Well this is certainly creative:
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State in partnership with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts premiered “Welcome: Portraits of America,” a multi-media initiative to welcome international visitors to the United States. The donation from Disney included a seven-minute film and hundreds of still images, featuring American people from all regions and walks of life. Disney commissioned the project as part of the Rice-Chertoff Initiative, which seeks to secure America’s borders while welcoming legitimate visitors to the United States.
"We greatly appreciate Disney’s significant contributions to our efforts to make America’s embassies and airports more welcoming to our international guests. Disney’s creativity and excellence wonderfully capture the essence of America, which is embodied in the diversity and values of our people,” said Karen Hughes, Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Department of State.
“Travelers form their first impressions of America when they arrive at our borders. Our global reputation therefore depends on making visitors feel every bit as welcome as they feel secure,” said Stewart Baker, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Department of Homeland Security.
You can watch the video here if you have Flash installed on your computer. I'm sure some folks are already mocking this as desperation, but you know, it's not a bad idea. People do love Disney.
Most of the press on Vladimir Putin's historic trip to Tehran has focused on his warning to the U.S. not to attack Iran and the possibility of some sort of strategic partnership between the Kremlin and the ayatollahs. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that the meeting that Putin attended was some sort of trans-Caspian "death to America" summit. In fact, the real substance of the meeting was about the distribution of the Caspian Sea region's energy resources. On this front, almost no progress was made and more was revealed about Russia and Iran's differences than their agreements.
The Kremlin still views the Caspian as Russia's "near-abroad," and Iran's growth as a regional power is troubling to the Russians as well. The two countries didn't really see eye to eye at the summit, as the AP explained:
Iran, which shared the Caspian's resources equally with the Soviet Union, insists that each coastal nation receive an equal portion of the seabed. Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan want the division based on the length of each nation's shore, which would give Iran a smaller share.
Another back story behind the summit is CIA Director Michael Hayden's unexplained recent visit to Baku, Azerbaijan where he met with President Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijani analysts have speculated that the U.S. is preparing to use the country as a staging ground for a war on Iran, though the Azeris and the Iranians continue to enjoy strong cultural and economic ties. But Hayden's visit might also have had something to do with the construction of a trans-Caspian natural gas pipeline to bypass Russia, a deal the Russians have wanted to scuttle from the beginning. Witness Putin channeling Al Gore here:
Projects that may inflict serious environmental damage to the region cannot be implemented without prior discussion by all five Caspian nations," Putin said, apparently suggesting each capital should have a virtual veto on energy transport.
The governments of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan are somewhat wary about that proposal as they seek to navigate a middle ground between Russia and the West. In the end, the five countries failed to come up with a formula for sharing the Caspian's resources—which was supposed to be the point of the whole summit—and could agree only on a resolution banning foreign military action from the region. That doesn't look like success to me.
Plenty of smart people, such as Steve Clemons, have hailed China's adept use of multilateral diplomacy, supposedly in contrast to the bumbling, often hostile approach of the United States.
But how does it look when China refuses to attend a meeting about Iran because the U.S. Congress chose to give the Dalai Lama an award? I'll tell you how it looks to me: like the world's most populous country can't take criticism.
Then there is Taiwan. Every time Taiwan does something provocative, we hear ad nauseum about how the entire Chinese nation is "angry" and its feelings are hurt by, say, Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization. I don't deny these feelings are real, but suffice it to say that if China really wants to sit at the grownups' table, it is going to have to be have like an adult on the world stage. These temper tantrums are unbecoming of a major world power.
It used to appear that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice enjoyed trading verbal barbs with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Chávez would call President George W. Bush "a donkey." Condi would fire back that Chávez was "really, really destroying his own country." It was good fun. But sometime around March, the Bush administration's tactics began to change. These days, when Hugo acts like an impetuous toddler, the Bush administration treats him accordingly: by ignoring him.
