The Larger-Than-Life Persian Diplomat Who Understood How to Manipulate the American Media

On Thursday, Ardeshir Zahedi, the shah of Iran’s last ambassador to the U.S., died at the age of ninety-three. During Zahedi’s tenure, the Persian embassy became known around Washington for its lavish, star-studded parties; he regularly rubbed elbows with the likes of Eva Gabor, Gregory Peck, Andy Warhol, and Elizabeth Taylor (with whom he was rumored to have had an affair). But Zahedi was no mere sybarite, writes Martin Kramer; his flamboyance was in fact part of a carefully crafted strategy:

Zahedi persuaded Americans that the richer Iran became, the more stable it became, and that selling it arms on a massive scale would spread that stability. He so charmed and mesmerized America that it failed to see the weaknesses of his master, Mohammed Reza Shah. Zahedi even created space for the shah to beat the revolution—had the shah wished to do so.

Zahedi’s life is more than a juicy story. It demonstrates the vulnerability of American policy to foreign manipulation. . . . Zahedi was astute enough to grasp something fundamental about Washington. The 1960s had liberated the city. The Kennedys had brought glitz and glamor to Washington, and helped to meld the world of politics and entertainment. . . . He would turn Iran into a splashy luxury brand, by turning himself into a celebrity.

One might think that the journalists, at least, would ask some very hard questions, and a few did. But Zahedi succeeded in anesthetizing much of the media too.

When revolution did arrive, Zahedi helped get the shah out of Iran, and joined him in exile:

Zahedi later settled in a villa inherited from his father in Switzerland. Even into his nineties, he continued to write the occasional Washington Post op-ed, assuming the posture of an Iranian patriot, who argued that pressure on Iran was counterproductive. He published a partial memoir in Persian and English, and shipped his papers to the Hoover Institution at Stanford, assuring his place in the work of future historians.

Read more at Sandbox

More about: Celebrity, Diplomacy, Iran, Media, U.S. Foreign policy


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus