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American Iranian Friendship Committee symposium with Henry Prech and Mohammad Sahimi
February marks the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. One of the most significant events in the Middle East in the 20th century, it dramatically changed the balance of power in the region and created ongoing challenges for US policy. The revolution caught Western intelligence agencies off-guard. The Shah's monarchy, characterized by President Carter a year earlier as ‘the Island of Tranquility,' disappeared and a new form of revolutionary government took over from what used to be the most valuable US ally in the Persian Gulf.
US-Iran relations have turned from bad to worse over the past three decades. During the same period Iran has gained great influence in the region, particularly in Iraq and Palestine. Many foreign affairs analysts believe that normalizing relations with Iran is critical to the stability of the Middle East, others warn about Iranian nuclear developments.
Henry Precht entered the Foreign Service in 1961 and spent most of his career on assignments in the Middle East: in Egypt (twice), at the State Department's Arab-Israel Desk and in Tehran (1972-76). Precht was the Chief of the State Department's Iran Desk during the revolution and hostage crisis. Blamed for the loss of Iran, he was blocked from an ambassadorial appointment by Senator Jesse Helms. He is the author of A Diplomat's Progress, Ten Tales of Diplomatic Adventure in the Middle East. He co-chaired the Gulf 2000 project at Columbia University, which studies security and strategic developments in the Persian Gulf.
Muhammad Sahimi is the NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In addition to his scientific research, which has resulted in over 270 published papers and five books, Muhammad has written extensively on Iran's political development and its nuclear program for example with articles published in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Harvard International Review, as well as a blog on Huffington Post. In particular, Muhammad has concentrated on the legal and technical aspects of the dispute between Iran and the Western powers regarding Iran's nuclear energy program. He is a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization dedicated to making the public aware of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, as well as polluting the environment.