Friday, November 29, 2013

Balé, Ma Mitunim: Rouhani’s Own "Yes, We Can" Video

Still frame from the Iranian music video commemorating the first 100 days of President Hassan Rouhani's administration.

Riding the high of signing a breakthrough diplomatic accord with six world powers over its nuclear program after barely 100 days in office, just as he promised he would do during his remarkably successful campaign this past Spring, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is now the subject of a new music video created by his supporters and promoted by the president’s own media team.

The video, which is based upon the wildly popular “Yes, We Can” video with a celebrity cast that made the rounds online in 2008 during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, is similarly shot in beautiful black-and-white, expertly produced and edited, and features Iranians young and old, male and female, accompanying Rouhani’s August 3, 2013 inauguration speech set to music. Rouhani – echoed by the video’s cast – speaks of Iranian pride, of reconciliation, of faith and humility, and of Rouhani’s own political mandate. ”I feel the weight of these votes and I feel the weight of this endorsement,” he says, as the music swells. He asks god to help him be a “competent servant of the people.”

Journalist Golnaz Esfandiari reports:
The clip, which features a well-known singer and actor, Amir Hossein Modaress, was produced by Iranian documentary-maker Hossein Dehbashi, who also worked on Rouhani’s election campaign videos. Dehbashi has been quoted by Iranian media as saying that the video was created “spontaneously.”
In the clip, unprecedented for an Iranian president, people of all ages play musical instruments and sing to Rouhani’s words in Persian, but also in the languages of Iran’s minorities, including Kurdish and Arabic [also Balochi and Azeri - NS]. The clip also includes sound bites from prominent figures in Iran’s modern history including Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and the founder of the Islamic Republic Ruhollah Khomeini.
Some featured in the video play acoustic guitar, piano, and cello, in addition to the daf and setar, traditional Persian percussion and stringed instruments, respectively. Mirroring the Obama campaign even more closely is the use of split screens and sign language, although verses from the Qur’an and the poetry of Hafez are also featured.

Entitled, Nosafar - translated as "New Voyager," or less literally, "Aspirations" – the four-and-a-half minute video "was an initiative taken by the artists (without the President’s knowledge)," as the filmmakers explain on YouTube, "to immortalize President Rouhani’s emotional speech where he expresses hope for peace, friendship and progress. Only at the later stages was the video shown to President Rouhani."

They add:
This melodic piece is the first time ever for a chorus to sing along with a formal speech by a prominent Shia cleric and high ranking Iranian politician. Featuring musical instruments on video and singing by women are prohibited by Iran’s state television. The fact that President Rouhani’s personal website decided to feature this video was a great and notable step to break this taboo and support Iranian artists.
The video begins with Rouhani saying, "Let space and opportunity be given to all Iranians who are devoted to this land. Let those who are competent serve the nation. Let their hearts be cleansed from hatred. Let conciliation replace estrangement. Let this take root," continuing, "Let us have friendship instead of animosity. Let us allow Islam with its compassionate face, Iran with its rational face, the revolution with its humane face, and the establishment, with its affecting face, continue to create epics."

The faces in the video, more than anything else, reveal an Iran greatly at odds with the sinister portrayal all too often seen in the Western mainstream media: an Iran full of hope and humanity, of talent and beauty, of unity and peace.

Watch it here with English subtitles:


Originally posted at Muftah.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Talkin' the Newly-Inked Interim Nuclear Deal with Scott Horton

In the wake of the historic agreement just signed in Geneva over the Iranian nuclear program, I had the pleasure of speaking with Scott Horton of AntiWar Radio and the aptly-named Scott Horton Show about what the contours of the interim deal, what it means, and what might follow.

In our half-hour chat, Scott and I also discuss the predictable hysterical reactions of Israeli politicians, partisans and lobbyists and address the "the sanctions worked" canard so often heard in the mainstream press.

Click here to listen online (and also check out Scott's incredible archive of over 3,000 interviews).


