Jason Rezaian discusses his new book, Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison, with Brett McGurk, the former Special Envoy to Defeat ISIS. Rezaian was the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief when he was imprisoned and McGurk led 14 months of secret negotiations with Iran that helped free him in 2016.
Co-sponsored by the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies and FSI's Middle East Initiative
Jason Rezaian is one of the few Western journalists to have been based in Tehran in recent years. From 2009 until his arrest in 2014 he covered stories that tried to explain Iran to a general American audience, first as a freelancer for a variety of outlets and later as The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief.
He reported on two presidential elections, Iran’s nuclear negotiations with global powers, the effects of one of the most punitive sanctions regimes in modern times and environmental issues. In between those momentous topics he told the stories of everyday Iranians which sought to make them more accessible to readers, reporting on Iran’s small community of baseball players, the quest for the best high end hamburger in Tehran, and a clinic for female drug addicts.
In July of 2014 Rezaian and his wife were detained in their home and he went on to spend 545 in Tehran’s Evin prison, released on the same day that the historic nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was implemented.
Brett McGurk is joining Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies as the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer.
McGurk recently served as special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State. He helped build and then led the coalition of seventy-five countries and four international organizations and was responsible for coordinating all aspects of U.S. policy in the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and globally. McGurk previously served in senior positions in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, including as Special Assistant to President Bush and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan, and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and Special Presidential Envoy for the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State under Obama.
McGurk has led some of the most sensitive diplomatic missions in the Middle East over the last decade, including negotiations with partners and adversaries to advance U.S. interests. In 2015 and 2016, McGurk led 14 months of secret negotiations with Iran to secure the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezain, U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and Pastor Saad Abadini, as well as three other American citizens.
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