Iran Looks East

January 19, 2018 - 9:00 am

Atlantic Council 1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor
Washington, DC
The Future of Iran Initiative and The Iran Project invite you to “Iran Looks East,” a major conference on Iran’s evolving economic and strategic relationships. As implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) marks its second anniversary, Iran is increasingly, if reluctantly, looking to Asia for trade and investment. US uncertainty toward the JCPOA and Iran has been opposed by European governments but threats of renewed US extra-territorial sanctions have raised the risks for European businesses contemplating returning to the Islamic Republic. At the same time, Iran also appears to be cementing a strategic partnership with Russia to improve its leverage against its perceived threats.
Please join us on Friday, January 19, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm for this timely public discussion at the Atlantic Council headquarters (1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower Elevators).


Opening Remarks
  • The Hon. Stuart Eizenstat, Chairman of the Advisory Board, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council
Welcome and Introduction
  • William Luers, Director, The Iran Project
  • Barbara Slavin, Director, Future Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council
Panel 1: Iran Looks East for Trade and Investment
  • Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, Associate Research Fellow with the South Asia Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Wu Bingbing, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Department of Arabic Language and Culture, Peking University, and Director of Institute of Arab-Islamic Culture, Peking University
  • Sachi Sakanashi, Manager of Research Group and Acting Director of the JIME Center, Institute of Energy Economics, Japan
  • Moderator Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council
Panel II: Iran’s Strategic Relationship with Russia
  • Theodore Karasik, Senior Advisor to Gulf State Analytics and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Lexington Institute
  • Eugene Rumer, Senior Fellow and Director of Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program
  • Maxim Suchkov, Editor of Al-Monitor’s Russia-Mideast coverage, non-resident expert at the Russian International Affairs Council and at the Valdai International Discussion Club based in Moscow
  • Moderator Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to Russia and former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs


Sumitha Narayanan Kutty is an associate research fellow with the South Asia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore. Her work focuses on India’s foreign and security policies in the Indo-Pacific region and the Middle East, particularly Iran. She has contributed to journals such as The Washington Quarterly, Asia Policy and is a frequent commentator in the media including Bloomberg, CNBC, Channel News Asia, The Hindu, Mint, Business Standard, The Diplomat, Lawfare, LobeLog and Al-Monitor. She was previously a broadcast journalist in India where she assisted in the coverage of the 2008 Mumbai Attacks, Indian parliamentary and state elections, and tracked key political and security developments across South Asia. She holds multiple degrees in journalism from India and a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Wu Bingbing is associate professor and deputy director of the Department of Arabic Language and Culture, Peking University, and director of the Institute of Arab-Islamic Culture, Peking University. His research interests focus on politics of contemporary Middle East, China-Middle Eastern relations, Shi’i Islam and Iranian studies, and Islamic culture. He is the author of The Rise of the Modern Shi’i Islamism (CASS Press, 2004), which is the first book written by a Chinese scholar on Shi’i Islam. He has also published a number of academic articles, including China’s Strategy in the Middle East: A Preliminary Reflection (2012), Change in the Middle East: Case of Egypt (2011), Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Strategy (2011), Iran Nuclear Issue and Iran-US Relations (2010), Iran and the Shiite Crescent (2009), Iran and Central Asia (2008), The Politics of Political Factions in Iran and Iran-US Relations (2008). He is currently a board member of the Chinese Society of Middle Eastern Studies, China-Arab Friendship Association, and China-Iran Friendship Association.

Stuart E. Eizenstat is chairman of the Iran Advisory Board for the Future of Iran Initiative and a member of the Atlantic Council Executive Committee. He has held a number of key senior US government positions, including Chief White House Domestic Policy Adviser to President Jimmy Carter (1977-81); US Ambassador to the European Union (1993-96); Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade (1996-97); Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs (1997-99); and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration (1999-2001). During the Clinton Administration, he had a prominent role in the development of key transatlantic initiatives, including the negotiations of the Transatlantic Agenda with the European Union, the development of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue among European and US CEOs, and the negotiation of agreements with the European Union regarding the Helms-Burton Act and the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.       

