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


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security