Washington's man in Iran
Los Angeles Times / Borzou Daragahi
09-Feb-2009 (2 comments)

Reporting from Tehran -- For two hours one day in early 2008, a tall, silver-haired man sat in an office in Iran's ornate Ministry of Foreign Affairs compound. He came to beg, plead and charm. But the officials just looked bored, recalls Philippe Welti, who for more than four years served as both Switzerland's envoy and Washington's representative to the Islamic Republic, as he discussed the case of a young man on death row who had committed a crime while a juvenile. The West and human rights organizations have strongly urged Iran to end execution of juvenile offenders. When Welti began to leave, dejected, an Iranian official approached him and told him his heartfelt presentation made a big impression. "That's really something else when you come here," he said the official whispered to him. "Mostly they come in and give us lists [of people in prison] and leave." His two hours were not in vain. "I may have a minimal effect," he said. "But as long as it's above zero, it's worth trying."

News Goffer

'put diplomats in tehran'

by News Goffer on

Interesting read, interesting man.



But his initial euphoria

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But his initial euphoria gave way to a more negative view of the nation as he gained a more thorough understanding of Iran's political and social system. In getting to know ranking officials, he came to believe that the Islamic Republic was "not at the level of its aspirations or claims."

He saw mendacious officials manipulate public opinion and was disappointed by the cynicism of some top officials, who rationalized away concerns about human rights and freedom of expression by labeling them "Western" concepts.

He was struck by the provincialism of the officials, many of them recent arrivals to the capital from rural backwaters, he said. "I got the impression that there are officials who do not know the world well."

He found himself frustrated with both the stubbornness of Iran's conservative camp and the weakness of its reformists. After a couple of years in Tehran and watching the transition from Khatami to Ahmadinejad, he concluded that it would be tough to change Iran's foreign policies.

"As long as there is a gap between fundamentalist positions and international standards of intergovernmental exchange and relations, it will be difficult for Iran to engage fully with the world," he said.

Very telling.