Iran-Israel relations are key to Mideast peace, says Grawemeyer Award winner

Trita Parsi, co-founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, earned the prize for ideas set forth in his 2007 book, “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the U.S.” He received the award from among 54 nominations worldwide.

The rivalry between Iran and Israel is driven more by a quest for regional power rather than by conflicting beliefs, Parsi says. Instead of trying to isolate Iran from the rest of the world, the United States should rehabilitate Iran into the Middle East’s economic and political order in return for Iran making significant changes in its behavior, including ending its hostilities against Israel.

“Most efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East focus on the clash between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Rodger Payne, a UofL political science professor who directs the award. “Parsi says the best way to stabilize the region is for the U.S. to act in a more balanced way toward Iran and Israel, which would de-escalate the geopolitical and nuclear rivalry between the two.”

Parsi, who was born in Iran, holds a doctorate of philosophy degree from the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He interviewed more than 130 senior Israeli, Iranian and U.S. decision-makers before writing “Treacherous Alliance,” which also won a Council on Foreign Relations award last year for most significant foreign policy book.

Five Grawemeyer Awards are presented annually for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion. Winners of the other 2010 Grawemeyer Awards also are being announced this week.

About Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi’s expertise on Middle Eastern politics was developed in the field, on Capitol Hill and while serving with the United Nations.

Born in Iran, he moved to Sweden with his family when he was 4 years old to escape political oppression in his home country. His father, an outspoken academic and non-Muslim, was jailed twice, first by the Shah and later by the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.

In 1998, Parsi worked briefly for the Swedish Permanent Mission to the United Nations, handling security affairs related to Afghanistan, Iraq, Tajikistan and Western Sahara. Later, he served on the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee addressing human rights in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

He moved to the United States in 2001. Through 2006, he studied foreign policy at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University with the noted American political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

In 2002, he co-founded the National Iranian American Council, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works to advance the interests of Iranian-Americans. He is also an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, an independent, non-profit organization in Washington devoted to the study of the Middle East.

Fluent in Persian/Farsi, Swedish and English, he holds a doctorate of philosophy degree from Johns Hopkins and two master’s degrees, one in international relations from Uppsala University and another in economics from the Stockholm School of Economics.

In 2008, his Grawemeyer Award-winning book, “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States,” received the Arthur Ross Silver Medallion from the Council on Foreign Relations. The honor recognizes books that offer significant new insight on critical foreign policy issues.

Parsi’s articles have appeared in print media all over the world, including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and the Jerusalem Post, and he is a frequent guest on broadcast news outlets such as CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera.

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