Friday, November 22, 2013

Talkin' Iran Negotiations on CounterSpin Radio

As negotiations over Iran's nuclear program continue in Geneva, I was lucky enough to do interview with Steve Rendall for CounterSpin, the weekly radio show of the vital media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

You can listen to it here. My interview, which follows one with the great Trevor Timm, begins at the 18:35 mark and runs about eight and a half minutes.

Here is Counterspin's run-down of the program:
This week on CounterSpin: Polls show Americans overwhelmingly opposed to the government's mass surveillance programs; they find the unconstitutional spying "alarming" and don't think it's making them safer. There's legislative movement to "reform" surveillance procedures--but is it real reform or windowdressing? We'll hear from Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Also on CounterSpin today: Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers resumed on November 20, after falling apart nearly two weeks earlier. But the US press seems a little confused about why those earlier talks failed. We’ll talk with Nima Shirazi of Wide Asleep in America about that--and about what to watch out for as talks go forward.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Keep Calm Tehran: A Video Respite

Covering the absurdity of nuclear negotiations, U.S.-Iran relations and Israeli propaganda, rejectionism and warmongering, requires taking a break now and then.

These two beautiful videos sure do the trick:

Keep Calm TEHRAN by Ali Narimani.

Iran by Mandy Tay.

For more on photographer Mandy Tay’s trip to Iran, check out this excellent interview with Azadeh Moaveni in IranWire.


Originally posted at Muftah.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Iran's Nuclear Rights vs. the West's "Bombastic Diplomacy"

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Undersecretary Wendy Sherman meet with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Geneva, November 9, 2013.

Reports following the end of the most recent round of talks between six world powers and Iran in Geneva early Sunday morning revealed that, while a preliminary deal was close at hand, the failure to produce a workable agreement was due to unnecessary, last minute intransigence by the French delegation, led by Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister.

Fabius, much to the ire of the other diplomats present (which included Secretary of State John Kerry, the foreign ministers of Russia, Britain, and Germany and the Chinese deputy FM), reportedly "blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations," the draft text of which would have established the slowing down or stopping of aspects of the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

The French foreign minister also broke the agreed upon diplomatic protocol for the talks by "revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference."

According to The Guardian's Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Dehghan, "Fabius said one of the key issues was Iran's heavy water reactor at Arak, which is due to reach completion next year after many delays. The west and Israel have called for construction work to stop as part of an interim deal aimed at buying time for negotiations on a more comprehensive long-term deal."

But the focus on the Arak facility, a half-built heavy water reactor routinely used by Israel and its contingent of hawkish American supporters as an alternate way to fear-monger about Iran's nuclear program, is disingenuous. The facility itself has been plagued by technical setbacks and delays and won't be operational until mid-2014 at the very earliest. Whenever it is finally commissioned, it will be used for medical, scientific and agricultural research.

Heavy water reactors pose a potential proliferation threat due to the amounts of plutonium produced as a byproduct of their spent nuclear fuel, material that could then be separated from the irradiated fuel and further processed to weapons-grade levels.

Yet scuttling a deal due to concerns over hypothetical and highly unlikely scenarios makes no sense.

Beyond the fact that Iran has repeatedly denied any intention to weaponize its nuclear program and that all American and international intelligence assessments consistently affirm that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, the alarmism over Arak relies on a deliberately decontextualized and incomplete presentation of reality. For example, the heavy water reactor at Arak is subject to IAEA safeguards and is routinely visited by its inspectors. This will continue to be the case once Arak comes online.

Also, as Bloomberg News reported back on June 6, 2013, "Iran encouraged United Nations nuclear monitors to use powerful new detection technologies to dispel international concern that the Persian Gulf country is seeking to build atomic weapons."

"We always welcome the agency to have more sophisticated equipment, to have more accuracy in their measurements, so that technical matters will not be politicized," Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the press in Vienna at the time, adding that Iran "won't object to IAEA monitors using new technologies to determine whether plutonium is being extracted from spent fuel at its new reactor in Arak."

