Search for Common Ground has been working to improve relations between the United States and Iran for more than 14 years. We believe that the lack of communication and diplomatic relations has created immense misunderstanding between these two great nations despite their many commonalities and shared interests.
Recognizing that 33 years of hostility cannot be overcome overnight, we are committed to a long-term approach of creating opportunities for face-to-face interactions between Americans and Iranians. Our diverse programming allows us to meaningfully engage with foreign policy officials, lawmakers, clerics, scientists, and members of the media from both the United States and Iran, to build upon the realization that there is much more to be gained from a peaceful settlement of outstanding issues than confrontation.
In the film Annie Hall, Woody Allen famously said, “80% of success is showing up.” For 15 years, we have been showing up and searching for common ground between Iran and the United States. In September, our persistence again paid off, and we played a key role in bringing home the American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran.
Our Iran team is led by retired Ambassador Bill Miller, who maintains frequent, unofficial contact with top-level Iranians. Two years ago, after the hikers were arrested, their mothers asked Bill for help in getting them freed. He kept pushing, probing, and talking. Finally, he arranged for Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and John Chane, the Episcopal Bishop, to travel to Iran. They were joined by two leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). While the group was changing planes in Istanbul, President Obama called to wish them luck. In Iran, they met President Ahmadinejad who said, according to Bishop Chane, "It was because of our presence that they were able to move the process forward in releasing the hikers."
After their release, the hikers visited SFCG to express their thanks.
L to R: Jim Hickey, Katherine Bova, Cindy Hickey, Dr. Nihad Awad, Laura Fattal, Jacob Fattal, Alex Fattal, Bishop John Chane, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, John Marks, Susan Collin Marks, Rabbi David Saperstein
Project Starshine 2002: The US-Iran Program has worked to spread the word and encourage Iranian participation in Project Starshine - a private astronomy project that allows students around the world to track Starshine satellites and record observations via the Internet. The most recent satellite to be launched, Starshine 3, is covered with student-built mirrors and is designed to study how solar flares affect the earth's atmosphere. Thousands of students from all over the world requested and received mirror-polishing kits and worked in their classrooms to polish the mirrors that were later mounted on the satellite. Now that the satellite is in orbit, students are able to observe the satellite's movements and study the satellite's data. A number of Iranian student groups are participating and we are ready to assist any organizations or individuals seeking our help with this project. [more]
Student Exchange Coordinators' Exchange and Zirakzadeh-Exploratorium Exchange. The US-Iran Programme facilitated two exchange visits to Iran from April 18-May 2, 2004: a student exchange coordinators' exchange hosted by the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology, and a museum exchange between the San Francisco Exploratorium Museum and the Zirakzadeh Science Foundation (ZSF) [more]
The environment is one of many areas where America and Iran have found common ground. The US-Iran Program has facilitated a number of exchanges among scholars and environmentalists between both countries. These exchanges have not only contributed to the improvement of relations, but have also increased knowledge for both sides on their respective environmental issues - which are fundamentally global issues. [more]
The US-Iran Program sponsors the exchange of Iranian and American films, producers, directors, and actors. [more]
We co-sponsored a videoconference in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and Isfahan University of Medical Sciences to address mutually beneficial issues related to health. Doctors from both institutions engaged in dialogue about their respective community Healthy Heart Programs. Following this, in April 2007, we worked in partnership with the Institute for Resource and Security Studies to take a Harvard medical delegation to a conference in Isfahan. The group met with numerous Iranian medical authorities and explored opportunities for both short-term and long-term academic cooperation between institutions in Iran and the US. Several areas of potential collaboration were identified, including joint research projects, faculty/student exchanges, and joint distance-learning courses. The visit attracted considerable media attention in Iran.
The perceived differences in philosophy and theology have been a major impetus toward the so-called "Clash of Civilizations" that has been expounded by pundits and scholars. The US-Iran Program has worked to de-mythologize the differences between Eastern and Occidental philosophy and theology. We have facilitated a number of conferences and exchanges searching for common ground on these two emotionally charged and highly effective areas. [more]
In conjunction with WorldPublicOpinion.com, Search for Common Ground has conducted two extensive public-opinion polls of the Iranian and American publics about the two countries' relations. The polls show that the majorities in both countries agree on a wide range of issues. [more]