PERSONAL STATEMENT OF PROFESSOR HOOSHANG AMIRAHMADI
I start with a personal note. I arrived in the United States in April 1975 with a dream for self-advancement, a dream that has materialized well beyond my expectations. Not only have I advanced personally, I have had an opportunity to positively impact other lives and communities as well.
I earned a PhD from Cornell University in 1982, joined Rutgers University in 1983 where I am a professor, taught and supervised hundreds of graduate students, and served as department chair, graduate director, coordinator of the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship program, and founder and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. I am a Senior Associate Member at Oxford University.
My academic research, political beliefs, and professional endeavors have focused on advancing knowledge, deepening understanding, and building relationships in the hope of contributing to economic prosperity, social justice, political freedom, and international peace. As a public figure, my academic and political activities, visibility, and impact have often been intertwined.
In the following pages, I will explain my research and scholarship, public service, and teaching as well as their specific and broader impact. My writings, as reflected in my resume, include extensive publications in Persian. However, with a few exceptions, they are not included in the supporting documents to this Personal Statement to avoid burdening readers not familiar with that language.
A. Research, Scholarship and Impact
My research and scholarship have focused on three inter-related topics: Contributing to the field of development and planning, advancing knowledge on Iran, influencing public policy, and peace building in US-Iran relations. In all these areas, my scholarship and policy activism have been interdisciplinary.
I have often used Iran as a case study as it represents a significant subject in international development and international relations: Why would a country with 3000 years of civilization end up underdeveloped, ruled by a theocratic Islamic regime, and become a pariah in world affairs?
As the following pages aim to demonstrate, I have made conceptual contributions to my areas of academic focus, detected emerging trends, and accurately predicted their trajectories. My scholarship and professional activities have influenced and informed a wide audience of scholars, policy experts, public officials, and the general public.
My list of publications includes two authored and seven edited books in English, 2 authored books in Persian, 14 conference volumes, 6 policy monographs, and over 200 journal articles and book chapters. Many of my writings have been translated into Persian, some into Arabic and other languages including Spanish, German, and Russian. I have also served as editor and on editorial board of several publications and managing board of many academic and professional associations.
To undertake these research and related professional activities, I have received several grants from governments, foundations and corporations, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Higher Education, the New Jersey Committee on Humanities, as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Institute, and Aga Khan Foundation. I brought the first ever Title V Grant (for three consecutive years) to Rutgers to promote Middle Eastern languages and cultures.
a. Development Thinking and Iranian Research and Analysis
My interest in development and planning stems from my desire to help advance the field and serve a broader public, particularly those in underdeveloped nations. My book on The Political Economy of Iran under the Qajars (I.B. Tauris, 2012) contributes to this cause by developing a theory of truncated transition to modernity in a developing nation. (Enclosure 1). In over 300 pages of extensively documented interdisciplinary research, I demonstrate the faults of obsolete and ineffective political leadership and its misguided international collaborators. The book has been translated into Persian.
The Political Economy has been praised by a number of distinguished academics and journals. (Enclosure 2). In the final paragraph of its lengthy review of the book, The Royal Asian Affairs Journal wrote in its November 2013 issue that: “This study provides a meaningful critical analysis of Iran’s development during an important period. As an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, the author skillfully lays out his arguments and supports them with extensive research and statistics, using primary and secondary sources as well as scholarly literature. Consequently, this is a very informative as well as readable book. The author writes clearly and with authority and while the main body of the book is concerned with providing a historical framework to his arguments, the last section is dedicated to a summary of the author’s empirical and theoretical conclusions which should make this book appealing to scholars and researchers as well as to the more general public.”
The Journal of Hemisphere wrote: “This is a book of immense value that links the complexities of the pre-modern Iranian political economy to socioeconomic and political quandaries of today’s Iran. By placing the contemporary Iran’s socioeconomic predicament in the context of nineteenth and early twentieth century developments, the book provides a holistic view of Iran’s political economy.” Similarly, Urban Technology praised the book as “a treasure-trove of information, ideas, and analysis of Iran’s political economy that should be on the bookshelves of any serious Iran scholar. It is refreshingly different from a number of other books of similar scope.”
Following the 1979 revolution, many Iran experts tried to make sense of the unique Iranian theocratic regime. Such experts often focused on Islam as a religion, neglecting the country’s civil society and the individuals leading it. None had undertaken field research of the new regime, nor offered a comprehensive analysis and assessment of its trajectory. I set myself the task of filling the void, and thus returned to Iran in 1986 in the midst of the war with Iraq. I was the first Iranian expatriate social scientist and academician to venture a return and, likely, the only one among this group, to visit the shattered war zones while the war was raging, and to help in designing a strategy for reconstruction.
As a result, from 1986 to 1988, I received three invitations from Tehran University to participate in its ‘International Conference on Post-War Reconstruction.’ I joined and used the opportunity for field research on war damage, provincial and ethnic disparities, and the transforming potentials of the Revolution. I focused on costing the war and reconstruction, on causes of ethnic unrests and the need for a more balanced regional development, and on the “class” character and potential of the revolutionary leaders.
The most significant outcome of these trips was my 400-page book, Revolution and Economic Transition: The Iranian Experience (SUNY Press, 1990). (Enclosure 3). The book provides an in-depth analysis of the impact of the Revolution on Iran’s political economy, including the mainstream economy, the political divides, the war destruction and reconstruction, planning schemes, and development debates. I used the case study to develop in more detail my ‘middle-class revolution’ thesis and to argue that the ruling middle class with its Islamic and nativist beliefs had not been, and would not be, able to chart a scientific and consistent path to development, an argument that I believe has been now confirmed by the experience of the Islamic Republic.
Specifically, I argued that the unstable and multifarious middle class has many ideas, but it does not have a coherent transformational ideology. Lacking ideology and structural coherence, middle-class leaders cannot unite around a single path, dooming them to fail in their transformational ideals. Their inability to successfully lead post-revolutionary changes is further exacerbated by the hostility of the imperial powers to revolutions. In a previous article, “The Non-Capitalist way of Development” (Enclosure 4), I had argued that the so-called “third way” between capitalism and socialism” in the Third World, advocated by the Iranian pro-Soviet Communist Party, would not help, as it often leads to dictatorship rather than democratic transformation.