Furthermore, as Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association (ACA) explained back in August:
[T]he reactor at Arak would need to be operational for perhaps up to a year before the plutonium could be extracted. Even then, Iran does not have a reprocessing facility for separating the plutonium to produce weapons-usable material, having revised its declaration to the IAEA regarding the Arak site in 2004. The revision eliminated plans for a reprocessing facility at the site. Tehran maintains that it does not intend to build a plant to separate plutonium from the irradiated fuel that the reactor will produce.
Reacting to the recent reports from Geneva, Kimball, who is ACA's executive director, said that, if anything, "Arak represents a long-term proliferation risk not a near-term risk and it can be addressed in the final phase of negotiations," adding, "France and the other... powers would be making a mistake if they hold up an interim deal that addresses more urgent proliferation risks over the final arrangements regarding Arak."

It appears that France has done just that, in a move met with elation by Congressional hawks, Israel and Arab dictatorships, with whom France recently inked billion dollar weapons deals.

Shifting the Blame

Nevertheless, American officials are now seeking to peg Iran, not France, as the intransigent party, in an effort to placate an increasingly shrill Israeli government worried that diplomacy might actually work and the possibility of war will diminish.

In an article published online Sunday, the New York Times claimed that "the Iranian government's insistence on formal recognition of its 'right' to enrich uranium emerged as a major obstacle" at the Geneva talks.

While the article notes that the "Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to enrich uranium to the low level of 3.5 percent as part of an interim agreement," it omits the inconvenient fact that the United States does not have the authority to "allow" or "disallow" anything when it comes to Iran's nuclear program.

Iran's inalienable right to a peaceful, domestic nuclear energy program is affirmed by international law via the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As Fred Kaplan recently wrote in Slate, "So, when the Iranians insist on their 'right' to enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear energy, they aren't asserting some self-contrived privilege; they are quoting the NPT."

Iran's inherent right to enrichment and indigenous fuel-cycle technology is actually quite clear and uncontroversial. The vast majority of the international community - including China, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, India, South Africa, and all 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement - acknowledges this right.

Even former IAEA Director General Hans Blix has, for years, acknowledged this right. In 2005, Blix noted, "When the U.S. says that it is unacceptable for Iran to have enrichment capacity, well I don't think that quite squares with the Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits it," adding, "They are within a legal right to do so."

Just this past September, Blix again stated, "Iran is right, in my view to insist that under the NPT, to which it is a party, it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful uses, but the treaty does not impose a duty on any party to enrich."  He continued, "Iran is free to decide unilaterally whether and how much it wishes to enrich."

The United States, however, "is not prepared to acknowledge at this point that Iran has a 'right' to enrich."

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is leading the U.S. delegation at the nuclear talks (as long as John Kerry isn't in the room), denied Iran's right to enrich uranium during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. "It has always been the U.S. position," she told Florida Senator Marco Rubio, "that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on November 6, an unnamed "senior administration official" insisted that "the United States does not believe there is an inherent right to enrichment, and we have said that repeatedly to Iran." He added later that "the United States does not believe any country has a right... We believe Iran does not have a right. We don't believe any country has a right."

At a press conference in Abu Dhabi following the breakdown of this past week's talks in Geneva, John Kerry declared, "There is no existing right to enrich for anybody. The NPT does not grant a right and it does not prohibit a right."

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett have noted some of the hypocrisy at play here:
In 1968, as America and the Soviet Union, the NPT’s sponsors, prepared to open it for signature, the founding Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, William Foster, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—the same committee to which Sherman untruthfully testified last month—that the Treaty permitted non-weapons states to pursue the fuel cycle. We quote Foster on this point: “Neither uranium enrichment nor the stockpiling of fissionable material in connection with a peaceful program would violate Article II so long as these activities were safeguarded under Article III.” [Note: In Article II of the NPT, non-weapons states commit not to build or acquire nuclear weapons; in Article III, they agree to accept safeguards on the nuclear activities, “as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”]
There are even more recent examples of American duplicity on this matter, however.

In a 2009 interview with the Financial Times, John Kerry himself, then a Massachusetts Senator, stated that the demand - once pushed by the Bush administration and now maintained by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his acolytes in Congress - that Iran have no enrichment capability is "ridiculous" and "unreasonable."

"They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose," Kerry said. To claim otherwise was "bombastic diplomacy."

