Recent Events

As the Trump administration formulates a new policy toward Iran, it is important that that policy be informed by accurate information about the realities of Iran’s rapidly changing society. On October 18, 2017, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted sociologist and author Kevan Harris on the findings of the first Iran Social Survey, which challenged some prevailing views about the composition of Iranian society and presumed linkages between government benefits and voters’ political preferences.

The first nationally representative survey of social relations conducted in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the 1979 revolution, the sample of 5005 respondents, fielded in December 2016, contains rich data on family history, electoral behavior, ethnic identity and contemporary state-society relations.

An Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris, spoke at length about the uniqueness of the survey through its five modules: Inter-generational mobility, political mobilization, state services, civic association and ethno-linguistic identification. Factors used in the survey included: voter choice and household income, employment, gender, age, marital status, location and educational attainment.
On September 13th 2017, the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council hosted a dialogue with Congressman Ro Khanna on his proposed bill centered on reforming the H-1B and L-1 visas for high skilled workers in the U.S. In addition to the central topic, Congressman Khanna discussed his views on broader immigration trends, the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the D.A.C.A Act, the long-term strengths of the U.S as a hub for foreign talent and the US’ relations with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This discussion was moderated by Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Center.
The United States’ cultural diplomacy programs and science exchanges with the Islamic Republic of Iran have brought benefits to both countries and to people around the world.

Over the past two decades, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, in conjunction with several US universities, have identified key areas of mutual benefit, including seismic science and engineering, conservation and the effective use of water resources and resilient cities. Political developments in both countries, however, threaten the continuation of this important work, leading to an uncertain future.

On September 8, 2017, the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a discussion coinciding with the publication of a new book, US-Iran Engagement in Science Engineering, and Health (2010-2016): A Resilient Program but an Uncertain Future by Glenn Schweitzer of the National Academies.
On August 21st 2017, the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion on the inroads made by The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) into South Asia. The panel discussed how ISIS operates as a group, how it impacts the states that make up South Asia internally, and how South Asian governments-and the United States-should respond to this growing phenomenon. Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Center, moderated a discussion with Jasmine El-Gamal, resident Senior Fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, Javid Ahmad, nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, and Hagar Hajjar Chemali, former Middle East Policy Adviser at the US Department of the Treasury.
A new poll of Iranian public opinion shows rising support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) coupled with a willingness by Iranians to support restarting suspended aspects of the country’s nuclear program if the United States walks away from the JCPOA.

These findings were among those revealed on July 28, 2017, when the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a discussion of the ramifications of Hassan Rouhani’s re-election as Iranian president.

Ebrahim Mohseni, a research scholar at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, spoke extensively about the new report, which reflected data collected by telephone in May and June 2017 and followed on two years of prior polls.
On July 24, 2017, the South Asia Center hosted a discussion on the role of media in fostering relations between India and Pakistan. Senator Mushahid Hussain, Member of the Pakistani Senate and Former Minister of Information and Media Broadcasting, and India’s Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari discussed the role of journalists and social media in both fueling and addressing tensions between the two nations.

The speakers spoke extensively about the role of news media in shaping public perceptions of the opposing country. They agreed that while some elements of the media encourage national narratives predicated on distrust and hostility, it is important to maintain a free and open media which allows the exchange of all ideas. They suggested that the states should construct factual counter-narratives to encourage informed popular opinion.
The 1953 CIA-assisted overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh is getting new attention with the release of more US government documents about the coup and calls for changing the current Iranian regime by some members and supporters of the Trump administration. 

At an event July 13 at the Atlantic Council, Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini said the coup – which restored Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to the throne until the 1979 Islamic revolution – is one reason why “the vast majority of Iranians would never support a foreign regime change” now. “If there’s a change to be had, they want it to be done … with their own hands and feet as a domestic process,” said Anderlini, who was born in Iran and is co-founder and executive director of the International Civil Society Action Network. “Iranians are nationalistic," she said. "They don’t want outside interference.”
On June 7, 2017, the South Asia Center hosted a discussion on the regional perspectives of the United States strategy in Afghanistan. Former Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, India’s Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari, and the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Dr. Ashley J. Tellis discussed the role of regional players and the United States in stabilizing the security environment in Afghanistan.
On May 5, Barbara Slavin, acting director of The Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, moderated a panel on “Nurturing People-to-People Ties with Iran.” Slavin quoted a Mennonite professor, Harry Huebner, who has visited Iran at least 10 times as saying that “dialogue is its own justification.”

This is particularly the case when it comes to countries with which the US lacks normal relations, Slavin said. Speakers on the panel noted the mutual benefits of US-Iran ties from the academic and economic contribution Iranian scholars make to US universities to the goodwill generated by exchanges of athletic teams, clergy, artists and doctors.

“America is great because it has great universities,” said Stan L. Albrecht, the just-retired president of Utah State University, in recounting ties between the university and Iranians that go back to the 1940s. Albrecht also described a more recent joint project involving Iran’s Lake Urmia, which has been threatened with desertification and is similar in structure to Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
On Monday, January 30, 2017, the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative co-hosted a half-day symposium with The Iran Project. The event focused on the record of the Iran nuclear deal and its likely fate under the Trump administration. The intent was to help forge a bipartisan path forward that will preserve the non-proliferation gains of the accord while finding a resolution for other Iranian activities that are of concern and contributing to conflict resolution.