|[FREE IRAN Project] In The Spirit Of Cyrus The Great
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|Via Ambassador Hakimi
|Posted: Sat Jun 05, 2004 3:55 pm Post subject: Greatest Gift to Our future is The Connection to Our Past
The Greatest Gift to Our future is The Connection to Our Past.
By H. Hakimi
The Human Touch
In early sixties at the end of my assignment as First Secretary to our Embassy in Belgrade, the capital of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, I returned to Tehran. Upon my arrival to the Foreign Office, my superior assigned me as Deputy Chief of the Passport and Visa Departments.
The person in charge of the Passport Department being a weak person virtually obliged me acted as the head of the Department; he was afraid of his own shadow. Not wanting to take any chances, he was quite happy to delegate the running of the department to me.
In addition to the routine administration tasks, I had to represent the Passport & Visa Departments outside the Foreign Office and was responsible for all liaisons with other governmental departments, such as the Passport & Visa Departments of Police, the Tourist Organizations, The Security Organization (Savak), Frontier Guard (Marz Bani), the Second Department of the General Staff, and so on. I made many friends due to my boldness and willingness to make decisions.
The wife of General Hassan Pakravan, Fatemeh Pakravan was heading the Tourist Department, attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, as a deputy Prime Minister. She was at the time an energetic, dedicated lady whose aim was to promote Iran as a tourist destination. We therefore did our best to reduce the unnecessary visa paper work to a minimum. Any foreigner who was interested to pay a visit to our country had to under go filling up to five pages of irrelevant questions in three copies, attached with his/her photograph. After a lot of haggling, we managed to reduce this paper work to only one page that our representatives abroad did not even need to send it to Tehran. I became a trusted colleague of
I was very happy to be back home in Teheran and quite happy with my job also. I had no wish to change my situation for some time. However, one day – mid 1963 - without any prior warning I was summoned to attend the office of the Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, my old Ambassador in Belgrade Ansari, at once. He told me that he was urgently assigning me to Baghdad and I had to take up my new assignment without delay; meaning I had to prepare to leave within a few days. I tried in vain to remind him of an earlier promise: “But sir, while in Belgrade you said you would assign me to United Nations as part of my career development. Now you are sending me to Baghdad?!”
By way of background, Ansari had always thought it very important for a career diplomat to have some exposure to the UN and took a professional interest in the workings of the UN. He always attended the General Assembly regardless of where he used to be positioned at the time. He said the Baghdad appointment, which was going to last for four months at such a critical time, was far more important in my career than anything a stint at the UN would offer; then he signaled the end of our meeting by instructing me to let him know when I was leaving for Baghdad! During the foregoing exchange, he took out a new diplomatic passport from his desk drawer, ready for my use, which he handed over to me. I was simply astonished.
I alluded earlier to this time being a critical period in our history because the above episode happened just a few days after the first Khomeini inspired uprising of 1963. The government was in a shock and in somewhat of a panic. As regards to our relations with our neighbour suffice to say relations were very poor with regular border skirmishes resulting form numerous and continuous harassment by Iraqi ground troops and air force Migs.
As for the state of our legation in Iraq, at the time there was no ambassador in our embassy as a few months before the government had recalled the ambassador Gholam Abbas Aram and promoted him to Foreign Minister. The Embassy was left with a Charge des Affairs, Mashayekh Faridany, who was not originally a career diplomat, neither did he have the required skills. He was my Arabic teacher in secondary school. Similar to most students before or after me, I had not learned a word of Arabic even though this was a compulsory subject. I ran into him later in 1953 when I was a junior diplomat and he was Cultural Attaché to our Embassy in Karachi then capital of the newly formed Pakistan. I admired him for his deep knowledge of the Persian Literature. I do not think any body could match him, not even the latecomers Ali Assghar Hekmat (he became Minister of Education on several occasions, Professor of the Faculty of Literature in Tehran University and twice Minister of Foreign Affairs), or Forouzanfar (highly respected professor of literature).
