Karim Sadjadpour, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will discuss Iran’s pivotal role in the Middle East and its impact on American national security and foreign policy Thursday night at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
What does it mean for you to be doing this program at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum?
When 9/11 happened, I was a first-year graduate student in Bologna, Italy. Like all Americans it impacted me profoundly, and it made clear to me that I wanted to focus my studies and professional career on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East. For the last five years I’ve taught a graduate class on the Middle East at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. The first day of class every year we each recount where we were when 9/11 happened and how it impacted us personally and as a society. I’m struck by how vividly each of us can recount our memories of that day, minute by minute, even though many of the students were in elementary school when it happened.
What significance do you think Iran will have in the broader Middle East region in the years to come? How do you think this role will affect American national security and foreign policy?
Iran’s geographic size, proud history, human capital and vast natural resources mean it will always play an important role in the Middle East. Over the last four decades — since the 1979 revolution — Iran has defined itself as a revolutionary cause in opposition to the United States and its allies. This means that U.S.–Iran tension, and even the potential for conflict, will continue in the near term. In the long term, however, as Iran’s next generation of leaders begin to prioritize economic interests before revolutionary ideology, the U.S. and Iran have some important common interests and a good basis for a strategic cooperation.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about the political situation in Iran?
When I speak to first-time visitors to Iran they always return surprised by how friendly Iranians are toward Americans, and how forthcoming Iranians are about their frustrations with their own government. When 9/11 happened, hundreds of Iranians took to the streets and held a spontaneous candlelight vigil, a reaction that was uncommon in much of the Middle East.
Have you previously visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum? What was your experience?
This will be my first time; I’m very much looking forward to it.
By 9/11 Memorial Staff