The following year, on September 22, 2010, a Bloomberg News report opened this way:
Jordan and other countries have the right to develop and enrich their uranium deposits, U.S. Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Thomas D'Agostino said at a press briefing in Vienna.
"We believe quite strongly that nations have the right to develop their civil programs for civil purposes," D'Agostino said when asked specifically about Jordan's nascent nuclear program. "We are not trying to tell other nations that you can't have enrichment."

Wait, what? Read that again.

The point here is clear. The United States believes it can dictate which rights countries are entitled to on a case by case basis. In fact, Undersecretary Wendy Sherman said as much at her recent Senate appearance.

"The United States does not take [the] position" that enrichment is an inherent right of all nations, she said. "We take the position that we look at each one of these [cases]."

This is piecemeal international law and the explicit obliteration of the equal application of law for all nations. Essentially, if you are a willing and pliant client of the United States, you have certain rights; if you're not, you don't.

This concept was articulated in February 2012 by former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh during a forum at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C., entitled, "Israel, Iran, and the Arabs: A Regional Perspective." At the end of a rambling, fact-free diatribe about how Iranian leaders (or, as Sneh put it, "the very smart ayatollahs") use negotiations simply to "gain time" in order "to progress toward weaponizing uranium," Sneh declared:
So, there is no sense to back to talks about enrichment. It's not the case... When there is a secular and democratic Iran, let them have all the technologies in the world, whatever they like. Not this regime. Not this regime, which despises the culture and the values of your society, if you don't know it.
A month earlier, former CIA and NSA chief under George W. Bush, General Michael Hayden similarly confirmed that opposition to a nuclear-capable Iran has nothing to do with proliferation fears or international law, but rather regional hegemony and regime change.

"It's not so much that we don't want Iran to have a nuclear capacity, it's that we don't want this Iran to have it," Hayden told a gathering of analysts, experts and journalists at the Center for the National Interest. "Slow it down long enough and maybe the character [of the Iranian government] changes."

As long as the United States maintains the absurd position - inconsistent with international law and its own previously held policy - that Iran be denied its fundamental national rights, a diplomatic compromise will be unachievable.

And that's exactly what spoilers like Netanyahu and his fans in Congress and on K Street are gunning for.


What an Al-Monitor Analyst Gets Wrong about Arak

The Arak IR-40 Heavy Water Reactor in Iran

In a new piece over at Al-Monitor, Iranian-born Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar commends the blocking of a preliminary nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius over the issue of Iran's continuing construction of the Qatran Complex, a heavy water facility near Arak, a city southwest of Tehran.

But it is riddled with the factual errors and decontextualized conjecture that have long been a hallmark of Mr. Javedanfar's analysis.

This time around, it appears Mr. Javedanfar is a bit confused as to the difference between Iran's two facilities at Arak. One is the IR-40 heavy water research reactor, the other is a heavy water production plant. The half-built reactor is under IAEA safeguards and is visited regularly by inspectors; the production plant is not under safeguards and thus not legally subject to inspections. This is less alarming than it might seem as heavy water is not nuclear material; it merely acts as a moderator in nuclear reactors that use natural uranium rather than enriched uranium.

When Mr. Javedanfar, writing clearly about the IR-40 reactor and not the production plant, claims that "the Iranian regime has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the site since 2011" and that the "IAEA has since had to rely on satellite images to assess developments regarding the site," he is simply wrong. That he then states that this "reinforces concern and urgency" demonstrates a distinct lack of clarity on his part as to what risks actually exist or do not exist.

Here's why:

What Mr. Javedanfar is actually referring to (though he doesn't seem to know it) is the production plant at Arak, not the reactor. Iran voluntarily allowed IAEA access to the production plant in 2011. According to the most recent safeguards report, the Arak reactor site however was visited by IAEA monitors on August 7, 2013, who reported that a number of major components, such as "control room equipment, the refuelling machine and reactor cooling pumps" had yet to be installed. Another report will be issued soon, which means inspectors have also been there since.

