Reestablishing US Diplomatic Presence in Iran

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February 19, 2014 - 10:00 am

1030 15th Street, NW, 12th Floor
Washington, DC

Ramin Asgard
Former US Foreign Service Officer

John Limbert
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and former US hostage in Tehran

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

Introduced and moderated by
Barbara Slavin
Senior Fellow, South Asia Center
Atlantic Council

The Atlantic Council's South Asia Center invites you to a discussion of a new report published by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans entitled Establishing an American-Staffed Interests Section in Iran: Advancing US National Security and Serving American Citizens. The report, written by Iran Task Force member and analyst Ramin Asgard, reviews the pros and cons of opening a US Interests Section in Tehran staffed by American diplomats.

Thirty-four years after the United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran in the throes of the hostage crisis, US-Iran relations are improving as a result of successful negotiations on an interim nuclear agreement. In his report, Asgard argues that an official presence in Iran through a US Interests Section is in the national security interest of the United States, and now is the time to seek the return of American diplomats to Tehran. The proposed Interests Section would process visas for Iranians, provide services to Americans and dual nationals, and facilitate academic and cultural exchanges between Iranians and Americans. It would allow for direct contact between officials of the United States and ordinary Iranian citizens for the first time since 1979. The panelists will explore the short- and long-term implications of re-establishing a US diplomatic presence in Iran.

On Twitter? Follow and use #USinIran to join the discussion.

About the Iran Task Force
Chaired by Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, 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. It is supported generously by the Ploughshares Fund. 
About Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)
PAAIA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonreligious organization that serves the interests of Iranian Americans and represents the community before US policymakers and the American public at large. PAAIA works to foster greater understanding of the Iranian-American community and its cultural heritage and to expand opportunities for the active participation of Iranian-Americans in the democratic process. 

Please use the West Tower elevators when you arrive.


Ramin Asgard recently completed sixteen years as a US Foreign Service officer and is currently in a private legal practice. While with the US Department of State, he held several key posts involving Iran, including director of 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. Previously, 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.

John Limbert is the Class of 1955 professor of Middle Eastern studies at the US Naval Academy.  During a thirty-four year career in the US Foreign Service, he served mostly in the Middle East and Islamic Africa and was ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.  In 2009-2010 he came out of retirement to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern (Iranian) Affairs. Ambassador Limbert holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in history and Middle Eastern studies.  Before joining the Foreign Service, he taught in Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer.  Among the books he has authored are: Iran at War with History (Westview Press, 1987), Shiraz in the Age of Hafez (University of Washington Press, 2004), and Negotiating with Iran (U.S. Institute of Peace, 2009).

Morad Ghorban is director of government affairs and policy for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA). Mr. Ghorban previously served as political director of the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), which merged with PAAIA in 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-GA) from 1995 to 2000.

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center and Washington correspondent for 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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