Revolution and Economic Transition has an electronic edition and is translated into Persian. It has been widely praised by some of the best scholars of Iranian studies as the first and most important book written on the post-revolutionary Iranian economy. (Enclosure 5). The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research praised the book as “the first book-length analysis of economic developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” a “tightly organized book” that offers a “wealth of detailed description, much of it previously unavailable”, and went on to note that “the richness of the book, however, lies not only in the impressive marshaling of data and sources. The author has also created a theoretical framework… of a wider relevance, not least with regard to the changes under way in the former state socialist countries.”
The Middle East Journal praised the book as “outstanding,” “the strongest of recent upsurge of books on the current Iranian economy,” and “a rigorous empirical and theoretical analysis.” The Journal of Orient applauded the book as “a seminal publication” and “a pioneering” book on Iran. The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies praised the book as “the first book-length comprehensive analysis and evaluation of the economic performance of post-Revolutionary Iran” and a “pioneering,” “excellent” and “exceptionally interesting book”. The Middle East Report wrote, “Hooshang Amirahmadi’s book stands out for its novelty, the new original data it presents, and its in-depth analysis of the post-revolutionary conditions.”
Finally, Choice magazine endorsed it as “a standard reference book on Iran.” Other journals have also praised the book in similar terms. These include Politica Internazionale (Italian), Etudes Internationales (French), The Journal of Asian and African Studies, The International Journal of Middle East Studies, and The Journal of Developing Sociology. It has also received favorable reviews in the Iranian press in Persian, a rather unusual recognition given the book’s critical assessment of the Islamic Republic’s meager political-economic achievements.
The trips to Iran further exposed me to the tragedy of the Iran-Iraq war and the challenge of post-war reconstruction. My writings on these matters are printed in several publications including Reconstruction and Regional Diplomacy in the Persian Gulf (ed., Routledge, 1992). As a scholar of urban and regional planning, I was most interested in and eventually formulated a “post-war reconstruction strategy” for Iran, which I presented in Tehran and a number of other international conferences, including an important one at York University, UK. Years later, I used the model to help with rebuilding efforts in the wake of the 1992 earthquake that devastated northern Iran. At the time, I was a consultant for the Aga Khan Foundation. (Enclosure 6)
Sustainable reconstruction was infeasible while the war was still raging. Meanwhile, the spiralling US-Iran conflict, beginning with the tragic hostage crisis, had complicated Iran’s war efforts. The war needed to end and US-Iran relations needed to be mended. This thought prompted me to search for ideas. I eventually arrived at an argument about “offensive force” in international relations. In a few publications, beginning in 1985, I argued that the utility of offensive force was diminishing in an increasingly multipolar world, and that international conflicts couldn’t be gainfully resolved through wars or coercive diplomacy. I wanted to convince Tehran that it must end the war and normalize relations with the US.
To my surprise, in 1988, Iran’s Foreign Ministry invited me to Tehran to present a lecture on my ‘force theory’. I delivered the lecture in May at the Institute for Political and International Studies of the Foreign Ministry. The media covered my anti-war remarks as the words of an academic expert, whose views weren’t shaped by partisan and political concerns. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, then Speaker of the Parliament and Commander of the war effort, also made implicit references to my ideas in his speeches and interviews, cautiously arguing for the end of the war. Surprisingly, Iran accepted the cease-fire in July 1988, only two months after that lecture, ending the war.
Immediately upon my return from Tehran, the prominent business publication Barron’s, featured me in a lengthy interview entitled the “Santa Satan?” covering the war damage, reconstruction efforts, and US-Iran relations, making references to my new arguments as well. (Enclosure 7). My “force” proposition was indeed new at the time of its advancement. The Cold War was still in place and the bi-polar world was still divided between the former Soviet Union and the US. Only a few years after its publication, the bipolar world order gave way to a multipolar world, and the US went to a “defensive” war with Iraq to “liberate” Kuwait from an “offensive” Saddam Hussein.
My force argument was further refined and elaborated in a comprehensive concluding chapter I wrote for my book, The United States and the Middle East (ed., SUNY Press, 1993). The chapter, “Global Restructuring, the Persian Gulf War, and the US Quest for World Leadership” offered a critical analysis of U.S. policy in the region in the wake of the global restructuring and limits on use of offensive force. (Enclosure 8). I also argued that globalization is generating a set of “world-integrative forces” that will bring nations together while several emerging “world disintegrative forces” will operate in the opposite direction.
The force argument also led me to theorize on the nature of modern ethnic movements following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. In “Toward a Conceptualization of Ethnic Politics” (1994), I argued that ethnic movements remain latent under strong states and good economic conditions but become manifest under weaker states and during crisis times, with the weakest government motivating movements of a more abrupt and violent form. The timing and form of ethnic movements also depend on the balance of power between the central government and the ethnic political organization. (Enclosure 9). My ethnic theory papers have been translated and published in Persian.
The impact that my extended trips to Iran had in the mid-late 1980s was transformative. No member of the Iranian diaspora, and certainly no U.S.-based academic, had been quoted in this fashion before in the Iranian media. In addition, my visits had the impact of connecting Iranian revolutionaries to modern and progressive voices in the Iranian diaspora, a phenomenon which gained further momentum with each passing year. In the wake of the massive emigration of “western-oriented” individuals from Iran in the first decade of the Revolution, my involvement became both a cause and a vivid manifestation of change in the political culture of the Iranian people, from one focused on war and absolutes to one that emphasized reconciliation and peace with the broader world in general, and with the U.S. in particular.
Other important books I have authored and edited include Instruments of Industrial Development (Shirazeh, 1998); The Caspian Region at a Crossroad(St. Martin Press, 2000); Small Islands, Big Politics (St. Martin Press, 1996); Post-Revolutionary Iran (Westview Press, 1988); Iran and the Arab World (St. Martin Press, 1993); and Urban Development in the Muslim World(CUPR Press, 1993). I am particularly proud of my books on the Persian Gulf Islands, Iran and the Arab World, and the Caspian Sea, as at the time of their publication they were the first of their kind and spearheaded research on these topics.
