July 1, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1899

Iranian Regime Instructs Press on How to Report on Nuclear Issue and Iraq

July 1, 2008
Iraq, Iran | Special Dispatch No. 1899

On March 5, 2008, the online daily Rooz exposed a secret letter dated February 11, 2008 from Iran's Supreme National Security Council to the editors of Iranian newspapers and news agencies. The letter, signed by the Deputy Minister of Education and Islamic Guidance, was sent in preparation for the publication of the report by International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei (on February 22, 2008) and the U.N. Security Council's third sanctions resolution against Iran (on March 3, 2008). It contained instructions for the reporting of various issues – especially on the ElBaradei report, which assessed the extent of Iran's cooperation with the IAEA, on the Iran-U.S. talks regarding Iraq, and on the recent elections in Iran. It also contained guidelines regarding the proper line to take towards the U.N. and the West.

The instructions stressed the following propaganda messages: Iran must be presented as having scored a victory in the nuclear arena, regardless of the findings of the ElBaradei report; threats must be made against the West, and especially against Europe, against persisting in their anti-Iran policy; Western policy must be presented as motivated by a desire to keep the Islamic world in a state of technological backwardness; Iranian public opinion must be presented as uniformly supportive of the nuclear program; the Islamic world must be presented as unanimously sympathetic to Iran and to its nuclear achievements; the sanctions resolution must be described as illegal, and a contemptuous tone must be taken towards the U.N. institutions and its resolutions. The letter was stamped "secret" (for a photograph of the original letter, as published by Rooz, see the appendix to this report).

Citing a source in the Iranian President's Office, Rooz also reported that this office received instructions to prepare public festivities to celebrate the favorable findings of the ElBaradei report – this, two weeks before the report was published. The source also stated that, after the publication of report, the President's Office reviewed the headlines of the major Iranian papers, and ranked them according to their compliance with the letter of guidelines to the media. According to the source, the Tehran Chief Prosecutor's office was instructed to take punitive steps against the daily Etemad, which presented an independent analysis characterizing the ElBaradei report as "ambivalent."

Following the publication of the IAEA report, dissident journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi condemned Ahmadinejad's government for the slanted manner in which it had presented this report to the Iranian public. Zeidabadi wrote that Ahmadinejad's government habitually lies to the people, and distorts reports and quotations in order to gain the public's support for its policies.

The following are excerpts from the Rooz reports and from Zeidabadi's article.

The Supreme National Security Council's Secret Letter of Guidelines

"To: All editors of the national press and local news agencies.

"Dear sirs,

"Following are the decisions of the Media Policy Committee of the Supreme National Security Council secretariat regarding [coverage of] the nuclear issue, Iraq, the elections, etc., brought to you for perusal and implementation.

"A. The Nuclear Issue

"In light of Iran's overall cooperation with the IAEA, the next sanctions resolution will be considered [an act of] interference in Iran's internal affairs.

"The new sanctions resolution will not affect the continued support of the [Iranian] people for [their country's] nuclear policy.

"The new sanctions resolution will strengthen the unity and solidarity of the [Iranian] people, [and] its support for the values of the regime.

"Emphasis will be placed on the positive [findings] of the IAEA report, which focus on the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activity.

"Reports such as 'Russia Sends Small Amount of Nuclear Fuel to Bushehr Nuclear Plant,' or 'American Intelligence Community Admits Iran's Nuclear Activity Intended for Peaceful Purposes' highlight [Iran's] positive achievements in the nuclear arena.

"Sanctions resolutions are an outdated and ineffective weapon.

"Nobody can deny the Iranian people the [right to enjoy] the benefits of their nuclear achievements.

"The undeniable technological achievements of the Iranian nuclear program were attained despite illegal intervention by the Security Council.

"The fruits of Iran's nuclear program, which is intended for peaceful purposes, will be placed at the disposal of the Islamic world.

"Iran is willing to assist Egypt and other Islamic countries in their nuclear programs.

"The Muslim world does not currently enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy.

"The West does not want Muslim scientists to attain modern nuclear technology.

