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Expert on U.S.-Iranian relations to speak at KU

Monday, September 16, 2013

LAWRENCE — John Limbert, a former ambassador and diplomat in the Middle East, as well as a hostage in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, will talk on U.S.-Iranian relations during a visit to the University of Kansas.

Limbert will present "Iran and America: Eternal Enemies?" at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, in the Kansas Room of the Kansas Union.

Born in Washington, D.C., Limbert obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University, the latter in history and Middle East studies. He has had a long and complex relationship with Iran: His first visit to the country was in 1962 when he traveled there with his parents, who were working for the United States Agency for International Development. Limbert later returned to Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer, then as a university English instructor.

He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1973, then was assigned to numerous posts throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In 1979, Limbert's Foreign Service assignment placed him at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Less than three months into his post, he found himself witness to and participant in one of the most heated hostage situations in contemporary political history. He and 51 other Americans were held hostage for 444 days.

Upon his return to the U.S., Limbert built a career in academia, with a break from 2000 to 2003 to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. In 2009, Limbert was appointed the first-ever U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He left in 2010 to return to a position as professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Limbert is the author of several books, including “Iran: At War with History” (1987), “Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History” (2009) and an in-depth look at Persian poetry and literature titled “Shiraz in the Age of Hafez: The Glory of a Medieval Persian City” (2004.)

Limbert’s talk is sponsored by the Center for Global & International Studies, KU Honors Program, KU Persian Club and Iranian Studies Group.

Related events include a film screening of “The Green Wave” at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium. The film documents the turbulent events surrounding the 2009 presidential elections in Iran. The film is part of the KU Area Studies Centers' International Peace & Conflict Film Series, and it will be followed by a panel discussion with Gail Buttorff, assistant professor of political science, and Ranin Kazemi, K-State associate professor of history.

Both the film screening and Ambassador Limbert's visit are sponsored by the Center for Global & International Studies and the KU Honors Program. Both events are free and open to the public. 

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