Despite what some of us think, I believe the Great Conference of Iranians Living Abroad (Hamayesh Bozorg) was a step in right direction. It was, I believe, a much needed attempt by government to reach out to its friends as well as its foes to solicit their cooperation in various areas including direct investment in Iranian industries. I think the gathering achieved its intended objectives with some degree of success.
Propaganda aside, I think the gathering provided a good opportunity for the Iranian government officials to hear the diverse, often opposing, viewpoints expressed by participants, to build a much needed bridge between the intellectual communities in Iran and their counterparts abroad, and to explore the possibilities for future cooperation.
I don’t know the exact cost of putting together such a massive elaborate gathering, but I am guessing it is in vicinity of about 20 Million dollars. I can say with some confidence that each guest may have cost government up to $5000, multiplying this amount by 1200 result in a total of $6,000,000 for transportation and accommodation alone, plus, the cost of logistical supplies and services. As economists always say, there is no free dinner; even if you can obtain something free of charge it is not economically free. The costs of such an expensive undertaking can be thought of in terms of the value of other things government could have done with the money it decided to spend on this conference. Don’t ask me if the money was well spent because I am not the person who set the priorities for the government.
Since its inception, the IRI has been in a kind of odd relationship with the Iranians living abroad especially those in academia, the conference was a clever ploy to win their mind and their heart, an effective means to solicit their cooperation as well as encouraging them to invest their money in Iran. There is no way that this regime isolated by sanctions can crawl out of the cocoon of finitude unless it is connected to the outside world especially to the Iranian intellectuals living abroad. The conference provided a glimpse of hope, a windows of opportunity through which the light of plausibility could be injected into the system which is accused of being mesmerized by public proclamations and slogans.