The reactor, which Mr. Javedanfar never mentions is not operational and may not be for another year, is not in itself a proliferation risk. Plutonium is produced as a byproduct of running the reactor, and must be separated out from irradiated fuel and reprocessed to weapons-grade material before it poses any actual danger.

Still, Mr. Javedanfar writes that the "Arak heavy water reactor... could produce plutonium to make a bomb while the talks continue," which is misleading and wholly speculative at best, intimating as he does that once the Arak reactor is switched on, weapons-grade plutonium pops out.

First, talks are not expected to continue for years to come. With the reactor not yet up and running (it's projected to come online in mid-2014, but will most likely be delayed as it has in the past), the timeframe on Arak is an important factor in determining the potential (and, at this stage, totally hypothetical) risk it poses.

As Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association explained this past summer:
[T]he reactor at Arak would need to be operational for perhaps up to a year before the plutonium could be extracted. Even then, Iran does not have a reprocessing facility for separating the plutonium to produce weapons-usable material, having revised its declaration to the IAEA regarding the Arak site in 2004. The revision eliminated plans for a reprocessing facility at the site. Tehran maintains that it does not intend to build a plant to separate plutonium from the irradiated fuel that the reactor will produce.
By this measure, taken with Mr. Javedanfar's claim, talks would need to continue without progress for at least another year and half, perhaps two years, for Iran to even begin extracting plutonium from spent fuel. That's mid-2015 at the earliest.

Plus, Iran can't even reprocess that extracted plutonium into weapons-grade material because it doesn't have the facilities to do so.

This past weekend, Kimball told The Guardian that, if anything, "Arak represents a long-term proliferation risk not a near-term risk and it can be addressed in the final phase of negotiations," adding, "France and the other... powers would be making a mistake if they hold up an interim deal that addresses more urgent proliferation risks over the final arrangements regarding Arak."

Yet Mr. Javedanfar calls the blocking of a preliminary deal by the French "fair and logical."

Perhaps if he had a better grasp on the facts about Arak, he would come to a different conclusion. Then again, maybe not. After all, a TIME magazine headline from last month says it all: "If Iran Can Get This Reactor Online, Israel May Not Be Able to Bomb It".

That, it would appear, is the real risk for Israel and its analysts.



Following a meeting in Tehran between IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi, it was agreed that Iran would provide "relevant information and managed access to the Heavy Water Production Plant" at Arak.

This is a voluntary, confidence-building measure taken by Iran in an effort "to strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme through the resolution of all outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA."

***** ***** *****

The above piece contains excerpts of another post on the current diplomatic impasse over Iran's nuclear program, which I hope to have posted later today.



November 14, 2013 - In a recent interview with The Real News Network, nuclear expert Robert Kelley debunked a number of common myths associated with the Iranian nuclear program, including about the Arak facility.

Kelley, now an Associated Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)'s Nuclear Weapons Project, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme, is a bona fide authority on these matters. Here's his bio:
Mr. Kelley is a veteran of over 35 years in the US Department of Energy nuclear weapons complex, most recently at Los Alamos. He worked in research and engineering before turning to information analysis in the 1980s. He managed the centrifuge and plutonium metallurgy programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and later was Director of the Department of Energy Remote Sensing Laboratory, the premier US nuclear emergency response organization. He was also seconded by the USDOE to the IAEA where he served twice as a Director of the nuclear inspections in Iraq in 1992 and again in 2001.
And here's the clip:


Friday, November 8, 2013

Fashion Photography on the Streets of Iran, Then and Now

An image from FSHN Magazine’s fashion editorial, photographed in Tehran’s Tajrish Bazaar
(Afra Pourdad / FSHN)

Making the rounds this past week was a sneak preview of a fashion spread in San Francisco-based Fashionable, Sexy, Haute and Naughty Magazine (FSHN), which the magazine is touting as the “first ever complete high fashion editorial, shot in IRAN [sic].” The photographs were taken by Afra Pourdad at the Tajrish Bazaar in North Tehran and at the exquisite Manouchehri House, an historic Safavid era residence turned boutique hotel, in the central Iranian city of Kashan.