"Muslims [worldwide] are pleased with Iran's nuclear progress.

"[It is important] to impress upon public opinion in the Muslim countries that the U.S. discriminates between the Muslim countries and the West.

"Certain European countries [must be encouraged] to step up their opposition to the U.S.'s policy towards Iran's nuclear program.

"Mention should be made of the disagreement between the U.S. [on the one hand] and Russia and China [on the other] regarding Iran's nuclear program.

"[It is important] to promote hatred towards the U.S. [both] in the West and in the Muslim countries.

"Europe is the main loser of the U.S.'s policy towards Iran.

"Europe is paying a heavy price for the U.S.'s hostile policy in the [Middle East].

"Europe should not be a pawn of the U.S.'s [policies].

"B. The U.S.-Iran Talks on Iraq

"[Three] rounds of talks between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. have so far taken place.

"The first round was held on May 28, [2007], the second on July 24, [2007], and the third on August 6, [2007]. The first and second rounds were held between Iranian Ambassador in Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi, and U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad Ryan Crocker. The third round was held at a level of experts and took place in the Green Zone in Baghdad. A fourth round of talks between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. is to be held in mid-February 2008, at the request of Baghdad and Washington, and with Iran's consent. This round too will be held at expert level, and the talks will deal mainly with the security of Iraq.

"Iran's goals in attending these talks are, inter alia:

"1. To support the (Al-Maliki) government in Baghdad, Iran's ally;

"2. To [contribute] to the efforts to create security for the Iraqi people.

"3. To help the Iraqis end the [U.S.] occupation of their country.

"4. To secure Iran's interests in terms of its domestic and national security.

"Media policy regarding the [coverage of] these talks:

"If the U.S. fulfills its obligations, security will return to Iraq.

"Had the U.S. taken the funds it is spending on its presence in Iraq and placed them at the disposal of the Iraqi government, Iraq would have become a Paradise.

"A significant portion of Iraq's security problems stem from the U.S.'s misguided plans in the country.

"The U.S. must hand over responsibility for security to the Iraqi government and people.

"Despite the claims made by the U.S. and by Bush against Iran, the U.S. must hold talks with Iran in order to resolve its problems in Iraq.

"The U.S. is unable to resolve its problems in the Middle East [by itself].

"Iran takes a positive approach to resolving the problems of the region.

"Iran supports dialogue and takes a reasonable attitude towards the problems in the region and in Iraq.

"To succeed in the region, the U.S. needs Iran's cooperation.

"[Consequently], the Bush administration should reconsider its hostile attitude towards Iran.

"Iran has a positive and essential role in guaranteeing Iraq's security.

"Iran is willing to cooperate in order [to facilitate] the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Iraq.

"Security in Iraq will not be achieved without Iran's positive participation.

"It must be emphasized that Iran is willing to discuss border issues and consular issues only with the Iraqi government, and not with the U.S.

"It must be emphasized that Iran rejects any external or foreign intervention in issues pertaining to its land, sea and air borders.

"C. The Elections and Other Issues

"With the launching of each election campaign, the enemies of the Iranian government make efforts to sow despair and hopelessness among the public, and to raise doubts as to the fairness of the elections. Therefore, we expect the papers and news agencies to expose [this] foreign incitement aimed at sabotaging the elections, and to create an atmosphere of enthusiasm for the elections, thus encouraging as many people as possible to take part in them. [We also expect the papers and news agencies] to strictly refrain from mentioning issues that arouse fear and apprehension in the public and [thus] obstruct the elections.

"[The papers and agencies] must continue to comply with the guidelines of the Foreign Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council regarding Yemen, [as specified] in a previous [letter] to the media.

"We have reports that the U.N. Refugee Agency means to stir up public opinion regarding the Afghani refugees staying in Iran and their return to their country. The mass media [in Iran] must therefore explain this matter [to the public], emphasizing Iran's humanitarian treatment of these Afghani refugees.

"The Western media, and especially the British media, mean to wage psychological warfare regarding the British sailors arrested in Iran's territorial waters on April 19, 2007 [sic],[1] on the occasion of the first anniversary of their arrest. We expect the Iranian papers and news agencies to make plans for countering this intent, beginning today.

