Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda
(Washington, DC -- September 6, 2007) This past week, Radio Farda interviewed U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman on his efforts to increase democracy promotion funding for Iran. It also aired an interview with correspondent Parnaz Azima minutes after she regained her passport from Iranian authorities, as well as with commentators who discussed the departure from Iran of Iranian American academic Haleh Esfandiari. In addition, Radio Farda looked into the ongoing debate between the U.S. and Iran over Iraq and examined the potential impact of former Iranian president Hashemi-Rafsanjani's election to head the Assembly of Experts -- a body of notable clerics with the constitutional authority to appoint, supervise, and even dismiss Iran's Supreme Leader.
> During an exclusive interview with Radio Farda on September 5 (to be aired on September 8), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Ind.-CT) said he has seen "very clear documentation that Iran has essentially been running a proxy war against American and Iraqi individuals and forces" in Iraq, which "the Iranian side essentially denied" during talks between the countries' respective ambassadors to Iraq. Lieberman also said he would seek to increase funding for democracy promotion programs in Iran to $75 million during debate on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act for 2008 (English transcript at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/09/c1e26ee1-6051-4d01-b549-44e0e9e92dd3.html; article at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/09/73265bfb-04fd-4781-8567-415682b8f9e5.html).
> On September 4, Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima, who has been prevented from leaving Iran since late January, told listeners she had just picked up her passport from Iranian authorities and would leave Iran in the near future. Azima told Radio Farda officials with the Intelligence Ministry informed her she was no longer barred from leaving the country, but that the deed to her mother's house -- which had been offered in lieu of a $550,000 bail -- will not be returned at this time "and my case would stay open for now." Azima added, "For now I cannot predict the decision the Intelligence Ministry or the judiciary will make in my case" (http://www.radiofarda.com/Article/2007/09/05/f1_nazi_interview.html; English release with link to transcript of interview at http://www.rferl.org/releases/2007/09/484-050907.asp).
> On September 3, Radio Farda reported that Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari had left Iran, following her release from prison jail two weeks earlier on $300,000 bail. Sharon McCarter, Director of Outreach and Communications at the Woodrow Wilson International Center where Esfandiari heads the Middle East program, told listeners she expects Esfandiari to return to her work and research.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who represents both Esfandiari and Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima, told Radio Farda she is glad Iranian authorities have allowed her clients to leave Iran. Ebadi said the cases against her clients themselves were a violation of Iranian law.
Former British diplomat in Iran Chris Rundle told Radio Farda that, in his view, the arrests of Iranian-Americans should be seen in the context of the ongoing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran. "By detaining those people and making charges against them, Iran wanted to show that it considered that the U.S. was indulging in a policy of regime change, rather than just trying to change -- so to speak -- Iran's behavior," Rundle said (audio of all three interviews at http://tinyurl.com/yutnvs).
> The September 1 edition of Radio Farda's weekly roundtable program "Viewpoints" centered on the friction between the U.S. and Iran over Iraq. Washington-based political analyst Bahman Aghai-Diba said he believes there is a fundamental disagreement between the U.S. and Iran in the way each looks at Iraq, for example in each side's view of what constitutes security in the country. Tehran-based professor Hassan Hashemian said Iran thinks it is in a position where it can tolerate a military confrontation with the U.S., based on the experience of the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel conflict in Lebanon. Political analyst and Harvard University research fellow Mohsen Sazegara said that Iran considers itself a competitor with the U.S. for hegemony in the region. "But this will be a lethal competition for Iran," Sazegara told Radio Farda, adding that peace in the region and with the various forces engaged there, including Arabs, Turks, Israelis, Americans and the British is in the interest of the Iranian people (http://www.radiofarda.com/Article/2007/09/02/f4_Iraq-meddling-Iran-US.html).
> Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was elected on September 4 to chair the Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 senior clerics that supervises the work of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That same day, Radio Farda aired interviews on the impact of Rafsanjani's election on the political atmosphere in Iran. Tehran-based journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin said that Rafsanjani's plan seems to be to return Iran to international acceptability and hoped his election would help limit the power of the Supreme Leader to the framework of the Constitution, which may lead to the creation of a balance of power within the political structure. Paris-based activist Ali Keshtgar, however, said that as Rafsanjani already heads the powerful Expediency Council, his election to the leadership of the Assembly of Experts will do little to change matters in Iran. Keshtgar noted that the Supreme Leader has enjoyed Rafsanjani's support whenever he has pursued his own initiatives (http://www.radiofarda.com/Article/2007/09/04/f7_Iran_Hashemi.html).
For more on these and other stories about Iran, please visit:
http://www.radiofarda.com -- Radio Farda's Persian-language website
http://www.rferl.org/reviews/farda.aspx -- "Focus on Farda" bi-weekly review
http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/default.asp -- "RFE/RL Iran Report" weekly analysis
http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/iran.html -- RFE/RL English-language coverage of Iran
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