You are going to be hearing a lot more about Iran soon. While geopolitical speculation has focused on Russia, China, and the United States, another country could be the locus of major instability —Iran. The US is increasing its military presence in the Persian Gulf, a move crowded out by discussions of other risks in these dog days of August.
The Washington Post is reporting that the the Biden Administration is planning “a remarkable escalation” and is placing armed soldiers on commercial ships. What could go wrong? Paul R. Pillar writes in Responsible Statecraft:
The last time the United States placed armament and military personnel, ready to fight, on ocean-going commercial vessels was during the world wars of the 20th Century.
On that cautionary note— Welcome to The Hale Report. My guest is Trita Parsi and our topic is Iran. We first met when he was president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and I served on the board.
I have long admired Trita Parsi’s ability to articulate the nuances of complex geopolitical situations with clarity. He's not just an observer, but a participant in one of the key strategic relationships of our era. Currently executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, he is an award winning author of three books and an expert on US-Iranian relations and the geopolitics of the Middle East. His latest book - Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy (Yale University Press) - reveals the behind the scenes story of the historic nuclear deal with Iran.
Named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the 25 most influential voices on foreign policy in Washington, Trita Parsi operates at the very heart of the US-Iran relationship, uniquely placed to talk to both sides at the highest level of policymaking. He first studied international relations and economics in Sweden, his second homeland, and then earned his PhD in foreign policy at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies where he studied under Francis Fukuyama and Zbigniew Brzezinski.
You've probably seen his writing in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and the Financial Times. He is a frequent guest on NPR, CNN, and the BBC. Fluent in Persian and Swedish, he is the only person I have interviewed for EconVue twice. And by the way, I think you will find his comments on the current situation in Sweden eye-opening.
To share a personal note, for me Iran is literally the stuff that dreams are made of - I have vivid dreams of returning to Tehran, wandering about a city that is as I left it as a child. I planned to return after studying Persian at the University of Chicago, but the Iran hostage crisis intervened and changed US-Iran relations forever. I feel a special connection to this beautiful country and to its amazing people and culture; the Iranian diaspora has meant that I have been able to enjoy both new and very old friendships. Next year I will attend the reunion of my childhood school in Washington. Maybe, someday, we can all meet in Iran.
Things could get worse before they get better. Back in 2011, when I first interviewed Trita Parsi, I wrote about The Coming Accidental War with Iran for Yale Books Blog. I was wrong about the timing. I hope that I will continue to be wrong. The perhaps contradictory news today that four US prisoners detained in Iran are about to be released is very happy news indeed for their families.
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