A possible ‘Plan B’ for Iran

Source: The Washington Times

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

 

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As the economic situation in Iran continues to deteriorate due to renewed sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and protesters point fingers at the regime, the most important tool in America’s arsenal to ensure a peaceful transition to a new political order in Iran is the media.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alluded to this at a recent speech in Los Angeles, where he said that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will soon launch a 24/7 Farsi-language TV station. Although President Trump and his foreign policy team are correct in offering unwavering support to the Iranian people, using taxpayer money to resurrect a moribund VOA Persian Language Service would be a big mistake; it will be like pouring good wine into a dirty bottle.

Tehran Broadcast Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

From 2004 until 2010 I was in charge of overseeing the VOA Persian language (PNN) programing into Iran. When I took over, PNN had only two live programs and few people inside Iran watched our live broadcasts. Within a year we expanded this to six hours of hard-hitting anti-regime programming. Luckily, my colleagues and I had the full support of the Bush administration to “kill the regime with facts.” Overtime, the people inside Iran trusted us to provide them with timely, unfiltered and accurate news. By 2008, we had a weekly viewership of more than 22 million.

The core of our mission was to show the Iranian people the opportunity cost of the Islamic regime to their economic well-being and national pride. As such, we presented documentaries on Iran’s rich history and culture as well as chronicled how power-hungry mullahs have for centuries thrown obstacles at Iran’s drive toward modernization.

Every program that we broadcast into Iran hit on a patriotic nerve that has been suppressed by the mullahs but never extinguished. For example, we invited experts who would point out how Iran, with the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, has fallen behind its much smaller neighbor Qatar in capturing market share. Showing our audience that the corrupt mullahs have cost Iran’s economy $560 billion in natural gas exports touched a raw nerve.

My colleagues and I also broke a century old taboo imposed by the clerics on Iran; namely, speaking about the persecution of religious minorities, including members of the Baha’i Faith. Nothing irked the close-minded mullahs more than giving a live forum to members of the Baha’i Faith to explain to their fellow countrymen inside Iran the peaceful tenets of their faith. In short, we rattled the mullah’s cage.