In August 2016, shortly after I was arrested by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, one of my interrogators asked me what I thought of the antagonism between Iran and the United States. I told him frankly that like many Americans, I did not believe that Iran and the United States should be enemies. I said that I thought President Barack Obama should visit Tehran and turn a new page in the relationship, just as President Richard Nixon had done by going to Beijing in 1972. The interrogator sneered. The U.S. president would never be welcome in his country, he told me.
My view of the relationship between the United States and Iran, and of the nature of the Iranian regime, would gradually change over the course of my 40 months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. There I witnessed the regime’s actual workings from the inside, and I learned a great deal from interacting with other prisoners—Iranian men from all walks of life, many of whom had previously worked for the regime.