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America and Iran: From Allies to Adversaries

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, January 28, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0360
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Tehran was brought to a standstill by millions of protesters demanding the Shah’s ouster, 1978


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Iran and America’s fraught relationship seems to be always in and out of the news. This January, after the drone strike assassination of Qasem Soleimani, headlines declared the two nations on the brink of war. More recently, it was revealed that Iran may be planning, alongside Russia and China, to interfere in the presidential election this November.

Historian John Ghazvinian draws on his new book, America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present—for which he had access to Iranian government archives rarely available to Western scholars—to examine a complex relationship that reaches back to the Persian Empire and architects of American independence.

Long before the “Great Satan” and “Axis of Evil” speeches, before the 1979 hostage Crisis and the Ayatollah Khomeini—the two nations were allies and looked to each other for friendship, inspiration, and opportunity. Ghazvinian covers what he terms the “four seasons” of U.S.–Iran relations: the spring of mutual fascination; the summer of early interactions; the autumn of close strategic ties; and the long, dark winter of mutual hatred.

Ghazvinian was born in Iran and raised in London and Los Angeles. He has a doctorate in history from Oxford University. Ghazvinian’s writing has appeared in Newsweek, the Sunday Times, The New Statesman, Slate, and The Nation. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia.

Copies of America and Iran (Knopf) are available for purchase.

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.