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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07BAKU698 2007-06-06 04:40:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baku
Cable title:  

IRANIAN ACADEMIC CALLS FOR U.S. TO FUND AZERI

Tags:   ECPS KDEM PGOV PREL PROP IR AJ 
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3175
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAKU 000698 

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2017
TAGS: ECPS KDEM PGOV PREL PROP IR AJ
SUBJECT: IRANIAN ACADEMIC CALLS FOR U.S. TO FUND AZERI
NATIONAL MOVEMENT

REF: BAKU 608

BAKU 00000698 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: DCM Donald Lu for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: Speaking with Iran Watcher on May 30,
Professor Gholam-Reza Sabri-Tabrizi reiterated his interest
in establishing an Azeri-language satellite television
station in support of efforts to bring about peaceful
political change within the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)
(reftel). Arguing that lasting change would only be possible
by supporting efforts to change the IRI from within, Tabrizi
said that he was opposed to a possible U.S. military attack
on Iran. Instead, Tabrizi suggested that the U.S. provide
financial support for the creation of an "Azeri National
Movement" and accompanying new satellite television station.
Tabrizi said that existing Azeri diaspora groups such as the
World Azerbaijanis Congress (WAC) and South Azerbaijan
National Awakening Movement (SANAM) were plagued by "personal
animosities" and the negative influence of the Government of
Azerbaijan (GOAJ), which he alleged has better ties with the
IRI than openly acknowledged. End Summary.



2. (C) Speaking with Iran Watcher on May 30, Professor
Gholam-Reza Sabri-Tabrizi reiterated his interest in
establishing an Azeri-language satellite television station
in support of efforts to bring about peaceful political
change within Iran (reftel). Pointing to recent protests by
ethnic Azeris in Iran to commemorate the one-year anniversary
of the 22 May 2006 ethnic Azeri demonstrations, Tabrizi said
that the time was right for the U.S. to support efforts to
bring about change in Iran from within. Saying that any
military attack on Iran by the U.S. would be
counter-productive as it would serve to unify and rally
Iranians around the current regime, Tabrizi suggested that
the U.S. provide financial support to the creation of an
"Azeri National Movement," a key component of which would be
a new satellite television station.



3. (C) In addition to funding the new station, Tabrizi also
suggested that the U.S. provide assistance to Ahmad Obali's
GunAz Television. Reportedly in regular contact with Obali,
Tabrizi has appeared as a guest on Obali's station, most
recently on May 20 when he reportedly made a 45 minute appeal
to Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Iranian nation to allow
Azeris to use their mother tongue. According to Tabrizi,
Obali had recently been at the White House for discussions
about his station the week of 21-25 May. (Note - it was not
clear with whom Obali had reportedly met.) To support
efforts within Iran, Tabrizi suggested that the U.S. needed
to finance trusted members of his organization to support the
families of imprisoned Azeri activists such as Abbas Lisani.
According to Tabrizi, his organization already provided such
families with approximately USD 200 per month. Tabrizi said
that this financial support was critical because it "lessened
the leverage" Iran had on family members with which to try to
coerce the behavior of the imprisoned.



4. (C) Concerning existing Azeri diaspora groups such as the
World Azerbaijanis Congress (WAC) and South Azerbaijan
National Awakening Movement (SANAM), Tabrizi said that they
were plagued by "personal animosities" and the negative
influence of the GOAJ. Suggesting that he might be "taking
over" the WAC in the near future, Tabrizi said that the WAC
was ineffective because it was "manipulated by Russians and
the Azeri Government." Saying that the GOAJ had far better
ties with Iran than openly acknowledged, Tabrizi also
reported that the GOAJ was increasingly uncomfortable with
his views, saying that he had been threatened by Presidential
Chief of Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev after appearing on GunAz
Television. As a result of this pressure, Tabrizi claimed
that he had almost lost his office space for the Coordinating
Committee of World Azerbaijanis, rescued only after the
personal intervention of First Lady and Member of Parliament
Mehriban Aliyeva (whose grandfather, according to Tabrizi,
was an Iranian Azeri).



5. (C) Concerning Azerbaijan's foreign policy, Tabrizi
characterized it as "going a zig-zag way" in order to keep
both Iran and Russia happy. Saying that the GOAJ was
steadily "maneuvering toward Russia," Tabrizi characterized
Mehdiyev as "a Russian agent." Tabrizi said that he had no
idea as to what the GOAJ expected from the U.S.



6. (C) Tabrizi said that while he had previously been
critical of United States' Iran policy during the Shah era,
he said that he was now convinced that the U.S. was the best

BAKU 00000698 002.2 OF 002


hope for stability in the region. Continuing that he did not
want to see the U.S. pushed out of the region by either
Russia or the U.K., Tabrizi again made a case for U.S.
support of efforts to bring about democratic change from
within the IRI. Tabrizi noted that he had recently been
approached by Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijani Arthur Lenk
concerning the situation of ethnic Azeris in Iran, with a
"representative from Tel Aviv" accompanying him on that visit.



7. (C) Comment: While Tabrizi is undoubtedly well connected
within Azeri diaspora circles, it is unclear whether he has
adequate support within these circles either to assume the
helm of the WAC or persuade other groups to overcome their
differences and join him in establishing an "Azeri National
Movement." The efforts of Azeri diaspora groups to support
change within Iran continue to be hampered by their inability
to cooperate with each other, as well as financial
constraints. Over the past six months, we have observed
considerable interest on the part of Azeri diaspora groups in
securing financial support from the U.S., including for new
broadcasting initiatives. While contacts report that there
is a great hunger within Iran for information from outside
sources, it is not clear whether the messages Azeri diaspora
groups might send (with some groups seeking greater cultural
autonomy and others with an openly separatist agenda) would
resonate with ethnic Azeris in Iran, as the overwhelming
majority of ethnic Azeris seem to consider themselves to be
Iranians first, ethnic Azeris second. As the Department
weighs diaspora group's funding requests, we think it is
important to also consider this question, as well as the
potential for fallout within both Iran and Azerbaijan of U.S.
funding for diaspora broadcasters, particularly those with
separatist agendas. End Comment.
DERSE