"Signed, Ali Reza Malekian, Deputy [Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance] for Media and Information."[2]

The Iranian President's Office Orders Celebrations of "Favorable" IAEA Report; Monitors Media Coverage of the Report

On February 27, 2008, Rooz reported:

"A knowledgeable source in the President's Office relates that, two weeks before the publication of the ElBaradei report, the information and media department in the President's Office received orders to organize celebrations [on the occasion of its publication], and even received funds for this purpose. According to the source, 'the letter specified that sweets were to be handed out in the streets. [In addition], government vehicles were to cruise the streets flashing their lights and honking their horns [in celebration]. But in light of the gas rationing, [the authorities abandoned this idea,] and limited the celebration to handing out sweets and putting up posters along the main thoroughfares of Tehran.'

"So [department] prepared several posters [that would be put up] on Saturday and would echo the newspaper headlines. But the government officials in charge of producing [these posters] did not consider the fact that putting up posters announcing [Iran's] "nuclear celebrations" before the [IAEA] report was actually published might cause people to wonder whether there was any [real] connection between the celebrations and the content of the report.'

"The source [also mentioned] a letter sent by the Supreme National Security Council to the [Iranian] papers, which ordered the papers to devote the main and secondary headlines on their first page to 'Iran's victory in the nuclear talks.'

"The source added that 'the information and media department in the President's Office, as well as the experts department of the Media Supervision Committee in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, monitor the reports on the nuclear issue [in the Iranian media] with the aim of punishing papers [that ignore the guidelines]'...

"A report on this issue composed by the information and media department in the President's Office emphasized that most of the headlines [about the ElBaradei's report] had been positive, except for that of the paper Etemad, which had characterized the report as ambivalent... and that of the paper Sarmayeh, whose front page did not seriously address the nuclear talks at all. [Other than that], all the papers were either 'neutral' or 'very positive' in their outlook.

"The report ranked the headlines according to their attitude, from the most positive [headlines] to the most negative, as follows:

"Iran: 'With [Publication of] ElBaradei's Final Report, Iran's Nuclear Dossier Is a Closed [Case]; Big Nuclear Victory for Iran'

"Kayhan: 'IAEA: All Issues of Iran's Nuclear Program Resolved; ElBaradei's Report Has Trampled the West's Prestige'

"Jomhouri-ye Eslami: 'ElBaradei's New Report Emphasizes: Iran's Nuclear Activity Is for Peaceful Purposes.'

"Tehran Emrooz: '[Our] National Unity and Islamic Solidarity Has Borne Fruit: IAEA Report Confirms [Iranian] Victory in Nuclear [Grand] Finale'

"Jam-e Jam: 'ElBaradei Report Stuns 5+1; Iranian Victory in Nuclear Dossier'

"Kargozaran: 'Said Jalili: The [ElBaradei] Report Exonerates Iran; [This Is] ElBaradei's Final Report'

"Javan: 'ElBaradei Report on Iran's Nuclear [Program] Published Last Night. Iran the Victor in Nuclear Dossier.

"Hamshahri: 'IAEA Emphasizes: Iran's Nuclear Program [within Guidelines]'

"Qods: 'ElBaradei's Report: All Uncertainties regarding Iran's Nuclear Program Eliminated; Determination of Iranian People Pays Off'

"Khorasan: 'ElBaradei Report on Iranian Nuclear Dossier Published; IAEA Announces – The Three Questions Regarding Modalities Have Been Resolved'

"Hezbollah: 'After Four Years of Baseless Accusations against Iran, Final Report by IAEA Secretary-General Exonerates Iran'

Hayat-e No: 'ElBaradei's Report to [IAEA] Governors Board: All Uncertainties regarding [Iran's] Nuclear Dossier Eliminated'

"Kar va Kargar: 'IAEA Closes Modalities File – Complete Victory for Tehran; El-Baradei: Iran's Nuclear Program Undoubtedly for Peaceful Purposes'

