US embassy cable - 09RPODUBAI115

IRAN REGIONAL PRESENCE OFFICE - WINDOW ON IRAN - MARCH 10, 2009

Identifier: 09RPODUBAI115
Wikileaks: View 09RPODUBAI115 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Iran RPO Dubai
Created: 2009-03-10 12:21:00
Classification: SECRET//NOFORN
Tags: PREL PGOV KDEM CONS IR AF
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO5062
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHDIR #0115/01 0691221
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 101221Z MAR 09
FM RPO DUBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0361
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 0295
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0011
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0001
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0016
RUEHDIR/RPO DUBAI 0362
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RPO DUBAI 000115 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  3/10/2019 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KDEM, CONS, IR, AF 
SUBJECT: IRAN REGIONAL PRESENCE OFFICE - WINDOW ON IRAN - MARCH 10, 
2009 
 
DUBAI 00000115  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Ramin Asgard, Director, Iran Regional Presence 
Office - Dubai, DOS. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
1. [S/NF] Reformist MP Khoeni On Future of Reform Movement: Last 
week former MP (Sixth Majles) Moussavi Khoeni spoke about his 
experiences as a parliamentarian and his views on reformist 
participation in the upcoming presidential elections.  Turning 
now to his views on the future of the reformist movement in 
Iran, he noted that Supreme Leader Khamenei and Guardian Council 
head Ayatollah Jannati both referred to the Reformist period 
(1997-2005) as a "mistake" during meetings with Majles officials 
and had cautioned that "we won't make this mistake again". 
Khoeni was in Dubai applying for a student visa for graduate 
study in the US, and welcomed an opportunity to help the USG 
better understand the reformist trend, both in Dubai and if/when 
he comes to the US.  As noted previously, Khoeni does not 
support Khatami, but is aiming for "three or four" years down 
the road, when he suggests Abdollah Nouri would be the best 
candidate to lead a resurgent reformist movement.  [Nouri, a 
mid-ranking cleric, was Minister of Interior under Khatami, but 
was dismissed and ultimately imprisoned for five years for 
challenging the validity of the velayat-e faqih.]   During the 
next three-four years, Khoeni  hopes to help build up a revived 
reformist movement from the grassroots, apparently from outside 
Iran. 
 
 
 
2. [S/NF] The Role of the US in the Future of Reformism in Iran: 
Moussavi Khoeni offered as assessment of what role the US can 
play in the future of the reform movement.  While he welcomed 
the participation of international organizations in the 
reformists' quest to establish human rights and the rule of law 
in Iran, he cautioned that "strong outside pressure" would not 
help.  "Such pressure may be able to change the regime, but will 
not be able to effectively administer what comes after it." 
Rather, the international community should, he continued, "bring 
pressure on areas the people need help".  He cited human rights 
as a priority, and added that "Democrats need to affirm their 
commitment to human rights in Iran".  He felt that international 
broadcasting could play an important role, but noted VOA as 
currently set up was too one-sided and remote from realities 
inside Iran to be relevant.  He cautioned against relying for 
editorial direction on VOA staff that have been away from Iran 
for decades and lack understanding of today's realities.  He 
suggested that VOA engage in greater direct dialogue with the 
Iranian people about issues in a more "professional" manner. 
They should not present every issue in "digital" terms, he said. 
 [Note: As an IT specialist by training, he explained that he 
meant to avoid 1/0 or black/white analysis.]  He suggested VOA 
should allow broader debate of viewpoints, like Al Jazeera. 
This he added, would remove the stigma facing those who appeared 
on VOA, which rendered even highly credible Iranians who 
appeared on VOA into "stooges of the US."  Finally, Khoeni noted 
that sanctions should be better targeted to hurt the IRIG, not 
the Iranian people. 
 
 
 
3. [S/NF] Comment: Mousavi Khoeni's advocacy for Abdollah Nouri, 
who is a leading advocate in Iranian politics for abolishing the 
Velayat-e Faqih, as a reformist standard bearer in the near 
future suggests that at least some reformists are looking to 
advance major structural changes to Iran's political system, 
including targeting the top of the power structure for major 
reform/elimination.  Meanwhile, Khatami, who has also, according 
to previous IRPO reporting, has reportedly abandoned his support 
for the institution of the velayat-e faqih, continues to serve 
as the reformists' best near term prospect of a return to 
prominence.  Given Rafsanjani's well-known plans to replace the 
velayat with a ruling council, it appears the reformists have a 
strong consensus on this core issue - the institution of the 
Supreme Leader (at least as currently constituted) must go. 
 
 
 
4. [S/NF] Iran Seeks Security Agreement, Greater Transport Links 
with Afghanistan: During a recent encounter with a senior Afghan 
government official transiting Dubai, IRPO Officer learned that 
Iran is seeking a security partnership agreement with 
Afghanistan, which would include a specific provision that 
"Afghan territory would not be used to launch any attack on 
Iran."  He added that Iran raised this issue immediately after 
 
DUBAI 00000115  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
Afghanistan concluded a security agreement with the US.  (Note: 
The parallels to the US-Iraq SOFA/SA are striking.)  This 
official also noted that Iran is looking to greatly enhance its 
transport ties with Afghanistan, and plans to invest 20 billion 
USD over the next five years to develop its large blue water 
port facilities at Chah Bahar on the Sea of Oman.  [Note: The 
Chah Bahar Port/Free Zone is the main port facility where goods 
bound for transport to Afghanistan and Central Asia enter Iran. 
Such shipments would be greatly facilitated through the 2008 
inauguration of the India-Iran Chah Bahar - Zaranj - Delaram 
highway project linking the Afghan ring road to the Indian 
Ocean.]  Finally, this official the Afghans and Iranians are 
discussing a road project to link Herat directly to Kabul 
through the Hazara region. 
 