The 180-degree turn in tactics was on full display yesterday when Condoleezza Rice spoke about Latin America with members of the Council on Foreign Relations. Chávez had just boycotted the U.N. General Assembly and had given an interview to the AP in which he said the U.S. was "hunting" him and wanted him dead. But in her appearance yesterday, Rice didn't bite. She didn't mention Chávez by name once, instead referring only to "exceptions" to democracy in Latin America who "may be noisy ... but are heading in the opposite direction of the hemisphere as a whole." This was hardly the Power Condi of 2005 who showed up at Wiesbaden Army Airfield wearing knee-high leather. In fact, Rice went out of her way yesterday to check the tough talk at the door. Though her remarks were typically laden with language about the transformative powers of democracy, she also made it clear that, when it comes to picking allies in the hemisphere, "the U.S. charges no ideological price for our partnership."
At least by Rice's account, the change in tactics is working. After Bush refused to mention Chávez's name on a tour of Latin America in March, Condi says, "Chávez was going around saying, 'Why will not President Bush mention my name?'" "There is actually, frankly, nothing that he likes better than to have the United States responding to him," Rice added. That may be so, but I'm still going to miss the fireworks.
Earlier this week, Passport speculated as to why the mood of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il improved so dramatically from Tuesday to Wednesday during his summit with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. On Tuesday, Kim looked sullen and glum, but on Wednesday, he was all smiles, even asking Roh if he wanted to extend his stay for a few more days. Was Kim putting on a show for the international community? Was he happy about the agreement to end the decades-long Korean War, or relieved about the agreement to dismantle nuclear weapons?
None of the above. Knowing Kim is a film buff, Roh gave him a stack of DVDs of South Korean movies and television shows. One was "Jewel in the Palace," a television show about a cook for the Korean royal family back when the peninsula was unified. It stars Lee Yong-ae, rumored to be Kim's favorite actress. For a guy who loves movies so much that he once kidnapped a director and actress and forced them to fulfill his cinematic vision, it's a nice gift.
It's also ironic, considering Pyongyang prohibits DVDs from the South. Here's how the government enforces the ban, according to Reuters:
A routine tactic used by North Korean police is to cut the electricity to apartment blocks before a raid and then go to each home to check what is on video tapes or DVDs that have become stuck inside players.
The downside for Kim is that he's going to have to enjoy his DVDs on an old television. It was rumored in the South Korean press that Roh would present Kim with a flat screen TV. That idea was scrapped - the TV would have violated UN sanctions prohibiting luxury good exports to the North.
As Blake noted yesterday, the U.S. State Department's disappointing new blog Dipnote does not mean that the new genre of diplomatic blogging has no potential. To see how it's done right, check out the site of Sherard Cowper-Coles, the UK's ambassador to Afghanistan.
Cowper-Coles has been blogging regularly from Kabul since Sept. 26, including four self-made YouTube videos. He has conducted interviews with a British military commander and the staff of an Afghan TV station, and shared some of his observations on Afghanistan's culture and current events. Cowper-Coles is an engaging writer and comes off as genuinely excited by the potential of the medium.
Is it just PR? Of course. But Cowper-Coles proves that public diplomacy doesn't have to be limited to boring photo-ops and go-nowhere initiatives. The UK Foreign Office currently has six officials blogging, including Foreign Minister David Miliband, though none of the others seems to update as regularly. One hopes they'll take a page out of Cowper-Coles's book.
(Hat tip: David Steven of Global Dashboard)
Toby Harnden, the London Telegraph's man in Washington, gets a juicy tidbit from an unnamed White House source who says Britain is no longer America's closest ally in Europe:
There's concern about [new British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown. But this is compensated by the fact that Paris and Berlin are much less of a headache. The need to hinge everything on London as the guarantor of European security has gone."
Harnden's source goes on to say there is "a lot of unhappiness" in the White House over how British forces have performed in Iraq:
Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra. Maybe it's best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq."
But if the Brits aren't America's special friend in Europe anymore, who has taken their place? Harnden quotes a British diplomat:
The new best friend is [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy."
You have to wonder how much of a factor Iran is here. Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner, his foreign minister, have shown much more willingness to talk tough on Iran. In substance, the French remain reluctant to go to war over Iran, just as the British are. But then, style has always been more important to the Bush White House than substance.
That was fast: The good folks at Dipnote, the new blog of the U.S. State Department, have heard our complaint and updated their blogroll to include FP Passport. Who says the State Department bureaucracy is cumbersome? Obviously, there are some folks with fine taste over there in Foggy Bottom.
