the Iranian government paid for several hundred “highly placed” Iranians living abroad to come back for a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip. They were invited as part of a high-profile effort to repair Iran’s pariah image, win over some of the expatriates and, not least, draw some much-needed foreign capital to Iran’s troubled economy.
To some of the visitors, the trip was nothing more than a junket to visit relatives, paid for by a government they despised. One attendee grinned when asked about the conference. “They brought a couple of hundred of us here, all with Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s, just to listen to their propaganda,” said the man, an engineering professor who left Iran 30 years ago and now lives in the United States. “Lots of us just wanted to see our families.”