"Aftab-e Yazd: 'National Security Council Chairman about ElBaradei Report: Sanctions Resolution against Iran Not Certain'

"Etemad: Third Draft Resolution [for Sanctions against Iran] Submitted to Security Council as ElBaradei Submits another Ambivalent Report'"

"Based on this report, the President's Office appealed in a letter to Tehran Chief Prosecutor Said Mortazavi, criticizing Etemad's position and stating that it does not correspond to the regime's policy and to the guidelines of the Supreme National Security Council." [3]

Iranian Dissident Journalist: The Iranian Government Distorts the Truth to Achieve Its Aims; " This Is a Complete Fiasco that Will Create a Full-Scale Credibility and Trustworthiness Problem ‎for the Iranian Government"

In another Rooz article, Iranian dissident journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi condemned the slanted and manipulative manner in which Ahmadinejad's government had presented the ElBaradei report to the Iranian public. Comparing the government's version of the report to the actual text, he concluded that Ahmadinejad's government was not worthy of trust, since it presents the public with false information in all areas. Following is the English version of the article, as translated by Rooz:[4]

"On Friday night, on the nine o'clock Channel One news, the announcer declared in ‎an emotional tone that Mohammad ElBaradei, director-general of the International ‎Atomic Energy Agency, [had said in his] report that Iran's nuclear program was completely ‎peaceful... [The announcer added that El-Baradei] had declared [the case] closed, and had requested that the U.N. Security Council return the file to the IAEA.‎

"It does not take a genius to conclude that this [presentation of the] report cannot not be accurate. So when a ‎group of my friends who were with me asked my opinion about it, I said that there was no doubt ‎that El-Baradei had not given such a report.‎

One of those present said, "[But] that was a direct quote. [How] could they fabricate a quote?‎

"Fortunately for us, the Internet can help clarify such discrepancies. I went online and ‎checked the news.

"The foreign news headlines showed that, as usual, Mr. ElBaradei had presented an ambivalent report. But since the Iranian TV announcer, and [Supreme National Security Council Vice-Secretary Javad] Vaidi had stressed that the ‎foreign media, in a coordinated effort, was boycotting the [IAEA] director general's report, ‎one of those present refused [to accept the foreign] the headlines. So we turned to the domestic news agencies, ‎and particularly to Fars news agency, which had translated the original report.‎

"[We found that] the report was completely ambivalent and [even] to the detriment of Iran. But more importantly, no part of it said that Iran's nuclear dossier had been closed, that ‎its peaceful character had been established once and for all, or that the ‎U.N. Security Council must now return the dossier to the IAEA.‎

"One of those present again asked, "How can this be? This means they are attributing ‎completely false statements to El-Baradei."‎

"It appears that in this era of [Ahmadinejad's government], anything can be done, including ‎complete manipulation of quotes to suite one's ends.‎

"Past Iranian governments did not care for accurate quotes either, but ‎they did observe certain rules. The [present] administration, on the other hand, has no scruples and does ‎not seem to observe any rules [whatsoever]. In order to attain its goals, it is willing to attribute [statements] to ElBaradei's report that do not exist in the original text.‎

"This is a complete fiasco that will create a full-scale credibility and trustworthiness problem ‎for the Iranian government. The distrust towards the news and the information published by the Iranian ‎government will now encompass a wide range of subjects. For example, how can one ‎trust the government statistics about unemployment, inflation, poverty, corruption and other ‎social ills, or even the claims of the state about its scientific and other achievements?‎ When a government presents a completely distorted and fabricated version of an official and public report, how can you trust it to be honest about real news and about information ‎that cannot be verified by the general public?‎"

Appendix: The Supreme National Security Council Guidelines Document, as Published by Rooz

Rooz's March 5, 2008 report included the following reproduction of the Supreme National Security Council's guidelines document.

[1] The British sailors were actually seized on March 23, 2007.

[2] Rooz (Iran), March 5, 2008.

[3] Rooz (Iran), February 27, 2008.

[4] Rooz (Iran), February 29, 2008. The text has been edited for clarity.

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