The Islands book has been translated into Persian and Arabic. The entire book was also published as a feuilleton (addendum) to the Ettelaat Newspaper, lasting for almost a year. Like my Caspian volume, this book remains unique for its coverage and originality. The legal regime of the Caspian Sea and the ownership of the Persian Gulf Islands were highly disputed at the time of publication of the books and continue to remain contentious issues among the littoral Caspian states and between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Iran and the Arab World has been widely reviewed by a variety of journals with differing perspectives. (Enclosure 10). Foreign Affairs wrote, “An oft-neglected topic is competently handled.” According to Middle East Insight, “given the topic’s significance and the rarity, almost non-existence, of academic studies on the subject, this publication is more than welcome.” The Journal of Third World Studies praised the book as “a significant and timely contribution to the quite limited scholarly literature on Iran’s relations with its Arab neighbors.”
Finally, International Affairs applauded the book as “a superb and timely book” and wrote, “Not only is this study important, it is also profoundly interesting. It helps to explain why despite the growth in the influence of radical Islam throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the Iranian Revolution did not prove as easily exportable as its architects expected.” In conclusion, the reviewer wrote, “Some of us have become too accustomed to looking at the foreign policy of non-Western states in terms only of their relations with the West, and have failed to try to understand them in their own context. This excellent book should help to redress the balance.”
Urban Development in the Muslim World, reprinted by the Transaction Publishers in 2012, years after its original publication, is a comprehensive treatment of urban change in the Muslim world, including past developments and contemporary planning attempts. Professional Geographer wrote that the book “is a welcome addition to the few publications on the dynamics of urban growth and development in the region” and recommended the book as a “text in urban geography, sociology, history, and planning courses focusing on Third or Muslim worlds.”
Lastly, in Instruments of Industrial Development(Persian, 1998), using my state-civil society dynamic framework (below), I offer a critical analysis of the capitalist, socialist and the non-capitalist way of development practices as well as the experiences of the newly industrializing countries (NICs) with industrialization in order to isolate the key parameters of their success or failure. (Enclosure 11) The research found that “late industrialization” requires models based on locally-specific competitive and comparative advantages, the use of innovative technology and industry-driven R&D, and the guiding and supporting leadership of a strong and disciplined (law-abiding, non-corrupt) state.
I have also written a large volume of refereed journal articles. They include conceptual and empirical writings mostly based on field research. Some have already been mentioned. Notable among others are: “The State and Territorial Social Justice” (1989) (Enclosure 12); “Toward a Multi-Gap Approach to Medium-Term Economic Growth in Iran” (1992) (Enclosure 13); “The Non-Capitalist Way of Development”; “Science Parks” (Enclosure 14); “Information Technology, Organization of Production, and Regional Development” (1995) (Enclosure 15); “Globalization and Planning Education” (1993) (Enclosure 16); “Economic Reconstruction of Iran: Costing the War Damage” (1990); and “Avoiding Repeating Mistakes towards Iran” (2013) (Enclosure 17).
My writings on the global and Iranian energy situations are widely published, translated and utilized. My “World Oil at the Turn of the Twenty First Century” (1996) was originally published in the prominent Journal of Energy and Development. It was then republished, in the Future: Journal Forecasting and Planning. A more extensive version then was published, in English and Arabic, by the Emirate Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Enclosure 18). The Iranian Imam Hossein University, belonging to the Revolutionary Guard Corp, translated and published the monograph in Persian and used it as a textbook. Similarly, my comprehensive book chapter on “The Political Economy of Iran’s Oil Policy” has been translated and published as an article in Persian. (Enclosure 19)
I have likewise written a number of influential policy papers and planning reports, including “Toward an Obama Policy for Better Iran Policy” (AIC Whitepaper, 2009) (Enclosure 20); “Iran and the International Community: Roots of the Perpetual Crisis” (2002); “Provincial Disparity and Regional Policy in Iran”; and “A National Spatial Development Plan for Haiti” (2005). Other reports include “Industrial Hazards of War and Reconstruction” (UNU, Japan, 2006) (Enclosure 21); Iran’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: Fact or Fiction?” (UN, Geneva, 2004); “A Vision Plan for Urban Sharjah”(2005); and “Quds Force and Its Regional Policy” (a US government project, 2011). My 2013 campaign plan For Real Change in Iran is a comprehensive planning and policy document as well. (Enclosure 22).
b. The Marketplace of Ideas in US-Iran Relations and Civil Society in Iran
My working visits to Iran also provided me with an opportunity to better appreciate the dangers of the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Iran. The Revolution had targeted “the Shah’s dictatorship” and “American imperialism” as the two most important causes of Iran’s underdevelopment and dependency. National emancipation was viewed as uprooting both influences. Meanwhile, in Iran, the idea that the U.S. was behind Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran, and that it was trying to destroy the Revolution, had gained almost unanimous appeal. The U.S. had helped the British overthrow Iran’s democratic premier, Mohammad Mosaddeq, in 1953. The American hostage drama in Tehran reflected these realities.
Throughout the 1980s and for most of the 1990s, it was very rare for a US-based academic to speak of the need for a paradigm shift in US-Iran relations. The main reason for this “taboo” was the turbulent and animosity-ridden atmosphere that existed between the two countries. While my publications had helped learn from the past, I wanted to see beyond the limitations that this past had imposed on academicians and policymakers alike. Thus, it was important that I reach a broad and influential audience as well. This opportunity arrived when prominent media outlets like Barron’s and News Hour (PBS) interviewed me.
I needed to debunk certain troubling assumptions and concepts held by both sides, develop alternative ways of thinking, and build an institution to deliver them. I successfully accomplished all these through extensive writings, organizational work, and support from prominent Americans. Washington and Tehran viewed each other through the prism of the Islamic Revolution. Consequently, Iran was seen as an aggressive state bent on harming American interests in the region, and thus a strong Iran was seen as a dangerous Iran. Conversely, the US was seen by Iran as a “world devourer” wanting to destroy the Revolution and Islam. This mutually negative and distrusting prism needed to be debunked.
I tried to remind Americans, through writings and speeches, that in the last 250 years or so Iran had never initiated a war with any country, and that anytime Iran had been weak, its region had been less stable. I also reminded Iranians, in a few widely circulated writings in Persian, of the fact that following WWII, when Russians tried to dismember Iran, the US firmly stood on Iran’s side, forcing Stalin to withdraw the Red Army from Iranian soil. Based on historical experience, I also advanced the analytical argument that diplomatic ties with the US was a precondition, though not sufficient condition, for Iran’s democratic development.
Additionally, I argued that as historical records indicate, trade and diplomacy melts dictators while sanctions and isolation fatten them. My “force argument” was also used to refute arguments for use of force and coercive diplomacy. I did not just argue against the prevailing concepts and assumptions; helped develop practical road maps for Washington and Tehran to pursue engagement, such as my AIC Whitepaper (see below). Finally, I founded an organization in 1990 and began organizing high-profile meetings that brought together “the old Iran hands,” and published their proceedings— fourteen volumes have been published based on the proceedings of these meetings. (Enclosure 23).
Significantly, after the conclusion of the second conference in 1993, I received a two-page letter from Dr. Anthony Lake, the National Security Advisor to President Bill Clinton, in which he outlined the US objections to Iran’s behavior with regard to support for terrorism, opposition to the Middle East Peace Process, the nuclear issue, and human rights. (Enclosure 24). He also indicated that the US was prepared to constructively negotiate on these matters with Iran. The letter was faxed to me, and with the permission of the NSC, I immediately transmitted it to Iran’s Foreign Minister, where it is now an “official record.”
Years later, prominent American statesmen including Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, John Kerry, Cyrus Vance and Madeline Albright joined me to discuss US-Iran issues and roadmaps for reconciliation at conferences hosted by the American Iranian Council (AIC), a non-profit think tank I founded and have been directing for over 25 years. Secretary Albright’s speech at the AIC 2000 conference is widely considered “historic” for its courageous opening to Iran. On behalf of President Clinton, she extended “regret” to the Iranian people for the 1953 coup and lifted certain sanctions. I introduced the Secretary, moderated the session, and shook hands with her when the speech was over.
In retrospect, the most important contribution of my scholarship in English on US-Iran relations has been to prove two points. First, one could address this complex and ideologically charged issue from a rigorous, analytical, and dispassionate perspective; and second, normal US-Iran relations serves the best interests of both nations. I was writing about the need to fill the analysis gap long before it had become fashionable and “safe” to do so.
I also published hundreds of high visibility articles, essays, and interviews, mostly in Persian. One of the most significant of these was an interview published with me in the monthly Bahman in 1990, published by an influential reformist figure, Ataollah Mohajerani, who had served as the country’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. For the first time in post-revolutionary Iran, a member of the Iranian diaspora and an academician was systematically arguing for the benefits of normalizing relations with the US.
While I was pushing for normalization of US-Iran relations, the Iranian political society was focused on a discourse of democracy versus dictatorship. I explain this dichotomy in my article “From the Discourse of Democracy to the Discourse of Normalization in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” where I also detect and improvise on a new trend in the national thinking: that a majority of Iranians are seeking to replace the discourse of democracy versus dictatorship with a new discourse of normalization versus brinkmanship. This prediction has now come true, as Tehran and Washington are engaging in nuclear negotiations. In short, my normalization discourse has eventually prevailed and currently over 90 percent of Iranians want normal relations with the US.
In many ways, the interview in Bahman opened the door for more frequent discussions of the importance of US-Iran relations in the media. This was tantamount to breaking what had been a major taboo in Iran in the preceding decade and a half, since the Revolution and the hostage crisis that followed it. Throughout the mid-late 1990s, more so than any single individual, my name became synonymous in the Iranian public sphere with the importance of U.S.-Iran relations. On over a dozen occasions my remarks on the relationship made the cover of daily newspapers and magazines such as Keyhan, Hamshahri, and Ettelaat.
The extent of my name’s affiliation with US-Iran relations was evident in the way I was portrayed on the cover of the country’s leading satirical magazine, Golagha. (Enclosure 25). This cartoon focused on my statement that the U.S. and Iran need to address the root causes of their conflict, and not merely content themselves with symbolic gestures resembling “poetry reading”. Beyond name recognition, my influence on the general public was immense. When I began the normalization discourse, not even 5 percent of Iranians agreed; currently, an absolute majority has been persuaded.
In his book, Aghaye Safir (Mr. Ambassador), the current Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, devotes a lengthy discussion to my contributions to US-Iran relations. He writes that I was for many years the only mediator in the relationship and the one initiating ideas, taking messages, and offering platforms for Track I and Track II diplomacy between the two countries. He then goes on to say that the time has come for my mediation efforts to lead to direct US-Iran official communication, an idea he is currently pursuing within the framework of nuclear negotiations.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, I began doing extensive research and writing on the emerging civil society in Iran, and by 1995 had published several articles in Persian and English, thus initiating a wholly new political discourse that would provide for social and political order and stability in the country towards a peaceful democratic transition. These included the “Emerging Civil Society in Iran” which appeared in SAIS Review, Iran-e Farda and Iran Nameh. (Enclosure 26)I offer a discursive definition of the nascent Iranian civil society and give an outline of its basic characteristics and possible trajectory. I also predicted its political fallouts (as well as its demise) in the wake of its inevitable politicization – a prediction that has since materialized.
In “Toward a Dynamic Theory of State and Civil Society Relations in Development Process” (co-authored with one of my PhD students), I further elaborated on the implications of my civil society arguments for political reform and sustainable economic development. (Enclosure 27). I identified three types of states and their corresponding civil societies, namely obstructionist, equivocal and developmentalist, showing that the symbiosis of developmentalist types is the key to sustainable economic development and political reform. The article was published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, which nominated it for a “best paper prize” because of its original conceptual framework. I presented an updated version of the paper at a conference in Seoul, Korea, organized by Consortium on Development, and won “the best paper prize.”