I should note that it's a great sign that State is doing this, and especially that the blog allows comments. One other interesting project that State has embarked upon is having a few of its Arabic speakers go into mainstream Arabic-language online fora such as al-Jazeera, BBC Arabic, and Elaph.com and try to combat misperceptions of U.S. policy. What I like about this effort is that State's commenters are not trying to hide their State department affiliations, but are openly posting in their own names and as State Department employees. That's a good thing, Saudi political analyst Adel al-Toraifi told the New York Times:
Toraifi said the bloggers had generated some debate in the Arab World and had been the subject of a column in an Algerian newspaper lauding the State Department for discussing policy with ordinary people, something the writer said the Algerian government would never do. Indeed, several analysts said having State Department employees on the Web helps to counter one source of radicalization - the sense that Washington is too arrogant to listen to the grievances of ordinary Arabs, so violence is the sole means to attract attention.
At the end of the day, public diplomacy of this sort can only do so much; it's the policies that have to change before Arabs will embrace the United States. (Just as the State Department has a lot of work to do before most pundits will pronounce it a healthy institution.) But there's nothing wrong with open dialogue. In that spirit, I hope that Dipnote embraces its comment section as an asset and, as Mark Leon Goldberg stresses, gets engaged with other bloggers instead of just regurgitating press releases and standard talking points. We all understand the need to stay on message, but nobody wants to read a blog full of the usual boilerplate.
(Thanks to Passport reader JR for the tip.)
The U.S. Department of State has apparently taken a page from David Miliband's book and started its own blog, the unfortunately named Dipnote. The blog's editors are State Department spokespeople Frederick Jones and Masharika Prejean, who make it clear that this new, hip, Web 2.0 State Department may not be what you're used to:
As the voice of this blog, Masharika has been given one point of instruction – there are no rules. The camera and the blog entries that are posted on this site are based on experiences that organically develop during her travels with Secretary Condoleezza Rice and her accompanying advisory support team...the purpose of this site is to provide a venue for the general public to receive a "behind the scenes" view of how U.S. diplomatic missions to foreign countries are carried out, the people that are involved, and the cultural aspects that make each destination uniquely its own.
Dipnote kicked off during last week's U.N. General Assembly meeting and has been providing periodic dispatches from the likes of Ambassador Karen Hughes and Assistant Secretaries of State Kristen Silverberg and Sean McCormack. I suppose you have to applaud the department's efforts to reach out, but most of the posts from the big shots consist of little more than summaries of their schedules. Readers looking for an insider's view of diplomacy are probably not going to be bowled over by prose like this:
So, here I am in the city that never sleeps – wait, isn't that Las Vegas? Here I am in the city that never stops negotiating. From Wall Street to the General Assembly, there's always a deal waiting to be struck.
Zzzz... It's also worth noting that gray text over a gray background is probably not the best choice for readability. I mean, I've seen MySpace profiles that are easier to navigate. And judging from the outright hostility of many of the commenters, the department's going to have its hands full getting the site taken seriously. Wonkette is, of course, having a field day.
I also couldn't help but notice the conspicuous absence of Passport from Dipnote's blogroll. Where's the love, State?
UPDATE: Passport gets results from Foggy Bottom!
Israel and Syria are now confirming what has been the biggest open secret in international affairs—that Israel attacked a target within Syrian borders earlier this month. Israeli Army Radio today reported a military target "deep inside Syria" had been attacked on September 6. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the BBC in an interview published yesterday that a strike on an unused military site did occur.
Whether the site is unused is not clear. Anonymous U.S. officials continue to insist the attack was on a nuclear facility of some kind, claiming North Korea was helping Syria establish a nuclear program. Other reports indicate the Israelis might have been targeting a weapons shipment from Iran to Hezbollah, or North Korean missiles.
What is clear is that the attack did little to advance peace. A few weeks back, Passport speculated that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's unconditional offer to hold peace talks stemmed from renewed confidence in Israel's military superiority. The Syrians, recognizing themselves to be in a weaker position, would limp to the negotiating table.
