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Press attache

Embassy magazine
In 1960s the tools were an IBM typewriter, lots of glue and a ruler for the galleys


July 7, 2005

These were the days, my friend. Following four years in the boring but picturesque city of Bern, Switzerland and then a stay of two years in Tehran at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1961 I finally got an a new assignment at the Embassy of Iran in Washington D.C., where I had studied a decade before at Geogetown University's School of Foreign Service. America here I come!

Alas it wasn't that easy. My wife Angela whom I had met at New York University was American and it complicated matters. By-laws of the Ministry explicitly said that if you have a foreign wife you cannot be posted in the country of her origin.

I sent a letter to Ardeshir Zahedi, who was the ambassador, saying thank you for giving me this assignment but the Ministry won't allow me. I remember full well his reaction. He cabled the Shah who ordered Foreign Minister Abbas Aram to go ahead with the assignment forthwith. Later on, I found out that the Shah had added "The Yanks know more about Iran, than most of us do. Besides this young American wife has nothing to say and she is certainly no spy." End of the matter.

When I arrived in Washington, the ambassador said here is what I want you to do start a magazine for the embassy. This was besides my other assignments as the press attaché.

These days many embassy magazines are colorful, imaginative and interactive Web site affairs. But in those days it wasn't easy. There were no computers at the time. The tools were an IBM typewriter, lots of glue and a ruler for the galleys. If one made an error that was it!

Fortunately I had an excellent secretary, a graduate from Vassar to boot and with their help Iran Review became quite successful, and the envy of the Ministry of Information. Even the late Sadegh Ghotbzadeh (who allied himself with Khomeini during the revolution) admitted it. In those days he used to come for dinner at our house in McLean, Virginia. He cynically added that the magazine was was just flashy technicolor propaganda. However, even the New York Times gave it a positive review.

Many years later when I was ambassador to Morocco and the revolutionaries won, Ghotbzadeh phoned me and asked me to come back to Iran. "I need people like you," he said. Those were the last words I heard from him.

See the disturbance Ghotbzadeh managed to create at an embassy Nowrouz reception organized at the Hilton Hotel in Washington DC. That memorable evening I was roughed up by the Washington police for mistaking me as one of the demonstrating students. Hee hee...

By the way, to Zahedi's delight, Iran Review did not cost the embassy a penny. The ads paid for it.

For letters section
To Farhad Sepahbody

Farhad Sepahbody



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