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IRAQ - Tehran Airs Expose Of 'US Plans' To Subvert Iran.

Iranian state TV on July 18 aired a documentary billed as an expose of US efforts to undermine the Shi'ite theocracy. It featured interviews with Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, two Iranian-Americans jailed on espionage charges since May. The programme highlighted US backing for "velvet" or "orange revolutions" in former communist countries - including Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan - and suggested they served as a model for US policy towards Iran. It then set out, in what the FT on July 19 described as "a rather disjointed style", to establish the roles of Ms Esfandiari and Mr Tajbakhsh in building US-funded networks of intellectuals.

Both seemed fairly relaxed in the interviews and were dressed in civilian clothes with a backdrop of an apartment or office. Esfandiari - apparently describing her work as head of the Middle East programme of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson centre - said she had identified participants in Iran for international conferences. She said: "The main reason...was to bring them into contact with this wide network". She said these conferences had included a CIA analyst and a former Israeli intelligence officer. She said US funding was designed to "bring about some change in decision-making bodies inside Iran" as well as influence decisions in the US. Tajbakhsh said his main role as an associate of the George Soros foundation had been to advise about Iran as part of the body's aim of encouraging an "open society" worldwide.

The documentary included clips from Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian academic with Canadian citizenship, who was arrested and later freed in 2006. Iranian commentators suggested the interviews with Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were intended as "confessions", although Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei on July 18 said the judiciary had decided the footage had "no legal weight". (Iran has a history of TV confessions of political prisoners but the practice was largely dropped in the 1990s in the face of public skepticism).

Baztab, a leading conservative website, wrote on July 17 that the footage of Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh showed either an agreement to offer interviews in return for release or that the public ground was being prepared for "heavy punishment". In a statement posted on its website, the US State Department said Iran should end "further broadcasts" and release all US citizens "held on groundless charges".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Date:Jul 23, 2007
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