“At FSHN Magazine our mission is to create a publication that transcends global boundaries and the leading publication showcasing emerging designers from all around the world,” said the magazine’s publisher Elisabeth Thieriot. ”This editorial featuring the work of ‘Zarir Design’ and shot by the incredibly talented and courageous Afra Pourdad gives the world a peek behind the iron curtain and lets you see the contradictions and culture of everyday Iran. We are proud to be the magazine which could showcase this amazing editorial.”

The editorial, according to FSHN, showcases a “new generation of 20 somethings pushing the boundaries that have defined for them over centuries” in Iran. “Staying with respectable limits of their religion, indigenous fashion in Iran is coming of age.”

As for the claim that this is the first such editorial ever shot in Iran, Vogue - for one – might disagree.

In 1969, renowned fashion and celebrity photographer Henry Clarke shot a spread for the magazine at locations around Iran, including the ancient Persian ruin of Persepolis, the Tomb of Hafez in Shiraz, mosques in Esfahan, and palaces in Tehran. Thankfully preserved for posterity by the great online repository of Iranian art and culture, Shahre Farang, the entire Vogue collection can be seen here.

Here’s a peak:

But you don’t have to go back to the days of the Shah to see photographs of models and fashion design on the streets of Iran. Take, for example, the stylish Shiraz-based clothing and handmade leather company “Poosh,” founded in April 2012 by designer Farnaz Abdoli.

Season after season, Abdoli, who has a degree in Graphic Design from the Saryian Higher Education Institute in the Caspian coast town of Sari, churns out her own brand of “street fashion” for the modern Iranian woman (and, sometimes, man). The gorgeous photographs that accompany every newly-launched line of “Poosh” clothing are a testament to the “coming of age” and cutting edge of Iranian fashion and proof that Iran is still no stranger to fashion photography.

Below are some of Abdoli’s designs:

(POOSH / Sajjad Avarand)

(POOSH / Reza Alaeddini)

(POOSH / Reza Alaeddini)

(POOSH / Reza Alaeddini)

(POOSH / Reza Alaeddini)

(POOSH / Reza Alaeddini)


Originally posted at Muftah.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

NBC Nightly News Reports on Iran from 1979 and 1980

NBC Nightly News report: "Iran's American Battleground," November 7, 1980

34 years ago this week - on November 4, 1979 to be precise - Iranian students seized control of the American Embassy in Tehran. Y'know, just like in Argo! Except not at all. Sigh.

Below are two reports from NBC Nightly News, one from the day the embassy was taken, the other from a year later, broadcast exactly 33 years ago today.

The second report, entitled "Iran's American Battleground," is a classic, pitting members of the California-based "Iran Free Army," described as "Iranian terrorists who oppose Khomeini" and "professional soldiers" and SAVAK agents of the deposed Shah's regime "determined to seek revenge against those who put them out of power" against American "Black Muslims" like Daoud Salahuddin, who, reporter Brian Ross claims, have ties to the pro-revolution Diaspora Iranians and are "promised safe havens in Iran for terrorist acts in this country."

"Authorities say both sides have brought a brand of Mideast terrorism to this country, well-financed, well-armed, with little regard for American law," the report declares and ending with a shadowy ex-member of the "Free Iran Army" telling NBC News, "For terrorism of Middle East, America is a paradise," words the U.S. press have lived by and politicians have exploited ever since.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Talkin' Bad Journalism and Propaganda with Scott Horton

This weekend, I again had the pleasure of speaking with Scott Horton of AntiWar Radio and the aptly-named Scott Horton Show about disinformation often found in mainstream journalism on the Iranian nuclear program.

Focusing mainly on my recent article, "Propaganda & Ignorance in Reporting on Iran," published originally by (where I am actually co-editor of the Iran, Iraq, and Turkey pages - and not only a contributing writer, as Scott says), we also discussed career alarmist David Albright's full time job creating hysteria about Iran's nuclear program, and 30 years of erroneous claims that Iran is "on the verge" of a nuclear weapon.

There is also an extended RoboCop reference in there somewhere, which makes the entire half-hour chat well worth a listen.

Click here to listen online (and also check out Scott's incredible archive of over 3,000 interviews).