My civil society writings were published in Persian in my book, Jame’ah-e Siasi, Jame’ah-e Madani va Touse’ah-e Melli (political society, civil society and national development. Naqsh-o-Negar, 2001). (Enclosure 28). The book synthesizes these writings and advances the original ideas into a more coherent theory of the dynamics of state-civil society interactions in economic development and political reform in developing nations. I argued that sustainable political reform and sustainable economic development are interdependent and that one cannot proceed without the other, a condition that is tough to meet in developing nations, making them fail on both fronts.
Similar to my work’s impact on U.S.-Iran relations, my thinking on civil society in Iran gained a large and influential audience. This is evident in the extent to which the themes I had expounded in the 1995-1996 period, particularly in popular Iranian newspapers and magazines, became the rallying cry of reformists in the presidential elections of May 1997, coinciding with a wave of political and cultural movements that eventually carried Mohammad Khatami to the presidency in a landslide victory. However, the civil society government did not succeed in its political reform project because it did not pay sufficient attention to the need for economic development.
My civil society writings were equally influential in the West, the US in particular. For example, Wilfried Buchta in his widely read book, “Who Rules Iran” has used my particular definition of “civil society” and my original model of the “structure of power” in the Islamic Republic, initially advanced in my Emerging Civil Society article, as a framework to explain the political networks of relations among the Iranian ruling elite and revolutionary institutions. (Enclosure 29). I have presented my civil society writings at many events including invited and plenary lectures at distinguished institutions like the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation and the Middle East Institute.
My civil society writings and the failure of the reform movement it helped generate prompted me to increasingly focus my research on the Iranian political culture and nationalism. In a series of articles and interviews, mostly in Persian, and published in popular media (such as Entekhab and Elm va Jameah), I explained and criticized the basic tenets of Iranian political culture and nationalism, arguing that they were deeply ideological thus intolerant and divisive. As a result, Iran has more “politicized intellectuals” than “intellectual politicians,” a condition that has crippled most attempts at political reform and economic development, as I have documented in my books on the Political Economy of Iran and Revolution and Economic Transition.
Commenting on an article of mine on the Iranian political culture, the Oxford University Iran expert, Farhang Jahanpour, wrote on December 26, 2010, the following: “Dear Hooshang: I have just read your wonderful piece in Iranian.com about Iran’s unhealthy political culture. I have read many articles and books about the Iranian political culture, but without exaggeration, yours is one of the best, most thorough and most realistic, and at the same time, one of the bravest pieces that I have ever read. I believe that many of the points that you make about Iran’s unhealthy political culture are absolutely correct and spot on…” (Enclosure 30)
As a development planner, I was also interested in the implications of my writings on political culture and civil society for economic development planning in Iran. In a few articles, including “Negahi Nou be Jonbesh Eslahtalabi dar Iran” (A new look at the reformist movement in Iran) I noted that Iranian society, like other civil societies, is composed of three social groups: the base, the middle and the upper classes, each with their specific needs including social justice, political freedom, and economic growth respectively. This simple fact should have led to the formation of inclusive national plans in which these classes and their needs are reflected. Yet, never in Iran have such plans materialized; instead, exclusivity and divisiveness have been the basis for national development planning.
My soul-searching for Iran’s predicament led me to the hypothesis that “imperfect nation building” was at the core of the problem, which should be addressed through a complete reformulation of Iranian nationalism and Islamism. Iranian nationalism focuses on geography while Islamism is centered on the umma, or the Muslim people, causing tension between the two as well as between modernity and tradition in the country. Yet, nations are composed of people and territory and the interests of both must be accounted for. I eventually arrived at the concept f ‘nationism,’ combing the people’s interests and territorial interests in a single national development framework and published it in my campaign plan For Real Change in Iran.
B. Public Service and Impact
To better serve the public, I have complemented my research and scholarship with helping build and direct important academic and professional institutions whose core missions stem from the applicability of my academic and public service interests. They include the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers (CMES), the American Iranian Council (AIC), and the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis (CIRA). In addition, I have served the public by participating in the work of other institutions and contributing to their academic and professional causes. My institution-building legacy includes significant teaching, research and public service outcomes.
a. Service to Bloustein School and Rutgers University
I have served the Bloustein School as chair and graduate director of my department (as the longest serving chair) and coordinator of the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program (HHFP). I helped develop the Channel Program with Egyptian universities and supervised many Channel Ph.D. candidates. I have also served the School by participating in numerous committees, including Dean’s Executive Committee, Senator, Chair of Faculty Council, Peer Review Committee, Appointment and Promotion Committee, Director of Computer Lab, Strategic Planning Committee, Ph.D. Committee, Admissions and Recruitment Committee, Curriculum Committee, and Multicultural Assessment Committee.
I published the first comprehensive brochure for my department and helped in developing brochures for the School and Humphrey Program as well. I also helped our students publish the first issue of the first R.U. Planning journal. I have also brought several grants to the School including a grant from HUD for community development, and helped renew the HHFP for a five-year term. At the time, our department was the only planning department to host the HHFP. Noting this, President Francis Lawrence wrote to me the following: “I take pride in the fact that the Department of Urban Planning holds the distinction of being the only Planning Department in the nation to participate in the Humphrey fellowship program.” (Enclosure 31).
Dean Jim Hughes, in reappointing me as department chair, praised my “record of extraordinary service,” “commitment to excellence,” and “sustained leadership.” (Enclosure 32). My service as coordinator of the Humphrey Program has been similarly praised by university officials including Vice President Joe Seneca, who, in a letter, expressed his appreciation for my “excellent leadership” and congratulated me for building a “high quality and highly visible” program. (Enclosure 33).
My service to Rutgers University has been equally extensive and significant. The list includes: founding and directing the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), President’s Committee for Global Education, University Undergraduate Admissions’ Speakers Bureau, Rutgers News Service, RU Phonathon, University Hearing Board Panel, Fellow of Rutgers College, Fellow of Livingston College, and Advisor to several student clubs (Iranian, Muslims, Pakistani, and Republican).
