Ambassador John Limbert most recently served as the highest ranking official at the State Department dealing solely with Iranian issues, appointed in November 2009 as the first-ever U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran. In accepting the appointment, Ambassador Limbert took a sabbatical from U.S. Naval Academy, where he has taught since 2006, and stepped down from NIAC’s Advisory Board. Following the completion of his tenure at the State Department, Ambassador Limbert rejoined NIAC’s Advisory Board in October 2010.
Limbert, a fluent Persian speaker and scholar of Persian poetry, was a career Foreign Service Officer. In 1979, he was posted at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and was captured along with 51 other Americans and held for 444 days. He holds the Department of State’s highest award—the the Distinguished Service Award—as well as the Award for Valor, which he received for his service during the hostage crisis.
Ambassador Limbert is the author of Iran: At War with History (Westview Press, 1987), Shiraz in the Age of Hafez (University of Washington Press, 2004), and, most recently, Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History (United States Institute of Peace Press, 2009).
Limbert currently serves as Professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy. Ambassador Limbert retired from the Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor. His last postings before retirement were as Dean of the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Language Studies and as Chief of Mission in Khartoum, Sudan.
Limbert first visited Iran with his parents in the 1960s, when he began studying Persian. In 1964 he became one of the first Peace Corp volunteers to work in Iran, where he taught English. Later, he taught at Shiraz University as an English instructor (1969-1972) until joining the Foreign Service in 1973. His overseas experience in the Foreign Service included tours in Algeria, Djibouti, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Ambassador Limbert was president of the American Foreign Service Association (2003-2005) and Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (2000-2003). While serving as Ambassador, he was one of the first civilian officials to enter Baghdad in April 2003, with the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. There he was responsible for cultural affairs, including restoring the looted Iraqi Museum. Earlier he had been Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the U.S. State Department (2000), member of the State Department’s Senior Seminar (1997-98), Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Conakry, Guinea (1994-97), and Director of Orientation at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute in Washington (1992-94), Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs (1991-92).
Born in Washington, D.C. and a resident of Stockbridge, Vermont since 1980, Ambassador Limbert graduated from the D.C. public schools and holds his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Harvard University, the last in History and Middle Eastern Studies.
Ambassador Limbert holds the American Foreign Service Association’s Rivkin Award for creative dissent. In addition to English and Persian, he also speaks Arabic and French. He is married to the former Parvaneh Tabibzadeh, and has a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.