 
 
5. [S/NF] Does a Television Monopoly Help of Hurt Ahmadinejad?: 
An IRPO contact who is heavily involved in the Star TV Farsi 
project offered some analysis of the Iranian media market and 
IRIB.  He said that the conventional wisdom predicts that IRIB's 
constant, positive coverage of Ahmadinejad will help his 
electoral campaign.  He noted, however, IRIB's packaging of the 
president is unsophisticated propaganda.  He suggested that many 
Iranian viewers will see it for what it is, and it may reinforce 
their negative perception of Ahmadinejad's mismanagement of the 
economy.   Although the Star TV project is exclusively 
entertainment programming and may not represent the ideological 
challenge to the IRIG of VOA or BBC Persian, our contact said 
the IRIG may feel threatened by it for other reasons.  He 
explained that IRIB generates USD 200 to 300 million in 
advertising and other revenue for the government.  Star TV's 
backers believe that they can attract some of those advertisers 
away from IRIB, cutting into its revenue.  If they succeed, and 
hurt IRIB financially, then the IRIG may try to retaliate, he 
said.  Comment: Media access will be a defining feature of the 
presidential campaign, and no candidate is likely to get as much 
television coverage as Ahmadinejad.  We agree with our 
interlocutor's assessment that extensive coverage that tries to 
conceal his failing economic policies may backfire. 
 
 
 
6. [S/NF] Mixed Signals on Hollywood Delegation's Visit:  The 
visit of an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) 
delegation has prompted some curious recriminations within the 
IRIG over who authorized the delegation to visit Iran. 
Ahmadinejad's art advisor and other officials demanded an 
apology for Hollywood's insults to Iran and the conservative 
daily Kayhan asserted that the visit had the same ill intent as 
USG-sponsored exchange programs.  The visit generally received 
positive press coverage in Iran and culminated in Annette 
Benning and the others from Hollywood being named honorary 
members of the Iranian House of Cinema.  This week, MPs summoned 
the ministers of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Foreign Affairs, 
and Intelligence and Security on March 8 to answer questions on 
who invited the group and issued them visas during a period of 
"cultural onslaught," according to one MP.  He criticized 
officials for not scrutinizing the purpose of the visit closely 
enough.  Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad 
Hossein Saffar Harandi defended the visit as completely legal. 
Comment: As our recent experience shows, the IRIG is strictly 
vetting any visits with some connection to the U.S. Despite the 
public criticism of Hollywood's treatment of Iran, however, 
there was sufficient support within the IRIG from behind the 
scenes for this visit to go forward. This episode reinforces our 
view that exchanges with the U.S. remain a highly factionalized 
issue within the IRIG but that under the right conditions, i.e. 
no obvious USG connection and devoid of any political overtones, 
they can go forward. 
 
 
 
7. [C/NF] Majles Rejects Ahmadinejad's Cash Handouts: On March 
8th the Majles voted to remove the clause in the government's 
proposed Economic Reform Plan that would have redistributed 
subsidies on fuel, water and electricity as cash handouts to 
low-income Iranians.  According to the Ministry of Economic 
Affairs and Finance, under the plan some 70% of families would 
have been eligible to receive $80 per month on average in direct 
 
DUBAI 00000115  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
cash payments.  Comment:  Ahmadinejad has made the Economic 
Reform Plan and its goal of replacing subsidies with direct 
payments to needy families key elements of his promise to both 
reduce the economy's dependence on oil exports and to provide 
"economic justice" to lower and working-class Iranians.  The 
Majles' rejection of his cash payment plan will force the 
president to find other ways to appeal to lower-income voters, 
who make up his base.  The decision also casts in doubt the 
timing of the removal of subsidies, since the government will 
have to come up with another way to offset the steep rise in 
prices for consumers. 
 
 
 
8. [C] Iranians Booking Fewer Visa Appointments in Dubai:  The 
online booking system for visa appointments in Dubai has 
availability throughout March and into April - a rarity in 
recent memory.  The consulate has been offering 170 visa 
appointments per day to Iranians and, until the last two weeks, 
applicants had booked every opening soon after becoming 
available.  The total number of incoming applicants is also 
down.  Last year, 1,411 applicants applied for visas between 11 
February and 10 March; this year 1,044 applied during the same 
time frame (Only a portion of those with an appointment appear 
at the consulate for an interview; the figures cited refer to 
those actually appearing).  Comment: IRPO Conoff queried a few 
applicants regarding whether the visa application process has 
become harder recently; none mentioned anything accounting for 
the decrease.  The drop may be temporary and may relate to the 
Iranian New Year (March 21), but Norouz in past years has not 
coincided with such a drop. 
 
 
 
9. [U] Window on Iran is a classified, weekly product providing 
Washington policy community and Iran watchers highlights of key 
developments on Iran.  It is produced by the Iran Regional 
Presence Office - Dubai.  Please direct any questions/comments 
to Kay McGowan (mcgowanka2@state.sgov.gov 
 ) or Charlie Pennypacker 
(pennypacker@state.sgov.gov  
). 
ASGARD 

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