Bharath Gopalaswamy is the director of the South Asia Center. Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, Gopalaswamy managed the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he oversaw developing projects on South Asian security issues. He has held research appointments with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and with Cornell University's Judith Reppy Institute of Peace and Conflict studies. Dr. Gopalaswamy holds a phd in mechanical engineering with a specialization in numerical acoustics from Trinity College, Dublin. In addition to his studies abroad, he has previously worked at the Indian Space Research Organization's High Altitude Test Facilities and the EADS Astrium GmbH division in Germany.

Theodore Karasik is currently a senior advisor to Gulf State Analytics and an adjunct senior fellow at the Lexington Institute, both located in Washington, DC.  Dr. Karasik is a principal investigator on Jamestown Foundation’s “Russia in the Middle East” Project. For the past 30 years, Karasik worked for a number of US agencies involved in researching and analyzing defense acquisition, the use of military power, and religio-political issues across the Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia, including the evolution of violent extremism and it’s financing. Dr. Karasik lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 2006 until 2016 where he worked on Gulf Cooperation Council foreign policy and security issues surrounding cultural awareness, cybersecurity, maritime security, counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, and infrastructure and national resilience. Previously, he was a senior political scientist in the International Policy and Security Group at RAND Corporation.  From 2002-2003, he served as director of research for the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy.  He is a specialist in geopolitics and geo-economics for the Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia regions and frequently conducts studies and assessments of future security trajectories and military requirements. Dr. Karasik received his phd in history from the University of California, Los Angeles in four fields:  Russia, Middle East, Caucasus and an outside field in cultural anthropology focusing on tribes and clans from Central Asia to East Africa. 
Ambassador William H. Luers is the director of The Iran Project and an adjunct professor at Columbia University. He was president of the United Nations Association of the USA (1999-2009) and president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (1986-1999). Prior to his move to New York, Luers had a 31-year career in the Foreign Service. He served as US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1983-1986) and Venezuela (1978-1982), and held numerous posts in Italy, Germany, the Soviet Union, and in the Department of State. Luers has been an adjunct at several universities in addition to Columbia. He was also the director’s visitor at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies in 1982-1983. Born in Springfield, Illinois, Luers received his BA from Hamilton College and his MA from Columbia University following four years in the United States Navy. He is an active member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He speaks Spanish, Russian and Italian.
Ambassador Thomas Pickering served more than four decades as a US diplomat. He last served as undersecretary of state for political affairs, the third highest post in the US State Department. Pickering also served as ambassador to the United Nations, the Russian Federation, India, Israel, and Jordan, and holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador.

Eugene Rumer is a senior fellow and the director of Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program. Rumer’s research focuses on political, economic, and security trends in Russia and former Soviet states, as well as on US policy toward that region. Prior to joining Carnegie, Rumer was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the US National Intelligence Council from 2010 to 2014. Earlier, he held research appointments at the National Defense University, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the RAND Corporation. He has also served on the National Security Council staff and at the State Department, taught at Georgetown University and the George Washington University, and published widely.

Sachi Sakanashi is manager of Research Group as well as acting director of the JIME Center, Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. The fields of her research interest are contemporary Iranian politics, foreign relations of the Persian Gulf countries, and the energy industry of Iran. She obtained her master’s degrees in international relations from the University of Tokyo and in middle eastern and Islamic studies from University of Durham. She worked for two years from 2000 to 2002 as a cultural attaché at the Japanese Embassy in Tehran. She was a visiting fellow at the Gulf Research Center, then based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2008.
Barbara Slavin is the director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council and a columnist for, a website devoted to news from and about the Middle East. The author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation (2007), 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. She has covered such key foreign policy issues as the US-led war on terrorism, policy toward "rogue" states, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. She has traveled to Iran nine times. Slavin also served as a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she wrote Bitter Friends, and as a senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace, where she researched and wrote the report Mullahs, Money and Militias: How Iran Exerts Its Influence in the Middle East.
Maxim A. Suchkov is editor of Al-Monitor’s Russia-Mideast coverage. He is a non-resident expert at the Russian International Affairs Council and at the Valdai International Discussion Club based in Moscow. Previously he was associate professor of Russian Foreign Policy at Pyatigorsk State University based in his native North Caucasus where he also led an academic program on counter-terrorism. He is the author of Essays on Russian Foreign Policy in the Caucasus and the Middle East (NOMOS Publishers, 2015). Formerly he was a Fulbright visiting fellow at Georgetown University (2010-11) and New York University (2015).