Although Biden’s win presents an opportunity for diplomacy, it is likely to result in a modest detente between Washington and Tehran.

In many ways, a Joe Biden administration will govern in radically different ways than the outgoing president. On certain key issues, such as pandemic relief and climate change, this will certainly be true. On others, particularly when it comes to longstanding U.S. policy towards Iran, the differences between Biden and Trump will be largely superficial.

The Trump presidency terminated diplomatic contacts between Washington and Tehran and enacted policies on Iran that will be difficult to reverse, and although Biden’s win presents an opportunity for diplomacy, it is likely to result in only a modest detente between Washington and Tehran.


This language goes hand in hand with the draconian policies it serves to validate — the United States government has effectively criminalized global trade with Iran.

Since 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries overthrew the Western-backed monarchy in Tehran, condemning Iran has been a staple of politics in the United States and Canada. The Islamic republic is presented as a foil to Western values, and voters are left to interpret this “tough talk” as a sign of strength — even a willingness to confront the nation’s adversaries.

In 2002, President George W. Bush included Iran in his “Axis of Evil”. Later, President Barack Obama put “all options on the table” when it came to confronting Tehran. Earlier this month, the rhetoric escalated, when President Donald Trump warned Iran’s…

The downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 outside Tehran on January 8 was also a Canadian tragedy. The country’s grief for the dead was only compounded by the revelation that most on board the aircraft were en route to Canada. The admission by Iran’s government that its armed forces had mistaken the plane for an American cruise missile introduced a sense of betrayal and confusion.

The devastating loss of life was felt nationally, as communities across the country mourned as one. The incident entered the public consciousness unlike others that came before it. First, the Prime Minister attended vigils and…

The lead singer of my favourite band was e-mailing me in between shows on tour, and I was bugging out.

Listening to music is commonly a one-sided affair. You place the needle, insert a disc, or press play to hear tracks, and occasionally get to experience a live concert. But in 2006, I began a series of email conversations with my favourite band’s lead singer, Paul Murphy of Wintersleep. It’s an uncommon position for a fan to be in. For the majority, recording artists are often inaccessible and seem to exist in an alternate universe. The opportunity to meet your favourites, let alone communicate at will, is reserved for the loftiest of dreams. …

A reminder of how sport has helped bring the United States and Iran together, and in some instances, made them the “strongest allies”.

One who knows him/herself and others

will find out here

that East and West

are no longer separable.


Both Iranian and American football fans were brought to their knees through tragic goals in injury time in Brazil last week, perhaps a cruel reminder that sport is intrinsically apolitical. While the teams temporarily provided company for the other’s misery, it serves as a reminder of how sport has helped bring the United States and Iran together, and in some instances, made them the “strongest allies”.

For what it’s worth, successes made through sport seldom carry over…

Instagrams from two weeks in Iran

My flight landed at Imam Khomeini airport only days before President Rouhani’s speech at the UN General Assembly in New York last September (2013). As a friendly reminder of the prominent role politics plays in greater Iranian society, the long drive into Tehran provided the cab driver with a lengthy interrogation as to how Western, in my particular case Canadian, media portrayed Iranians.

Profiling the figure tasked with executing Iranian foreign policy and bringing the nuclear crisis to an end

Prior to ceding the podium to Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iranian envoy at the United Nations in October 2005, Bob Einhorf introduced Zarif with the following words about his Iranian colleague, “Ambassador Zarif has earned the reputation at the U.N as being one of New York’s most talented, most effective diplomats. Americans who have worked with him hold him to the highest regard.”

Nearly nine years later, President Hassan Rouhani appointed Zarif to head Iran’s foreign ministry, the apparatus responsible for executing Iranian foreign policy. …

Upon assuming office in 2013, President Rouhani announced with confidence that his government possessed the political will to “constructively engage” with the West.

Rouhani began by nominating Mohammad Javad Zarif, United Nations veteran and familiar face in Washington as his Minister of Foreign Affairs, and continued by transferring administration of the nuclear dossier from Iran’s National Security Council to his own cabinet.

Some Western governments responded hesitantly and awaited further indications of changes to Iranian policy, while others, somehow ignorant of Rouhani’s populist electoral backing, pointed to a draconian sanctions regime as the primary proponent of bringing the Iranians “back…


Speaking on National Student Day in Tehran last December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that his government will multiply government grants for innovation and entrepreneurs twenty-fold, to $1 billion. The statement signalled a shifting focus to domestic affairs and efforts by the Rouhani administration to relieve economic dependence on oil revenues and put Iran’s youth to work.

The announcement united a largely divided audience of students at Shahid Beheshti University in applause for the pragmatic conservative president, elected by popular mandate this past June. The Iranian population of educated young adults represents a growing portion of the populous that has…

The residents of Fallujah, only thirty miles west of Baghdad, have been forced to evacuate their once vibrant city for the second time in the past decade.

JAN 28, 2014 – A rebel al Qaeda insurgency has further aggravated a tribal stand off between Iraq’s government and parts of its Sunni population that began after the arrest of Sunni MP Ahmed al-Alwani late last year.

On New Year’s Day, Islamist rebels stormed and took control of various cities and towns in al Anbar province of Iraq, markedly Fallujah and Ramadi, both of which saw intense fighting between US led-coalition and…

Sam Khanlari

Sam Khanlari is a Toronto-based writer with a focus on Iranian affairs. His work has been published by Toronto Star and CBC.

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