Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda
(Prague, Czech Republic -- July 27, 2006) Radio Farda programming on the crisis in the Middle East focused this week on the timing and motives of both sides in the conflict and on the impact it will have on Iran's role in the region. Responses were mixed, with some interviewees saying Iran's influence will be weakened when Hezbollah is weakened, while other experts told Radio Farda that Hezbollah cannot be defeated and this will be seen as a victory for Iran, increasing its influence in the region. Other major stories covered by Radio Farda included the ongoing nuclear enrichment debate, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's trip to Tajikistan and Iran's resumption of stoning sentences for women.
>> In Washington, the Director of Public Diplomacy in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Alberto Fernandez gave Radio Farda an exclusive interview, aired July 20, on Iran's role in the current fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. He said the escalation of violence is the result of a "cold provocation by Hezbollah" across international borders that was carried out without the approval of the Lebanese government. Fernandez told Radio Farda that "Iran funds Hezbollah to the tune of $200 million a year" and that it "played a critical role in the founding of Hezbollah, which was established with the direct intervention of Iranian intelligence and Iranian 'Pasdaran' (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) over the past two decades" (rtsp://realaudio.rferl.org/ch21/20060720-1730FRD.rm?start=06:53&end=09:41)
>> Radio Farda broadcast a special 15-minute program on July 26 that provided listeners a comprehensive perspective on the two-week-old crisis.
A Lebanese journalist for the "Daily Star" newspaper in Beirut gave Radio Farda listeners an eyewitness account of the situation on the ground in Lebanon. Excerpts of statements by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah outlined their respective positions on the conflict.
Radio Farda's Rome correspondent reported live on the agreements and disagreements of the just-concluded Rome conference, where representatives of 18 nations sought to find a way to stop the conflict and restore peace to the region. He said participants from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East were in agreement on the need for a diplomatic solution that would be endorsed by Iran and Syria, as well as Israel and Lebanon.
Radio Farda reporters in the Middle East detailed for the program Arab reaction to the crisis and steps being taken by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to convince the warring parties of the need for diplomacy. In an exclusive Radio Farda interview, Dr. Shahram Chubin, director of the Geneva Center for Strategic Studies, spoke about Hezbollah's motives and goals. Chubin described Hezbollah as a political, as well as military force in Lebanon that enjoys widespread support of other Shiites throughout the region, which as a result cannot be eradicated.
In an earlier, July 21 broadcast on Radio Farda, Yossi Mekelberg of Chatham House, London's Royal Institute of International Affairs commented on the likelihood of the conflict continuing for some time and what it would take to stop it with a ceasefire. He said, "The Lebanese government is not strong enough. The Lebanese Army is not strong enough. It has to be a combination of international pressure that will go through Iran and Damascus, with an international force deployed along the border between Israel and Lebanon and pushing Hizballah fighters over the Litani River -- which is 40 kilometers from the border -- and a verifiable process in which the rockets are dismantled. So it's a complicated agreement in which you have a non-state actor [that] basically defies the central government."
>> Radio Farda gained an exclusive interview in Washington with U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), a sponsor of separate pieces of legislation to extend the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) for another 5 years and amend ILSA to toughen the sanctions imposed in response to Iran's nuclear enrichment program. During the interview, Santorum told Radio Farda listeners: "I am hopeful that we will get an extension of ILSA and expansion of ILSA out of the Banking Committee and pass it in the United State�s Senate... This is an important piece of legislation; I can't think of a time when acting on a piece of legislation about Iran would be more appropriate. Iran is causing all sorts of trouble in the Middle East right now -- obviously within Iraq; with seeking a nuclear program; with the coordination that is evident with Hezbollah and Hamas; with respect to problems in Israel. It is time for Congress to speak firmly and loudly on the issue of Iran." The interview was broadcast in two parts, on July 21 (rtsp://realaudio.rferl.org/ch21/20060721-1630FRD.rm?start=06:55&end=10:25) and July 23 (rtsp://realaudio.rferl.org/ch21/20060723-2030FRD.rm?start=13:23&end=17:41)
>> U.S. State Department Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph told Radio Farda, in an exclusive interview on July 25, that "Iran's sponsorship for terrorists" is merely one of several US concerns about Iran. Joseph said Iran has a "long record of concealment and violation of its safeguard obligations," and that the entire international community, as well as the United States, is "very leery about what Iran says in contrast to what Iran does" (http://www.radiofarda.com/iran_article/2006/7/6a3a25ad-3a21-4c25-b97b-4b3e8153f142.html).
>> President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's two-day trip to Tajikistan July 25-26 made headlines on several issues.
Radio Farda's correspondent in Dushanbe reported that Ahmadinejad wanted to advance economic cooperation with Tajikistan and attend a tri-lateral summit with Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai on security, communications and trade. But inevitably, the Middle East conflict overshadowed the agenda. In Ahmadinejad's first public comments, after a July 25 meeting with Tajik president Imomali Rakhmonov, the Iranian president warned that Israel is raising a wind that will become a hurricane and turn against in his words "the enemies of humanity." At a July 26 press conference, he returned to the issue with a strong defense of Hezbollah and Lebanon, adding: "we defend the territorial integrity of Lebanon."
During his visit, Ahmadinejad opened a tunnel from the Tajik capital to the northern city of Khujand built with Iranian assistance, and pledged $180 million for a cooperative project -- a hydroelectric power plant to be built in Tajikistan and serve Afghanistan and Iran, as well as Tajikistan. Ahmadinejad also gave a commitment to set up jointly with Tajikistan a Persian-speaking television channel that would also broadcast to neighboring Afghanistan.
Radio Farda's coverage of his trip included an interview aired July 25 with Dr. Turaj Atabaki, a professor of international relations at the University of Amsterdam, who said that Iran was trying to convince Afghanistan and Tajikistan to take a neutral -- if not supportive -- stance towards Iran in its stand-off with the West. Atabaki added that, although the U.S. and Great Britain are Tajikistan's major economic partners, the country needs Iranian support, as it is surrounded by Turkic- speaking neighbors and Russia. In another interview, Dushanbe-based journalist Rahmat Karim Dawlat said that Tajikistan expects Iran to make investments in the country, but does not plan to award Iran large-scale contracts.
>> Iranian courts have resumed handing down stoning sentences for women after a four-year lull. Ashraf Kalhori, 37, who has already served five years in prison for adultery and her role in the murder of her husband, has now been sentenced to death by stoning; the sentence is supposed to be carried out in two weeks.
A Radio Farda program on the issue, aired July 27, included an interview with Kalhori's lawyer in Tehran, Ms. Shadi Sadr. Sadr said she has filed an appeal in an effort to change the verdict through the judicial system. Kalhori has also written a letter to the chief justice in Tehran, Sadr said, asking for clemency.
In an interview with Tehran lawyer Farideh Gheirat, Radio Farda listeners were told that death by stoning is legal under Iran's penal code, but that women's rights lawyers in Iran are questioning whether it is justified under Sharia, or Islamic law.
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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