Fariba Amini (Amini): What is your current position at the State Department?
Alan Eyre (Eyre): I am the State Department’s Persian language spokesman.
Amini: Why did you decide to learn Persian?
Eyre: As an English major in college many years ago I was interested in Sufism and Sufi poetry. I began trying to learn Persian so I could read “Conference of the Birds” by Attar. I quickly fell in love with the Persian language, literature and culture and have kept up my studies since then (even though I have till now not finished reading the “Conference of the Birds”).
Amini: In light of what is happening in the Middle East today, do you think these events will have direct implications for Iran?
Eyre: Of course. Being part of the Middle East, Iran cannot help but be affected by this wave of popular movements seeking greater democracy and accountability from the regions’ governments.
Amini: The struggle for democracy in Iran has been a long and tedious one. We know what came to be called the Green Movement is now in a dormant stage, many of its leaders and rank and file are either in jail or under house arrest, Do you think there is any prospect for real change in Iran?
Eyre: As President Obama pointed out, ultimately it is the people of Iran who will shape the future of their country. If people aspire to bring about change to improve their lives then the Iranian government, like all governments, should be responsive.
Amini: How can the U.S. Administration reach out to the Iranian people?
Eyre: The United States in conjunction with its allies is seeking to ensure that the Iranian government respects universal human rights of its people. It is also trying to facilitate the use of both traditional and new media to ensure that the Iranian people have access to accurate news about what is going on around the world.
Amini: Are there any talks going on currently between Iran and the U.S.? Are you at all hopeful? Let’s put it this way, what is the main hurdle that keeps coming back?
Eyre: The U.S. Government and its allies in the international community have repeatedly stressed that they seek to discuss issues of contention, including the nuclear issue, in an atmosphere of mutual respect, mutual goodwill and seriousness of purpose. But Iran has not sought to engage in such a manner. Still, we and our allies will continue to use a dual-track approach in the hope that Iran will change its strategic calculations.
Amini: As an officer of the U.S. government and having had interactions with Iranians from all walks of life, including those who desire to come to the US, what has been your best and worst experience in these contacts?
Eyre: There are strong bonds of friendship and respect between the American and Iranian people, and over the years I’ve derived nothing but pleasure from my dealings with Iranians from all walks of life.
Amini: Would you go to Iran today if you were invited?
Eyre: I have been an ‘Iran dust’ [friend of Iran] for almost thirty years but have not yet ever set foot there, and yes I very much look forward to the day when I can travel to Iran and see all its wonders firsthand.
Amini: Thank you.