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When he was needed most
U.S. does not produce men like Hume Horan anymore

Mahmoud Ghaffari
July 22, 2004

A few weeks ago America lost a great diplomat and an Arabist, who knew more about Middle East than any high ranking official in the State Department today. With his death Iranians in Diaspora and those yearning for Freedom inside Iran, lost one of the best chances of anyone fighting for their claims out side of their borders.

Hume Alexander Seyyed Mohammad Entezam Horan, a name whose origins I will explain later, was born in Paris in 1934, to two well connected and aristocratic families; one from Georgetown and the other from Tehran. Hume’s mother, Mary Robinson Hume, was the daughter of a high society politician, and his father Abdullah Entezam, was a one time Foreign Minister under the late Shah of Iran, and Chairman of National Iranian Oil Company, and close confidant and advisor to his Majesty the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Hume joined the army (1954-56) and later got his masters degree from Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies in 1963, while working in the Foreign Service section of the State Department. Throughout his career Hume served as an ambassador to five nations, with Saudi Arabia being the pivot in his career. The Saudi Fahd, had a dislike for Hume from the outset of his appointment because of his Iranian heritage.

It did not take him long to use his influence within the US administration to request Hume’s recall. Although Hume had been the number two man in the Embassy from 1972 to 1977. Hume made it a point, as any diplomat should, to be in contact with the Saudi intellectuals, and those opposed to the ruling Family to be able to articulate a sound US policy based on all that was going on in the Kingdom. Long before 9/11 Hume had a solid understanding of fundamentalism, at the time when the Saudi government was oblivious to this fact and was relying on the Americans to save them from the ills of the kingdom.

Hume served in many other capacities before and after his stint in Riyadh. He was the US ambassador in Sudan and most recently served as chief council to Paul Bremer and the Provisional Authority in Baghdad, helping with the Shiite majority in the South and Tribal Affairs. Hume was perhaps the only State Department employee who was more than qualified to have filled the role for the US, and for it he was bestowed the Defense Departments highest honor.

Hume was a unique individual, having been raised in America, with only spending the first three years of his life in Iran, showed much interest and tenacity in learning many different languages, especially Arabic. A bit surprising given his Iranian heritage, nevertheless he excelled at it and was able to place himself at the top of every class he took in Harvard. His mentor Sir Hamilton Gibb, Laudian Professor of Arabic at Oxford, who routinely visited Harvard, had heavy influence on Hume shaping his views on the Arab world and its much maligned intellectual capacities.

Robert Kaplan in his book “The Arabists”, compares Hume to Lawrence of Arabia, and devotes a full chapter to him titled, “Horan of Arabia”. He writes: “Hume Horan is the Foreign Service equivalent of a Talmudist. He is the real thing, a Scholar-Arabist in the classical Bernard Lewis mold, says a former White House official who has rarely had a good word for the FSOs. When we do our jobs perfectly says John Collier of the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Area Studies, the result is a Hume Horan.”

Hume had also visited Iran on several occasions, the last in 1975, where I had the chance to meet him for the first time as a teenager. He was also instrumental in helping me to come to the US at the time where the actions of the Iranian regime had made a pariah of all Iranians around the world. At the time he was the US ambassador to the Cameroon and the non-resident ambassador to the Equatorial Guinea.

Our friendship only budded in the early 2002, long after his retirement and when we both had decided that it is a good idea for Hume to become more involved in the Iranian community, both outside and inside Iran. This was to be culminated by TV appearances, although he was a frequent political analyst for the MSNBC and CNN, and speaking engagements. Alas, this was not to be.

With the level of prominence he had attained in the Middle East desk, Hume would have been the perfect conduit for the Iranians in Diaspora to have their voice heard within the political establishment. In fact, he would have been a key decision maker within any governing administration.

I wrote an article about him when I first introduced him to the readers of and I aptly named it, “Our Paul Bremer?”. Because I thought, if the same scenario is to be played out in Iran then who better than Hume is positioned to take over the helm and direct Iran onto a correct path. Hume and I saw eye-to-eye on many issues as it related to Iran. Although he being a consummate Diplomat thought war should be the last option, I on the other hand think the war is the only way to salvation from the clutches of Islamic fundamentalism.

Because of his service in the Military and his diplomatic career Hume was afforded a full Military honor burial at the Arlington National Cemetery, another first for an Iranian. In a moving quote eulogizing Hume, Paul Bremer wrote, “Through his steady help and sound advice, Iraqis now have a chance of realizing Hume's dream-Arab governing themselves in freedom and respecting each other's rights”.

Kaplan in the “The Arabists” wrote; "Hume Horan who lived his life in the 20th century, had all the character and expertise that we associate with the 19th century and which is so necessary in the 21st. He was an operationally minded diplomat with the intellectual capacity of an Oxford don. If there was a Noble prize for intelligent conversation, he would have won it. He combined the humanism of Isaiah Berlin with area expertise of T.E. Lawrence. We simply do not produce men like this anymore."

He is survived by his wife Lori Shoemaker Horan, son Michael and daughter Elizabeth, and from his first marriage to Nancy Reinhart, sons Alex and Ted and daughter Margaret Bond Horan.

May be remembered for all his good deeds for America and his untiring relentless pursuit of freedom and democracy across the Arab world.

Mahmoud Ghaffari is the aircraft broadband communication project manager for Boeing and is an Adjunct professor of Network communication and computer science and Devry and National Universities.

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