Friday, November 1, 2013

Finding Humanity, Not Stereotypes, #InsideIran

Nastaran Ghaffari, 22, is one of the many subjects of ABC News correspondent Muhammad Lila’s #FacesOfIran photo series during his current trip to Iran.
(Photo Credit: Muhammad Lila / Twitter)

It is no surprise that our media environment is saturated with reports of efforts by hawkish lobbying groups, former administration officials, Congress members, and even foreign governments to disrupt and undermine even the nascent possibility of genuine diplomatic progress through new sanctions and war resolutions, and routinely dehumanizing and negative language used to describe anyone and anything connected to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As a result, misleading and misinformed journalism abounds.

Nevertheless, two reporters from two major media outlets are actively doing their best to break this trend.

I have written before of CNN correspondent Reza Sayah, whose recent reporting from Iran has given voice to the Iranian people themselves and introduced a Western audience to a dynamic and diverse nation that does not conform to the tropes and tautologies all too often presented by the media.

In his latest dispatch, Sayah speaks with Dan Gaspar, assistant coach for the World Cup-bound Iranian national soccer team. Gaspar, an American citizen of Portuguese descent, has lived and worked in Iran since 2011.

When he was offered the job and told his wife of his plans, Gaspar reveals, “She was shocked, she was concerned, as most of my friends and family members were.” To his credit, Gaspar was undeterred.

“My personality is one of adventure and curiosity,” he tells Sayah. “I wanted to experience a culture in a part of the world that I’ve never been.”

As a result, Sayah reports, after some time spent in Iran and with Iranians, Gaspar “says what we often hear from visitors to Iran: ‘What you see on TV doesn’t exactly match reality.’” (Indeed, this is a common refrain; recall what professional photographer Amos Chapple said about Iran in a gorgeous photo essay earlier this year: “I was amazed by the difference in western perceptions of the country and what I saw on the ground.”)

“When you listen to the news and you read the news, sometimes during commercials I step away from my couch and I look out the balcony and it’s not what I’m seeing, it’s not what I’m reading and it’s not what I’m hearing,” Gaspar explains. He calls Iranians “generous and peace-loving people, who love their football team and their country.”

“Right now, more than ever, there seems to be a lot of hope and optimism and a sense of energy, that things will get better,” he says, and adds, “If I’d listened to the expert and listened to my friends and family, I probably never would have never been here in Iran. It’s been part of my life for the past three years and during those three years there’s been some wonderful experiences and memories that are going to last a lifetime.”

Watch Sayah’s report here:

Meanwhile, ABC News foreign correspondent Muhammad Lila is also in Iran, traveling around the country and posting beautiful photos and personal observations from his trip on a live blog dubbed  "Inside Iran." 

His photos, which he has also been posting on Twitter, are reminiscent of those taken by "Humans of New York" photographer Brandon Stanton last winter during a two-week trip to Iran. Through Lila's camera lens, in a series Lila hashtags as #FacesOfIran, we meet the everyday Iranians - students, activists, widows, artists, children - who are almost invariably absent from reporting on Iran. We see knockoff fast food chains, get stuck in Tehran's infamous traffic, and get short and touching glimpses of hope and love.

Lila's photography has been well received in the Twittersphere.  His pictures are "[b]ased on simple premise," he explains, "Everyone has a story. You just have to look for it #InsideIran". Some of Lila's revelations will surely surprise his Western audience, whether about Iranian street art etiquette or the fact that young Iranians are all on Facebook.

In a discussion with young engineering students, Lila asked, "Do you really think you're free in Iran?" They replied, "Depends what you consider freedom. What you have in America isn't freedom." When Lila responded that "we can think, be, and do whatever we want," they were quick to fire back: "So can we."

Lila later noted, "Of the dozens of ordinary Iranians we've spoken to, none of them said they're unhappy and want to leave the country."

At the massive Friday prayer service in Tehran, Lila spoke with a cleric who made clear to him that Iranians harbor no ill will toward the American people. "It's America's war-mongering we want to stop," he said.
Below are the photos he has taken so far.  Follow him on Twitter for more to come.

Originally posted at Muftah.