In Karachi, I noticed that Faridany had taken formalities and Persian customs to absurd limits in his desire to ingratiate himself by appearing very courteous. Owing to scarcity of rooms in our Embassy in Karachi, I had to share an office with him. During the course of each working day I had to go in and out of the room numerous times and each time I came in he would stand up and give a courtesy bow to me!! The most junior diplomat in the Embassy!! He was driving me mad. After a while, I could stand it no longer and I begged the Minister (second in the hierarchy to the Ambassador) to change my office.
He also tried a ridiculously old fashioned and outdated tactic of arranging a marriage for me with Ali Assghar Hekmat’s daughter. Hekmat was passing through Karachi on his way to his new post as Ambassador to India in New Delhi. Faridany was trying this with a view to ingratiate himself with an influential person and to make me indebted to him for possible political gain later. It blew up in his face as unbeknown to him Hekmat’s daughter and I knew each other having been childhood friends and neighbours in Tehran. She was a friend of my three sisters.
Although a first rate scholar Faridany had no knowledge of diplomacy and was ambitious beyond his competence. He had ingratiated himself with the Ambassador Aram becoming his protégé. and Aram took it upon himself to appoint him as our Charge des Affaires and present him as such to the Iraqi government against regulations before leaving Baghdad. Faridany harboured the false notion that he could realize his ambition of obtaining ambassadorial rank purely by political means alone. The combination of these factors drove him into deceiving the government of Iraq as well as our own government. Our Foreign Office had become suspicious because of the anomalies in his reports and the senior mandarins in the Foreign Office felt that there was a void in our Embassy, which needed to be filled quickly at this crucial time.
Yet, the Minister insisted on keeping his protégé in his post but dispatch an able carrier diplomat to run the affairs of the embassy, as it should be. That is the reason the Foreign Office dispatched me to Baghdad. I did not speak a word of Arabic, nor did I know any thing of our relations with Iraq. I was only aware of general facts such as the Kurdish question, the problems with the Clergy and knew that things are not going well with the two neighbours (for those who are not aware, there were a large number of Iranians and Shia clergy living near the holy sites in Iraq). The majority of the Shia holy sites are in Iraq, something the British knew from the days before Iraq existed and was just a part of the Ottoman Empire. Divide and Rule must have been a primary factor in their invention of Iraq as a country.
There was no one in the Foreign Office who could brief me about my new task in Baghdad. This was not very encouraging but I had to find a solution and fast. I decided that I would not proceed to Baghdad unless I get some kind of briefing from a competent source. That is when the friendship with Ms. Pakravan came to my rescue. I contacted her in her office, informed her of my new and immediate task, asking her to arrange a meeting for me with her husband, General Hassan Pakravan, the head of Savak. Although I knew his brother, I had never met the General.
Within two days, I met the General in his office. I informed the General that I would not leave for Baghdad until he and the relevant members of his department fully briefed me about how I should treat relations with the government of Iraq, how I should approach the Kurdish question and above all the question of the Clergy.
General Pakravan, who was a very genteel, learned considerate and very kind human being, called two of his deputies to brief me instantly. They did an excellent job of giving me an overview on our policy and how it would affect the different aspects of my duty in Baghdad. They impressed me with the quality of their briefing, their thoroughness and their professionalism.
Before I left, I asked one more favour from the General and his deputies. I requested that the Savak representative in Baghdad be informed of our meeting and be advised that I would be pleased to offer him every assistance but that he should respect my authority and channel all his requests directly to me rather than my subordinates. It was obvious to me that I needed to be in control of all my staff. I was not prepared to allow any discord and unofficial lines of communication. General Pakravan indicated to his deputies to inform Major Issa Pejman accordingly. I left them with utmost gratitude.
Within three days, I was in Baghdad, having driven my own car almost non stop all the way.
In Baghdad with Faridany
My six years old son Ali and I started early morning from Tehran to avoid the heat of early summer. The road to the frontier was broad, asphalted, and smooth without any potholes. I stopped at Kermanshah for some minor repairs to the car and to have a decent lunch. We drove on within two hours, custom clearances and border checks on the Iranian border processed without hassle.
On the other side of the border, in Iraq, there was a long line of Persian pilgrims waiting to go through a lengthy entry procedure. I waited in line, making no Indication that I carried a diplomatic passport. I did it purposely to observe how the Iraqis handled my fellow countrymen & women. I did not like what I saw. It took about one and a half hours to get through Iraqi controls.