I founded CMES in 1985 and served as its director for a total of over 13 years. CMES is now an academic unit at the university serving hundreds of undergraduate students. To help build CMES, I brought the first ever Title V grant (a three-year grant for $270,000) from the US Department of Higher Education for language education to Rutgers. I also helped raise well over $1.5 million for the Center (including a 5-year pledge) from the Middle Eastern community in New Jersey. Furthermore, I brought several grants from the NJ Department of Higher Education and the NJ Committee for Humanities to develop academic programs and organize important conferences at the Center.
Among the luminaries who spoke at the events organized by CMES during my tenure as director include: Senator Chuck Hagel (who became Defense Secretary); Dr. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Noble Peace Prize Laureate; H.E. Sheikha Haya Raashed Al Khalifa, President of the 61st Session of the United Nations General Assembly; Azar Nafisi, author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran; and Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent human rights activists. I also organized a major conference on the “Persian Gulf Crisis” following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait with many prominent Americans and Middle Eastern officials and experts including the late and legendary George Ball and Professor Roy Mottahedeh, famed Islamic historian at Harvard University.
President Richard McCormick praised my service to CMES as “extraordinary” and said that it has been offered to the university “on top of a notable career as a teacher and scholar.” (Enclosure 34). My service to the CMES has been published in a comprehensive Progress Report with an introduction by President McCormick. (Enclosure 35). The report details the key developments and achievements of the Center under my leadership including instructional and curriculum developments, research and scholarship, fundraising, and public service and outreach
b. Service to the United States and US-Iran Relations
Not only did I advance sensible and substantive arguments, I also launched a non-profit think tank to translate these ideas into policies and actions. With the help of prominent Americans and Iranian-Americans, I had founded the US-Iran Conference, Inc. in 1990, which then changed its name to the American Iranian Council (AIC) in 1997. Among the original founders was the late Cyrus Vance, who served as Honorary Chairman. The Board of Directors has included Secretary Dona Shalala; Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Frank Wisner, Richard Murphy and Robert Pelletreau; Bruce Laingen, the most senior U.S. official held hostage in Iran; as well as distinguished academics like Roy Mottahedeh, Marvin Zonis, and Shirin Hunter. Currently, former Senator Bennett Johnston serves as Chairman and I serve as President. (Enclosure 36).
AIC is a tax-exempt educational, research and policy think tank devoted to improving dialogue and understanding between the US and Iran. It pioneered the marketplace of ideas in U.S.-Iran relations and has organized a series of path-breaking conferences focusing on strategic matters standing between the two governments and involving the states in the Middle East. Indeed, in the last 25 years, many of the historic breakthroughs in relations between the two nations have happened at AIC events or were mediated through the Council. AIC conference proceedings have been published in 14 books, a major Whitepaper, and numerous Newsletters, Updates, Digests, and Insights. (Enclosure 37). AIC also maintains one of the most useful websites on U.S.-Iran matters. (www.us-iran.org)
Among the most important achievements of the AIC are the following:
- July 1998: Helping bring together the former captor Abbas Abdi and captive Barry Rosen at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. This event was a worldwide sensation and was covered by many of the world’s media outlets. It aimed to turn the page on the hostage ordeal that remained the main obstacle to improved relations.
- January 1998: Hosting the late Cyrus Vance at the Asia Society. This was his first policy speech after 15 years of silence since his resignation as Secretary of State under President Carter. The speech, “The time has come,” was directed at President Clinton and Supreme Leader Khamenei, asking them to join forces to rebuild the relationship.
- March 2000: Hosting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for her historic speech on U.S.-Iran relations in Washington, in which she expressed “regret” for past mistakes including the 1953 coup and lifted sanctions on carpets, medical goods, and dried fruits. Iran’s Ambassador, Hadi Nejad Hoseinian, also spoke at the conference in a positive tone. This was the first time that high-ranking officials of the two countries joined together at an event on U.S.-Iran relations. I introduced the Secretary at the conference and she later sent me a signed picture of herself with me, written under it: “To Hooshang Amirahmadi – Thank you for your nice introduction at a potentially important event.” (Enclosure 38).
- September 2000: Bringing together Mehdi Karrubi (then speaker of the Iranian parliament and now a leading pro-democracy opposition leader) along with several Iranian deputies with the late Senator Arlen Specter and several other Congressmen in New York City. This event helped in the release of 13 Iranian Jews who had been accused of spying.
- September 2004: Hosting then-Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Nominee for President, who praised the Iranian-American community as a “bridge” of understanding and for its contributions to American society.
- March 2002: Hosting then-Senator Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in which he called for dialogue with his Iranian counterpart.
- April 2008. Hosting then-Senator Chuck Hagel at Rutgers for a public address on American power and purpose and its relevance to US-Iran relations.
- January 1991: Hosting Andrew Whitley, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch at a conference that for the first time drew attention to Iran’s dismal human rights record.
- When Iran decided to offer America a helping hand in the war against Saddam Hussein, AIC was called in for help. Later in 2003, Iran offered the US a “Grand Bargain” (NYT, Nicholas Kristof). (Enclosure 39).
- When we proposed to extend the Council’s activities to Iran, the U.S. government in 2008 granted the AIC a rare license. President George W. Bush also openly supported the opening of the AIC office in Tehran. The matter had already become a global sensation.
- When the AIC brought the civilian airline tragedies in Iran to the attention of President Obama, the U.S. government responded positively, agreeing to entertain a proposal from Iran to purchase spare parts from the U.S.
- When American hikers needed help to secure their freedom from an Iranian jail, the AIC offered them its good office.
To this day, the historic speech by Secretary Albright remains the most significant and comprehensive policy address on U.S.-Iran relations. Years later, Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami characterized this event as a “missed opportunity” for it was dismissed by the Supreme Leader Khamenei because it had allegedly interfered in Iran’s domestic affairs. Following the Leader, the ultra-right and semi-official Keyhan daily published a nine-part story about my life and printed my picture with Secretary Albright on its front page, denouncing me as a “special agent” of the US.
