NOW on the News examines the "why" behind current headlines. Listen to Maria Hinojosa's interview with Newsweek's Iranian correspondent, Maziar Bahari, who she speaks to from Tehran.
Iranian Journalist Provides Insider's View from Tehran
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was in the headlines several times this week, after Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that he is open to what he described as "new conditions" to resolve the nuclear standoff with the West. His statement came just days after Iran said that it may be willing to suspend enrichment.
Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari -- who is Newsweek magazine's Iranian correspondent -- said Iranians were relieved at the small sign of hope that the standoff could be resolved. "People are just happy that there won't be a war, that the country will not be attacked...like Iraq was invaded," Bahari told NOW's Maria Hinojosa in a web-exclusive audio interview from his home in Tehran.
Bahari said the main concern for Iran's future lies not in its nuclear standoff or relationship with the West but in the survival of its economy. "I'm mostly worried about what's happening inside the country, that the government is just intoxicated on oil money, and people are just apathetic at the moment," Bahari said.
Bahari argues that Ahmadinejad and President Bush have more in common than most people would think. "I think they're very similar people. They're both very provincial politicians," he said. Bahari believes both Bush and Ahmadinejad lack a broad world vision of the world, including a solid knowledge of historical events. "I don't think that your president really has a much better perception of the world and what's going on in the world either," he said of Bush.
Bahari also drew several similarities between the U.S. and Iran. When asked if his phone was tapped, Bahari said it was a distinct possibility, but added that he believed American government officials listen in on conversations more than Iranians do.
"What I'm hearing from my friends in the U.S. is that, especially the Muslims, that they say that all their conversations are tapped, and they are always asked to go to the FBI offices, for no good reason," Bahari said.
He believes the two countries are strong faith-based cultures and "maybe Iran and America are the two most religious countries in the world," Bahari said.
The U.S. is pushing forward for a new U.N. Security Council resolution to put economic sanctions on Iran. European countries, as well as China and Russia, favor more talks with Iran before moving ahead with sanctions, despite the passing of the Security Council's Aug. 31 deadline for Iran to freeze work on developing enrichment technology.
Iran, which holds nine percent of the worlds oil reserves, says it needs uranium enrichment to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity. Enrichment can also create material for atomic bombs and the U.S. and other countries suspect that is Tehran's real goal.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog has protested to the U.S. government over a report on Iran's nuclear program, calling it "misleading".
About Maziar Bahari
Bahari was born in Tehran, Iran. He studied communications at Concordia University in Montreal before making his first film "The Voyage of the Saint Louis" about the fatal voyage of more than 900 German Jewish refugees in 1939. Bahari has since worked as a filmmaker and journalist.
Since the beginning of the Iraqi war, Bahari has reported from Iraq and produced several documentaries about the conflict. He is Newsweek magazine's Iran correspondent.
NOW: Interview: Lila Azam Zanganeh on what Americans need to understand about Iran
Newsweek: "Silencing Dissent," on Tehran's latest crackdown on the media, Maziar Bahari, Sept 14, 2006
New York Times: "Sweating out the truth in Iran," Op-ed by Maziar Bahari, Aug. 24 2006
The New Yorker, "The Iran plans," Seymour M. Hersh, April 2006
US report on Iran's nuclear program, August 23, 2006 [pdf]
IAEA (UN) response to US report, September 12, 2006 [pdf]