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Viewing cable 09ISTANBUL352, IRAN: REGIME PRESSURE REACHING SOME ISTANBUL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ISTANBUL352 2009-09-15 09:09 2010-12-29 21:09 SECRET Consulate Istanbul
VZCZCXRO5656
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHIT #0352/01 2580952
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 150952Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9187
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000352

SIPDIS

LONDON FOR MURRAY; BERLIN FOR ROSENSTOCK-STILLER; BAKU FOR
MCCRENSKY; ASHGABAT FOR TANGBORN; BAGHDAD FOR POPAL; DUBAI
FOR IRPO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/14/2034
TAGS: PINS PREL PGOV PINR IR TU
SUBJECT: IRAN: REGIME PRESSURE REACHING SOME ISTANBUL
CONTACTS

REF: (A) ISTANBUL 47 (B) ISTANBUL 94 (C) ISTANBUL 138
(D) ISTANBUL 189 (E) ISTANBUL 207 (F)
ISTANBUL 244 (G) ISTANBUL 290

Classified By: ConGen Istanbul Deputy Principal Officer Win Dayton; Rea
son 1.5 (d).
 
1.  (S)  Several Istanbul-based contacts of ConGen Istanbul's 
NEA Iran Watcher have separately cautioned us in the past 
week that they been asked (or warned) by Iranian officials to 
cease contact with "American diplomats asking questions about 
Iran."  In one case, a key contact -- XXXXXXXXXXXX-- is returning temporarily to Iran to 
"clear everything up."  Comment:  A number of State 
Iran-Watchers' Iran-based contacts have suffered harassment, 
intimidation, and detention since the post-election 
crackdown.  Reporting from IRPO Dubai and others underscores 
the likelihood that regime pressure on Iranians with U.S. or 
western links will only worsen.  These recent warnings to our 
Istanbul-based contacts, however, may represent a new element 
in this campaign of intimidation, and reconfirms that the 
regime pays attention to our outreach efforts outside Iran. 
In response, we will take additional steps to protect local 
contacts and stay vigilant against regime efforts to track 
our interactions with them, while redoubling efforts to 
expand the range of Turkey-based contacts willing to share 
Iran-related insights.  End comment. 
 
2.  (S) In the past week, we heard separately from three 
valuable Istanbul-based contacts that they each received 
recent requests or warnings from Iranian officials to limit 
or cease contacts with American diplomats in Istanbul. 
 
3.  XXXXXXXXXXXX 
 
4.  (S) A UK national who has worked as the Istanbul 
correspondent for Iran's satellite news channel "Press TV" 
since summer 2007 and has been willing to share insights into 
Press TV and Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) 
editorial and press operations (ref d), told us that her 
Tehran-based editor warned her last week to stop having 
contact with "any American diplomats there asking about 
Iran."  She speculated that Iranian consulate officials in 
Istanbul may have seen her talking to ConGen Istanbul's Iran 
Watcher at any number of recent functions and, as they are 
presumably aware of ConGen Istanbul Iran Watcher's portfolio, 
they may have sent word back to Press TV management to warn 
her off of such contacts.  She told us her response to her 
editor was that as a journalist her job is to gather 
information from all informed sources in Istanbul including 
diplomats, and that any contact she has with U.S. or other 
diplomats in Istanbul is strictly in support of her own 
reporting.  She told us that because she is a UK citizen and 
living in Turkey, and considers herself one of Press TV's 
best international correspondents, she is not afraid of 
pressure from Press TV management since "the worst they can 
do is fire me, which they won't."  (Comment:  In an incident 
that may or may not have been related, but that this contact 
found suspicious, her apartment was broken into on June 26 
and her laptop was stolen, though her purse, jewelry, and 
other valuables were left alone.)  She expressed a 
willingness to continue occasional contacts with us, though 
 
ISTANBUL 00000352  002 OF 002 
 
 
we agreed not to have contacts at conferences or other fora 
where Iranian consulate officials might be present. 
 
5. (S) We recently contacted the coordinator for the 
Turkish-Iran Business Council (ref b), responsible for 
setting up the TIBC's frequent meetings and trade fairs with 
Iranian counterparts.  He is a Turkish national who has been 
a helpful contact since late 2007.  We contacted him to 
request a meeting with the TIBC to discuss recent 
developments in Turkish-Iranian commercial relations, in 
advance of a biannual "Turkish-Iranian Business Council 
Forum" next month in Tehran and Mashhad.  Our contact told us 
by email that two members of the TIBC's executive board were 
queried by "Iranian acquaintances of theirs" (NFI) at a 
Ramadan Iftar dinner ceremony at the Iranian Ambassador to 
Turkey's residence last week about the TIBC's contacts with 
the US Consulate in Istanbul, including what specific 
questions we have asked the TIBC about Iran-Turkey commerce. 
Our contact did not know how the Iranian Embassy was aware of 
the TIBC's occasional meetings with us.  (Comment: We have 
met about six times with TIBC executive board members, 
including a November 2008 courtesy call on the board by 
NEA/IR's Office Director; additionally, ConGen Istanbul's 
Iran Watcher has met numerous times socially with this 
contact, usually for coffee at a local cafe.  End comment.) 
He said a TIBC board member told him they brushed aside the 
Iranian queries, but they also cautioned him that the TIBC 
needs to be more careful in ensuring that its Iranian 
partners are not given a reason "to doubt our commitment to 
expanding bilateral commerce while staying out of politics." 
This contact pledged to try to help set up a meeting for us 
with the TIBC executive board, but declined an offer to meet 
socially in the near-term. 
 
Comment 
------ 
 
6.  (S) Comment:  A number of State Department "Iran 
Watchers" and others have seen both professional contacts and 
friends in Iran suffer harassment, intimidation and in many 
cases detention and worse, especially following the recent, 
post-election crackdown on Mousavi supporters and others 
activists.  Reporting from IRPO Dubai and elsewhere 
underscores the likelihood that the regime will only 
intensify the crackdown against Iranians who have U.S. and 
western contacts.  However, these recent warnings to our 
Istanbul-based contacts may represent a new element in this 
campaign of intimidation.  These examples are a clear 
indication that the Iranian regime is aware of at least some 
of our Istanbul-based contacts' interactions with us, and 
willing to use varying degrees of pressure -- even against 
non-Iranians over whom it has some leverage -- to try or 
limit to stop further contact with us.  (Overt Iranian 
physical intimidation against contacts in Turkey, however, is 
unlikely, as it would cross a red-line not crossed since the 
GOT expelled then-Iranian Ambassador Mottaki -- now Iran's 
Foreign Minister -- in 1989 for playing a likely role in the 
kidnapping and/or assassination of several dozen Iranian 
dissidents in Turkey in the mid and late 1980s.) 
 
7.  (S) Engaging with Iran-related contacts, even in Turkey, 
has always been a sensitive undertaking, but now it is 
becoming even more so.  In response, we make every effort to 
try to protect our local contacts, take additional measures 
to ensure confidentiality in our meetings with them, and 
remain vigilant against Iranian efforts to track our 
interactions with them.  But we will also redouble efforts to 
maintain, and even expand, the range of contacts in Turkey 
willing to brave such threats to share valuable insights with 
us.  End comment. 
WIENER