Finally, my AIC Whitepaper, in which I had suggested that President Obama engages Iran by initially writing a letter to the Iranian leader, Ali Khamenei, and make a positive statement about Iran in a speech, may have had some influence on the White House as the suggestions were ultimately reflected in US policy towards Iran as President Obama wrote to the Supreme Leader and engaged Iran on the nuclear issue. I had transmitted the paper to the President through Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
In sum, to this day, the above-noted events and developments count as the most high-profile and consequential occasions on U.S.-Iran relations undertaken by any non-governmental institution. In recognition of my peace activism, The Norwegian Nobel Committee invited me to observe the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony for the Iranian Nobel Laureate, Shirin Ebadi in 2003. In praising the Council, Hushang Ansary, a prominent minister under the Shah, mentioned to me that: “even the Shah’s government could not found such a powerful organization to help Iran in the U.S. despite all the money and power that they spent on lobbying.”
c. Service to Iran and other Developing Nations
Alongside my research and scholarship on Iran and peace activism aimed at hastening the end of the Iran-Iraq war, in 1982, I helped establish the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis (CIRA) and was its director for 12 years. CIRA was founded to fill a void in research and analysis on post-revolutionary Iran and to help connect the new Iran to the global community.
It was during this period and through the instrumentality of CIRA that I helped bring, for the first time after the Revolution, a great number of distinguished Iranian academics and literary figures to the US. Our guests included Ahmad Shamlou, Hooshang Golshiri, Manouchehr Atashi, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub, Homa Nateq, and Mohammadali Sepanlou.
CIRA quickly became the leader in Iranian studies worldwide, to the extent that Ehsan Yarshater, the world renowned Columbia University Iranian studies scholar, wrote to “congratulate” me for “furthering Iranian studies.” CIRA’s high-profile conferences, like the ones in Coventry Polytechnic, UK, and Berkeley, US, initiated a changing discourse about the country.
The impact of CIRA’s work can be seen not only in hosting the above-noted major Iranian literary and social figures, but also in the quality and caliber of American and European experts that it brought to the table. These events attracted scores of leading Iran experts to the gatherings, and were covered on the front page of numerous Iranian publications. They were particularly controversial in Iran among the conservatives who saw these events as attempts to “silently overthrow” the Islamic regime.
While organizing the CIRA annual conferences, I also edited and wrote for the CIRA Bulletin, and later served on the editorial board of its short-lived journal, JIRA. CIRA also brought dozens of outstanding students into field, who would go on to make significant contributions to scholarship and policy analysis on Iran in their own right.
Planning and public policy are professional fields designed to change the world rather than merely interpreting it. Following this vocation and my passion for positive change, I became a candidate for Iran’s 2013 presidential elections and used the opportunity to write a 100-page campaign plan (the first ever for an Iranian presidential candidate) entitled For Real Change in Iran, where I outlined my ideas and programs for correcting Iran’s domestic and international ills. I was not allowed to stand for vote but my impact is widely acknowledged. Iran has now made it mandatory for presidential candidates to have a campaign plan.
In addition to Iran, I have served a number of other developing nations. These include Haiti for which I helped formulate a National Spatial Development Plan, and the United Arab Emirates for which I helped develop a Vision 2020 Plan. Through works for the World Bank, UNDP, the Aga Khan Foundation and many other international agencies and NGOs, I have also helped with development efforts in other developing countries including South Korea, Nairobi, Mongolia, Mexico, Turkey, and Egypt.
d. Service to other Academic and Professional Societies
I have served academic and professional communities extensively and significantly. I have been an “external advisor” or “external examiner” for many PhD. students in the US, UK, Sweden, UAE, Egypt, Malaysia, and Iran. As a Senior Associate Member at Oxford University, I actively participated in the academic life of St. Anthony’s College and the larger university. I used the opportunity to also participate in academic and profession occasions in London, including presenting lectures at the House of Lords and the Parliament and co-organizing conferences.
I have served as a referee for the MacArthur Fellowship and on the Globalization of Planning Education Commission of the ACSP, and continue to on the board of the Consortium on Development Studies in Korea as well as on its Selection Committee for the Gill-Chin Lim Global Award. I have also served the Toda Institute and the Institute for International Education as well as on the editorial boards of Urban Technology, Urban Geography and Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis. I have served as a “guest co-editor” of a Special Issue of the Journal of Planning Education and Research (Vol 6, No 3, 1987), editor of CIRA and AIC Bulletins, and reviewer for numerous journals and publishers.
I have delivered 26 keynote addresses, 55 invited speeches, 62 conference presentations, and 85 talks at meetings of academics, policy makers, business executives, and NGOs in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. I have also helped organize more than 40 national and international conferences, with some producing path-breaking results, like the AIC’s 2000 Conference with the sitting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the CIRA Berkeley Conference with the most revered Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou.
e. Other Services (Federal Government, Congress, Media, Think Tanks)
My service to the Federal Departments and Agencies has been extensive. A partial list includes: preparation of reports on Iran for the State Department (Iran’s provincial administration) and Pentagon (Iran’s Qods Force). I have also been called on to hold seminars at the United States Military Academy (West Point), Army’s Ground Intelligence Center, Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, State Department’s Iran Desk, National Intelligence Council, and US Central Command in Doha, Qatar. I have also been called upon for briefing at the White House (three times at the National Security Council) and State Department (Secretary Albright). My other important public works have included organizing Roundtables on Iran at the US Congress, and serving on the Task Force on Iran at the Atlantic Council, Asia Society and Council on Foreign Relations.
I have participated in hundreds of television, radio, and print interviews on such outlets as CNN, Fox, NBC, CNBC (including the “McLaughlin and Jon Lehman Shows), CBS, ABC, C-Span, PBS, VOA, BBC, Russian TV, Chinese TV, and Al Jazeera TV. I have been featured in Frontline Magazine (PBS), Archival Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Barron’s, Intercept, Keyhan Newspaper and other prominent media outlets.
I have particularly been highly visible (featured as well) in specialized and mass media in Iran. My pictures have been on the cover of many Iranian magazines including the popular Golagha, and on the first page of numerous Iranian newspapers and magazines. Iranian television twice featured me in its ‘Hovviyat’ program, and my life is also featured in a book called The Hidden Half published by Keyhan Institute. (Enclosure 40).