The Iraqis did not appreciate our presence in their country. The road to frontier ended on the Iranian side and there was no proper paved road to the Iraqi frontier post. We passed through an open field. There was no facility at their side of the border, no washrooms, no toilet, nothing.
All the way to Baghdad, apart from answering numerous questions of my inquisitive son, I kept thinking about my reception by Faridany. When we arrived at the Embassy I went straight to Faridany’s office, leaving my son with his private secretary, Mohammad Ali Tijany.
I entered his office unannounced. He started with a harsh and loud voice reprimanding me for being late! However, I had prepared myself for his unfriendly attitude. He knew me well and as the Persians saying goes, he had thought he should KILL THE CAT AT THE NUBTIAL CHAMBER or to put me in my place! However, I was too hot, dusty, dirty, thirsty, and perspiring to listen to his unbecoming outburst or engage in politics and shouted back saying I had no intention of dealing with him then and that he should help my young child and I find suitable accommodation in a hotel. Once this was done he could come and see me in my office the next day!
He glared at me squarely from his chair for few moments then got up and with a completely changed attitude, came over embraced me and behaved courteously. He then tried to excuse his behaviour by saying that since he was in need of help from Tehran he was anxious to have me sooner. He used the customary Persian language and gestures. He offered us a room in the Embassy’s Residence, took Ali and me to show us the way and left us there.
Our Embassy in Baghdad was constructed during the reign of Reza Shah for the purpose of the wedding ceremony of the then Crown Prince, Mohammad Reza. The Embassy consists of four thousand square meter building in the middle of Baghdad with forty thousand square meters of garden and park around it. Two huge statues of ancient Sassanids soldiers are standing guard to the entrance. The remains of our ancient capital, Cetisphone or Tisfoon in Persian, just thirty Kilometers south of Baghdad, had inspired the architects. The building was so picturesque that it had become a tourist attraction. The spacious residence of the Ambassador as well as the big chancellery was in the same compound. All the rooms and big halls were air-conditioned. It was a pleasant environment.
Faridany realized that the only way to get my cooperation was through friendship not intimidation; he changed his bossy attitude towards me. The next morning, with a pleasant manner, he ushered me to my nice and adequately prepared office, situated at the end of a long corridor adjacent to his own office with a private door between our two offices. I assured him that I was there to take some of the burden from his shoulders with no intention of undermining him. I used the opportunity to ask his assistance to find a furnished house outside the Embassy compound, a nanny and a tutor for my son. Within a week, it was all arranged and I moved out of the residence to my own rented home.
Meanwhile I occupied myself by going through all diplomatic reports and coded telegrams from the time of Ambassador Aram (covering his time as well as his protégé) to that day. What I did not have the time to do in Tehran. The more I read, the more I was puzzled and astonished. I could see that, everything sent to the Foreign Ministry was almost contrary to my briefing by Savak.
Our First Secretary Parviz Zolein was in-charge of preparing the Weekly Political Reports. I invited him for a private dinner at my place and enquired about the falsification of the tangible facts in the reports. He said, Faridany kept changing whatever he wrote and the result is what I had seen. He added that he had kept the original of his reports and I was welcomed to read them. The same thing was done with the coded telegrams sent to Tehran.
I arranged for the transfer of a young upcoming bashful diplomat to Baghdad to supervise the coding of telegrams. He had served in our Embassy in New Delhi, but because of a minor error ran foul of the second in command there and was recalled home with his career in tatters. Upon his arrival, this young diplomat, Ahmad Moqtaderpour took charge of the coding and started scrutinizing the outbound telegrams. He was not pleased with the discrepancies he was observing.
I decided to hold regular meetings with Parviz Zolein and Ahmad Moqtaderpour. We agreed that we needed to restore the quality of our political reporting. We kept Faridany out of the picture and in essence set up a parallel reporting system. I also asked them to collaborate with me with the purpose of preparing a lengthy paper for the Foreign Office, telling all the truth without refuting or even mentioning the previous political reports, so that at the end of my temporary assignment I could personally submit the paper to the Political Undersecretary (Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs), M.A. Ansari. This was the only way to let the responsible authorities know the truth of our relation with Iraq.
