TEHRAN—JAN 19, 2014—Iran’s top foreign policy think tank is jointly sponsoring a conference in Tehran this week with a group of US Academics from half a dozen universities.  The meeting is being held in the wake of the breakthrough Geneva meetings between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, with the aim of helping pave the way for normalizing relations with the Islamic Republic.  The group is independent of the US government and pays its own way.

Dr. James Jennings of the US Academics for Peace organization announced the program today, saying, “Lack of trust between the two sides has isolated Iran and prevented meaningful progress on a range of issues important for Middle Eastern and world peace.  We aim to help begin the process of building bridges between US and Iranian academics as well as with Iranian officials as a way of restoring trust, which is basic to making agreements that stick.”  Among the participants are experts on Islam, Political Science, Middle East Studies, Iranian Studies, and Anthropology from seven prominent American universities and theological schools.

US Academics for Peace was organized by Dr. Jennings, who is founder of the humanitarian organization Conscience International.  The group previously met senior Iranian leaders in Tehran, including the last two presidents, Muhammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  They were invited to Iran by the Iranian Foreign Ministry through the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to the United Nations, Muhammad Khazaee.  Initial implementation of the Geneva “First Step” agreement, signed November 24, is set to begin January 20.

While in Iran they will speak at several universities as the previous delegation did, including at Tehran University and Shahid Beheshti (the Iranian National) University.  Several members of the delegation are drawing on their previous experiences in Iran, most recently for high-level meetings with Iranian leaders, but also as students, teachers, and humanitarian aid workers.  The conference will be held in Tehran January 21-23 and is jointly sponsored by US Academics for Peace and the Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran (IPIS).

James Jennings, PhD
Executive Director, US Academics for Peace

Stephen Bronner, PhD,
Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University

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