challenging and arduous. It needs a strong irrational figure, such as Ahmadinejad, not a weak character like former President Khatami.” He continued, “Ahmadinejad’s ilk will use batons to clamp down on whoever but them takes over.” He also suggested that ultimately Ahmadinejad’s grouping, comprising of ideologically trained and irregular members of IRGC …the Supreme Leader has no other choice but to rely on their support.”
Support for Non-State Actors
Today, the regime cannot expand its base of power beyond its zealots and fanatical followers. IRI still does not see itself as a nation-state but rather a non-geographical ideological force. The zealots are not only the key to the domestic security and clamp down on citizen but they also are the apparatus controlling IRI’s support for Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, insurgent elements and armed groups in Iraq and the Persian Gulf states.
There are many who believe that Iran has no control over Hezbollah or Hamas, but can be used as intermediaries for these groups. However, the recent Gaza crisis illustrated the manner in which Iran has used Hamas to stay engaged in regional Arab politics. There are also indications that IRI plans to keep Hamas under its influence by intervening in an intensifying rivalry between Hamas’ leadership in Gaza and Damascus.
Given Iran’s lack of conventional superiority (economic and military), IRI has utilized unconventional and low intensity warfare to project power. To ensure that confrontation remains in the unconventional and low intensity state, it has strived to attain the nuclear umbrella capacity.
As such it is doubtful that IRI will agree to full inspections and relinquish its support for these groups.
Iron Fists at Home
The Achilles heel of the IRI is the Iranian citizens who are increasingly taking the brunt of the attacks by its iron fists.
On the occasion of the anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution, Amnesty International stated “Impunity, arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, as well as the use of the death penalty remain prevalent. Some sectors of society – including ethnic minorities – continue to face widespread discrimination, while the situation for other groups – notably some religious minorities – has significantly worsened. Those seen as dissenting from stated or unstated official policies face severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of belief, expression, association and assembly. Women continue to face discrimination - both in law and practice. Impunity for human rights abuses is widespread.”
Indeed the dramatic shift in US foreign policy has been the abandonment (at least for now) of the previous administration’s promotion of democracy.
Thomas Pickering, Jim Walsh, and William Luers have argued, “deteriorating relations between Washington and Tehran will only strengthen Iranian hard-liners and therefore exacerbate the human rights situation.” This is not a share viewed by Iranian activists. Indeed the human rights situation has deteriorated considerably in the past couple of years; during back channel talks and track two negotiations between the US and IRI.
An Iranian pro-democracy activist summed up the feelings of many who have listened to President Obama’s statements, “they have poured cold water over our heads.”
An Iranian political strategist questioned Obama administration’s wisdom of dropping support for democracy. “They keep force on the table which doesn’t mean anything. A military attack will be a gift for the current regime because it will neutralise the disenfranchised elements of the military and paramilitary forces—who might otherwise switch sides. Even from a self interest perspective democracy was the strongest instrument of pressure that west had at its disposal. While you have not received anything from IRI you have rewarded them with a gift of eliminating your best instrument of pressure.”
The problem of Iran is not one of personalities; but rather that of a system that is uncivil, lacks all elements of good governance is anachronistic and intent on using force, repression and intimidation to push its authoritarian vision forward. Popular sovereignty is considered an anathema as it negates sovereignty of the Divine and its representative, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic (Divine sovereignty is indivisible). Moreover, the central paradigm of IRI’s existence ever since its birth has been imperialism: to replace western imperialism by an international Khomeinist version of Islam.
For the sake of Iran and the international community, emphasis on good governance and respect for human rights and civil liberties should be central to US policy towards Iran.
Iran is a signatory to numerous international treaties and conventions regarding political, social and economic rights. By virtue of its signature, it has a duty to abide by international norms and regulations. Demanding IRI compliance is an international duty and responsibility. Rather than being an undue interference in Iran’s internal affairs; it is an obligation.
To empower the ordinary Iranian citizen, who has been the staunchest ally of the US in the Middle East; effective sanctions that also target human rights violations have to be applied. Targeted and smart sanctions include ending all military sales and inspecting all transports to Iran, implementing diplomatic and visa restrictions for officials and their families, tracing suspected international bank accounts and trusts to principal beneficiaries and freezing those connected to the parastatal institutions.
International criminal court should start proceedings against those within the regime responsible for crimes against humanity—from torture to execution of political prisoners, to extrajudicial killings both inside and outside Iran, and to crimes against religious minorities.
On Feb. 10, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the U.S. administration’s willingness to engage with Iran on “a range of matters” and said that the United States “will reconsider where we stand” on the issue of ballistic missile defence as long as Iran changes course on its nuclear development path. She then added, “But we are a long, long way from seeing any evidence of a behaviour change.” This was the first time the United States has publicly linked the issue of ballistic missile development to U.S.-Iranian negotiations, marking a subtle shift in the U.S. administration’s tactics.
The key to solving the dilemma will hinge on Russia’s cooperation. Speaking at the Munich Security conference the French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Russian co-operation on imposing sanctions was necessary. "We need the Russians to help so that sanctions against Iran are effective," he said. "We have only one solution left, reinforce sanctions against Iran and link Russia to this process."
Openness and transparency should be central to US engagement with IRI. Iranian citizens have to be informed and advised at every juncture about talks/engagement/negotiations. There is turmoil with

March 12, 2009 02:19 AM

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