The excerpt below originally appeared on Slant.
- Dr. Amirahmadi is a pleasant, unassuming man with sharp eyes and an even sharper sense of style. One might guess that Amirahmadi is a successful academic by his classy threads and bespectacled countenance, but it’s not initially obvious that the Iranian American was once the man to talk to if anyone from the U.S. government wanted to talk to Iran.
It was the middle of the disastrous Iran-Iraq War that Amirahmadi first became heavily involved in Iranian affairs. The war was triggered in 1980 after Iran’s Islamic Revolution, when Saddam Hussein, a Sunni presiding over the secular Ba’athist government in Iraq, invaded the Shia-led Islamic Republic of Iran with material support from the U.S.
Brutal fighting raged for the next eight years, leaving millions dead and dealing a disproportional blow to Iran, both in financial and human costs.
“In 1986, I was invited to Iran to participate in a conference on post-war reconstruction,” Amirahmadi said in an interview with Slant. “I was the first — absolute first — Iranian academic expatriate to return.”
He recalled touring the wreckage in devastated Iranian towns and villages. For three consecutive years Amirahmadi returned, each time taking in the massive scale of damage done to Iran during that war. On his final visit, the government invited him to deliver a lecture on a geopolitical theory he had developed, which would later be seized upon as a justification for ending the war with Iraq.