January 2, 2007


Tehran Radio Lets Critics Vent Over Iran’s Nuclear Plans (NAZILA FATHI, 1/01/07, NY Times)

A radio program on a government-run station has been conducting an open debate for the past month about whether Iran should change its tough stance on its nuclear program.

The radio program, Goftegoo Radio, which went on the air last May, has used a debate format to broadcast discussions about any number of formerly taboo issues, but its recent fiery discussions about whether the country should have a nuclear program may be setting new boundaries for talk about one of the most important issues in Iran today. [...]

But guests on Goftegoo — which means dialogue in Persian — have expressed their criticisms fearlessly, with some calling on the government to put the country’s other interests before its nuclear program.

The state-owned broadcasting monopoly, which has great power and an enormous budget, is among the few state-run agencies that is not controlled by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has refused to back down on the nuclear program in the face of world pressure.

The broadcasting agency reports directly to Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on all state matters. The new director, Ezzatollah Zarghami, took over the agency in mid-2005, as Mr. Ahmadinejad took office. Mr. Zarghami is a former general of the conservative Revolutionary Guards who is believed to be close to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Analysts say Mr. Zarghami, who is not close to the president, may be using his closeness to Ayatollah Khamenei to build his own power base. But the motivation behind the political discussions on the program is not completely clear.

Western confusion over Mr. Ahmedinejad's isolation would be more amusing if it didn't betray a complete lack of understanding of Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 2, 2007 8:04 AM
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