If this was Olmert's intention, it's backfired. Assad said Syria would not attend a U.S.-sponsored peace conference in November unless the Golan Heights and the attack are discussed. The conference is supposed to focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues. He then made this cryptic threat to retaliate:
Retaliate doesn't mean missile for missile and bomb for bomb. We have our means to retaliate, maybe politically, maybe in other ways. But we have the right to retaliate.
In this case, retaliation could be blocking any hope of a more peaceful Middle East.
Last week, thanks to the good folks at the U.N. Foundation, I had the opportunity to meet David Miliband, Britain's blogging new foreign minister and a young star of the Labour party. Miliband was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, where he gave a speech on Thursday that focused on the link between inequality and insecurity, and he met with me and a few other bloggers for a 25-minute Q&A session.
The British press, typically, has a love-hate relationship with Mr. Miliband, slamming him for being too young to be foreign minister (the baby-faced Miliband is just north of 42) or for hiding his charisma in order to make Prime Minister Gordon Brown look better. Andrew Grimson deploys the latter approach here for the Telegraph:
Ever since Mr Miliband was captured by Brownite agents and taken to King Charles Street, where he was locked in a gilded cage at the dreaded Foreign Office and exposed to the full force of the regime's re-education programme, there had been fears he might crack under the strain.
In yesterday's speech [at the Labour Party conference], there were clear signs of the intensive de-Blairification process through which Mr Miliband has passed. Like every other Cabinet minister, he was only allowed to speak for an insultingly short time, and was under strict orders not to outshine Comrade Brown in any way.
I found Miliband to be warm, smart, knowledgeable, and sincere—if not quite oozing the kind of "gravitas" that generally befits his position. As former cabinet minister Clare Short put it in a recent Seven Questions, "I don't wish him any ill, but it's 'Harry Potter for foreign secretary'—a very, very clever boy, but there's a sort of weightiness, a solidity that he just cannot have because of his age." Miliband seems to understand this, positioning himself as a new kind of foreign secretary. Commenting on why he launched the blog, he said:
Foreign policy used to be about diplomats talking to diplomats. And now, it is about that, but it's also about citizen-to-citizen, business-to-business contacts... Opening up the debate about foreign policy is a good thing, not a bad thing.
I asked him directly about the age issue, and he had this to say:
You can't do anything about your age apart from wait. I think that in the end, you've got to be judged by what you say and what you do, and I think that most people are grown up enough to realize that. At least I hope so.
Shimon Peres, Israel's president and former ... everything, denounced Columbia University this morning for hosting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday:
I think that Columbia University made a mistake ... With Hitler there was a dialogue. (British Prime Minister Neville) Chamberlain went to talk to him. What did it help? It helped cover the fact that Hitler prepared concentration camps and death camps."
Sure, Ahmadinejad may be strengthening his domestic position. But notice what happened today at the U.N.: French President Sarkozy called for "combining firmness with dialogue," reiterating his position, "if we allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, we would incur an unacceptable risk to stability in the region ad the world." And Germany's Angela Merkel came out in support of a new round of sanctions "if [Iran's] behavior doesn't change." She added, "Israel's security isn't negotiable," and referred to Ahmadinejad's history of comments on Israel as "inhumane".
These statements may well have been worked out on Friday, when the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany met in Washington to discuss the sanctions issue. But it sure was easier for Germany to toughen its stance after yesterday's farce at Columbia. Ahmadinejad had a chance to come across as a moderate, undercutting the unity of the EU3. Instead, he came across as a buffoon not ready for prime time. We'll see if he acquits himself better here at the U.N. in a few minutes, but suffice it to say that Iran is back on its heels today.
The fracas over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already soaked up much of the media oxygen regarding this week's United Nations General Assembly opening session. Iran's lightning-rod president probably won't make it to Ground Zero, but he will be speaking to rapt audiences at Columbia University and the National Press Club on Monday. More interesting to me, though, is who's not coming: Pervez Musharraf. The embattled Pakistani leader is apparently so afraid of a coup that he's staying in Islamabad along with his prime minister and foreign minister. It's probably a wise precaution. After all, look what happened to Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister by a military junta while in New York for last year's U.N. meetings.
