CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour called for a “change in strategy” in American foreign policy toward Middle Eastern countries in a Monday talk at the Whitney Humanities Center.
At the event, which was sponsored by the Yale Politic, an undergraduate publication, Amanpour spoke to a group of roughly 200 students and faculty members about the current political, social and cultural challenges in the Middle East. Amanpour focused in particular on American relations with Iran, where she spent her childhood, and suggested that the United States should seek avenues of collaboration with Iran instead of imposing harsh sanctions.
“Punitive measures have been the only American way of dealing with Iran,” Amanpour said.
Rather than hoping Iran would eventually buckle, the United States needs to respect Iran as an important political power in the Middle East, said Amanpour, who has worked as an international correspondent for CNN since 1990, covering politically charged regions of the Middle East and major world events like the Gulf War and the Arab Spring.
But the American political system does not encourage the kind of patience and careful thought needed to develop a coherent strategic vision for the Middle East, she said, as initiatives that could potentially result in positive change are often unpopular.
The United States should intervene in the Middle East in certain circumstances, she said, especially in Syria, where it should pursue humanitarian efforts and limit the Syrian government’s access to weapons. She added that these action would substantiate the American rhetoric that “al-Assad must go” — a slogan that refers to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The nature of Middle Eastern politics is evolving quickly as the voices of regular citizens begin to hold more weight, she said, and the United States must consider this change when dealing with Middle Eastern countries.
“Foreign policy in the Middle East will be turned to the street,” she said. “The street will have much more voice in politics. The street is now in power.”
In addition to discussing current events, Amanpour described how her background as an Iranian citizen has shaped her career. She called herself an “accidental journalist” — one who knew little about politics as a child, but grew motivated to “tell stories of huge global changes and upheavals” after witnessing Iran’s political change.
Faced with that goal, Amanpour decided she could best pursue her career by moving to the United States.
“Having grown up in conservative Iran, I believed that if you had a mission, a goal, a dream, America is the place to realize that dream,” she said.
Amanpour, who has now worked in journalism for three decades, said she feels reporters today have begun to inject their opinions into coverage too frequently.
Three audience members interviewed said they were impressed by Amanpour’s clear presentation of issues.
But Stephanie Adcock ’15 criticized Amanpour’s stance that reporters have started including their opinions in their work too much.
“Opinions are becoming important for a reason,” Adcock said, adding that it is important for reporters to appropriately frame their presentations.
Apart from being CNN’s chief international correspondent, Amanpour is also the anchor for ABC News Global Affairs and a board member of the International Women’s Media Foundation.