Faridany was senior to me. He had the rank of Minister & my rank was a Councilor. He was also assured by Aram that he would be the next Ambassador in Baghdad. Faridany was terribly ambitious, yet too naïve. For example, he coveted membership of the Arab Academy. For that reason he was courting every Tom, Dick & Harry who had anything to do with the Arab Academy, forgetting that since he was not an Arab, therefore he could not have possibly been made a member!
Within three months of my arrival in Baghdad, Faridany became Ambassador to The Republic of Iraq. He went to Tehran for presentation to the Shah, and came back triumphant. Faridany became bolder and tried to persuade the Iraqis to send a high level delegation to Tehran, promising that it would bolster our relations. This was a big mistake, because of the web of lies that Aram and Faridany’s had created; the two parties did not know one another and as a result did not share any common ground. Each had their own ideas based on lies & deception. I boldly told Faridany that, he was either very courageous or stupid to bring the two antagonists together, when they would discover very quickly and in the worst possible way that they are in fact far apart. He said, I should not worry; he had made all the necessary arrangements. I was aghast at his audacity and lack of foresight.
The Iraqi Delegation consisted of Major Sobhi Abdol Hamid, Minister of Foreign affairs, Abdol Ghader, Minister of Nationalities & some other lesser-known dignitaries. Little did the good doctor know that his days as an Ambassador would soon be over. Faridany accompanied the Iraqi Delegation to Tehran. In three days, I got a message from my colleagues in Tehran that the Foreign Office had recalled Faridany! He would only be coming back to gather his personal belongings and depart for good. I kept the news to myself.
The Iranians bestowed some high decorations to the Iraqis and sent them home, empty handed & terribly disappointed. Relations between the two neighbours got worst as a result.
Before I put an end to Faridany’s saga in Baghdad I have one last issue to lay down. An episode that proved to me that in addition to all his shortcomings he was not honest with money matters either.
Few days after my arrival, Faridany took me to Kazemein to meet with Ayatollah Khalessyzadeh. My family was not a religious one and I had no knowledge of the clerics. To go through Kazemain to reach to the residence of Khalessyzadeh, was an experience. The town looked like a fortification; all over the rooftops were guards with ready rifles. It was somewhat scary. We arrived to Khalessyzadeh’s residence surrounded by numerous guards, all armed to the teeth.
When we finally met the Ayatollah, he observed that Faridany was not visiting on his own this time and wanted to know who I was. The doctor introduced me. Khalessyzadeh said: “Nobody in Iran dared do what your great uncle, Ebrahim Hakimi, Hakim-el-molk did to me. He sent me to exile in Iraq. All due to the fact that he was not corrupt like others.” It was then that I recalled that Khalessyzadeh was behind an uprising in the central city of Yazd against the Government. He was the predecessor to Khomeinie. Ebrahim Hakimi, ‘the frail old man’ - as his detractors often described him - was the then Prime Minister of Iran. He acted very quickly. He put down the uprising and sent Khalessyzadeh into exile. Khalessyzadeh and I had a good and jovial chat about my grand uncle.
Before we left, Faridany handed over to him an envelope. I presumed that the envelope must have contained some cash. As it became clear later, this visit to Khalessyzadeh was a monthly occurrence. But Faridany said, since Khalessyzadeh seemed to have had better relations with me, then I should pay him the regular visit. Each time He gave me a sealed envelope for Khalessyzadeh. However, what he did not realize was that Khalessyzadeh being blind would ask me to open the envelopes and count the contents. Each time there was 250 Iraqi Dinars, equivalent of 250 British pounds. Each time Khalessyzadeh would say: “Again the fellow pocketed one half the amount”!
On a different note, each time that I met Khalessyzadeh, he would request that I ask the Iranian government to send him some arms & ammunition. He said: “I am planning to teach a lesson to these blasphemous Baath & their communist supporters!” It made me think the man was out of his mind, how could we send him arms & ammunition, under the nose of the Iraqi government. It occurred to me that Khalessyzadeh was quite an adventurous sort. I did report his plea to Faridany, but I do not know what, if any thing he did about it.
