- CNN engulfed by mistranslation scandal, network accused of fabricating Rouhani "Holocaust" remarks
- State Dept. issues global travel advisory, runs down Al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorism
- Bloomberg: Five reasons "to doubt the sincerity of Iran's protestations" on nuclear negotiations
- Former Iranian president calls on regime to release imprisoned political dissidents
What we’re watching today:
- CNN struggled today to address ongoing accusations that it had mistranslated an interview between the station's Christiane Amanpour and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in order to make Rouhani seem more moderate than the revolutionary-era cleric actually is, or is willing to be. CNN's voiceover of the interview quoted Rouhani condemning the "Holocaust" and declaring that "whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn." The remarks were widely reported, specifically cited, and broadly hailed - including by Amanpour herself - as a signal of Iranian moderation. Iran's state-controlled Fars news agency quickly published an accurate translation of the interview, pointing out that Rouhani actually said neither of those things and accusing CNN of having "fabricated the remarks" in ways that "totally change what President Rouhani has said." Amanpour dismissed the charges as "piffle," a clarification that did not go far in mollifying critics. The Wall Street Journal independently verified the translation, flatly concluding that the "words attributed to Mr. Rouhani are not what he said" and that CNN "made Mr. Rouhani seem so much more conciliatory than he was." The Daily Beast went further, noting that repeated caveats inserted by Rouhani questioning the scope of Nazi crimes against Jews - "the old Holocaust deniers tricks of 'questioning' the death toll, averring that many others groups were also victims, and claiming that a well-established historical fact requires further examination" - disqualify others from tenably characterizing him as having condemned the Holocaust. CNN subsequently published a full transcript of the interview, which still had Rouhani condemning the "Holocaust" and declaring that "whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn." A transcript published by Rouhani's office - in contrast, and translated by Al-Monitor Iran Pulse editor Arash Karami - "matches what Rouhani said" and does not include the passages.
- The State Department yesterday issued a global travel alert covering Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and warning of potential terror attacks - including possible "suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings" - by Al Qaeda, "its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups." The warning cites credible information to the effect that terror groups "seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa," and reviews attacks launched by both Sunni jihadists and the Iran-backed Shiite terror group Hezbollah. The warning follows another from earlier this summer, based in part on intelligence gathered from an intercepted Al Qaeda conference, which also saw the closure of U.S. embassies across several continents. It comes less than a week after at least 67 people were killed in a days-long siege at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab terror group was reportedly behind that attack.
- Analysts are adding to skepticism already expressed by U.S. lawmakers regarding claims being aired by Iranian officials, including by newly inaugurated Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, suggesting that Iran is willing to resolve its dispute with the West in the near term. Rouhani yesterday suggested that negotiations may conclude successfully within three to six months. On Tuesday Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg had already outlined five reasons "to doubt the sincerity of Iran's protestations," among them the geopolitical calculations that Tehran is suspected of embracing as well as Rouhani's own stance that suspending uranium enrichment is a non-starter. Goldberg also suggests that the Iranians believe that, should they become a nuclear power, the international sanctions regime will gradually wither. Based on the most recent report from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security estimates that Iran will reach so-called "critical capability" - the ability to rush across the nuclear finish line before the West can detect and intervene - by mid-2014.
- Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is calling on Tehran to release all the country’s political prisoners, two months after anti-regime activists blasted the regime for "spreading lies and disinformation about the existence of political prisoners as they are simultaneously imprisoning hundreds for exercising their legal rights." Iranian officials have consistently denied even the existence of political prisoners. According to the State Department, Iran's High Council for Human Rights Javad Larijani sophistically insisted last year that there are no political prisoners in Iran, because political prisoners are people who have been unjustly imprisoned - and everyone imprisoned in Iran is in jail justly. Tehran has nonetheless been consistently blasted by human rights groups for the mass systematic imprisonment, torture, and rape of political prisoners. Khatami published his comments on his official website following an announcement Monday from Tehran that the government would free 80 prisoners arrested in political crackdowns. Since the June election of President Hassan Rouhani, Iran has executed more than 170 political prisoners and continues to imprison nearly 800 more. Among those still jailed is U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati, a former Marine who was arrested more than two years ago while on a trip to visit a relative and whose father on Wednesday forwarded a letter to Rouhani pleading with him to free his son. Analysts have raised doubts about Rouhani's ability and willingness to substantially reform Iran's prison system. The revolutionary-era cleric has repeatedly called for the imprisonment of dissidents, and his justice minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi is a former intelligence minister who was a key figure on a three-person panel that oversaw the torture and execution of literally thousands of Iranian prisoners.
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