Iran

Joshua Landis discusses Tuesday night’s State of the Union address and President Obama’s proposal to combat the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and Rebecca Cruise provides an update on anti-Islam protests in Leipzig, Germany.

Then Joshua and Suzette Grillot talk with University of Oklahoma sociologist Loretta Bass about first- and second-generation immigrant populations in France, and revisit issues of race and identity.

President Obama delivers his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night before a joint session of Congress.
The White House / Twitter

President Obama spent very little time on foreign policy and foreign affairs during Tuesday night's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

But he did call on lawmakers to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force against self-proclaimed Islamic State militants.

University of Oklahoma Latin America historian Alan McPherson joins Suzette Grillot for a conversation about what the lifting of trade and travel restrictions could mean for U.S.-Cuban relations.

Then a conversation with Boston University scholar David Collier. Sixty-five years ago Iran unsuccessfully experimented with democracy, and he argues the Islamic Republic can build on this legacy. 

The Shah of Iran speaking at Washington National Airport during ceremonies welcoming him to the United States as President Harry S Truman looks on, November 16, 1949
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum

“Democracy” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when talking about Iran.

But during the first half of the 20th century, the United States was heavily involved with democratization efforts in Iran as part of a strategy of building a buffer against Soviet influence in the Middle East.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot talk about the first woman to win math’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, and North Korea’s missile test this week as Pope Francis visits South Korea.

Later, a conversation with classical Persian scholar Austin O’Malley. He says the language’s stability drew him to study centuries-old Near Eastern poetry.

International Mathematical Union (IMU)

An Iranian-born Stanford University professor is the first woman to win math's highest honor, the Fields Medal.

The International Mathematics Union awarded the prize Wednesday to Maryam Mirzakhani and three others.

Wikimedia Commons

When Austin O’Malley decided to take a Persian class during his last year of college, he had no idea it would become his life-long passion.

“I got a taste for it,” O’Malley says. “And that was very exciting on a personal level, and also sort of enlightening when you start seeing how language or literature works.”

Joshua Landis joins Suzette Grillot for a conversation about the situation in Iraq and the U.S. response to the escalating violence by Sunni militants.

And Rebecca Cruise and University of Oklahoma Iranian Studies professor Afshin Marashi speak with Mohamad Tavakoli, a professor of history and Near and Middle Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto. He studies Persianate society – arguing that in the pre-modern world, Iranians, the Ottoman Empire, the South Asian Indian Mogul empire, and even Central Asians all spoke a common language.

Nina Aldin Thune

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, nationalism and colonialism created fixed borders between societies that otherwise shared common ethnic backgrounds, language, and culture.

If you separate the world by regions, India and Iran don’t initially appear to have much in common. But in the 1960s, University of Chicago historian Marshall Hodgson introduced the concept of Persianate society – arguing that in the pre-modern world, Iranians, the Ottoman Empire, the South Asian Indian Mogul empire, and even Central Asians all spoke Persian.

In the summer of 2009, three young Americans went for a hike. Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were living together in Syria, teaching and writing. Their friend Josh Fattal was visiting from the U.S. The three took a tour to a waterfall in the Kurdish highlands of Iraq, and as they hiked along a road that turned out to be the border with Iran, an armed man in uniform waved them over.

The next thing they knew, they had embarked on a two-year ordeal in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. They join NPR's Renee Montagne to talk about their new memoir, A Sliver of Light.

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