Thursday, July 19, 2007


Yesterday, the Iranian government aired the first of a two-part series of "confessions" of Iranian-American academics Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh and Iranian-Canadian academic Ramin Jahanbaglou on Tehran Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 in Persian. All of the academics have been detained under charges of violating the national security of Iran. The reality is that the academics are merely victims of an estranged relationship between the US and Iran and the resulting Cold War-like paranoid atmosphere.

The English transcript of the program attempts to link the work of the academics to network scholars, researchers and journalists representing a wide range of views on Middle Eastern issues, to the Bush administration's agenda for a "velvet revolution" or regime change in Iran. Between "confessions" of the academics, the program cuts back and forth to footage from Georgia and the protests that led to the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Ukraine's Orange Revolution and the 2005 protests in Kyrgyzstan, apparently in attempts to make the parallel between the uprisings there.

Below are a few excerpts from the English transcript. There is clearly no evidence of misconduct by the academics. Their confessions mostly demonstrate the Iranian government's fear of being criticized. But the airing of these so-called confessions may also mean that the release of the Haleh, Kian, Ramin and other academics may be near.

"The program cuts to Ramin Jahanbaglou who says that David Cameron introduced him to Democracy magazine and he wrote an article about Iranian intellectuals for the magazine. That is how I met Mark Plattner who is one of the managers of the NED or the National Endowment for Democracy in the US. Mr Plattner contacted me in 2001 and told me that there are some fellowship that are starting this year and if you could come to the US in October. That is where my contact with American political institutions started."

"The program goes to Haleh Esfandiari who is saying the goal of the Iran programme was that when a speaker comes from Iran and speaks at a centre as important as the Wilson Institute, policymakers come to listen to them speak. In Washington policymakers are people who work for government, people who work for congress, people who work for intelligence agencies, the mass media, foundation people, academics and researchers. In other words, policymaker encompasses a varied group."

"The program cuts to Kian Tajbakhsh who is saying that the first aspect isthe project and overt objective; the second aspect is institution buildingand network building and the third aspect are the long-term goals of theSoros Foundation which is to create open societies."

"The program then cuts back to Haleh Esfandiari who says that universities and foundations work together, foundation give fellowships for example Mr. Sazegarha has research grant this year from Harvard University. The government plays two roles in relation to Iran. One is to make use of the analyses about Iran that are presented at conferences and meet people who come from Iran. Second is the budget that is allocated for Iran that budget goes to research institutions, universities, civil society and foundations. The objective is to bring about change in Iranian decision-making institutions."

"The program cuts back to Kian Tajbakhsh who says the fact that the American government gave permission to Soros to work in Iran shows that inspite of the differences between Soros and the Bush Administration, they have the same agenda where Iran is concerned."

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