Students met with the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations on Friday, Oct. 19 through Lehigh’s partnership with the United Nations.
Lehigh students talked to John Brevaco, a U.S. senior diplomat to the United Nations, and Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran’s ambassador to the U.N.
In light of President Trump’s recent abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal, Bill Hunter, the director of fellowship advising and U.N. programs, said the meeting was a relevant educational opportunity for Lehigh students.
“Clearly our countries are at odds with each other,” he said. “It is important to hear the other country’s perspective.”
The LU/UN Partnership planned the trip to the U.S. and Iranian Missions as an experiential learning opportunity for students enrolled in a class taught by Taylor Benjamin-Britton, a political science professor, and for other interested students.
“This semester, we’ve been focusing on the role of the United Nations in mitigating interstate tensions and one of the major tensions right now is regarding nuclear weapons,” Benjamin-Britton said. “So, I saw (this trip) as an educational opportunity that was impossible to resist.”
After an off-the-record meeting with Brevaco at the U.S. Mission, the students were escorted to the Iranian Mission to meet Khoshroo.
There was a welcome reception and presentation on the history of Iran from Khoshroo, as well as an open Q&A session with the Iranian ambassador.
Benjamin-Britton said the Q&A session fostered honest and candid conversation between senior diplomats and students.
During the session, Ana Walker, ’19, asked Khoshroo if he predicts more amicable relations with the United States in the future. Although Khoshroo didn’t answer her question directly, Walker said Khoshroo implied the U.S. would need to apologize or have to agree to come back to the Iran deal.
“The contents of both conversations included things that were probably controversial for some folks,” Walker said.
Hank Portney, ’21, asked Khoshroo about Twitter’s recent publication of data sets comprising millions of tweets and other content linked to operative based in Iran and Russia.
Portney said Khoshroo answered his question but dismissed it as a “non-issue.”
In 2004, Lehigh became the sixth university in the world to gain nongovernmental organization (NGO) status with the United Nations.
“We are literally at the U.N. almost every week for a conference, or a briefing, or a workshop, or some significant event at the U.N. itself,” Hunter said.
Hunter said this means that Lehigh is in the know when major events happen or are discussed at the U.N. Lehigh students and faculty have rare access to U.N. conferences, high-level briefings and private meetings with ambassadors and other U.N. officials in New York City, which allows students to learn about international governmental affairs.
“Every university in the country, and even the world, teaches about the United Nations,” he said. “But at Lehigh, we use the U.N. itself as our classroom.”
Students will continue to encounter varying global perspectives in a meeting with the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations on Nov. 9.