The Rosett Report

On Your Dime -- U.S. Broadcasting Iran's Propaganda?

In the nuclear showdown with Iran, surely one of the most effective tools America has for wooing Iranian hearts and minds is broadcasting on radio and TV — right?

Turns out some of our broadcasts have been doing Ahmadinejad’s work for him. After a Senate subcommittee hearing last summer in which an escaped Iranian dissident testified that the U.S. itself has been beaming anti-American propaganda into Iran, Sen. Tom Coburn began looking into the problem. Today, in a polite but searing letter, addressed to President Bush, Coburn spelled out his concerns that American broadcasts into Iran, via Radio Farda and Voice of America, freighted with content that sounds like the propaganda of Tehran itself, “may actually be harming American interests rather than helping.”

Coburn appended a draft study prepared by National Security Council staff and the Iran (interagency) Steering Group. This paper cites examples such as a VOA news broadcast last year in which guests discussed Iran’s nuclear program. One of these guests, introduced as an expert, but with no description of his affiliations, was “a Mr. Nakhai,” who claimed Iran had endured more than its share of IAEA inspections. His views went unchallenged. The study notes, “As it turns out, Mr. Nakhai was an adviser to the Iranian regime and defender of its nuclear policy.”

Coburn in his letter adds that “Other language services at the Broadcasting Board of Governors have similar problems.” He cites, for instance, reports that last year America’s Arabic broadcasting service, Al Hurra, “provided uninterrupted coverage of speeches delivered by two terrorist leaders, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah on December 7 and Ismail Haniya of Hamas on December 19.”

Here’s Coburn’s letter. Here’s the draft study. And here’s a translated transcript, also appended to the letter, of a VOA Persian TV program, analyzing Bush’s recent State of the Union address — scroll down to see the highlighted sections in which guests speaking to an Iranian audience blame — guess who — not the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime, but the U.S., for violence in Iraq.

Fixing this sounds like a great idea. If Washington wants to waste tax dollars, how about doing it on something less damaging to national security? And if it can’t be fixed, how about leaving the communication to the blogosphere.