Unfortunately, I did not receive a visa in time to participate as a speaker in the 3rd Annual Ravand Institute Conference in Tehran this year. I was invited along with Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution, Michael Kraig of the Stanley Foundation, and Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group. Up until the very last minute, we thought the Iranian Government might issue the visas that the Ravand Institute for Economic and International Studies had requested.
But given how the US government manages visa of visiting intellectuals, scientists, business people, and cultural leaders from non-visa waiver countries, I can hardly complain.
Though I wasn’t at this gathering, I have now heard from other participants that this meeting was superb substantively and in terms of the regional personalities who attended. While Ahmad Chalabi (not one of my favorite people) was on one of the panels, the other participants were top rate.
The U.S. and Iranian governments should get out of the way of these kinds of events and conferences taking place. There should be more of them.
The American and Iranian governments are trying to establish rigid cartels in the intellectual arena, playing the role of gatekeepers in the flow of information and knowledge, and this is not helpful in sorting out current tensions and moving beyond them.
I admire what former Iranian Ambassador to the UK S.M. Hossein Adeli has done with Ravand and hope that he and the institution find a way to post the key nuggets of the conference or video clips on the internet next time around. That will promote some exchange and make the visa idiocy in America and Iran less of a block to policy dialogue.
— Steve Clemons