On June 27, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force launched a new issue brief by Ramin Asgard and Barbara Slavin entitled “US-Iran Cultural Engagement: A Cost Effective Boon to US National Security,” along with a public briefing on people-to-people exchanges with Iran.

US-Iran Cultural Engagement: A Cost Effective Boon to US National Security by Atlantic Council

While US policy toward Iran has understandably focused on the nuclear question, the history of US cultural diplomacy suggests that programs promoting the good will of the Iranian people can help moderate Iranian government policies over the long term and foster research that is of mutual benefit. Panelists discuss the history of US exchanges with Iran, applicable lessons from the Cold War, and recommendations to increase and better administer these programs.

The Iran Task Force seeks to perform a comprehensive analysis of Iran’s internal political landscape, its role in the region and globally, and any basis for an improved relationship with the West.

A discussion with

Ramin Asgard
Independent expert on Iran and former US Foreign Service Officer

Glenn E. Schweitzer
Director, Office for Central Europe and Eurasia 
National Academies in Washington 

Morad Ghorban
Director, Government Affairs and Policy
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans

Moderated by

Barbara Slavin
Senior Fellow, South Asia Center
Atlantic Council

The Iran Task Force is supported by the Ploughshares Fund.

Ramin Asgard recently completed sixteen years as a US Foreign Service officer and is currently in private legal practice. While with the US State Department, he held several key posts involving Iran, including director of the Voice of America’s Persian service, political advisor at US Central Command, and director of the Iran Regional Presence Office (IRPO) in Dubai, the US government’s primary field operation concerning Iran. Mr. Asgard also served as US State Department Desk Officer for Iraq, Iran, and Turkey in various countries. Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Asgard practiced law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  He received a JD from Tulane University, his MA in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA from Temple University. He is a member of the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force.

Glenn E. Schweitzer is director of the Office for Central Europe and Eurasia at the National Academies in Washington. A pioneer in science diplomacy, Schweitzer was the first science officer stationed with the US Embassy in Moscow starting in 1963. In 1994, he was appointed executive director of the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow, an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Russia and other countries with peers and research organizations. In 1999, Mr. Schweitzer began developing relationships with Iranian scientists and facilitating cooperation between the US National Academies and the Iranian Academy of Sciences, a number of Iranian universities, and several research centers in Tehran. At about the same time, he led development of a report, “The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy” that led to the establishment of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State. Schweitzer earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering at the United States Military Academy and his master’s degree at the California Institute of Technology.

Morad Ghorban is director of Government Affairs and Policy for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA). From 2008 through 2010, he served as PAAIA’s Legislative Director and helped shape PAAIA’s strategy and direction on policy initiatives and election activities. Mr. Ghorban previously served as political director of the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) – which merged with PAAIA in July 2008 as the organization’s registered bipartisan political action committee. Prior to joining IAPAC, Mr. Ghorban served on the staff of US Representative John Linder (R-Pa) from 1995 to 2000. Mr. Ghorban earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at Tulane University and a master’s degree in international studies and diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a website devoted to news from and about the Middle East. The author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, she is a regular commentator on US foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, and C-SPAN. A career journalist, Slavin previously served as assistant managing editor for world and national security of The Washington Times, senior diplomatic reporter for USA TODAY, Cairo correspondent for The Economist,and as an editor at The New York Times Week in Review.

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