Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal writer and neoconservative advocate for military intervention in Iran (Photo: Northeastern.edu)
Americans badly need sober and well-informed analysis of Iran. They have been weaned on decades of television and movies that demonize Arabs and Muslims, including Iranians, and U.S. corporate media remains averse to some basic facts.
So it’s generally a good thing when a foreign policy institute comes up with the idea to educate American high school teachers on Iranian politics. But how about when two of the educators are ardent advocates of regime change in Iran?
Over the weekend, the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) brought together 44 high school teachers from around the country for “a professional development conference on ‘Understanding Iran and the Geopolitics of the Middle East.’” The teachers came from 39 schools across 21 states.
Here’s the e-mail announcement for the event I got, minus the list of schools participating:
On Saturday and Sunday, October 27-28, 44 high school teachers
from 39 schools across 21 states will attend a professional
development conference on “Understanding Iran and the Geopolitics
of the Middle East.” (List of “Schools by State” is provided below.)
Sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Madeleine and
W. W. Keen Butcher History Institute and FPRI’s Wachman Center for
Civic and International Literacy in association with the Senator
John Heinz History Center and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh,
the conference will be held at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh,
Through these history weekends, FPRI seeks to provide teachers with the larger historical, geographical and cultural context of contemporary
international affairs — in this case the question of Iran. Information about FPRI’s educational programs is available here or http://www.fpri.org/education/
Top scholars and writers in the field will address the teachers,
Amin Tarzi, Director of Middle East Studies at Marine
Corps University, on “What Every American Needs to Know about Iran”
Farhad Kazemi, Professor of Politics and Middle Eastern and Islamic
John Calvert, Associate Professor of History, Creighton University,
on “Shi’ism and the Islamic Republic of Iran”
David Crist, Senior Historian for the US Government, on his new book
“The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict
Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, Associate Professor of History, University of
Pennsylvania, on “The Changing Role of Women in Iran”
Roya Kakakian on her book “Assassins of the Turqoise Palace”
Sohrab Ahmari, Assistant Book Editor at the Wall Street Journal, on
“The Iranian Revolution and the Rise of Islamism”
Lawrence Husick, Co-Chair of FPRI’s Center for the Study of Terrorism,
on Understanding Stuxnet and Other Cover Resposnes to the Iranian
Michael S. Doran, Senior Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy,
The Brookings Institution, on “The US and Iran in Geopolitical Perspecttive.”
FPRI’s Butcher History Institute is co-chaired by Pulitzer Prizewinning
historian Walter A. McDougall and David Eisenhower.
Many of the scholars are reputable, if not exactly dissenting against U.S. and Israeli belligerence towards Iran. But two of the scholars who educated high school teachers about Iran last weekend are proponents for overthrowing the Iranian government: former Bush administration official Michael Doran and Wall Street Journal opinion writer Sohrab Ahmari.
Doran taught a session titled, “The US and Iran in Geopolitical Perspective,” with Ahmari lecturing on “The Iranian Revolution and the Rise of Islamism.”
Doran is “close to militarist factions in the Republican Party” and “has advocated a passel of ‘regime change’ policies targeting the Middle East,” according to Right Web, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies that tracks hawks on the Middle East. He served as Former Deputy Assistant Secretary under the Bush Administration and is now a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
In January 2010, Doran took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to argue for U.S. support of the Iranian opposition in order to change “the character of the Iranian leadership.” Doran and co-author James Glassman, another Bush administration official, argued for “moral and educational support for the Green Revolution opposition movements.”
Back in 2006, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh reported on strong opposition within the U.S. military to an attack on Iran. Many in the military argued that with the U.S. still embroiled in Iraq, bombing Iran “would heighten the risks to American and coalition forces inside Iraq.” Hersh quoted retired Army Major General William Nash as saying that if the U.S. attacked Iran, the country’s “first possible response would be to send forces into Iraq. And, since the Iraqi Army has limited capacity, it means that the coalition forces would have to engage them.” But the advocates for regime change had an answer for the military.
“The Iran hawks in the White House and the State Department, including Elliott Abrams and Michael Doran, both of whom are National Security Council advisers on the Middle East, also have an answer for those who believe that the bombing of Iran would put American soldiers in Iraq at risk, the [Pentagon] consultant said,” according to Hersh. “He described the counterargument this way: ‘Yes, there will be Americans under attack, but they are under attack now.’”
Ahmari, an ardent neoconservative and an Iranian-American, is even more explicit about the overthrow of Iran’s government. As MJ Rosenberg pointed out for Al Jazeera English, Ahmari is sure that the overthrow of the Iranian regime would be a good thing. In the pages of Commentary magazine last March, Ahmari crows that “regime collapse in Iran represents a historic chance for advancing democratic development there and, by extension, the wider Middle East and North Africa.” Sounds familiar to the arguments of the Iraq-era neocons.
Their inclusion in FPRI’s program should come as no surprise, though. FPRI is “one of the oldest right-wing think tanks” and their “writers and in-house scholars routinely supported the Bush administration’s counterterrorism, Israel, missile defense, and anti-multilaterism policies,” Right Web notes.
Still, Ahmari’s and Doran’s involvement in educating high school teachers on Iran prompts this question: do American parents really want their high school teachers parroting what they learned from two advocates for more conflict with Iran? And what are these high schools doing going to learn from an explicitly right-wing think tank, particularly when there’s no strong voice against sanctions and war?
Update: Here’s a list of the schools who attended the FPRI program:
Schools Represented by State
Independence High School
Salesian High School
The Hopkins School
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School
Suncoast Community High School
Henry County High School
Deerfield High School
Morton High School
Ruston High School
Richmond High School
Metcalf Junior High School
Hunter Huss High School
Lincoln North Star High School
Bloomfield Public Schools
Livingston High School
Trenton Central High School
Santa Fe Prep
Carmel High School
Emma Willard School
Marble Hill School for International Studies
Smithtown High School West
Bandon High School
Athens Area School District
Central High School
Olney Charter High School
Schuylkill Valley High School
West Philadelphia Catholic HS
Gibson County High School
Bellaire High School, Houston Independent School District
Flower Mound High School
Altamont High School
Atlee High School
Beaver Dam High School
University of São Paulo