The main event this year is Monday's high-level day of fun, "Addressing the Leadership Challenge of Climate Change." The U.N. is billing it as "the largest meeting ever of world leaders on climate change," and more than 70 heads of state will reportedly be in attendance. Arnold Schwarzenegger is kicking off the day with a major address highlighting his own efforts as governor of California, which, if it were a country, would have one of the world's largest economies. Today is really a warm-up for December's U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, when, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes, real decisions will be made that will lead to "Kyoto II"—a new, improved global agreement on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. (Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change told FP what this might look like back in June.)
I'll be covering the festivities live from New York courtesy of U.N. Dispatch and the U.N. Foundation, which invited me and a number of other bloggers to attend. (U.N. Dispatch will aggregate all of our posts here.) On Tuesday, I'll be blogging the U.N. General Assembly, which begins its year in earnest tomorrow with speeches from various heads of state—notwithstanding the best efforts of the UNGA's incoming president to turn these monologues into a dialogue (indulge me in being the first to make the joke that if the U.N. were truly serious about combating climate change, it would put a lid on some of the gasbags who will be speaking that day). On Wednesday and Thursday, I'll be at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. CGI has become a major player on climate change thanks to some innovative thinking and, well, Bill Clinton's Rolodex. Plus, Brangelina will be there, so it should be a pretty cool event.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was interested in holding peace talks with Syria, without precondition. According to reports, he said:
We want to make peace… we are willing to make peace with Syria unconditionally and without demands. I have a lot of respect for the Syrian leader and the Syrian policy.
Taken by itself, the offer is a strange one, as it requires the Syrians to do absolutely nothing. However, when viewed in light of recent events, it makes sense. Allegedly, the Israelis conducted an air strike against a Syrian nuclear facility earlier this month. Now, a few weeks later, Olmert offers to talk to the Syrians "unconditionally".
He doesn't have to name conditions. The raid—and the Syrians' muted reaction to it—was enough to reassert Israel's military supremacy in the region. The Syrians know going into the talks that they are in a weaker position, as Israel has show itself willing to take action as a means of deterrence. Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said as much on Sunday. According to reports, he told a Knesset panel:
[Israeli deterrence] is having an impact on the whole region, including on Iran and Syria.
That was his only mention of Syria during the meeting. But it was enough to make his point.
The attack also appeases Israeli hawks, who have repeatedly criticized Olmert for failing to forcefully protect Israeli interests. It's similar to Anwar Sadat's attack on Israel in 1973; Use military strength to appease hard-liners in your own government before sitting down with your enemy to make peace. The end result of Sadat's action was the Camp David Accords. Will Olmert's gamble yield a similar result? It's doubtful, but only time will tell.
UPDATE: It didn't take long to determine if Olmert's strategy would work - a report in the official Syrian newspaper Tishri dismissed the Israeli offer as "trickery." It continued:
If Olmert were a man of peace, he would not have launched the war, last year, against the people of Lebanon, nor ordered his government to violate Syrian airspace, and would have brought a halt to Israeli human rights violations in the Palestinian territories.
So, if Olmert wanted to coax Syria into peace talks, his strategy backfired. If, on the other hand, all he wanted to do was attack a suspected nuclear facility, then Syria's rejection is no real loss for Israel.
Forget about Bombs Over Baghdad. The latest shock-and-awe campaign might as well be titled Jugs Over Jerusalem. Back in June, Passport told you about how the Israeli consulate in New York wanted to improve the country's image overseas, and particularly among young American men. So it partnered with the laddie magazine Maxim on a pictorial of women from the Israeli Defense Forces, even going so far as to throw a launch party at a Manhattan nightclub.
"We suffer from a problem of perception," explains Aviv Shir-On, deputy director of the Israeli foreign ministry. "People outside Israel associate this place above all with the conflict. What we are trying to do with this campaign is to use a number of different media to show people there is a much greater range to Israel beyond merely the conflict."
Now the government is launching a $4 million promotional campaign featuring a series of Web-based videos showing bikini-clad models frolicking on Israeli beaches as drooling, foul-mouthed men look on. For a taste (WARNING: explicit language), check out the third video from the top here.