I pride myself for presenting a “balanced” view to the public media on even most controversial issues like Iran-Israeli relations. In this connection, allow me to quote a distinguished Israeli Professor, Ze’ev Maghen, who wrote in a letter to me the following: “I am writing because this morning I caught your lively debate with Menashe Amir on the VOA, and I must say I have never been so impressed by a speaker’s eloquence and cogency of argument, combination of professionalism and passion, and above all *courageous even-handedness of evaluation.” (His emphasis) … Most everyone who speaks out on subjects Iranian today is a unidirectional propagandist (as you intimated today as well), and your balanced approach is refreshing and compelling. I saw that you wanted to really lay into your opponent on several occasions, and I was impressed by the way in which your Iranian civility restrained you (but not too much – you still let him have it!)….I have met Menashe on several occasions, and seen him debate before: I never saw him lose till today… Menashe is a profoundly knowledgeable, articulate and congenial person…” (Enclosure 41).
C. Teaching and Impact
In the last 32 years at Rutgers, I have taught a great number of courses and have been an effective teacher and caring mentor. Some of the courses I have introduced were novel for their time, such as Global Restructuring (introduced in 1988), Comparative Regional Development, Territorial Capital and Regional Development, and Global Cities. Other courses have included: Political Economy for Planners, Political Economy of Development and Underdevelopment, International Economic Development, Third World Regional Development, Theories and Techniques of Regional Planning, and Urban Economics and Spatial Patterns. I have also taught special topic courses in several summer session (graduate and undergraduate) including Topics on the Middle East Politics, Industrial Policy and Global Competition, Global Restructuring and Post-Revolutionary Societies, Topics in International Development: Issues and Strategies, and Topics on the United States and the Middle East. My teaching evaluations are often excellent and I have received extensive encouraging comments from my students.
I have also helped with curriculum development at the School, ACSP, and CMES. Specifically, I have helped with the curriculum design for International Concentration at the School, and served on the ACSP Commission for “Global Approaches to Planning Education.” Significantly, the Commission produced the “Globalizing North America Planning Education: Final Report,” which became the standard guide for Planning Schools trying to globalize their education. Global Planning Educators Interest Group of ACSP is a direct product of that Commission. For the CMES, working with Professor Elaine Condon of the School of Education and Professor Eric Davis of the Political Science Department, we developed many new courses including “Introduction to Modern Middle east” and “Critical Perspectives on the Middle East.” We also designed a degree program for CMES, indicating required and elective courses for a “Minor” or “Major” in Middle Eastern studies.
To advance planning and Middle Eastern Studies education, I have written several journal articles and book chapters as well as organized conferences and presented papers. Examples include: “Middle East Studies and Education in the United States: Retrospect and Prospects” (First co-author, 1993) (Enclosure 42); “Incongruities between the Theory and Practice of Regional Development in Less Developed Countries: Toward Bridging the Gap” (1990) (Enclosure 43); “Globalizing North America Planning Education: Final Report.” ACSP Commission on Global Approaches to Planning Education (co-author). 50 pages (1995); “Globalization and Planning Education” (1993); “Universalism in Planning Education: Toward an Interactive Pedagogy” (1988) (Enclosure 44); “Globalization and Global Education” (1997); and “International Conference on the Recent Development in the Middle East and Their Implications for Curriculum in International Education in the United States, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (April 25-26, 1980) (organizer).
I have supervised many PhD candidates at the School and in other university units, and have served as “external advisor” and “external examiner” for PhD dissertation defenses in universities around the world including in the UK, Sweden, UAE, Egypt, Malaysia, and Iran. My PhD. students are now teaching in universities throughout the world, including in the US, South Korea, Iran, Egypt, and Puerto Rico, to name a few countries. Many more of my students are successful professionals working with international development agencies, governments and the private sector. A proud aspect of my teaching is co-authorship with my Ph.D. students. I am pleased to report that many Ph.D. students of mine have written at least one article with me, which have been published in refereed journals. Examples include Tatiana Wah, Weiping Wu, David Gladstone, Farhad Atash, Chris Wallace, Grant Saff, Mohammad Razavi, and Pooya Alaedini (all tenured professors or high-ranking officials).
As the above statements demonstrate, my contributions and impact in several areas of my scholarship, public service and teaching have been deep and often transformative. My academic and professional life has been habitually intertwined as I have tried to combine the best ideas with the best modes of practice to achieve results. As a professor at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, which aims to combine theory with practice, I have aimed to remain true to our school’s mandate, and to make our university’s name shine not just in the US, but across the world.
In closing, let me single out a few areas of my main contributions and impact.
- My scholarship on development and planning is reflected in numerous writings, more notably in my book, The Political Economy of Iran under the Qajarswhere I advance a theory of piecemeal transition to modernity in a developing nation. It also helps decipher why in 21th century, Iranians established a theocratic state.
- I was most likely the first among the expatriate scholars to return to Iran in the midst of the war with Iraq, undertake field research in the war-damaged areas while war was in progress, and offer a post-war reconstruction strategy. My book on Revolution and Economic Transition, a product of this research, was the first book-length analysis of the post-revolutionary Iran, and it was the first book to draw attention to the middle-class nature of the Iranian Islamic Revolution and predict its limited transformative ability.
- I helped develop the marketplace of ideas in US-Iran relations and called for normalization long before it became fashionable. I also founded, with the help of prominent Americans, the American Iranian Council (AIC) to help with the mission. My impact on this area is widely acknowledged as reflected in hundreds of interviews in world media and extensive references to my scholarship and popular writings on the subject.
- I was arguably the first to identify and write about the Iranian civil society movement long before it actually materialized with the election of President Khatami. I also predicted its politicization and demise. To further help promote democracy in Iran, I also introduced the concept of ‘nationism’ as a panacea to Iranian obsolete political culture — the main obstacle to democratic development in the nation.
- I am proud of my service to Rutgers and the Bloustein School. Significantly, I helped found CMES, an academic unit that currently serves hundreds of undergraduates at the university and provides public service to the State of New Jersey and beyond. To advance Middle Eastern studies, I brought the first ever Title V grant (Department of Higher Education) to the University.