Memoirs of a Career Diplomat in the service of the Iranian Foreign Office

H. Hakimi,

Last issue:Reflection, (1)

Reflection (2)

Dr. Hussein Fatemi, how propaganda can overtake reality!

Given the enthusiastic response I received to the earlier piece published in the Iranian about adverse propaganda by foreign press about Iran, I was encouraged by the younger readers to write further about my experiences as a career diplomat. Here is another piece showing how propaganda can overtake reality so easily in the Iranian psyche.

I entered the Service of the Imperial Iranian Foreign Ministry after I got my M.A. in Political Science in autumn of 1951. I was a very junior civil servant in the diplomatic core, starting right from the bottom of the ladder. After a few months Dr. Hossein Fatemi was appointed as Foreign Minister by the then Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.

Almost a week after he took his post, we were called to assemble in the big hall upstairs to meet the new Minister. Some two hundred Foreign Ministry personnel from the Political Undersecretary to the youngest civil servants such as I, had gathered in the hall when Dr. Fatemi limped in with his stick. Without any introduction, the new Minister started a barrage of insult to the gathering. Among other things, he called us, good for nothing layabouts who spent their time in cabarets and gambling halls and did nothing worth mentioning.

While everyone was too stunned to react and before he finished the Political Joint Secretary Amir Khosro Afshar Ghassemlou left the hall in disgust without taking his leave. To this day I have a high esteem for this gentleman. Dr. Fatemi left the hall the same way as he had come in. First there was a hush, and then slowly there were murmurs about what they had just heard. I was so new that I did not understand what was happening. I did not know most of the people who had gathered in the hall. Apart being confused I was disgusted for what I had just heard.

Any way we all went back to our desks, and no one commented about the unbecoming ungracious outburst of the newly appointed Foreign Minister. As if there was unspoken tacit agreement by all the employees not to refer to that ugly episode. After a week or so almost on the same weekday, we were summoned to gather in the hall upstairs, since the Foreign Minister wanted to meet us.

We were wondering if the Minister has got some more abuse for us up his sleeves. The limping Foreign Minister came in the hall and abruptly started apologizing to the gathering. He added that for years he was under the influence of adverse propaganda against the Iranian Civil Administration in general and the Foreign Ministry in particular.

But within a week he has, to his astonishment found out that his outburst was impolite and unfounded. He said He found out to his amazement that we are hard working dedicated, highly educated government functionary that he was privileged to work with. He then added that he was indeed very sorry to have said what he had said one week earlier.

I am recounting this ugly episode for the purpose of indicating that how strong was the extent of adverse propaganda against the Iranian Government on the whole, that people such as Dr. Hossein Fatemi who was educated and reputable journalist, were influenced, to such an extent that he made a fool of himself in front of his subordinates.

He foolishly squandered the good will of his staff and could never regain it because of an unfounded prejudice.


Reflection (3)

The Consequences of Adverse Propaganda on Our Country's Standing.


I was assigned to Norway as Minister-Counselor, most of the time acting as the Chargé d'Affaires of our Embassy in Oslo in the late sixties. We had highly amiable diplomatic relations with Norway. Trade was flourishing, and there were no special ups and downs in our relations.

In the latter part of my stay there, the result of mass media adverse propaganda against our country was becoming apparent.
One day, the Embassy received a request from the Iranian Armed Forces "Parchin Laboratory," established by the French in Iran, to purchase 5 Kilograms of special smokeless gunpowder. We sent their request along using proper diplomatic channels to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, asking for their help in issuing the Embassy with proper permission to purchase the smokeless gunpowder from their "Tonsberg Weapon Factory."

A few months passed and I was summoned to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry to meet with the Economic Joint-Secretary. I met the gentleman in his office. After exchanging the usual diplomatic courtesies, he said that he was sorry to inform the Iranian Embassy that the Norwegian Government would not comply with the Embassy's request to purchase the smokeless gunpowder due to the fact that Iran was a belligerent country!

I was shocked to listen to his offensive words, not only about this special case, but also because of his wholesale accusations against Iran. I rudely interrupted him by standing up and without trying to hide my expression of repugnance, I told him: "Your Excellency, will you be kind enough to point out just one example of our belligerency for the last 150 years? Moreover, do the Norwegian authorities believe that the Iranian Armed Forces are about to start a Third World war with that puny amount of powder?"

Without waiting for an answer I also added: "Your statement is so outrageous that my government will not accept it. And for your information, Sir, during my very long diplomatic service in many different countries, I never had such outrageous, irrelevant, blunt snappish statement thrown at my face from any foreign ministry official, especially one coming from a friendliest country such as Norway. I can guarantee to Your Excellency that we will get what we want from your neighbors." And that is exactly what we did!

The Joint Secretary was thunderstruck and started sinking down in his armchair. With that I left his room without taking my leave.

Dear compatriots, this was yet one further example of the extent of adverse mass media propaganda against our country that came to influence the high authorities of a friendly country to such a degree that they dished out such sham accusations without realizing the harmful consequences in the good relationship between our two nations.

H. Hakimi,