The Israeli government apparently hopes this and other videos will go viral on the Web, and in the process break the image of the Holy Land as a sterile, uptight, and dangerous place. Shir-On glibly defends the videos on the basis of accuracy: "You only have to go to the beach in Tel Aviv in the summer to see how this is very much a reality of life in Israel." That might be taking things a bit too far. But I can't argue with the fact that the videos are mildly entertaining. Of course, they will only feed Israel's negative image within the Arab world, where such forms of blasphemy are strictly condemned.
For at least a year and a half, a dangerous conventional wisdom has been percolating within the foreign-policy community and it is this: America ain't gonna attack Iran. Whether ignoring familiar warning signs or waving them away, most mainstream analysts are towing this line, too. If you don't believe me, just check out some examples of what I'm talking about here, here, and here (us, too). Too bogged down in Iraq. Just talking tough to Tehran. The generals won't let it happen. These are all convenient forms of denial, and the foreign-policy establishment and media appear to have bought into them big time.
And why shouldn't they? Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said flatly: "We are not planning for a war with Iran." But the situation appears to be changing—and fast. Germany reportedly informed the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council last week that it would not back further sanctions against the Islamic Republic. That decision could deadlock next week's meeting of the six powers in Washington, where Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns hopes to secure a new set of sanctions. The European Union is also failing to fully back International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei's plan for new inspections in Iran.
All of this has official Washington's patience wearing thin, and should be cause enough for concern. If not, this startling report out today by Fox News ought to do the trick:
Political and military officers, as well as weapons of mass destruction specialists at the State Department, are now advising Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the diplomatic approach favored by [Under Secretary of State Nicholas] Burns has failed and the administration must actively prepare for military intervention of some kind. Among those advising Rice along these lines are John Rood, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and a number of Mideast experts, including Ambassador James Jeffrey, deputy White House national security adviser under Stephen Hadley and formerly the principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs.... [T]he likely timeframe for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections.
Next thing you know, you'll start hearing folks at AEI saying that Iran was responsible for 9/11. Wait a minute, that's already happening, as Peter Beinart pointed out in Sunday's New York Times. "It's the 2007 equivalent of the claims made in 2002 and 2003 about Iraq," Beinart noted. "The years between 9/11 and the Iraq war gave rise to a cottage industry ... charging that Saddam Hussein was the hidden mastermind behind a decade of jihadist terror. While refuted by the 9/11 Commission and mainstream terror experts, these claims had a political effect."
Looks like it's time to stop the epidemic of denial that has the foreign-policy community convinced that an attack on Iran is out of the question. Before it's too late.
Her long nightmare is over and already she's back at the office! Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Wilson Center's Middle East Program and a past FP contributor, spent 4 months under house arrest in Tehran, followed by another 4 months of solitary confinement in Evin Prison. She was released from jail on August 21, was allowed to leave Iran after a couple weeks, and finally arrived back in the United States last Thursday. After spending the weekend with relatives and friends, she arrived at the Wilson Center Monday morning for a press conference.
Esfandiari is a small woman, and had lost significant weight during her prison stay, but her smile during the press conference was bigger than the entire room. During the Q&A, she displayed courage, resilience, and a remarkable sense of good humor.
I had blocked, you know, thinking about my husband, my daughter, my grandchildren, the house; I blocked all that out because that would have led me to despair. So, for eight months, or for the four months in prison, I didn't think about it.
I dreamt of my first staff meeting at the Wilson Center. (Laughter.) I seriously did. I really did that, I said, OK, I would [not] tell anybody I'm in town ... I would open the door Monday morning at 9:00, walk in to the staff meeting and everybody [would say], "She's here!"
To survive her stay in prison, she imposed a strict schedule on herself, rising early each day for exercise in her cell, with a regimen of reading every evening. Her only contact was with her interrogators, who repeatedly asked her about whether or not the Wilson Center was engaged in efforts to topple Iran. But they were always polite and respectful.
As for her thoughts on her ordeal, Esfandiari harbors no bitterness towards Tehran. She still believes that the U.S. and Iranian governments should hold talks. And she expects to dive right back into her work for peace throughout the Middle East. To learn about details of her imprisonment, as well as her thoughts on U.S.-Iranian relations, I strongly urge you to read the entire transcript of her press conference here. She's a remarkable woman who's been through a remarkable ordeal.
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