I never mentioned Khalessyzadeh’s comments about the shortfall in the monies to Faridany. It would have worsened an already tense situation. However, while he was preparing to leave Baghdad, Faridany asked me to sign a receipt I had taken an envelope containing 400 Iraqi Dinars to Khalessyzadeh six times! I refused and said: “I cannot sign such a false document, furthermore, apart from the fact each time Khalessyzadeh asked me to open the envelope, count the contents, there was only 250 Iraqi Dinars not 400, I do not see any reason to sign this document which has nothing to do with my duties in Baghdad”. His face became red. He did not say a word. Next day he left Baghdad for Tehran.
In Baghdad as a Charge des Affairs
Faridany was confused, distraught and in haste to leave Baghdad as soon as he could. It was unprecedented for the Foreign Office to recall an ambassador within two months of his appointment. The wretched fellow either forgot, or did not want to come face to face with Iraqi foreign ministry’s mandarins after the fiasco of his own making, or had no time to introduce me personally to the Iraqi foreign ministry. He just sent a note of introduction. That was good enough for me.
After he left, I immediately asked Kazae al-Khalaf, the Iraqi Undersecretary for Political Affairs for an urgent meeting. We knew one another before, since Faridany had sent me to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry on very many occasions. We met in his office.
After exchanging the usual diplomatic pleasantries, I did not beat about the bush and said: “ WHY DON’T YOU JUST OCCUPY IRAN & LET THE TWO BROTHERLY NATIONS LIVE ALONG SIDE BY SIDE HAPPILY EVER AFTER?”
Kazel-al-Khalaf’s jaw dropped and was completely stunned. He asked if I could repeat what I had just said. I did repeat what I had just said. He wanted to make sure that he had not misheard.
He was silent for a while, and then said “ WE CANNOT EVEN DREAM ABOUT OCCUPING IRAN. THIS WILL BE SUICIDE. WE ARE NO MATCH FOR IRAN IN EVERY ASPECT, BE IT REAL POLITIK, POPULATION, MILITARY, FINANCIAL, ECONOMICS, INDUSTRY AND VASTNESS OF THE LAND & SO ON. NO, THIS WOULD BE SUICIDE.”
I asked, then why do you harass us so much? Why do you have to disturb us every other day, so that I have to come here almost every day & protest against the behaviour of your armed personnel? Why do you make the life of our pilgrims so miserable? Why do you create problems for our shipping in Shat al-Arab (Arvand Roud) you harass us at every opportunity and in whatever manner you possibly can. Why do you have unfriendly attitude towards Iran? Is it by instigation, or for the benefit and the pleasure of an ex-colonial power? (I meant the British). You know very well that we have no animosity toward you, we do not claim one centimeter of Iraqi Land. Our behaviors has been most civil in response to all the troubles you have been causing us all the time. What should we do to establish at least civil relations between the two countries?
Since Khalaf was contemplating for the shock of what he just heard and had remained silent, I continued. To start with normalization of our relations, I will be truthful with you whatever happens, since I know If I try and deceive you, your security apparatus (Amn al-Aam) will let you know
And in a matter of days I would find out if you try and deceive me. In a short while, we would be back where we started. Therefore, you will hear only the truth from me & I expect the same from you. Probably this is the only way for us to be able to serve our two nations far better than before.
I added, unless your government declares me Persona Non Grata (Undesired Person), or if my government recalls me for any reason, I am in Baghdad for one purpose alone, and that is, to try to ameliorate our relation, if I cannot accomplish my vision, it will be waste of my youth, energy, good will and time. I rather serve my nation somewhere else.
He was in deep thought and did not interrupt me while I was talking. After a short while he came over hugged me and said: “in all my career I never had such an honest conversation with any diplomat, we shall do exactly as you have proposed”. He invited me for a cup of thick strong Arab coffee. We made good friends and Kazel al-Khalaf remained my good and trusted friend until I left Baghdad for good.
We used to appear together in public, going to cinemas, clubs, and private parties. Some evenings he used to drop in my place for an honest chat and a drink or two. Together we accomplished tasks that would not have been possible without our cooperation.
Sometimes after, while on a short visit to Tehran for private reasons I had gone to the Foreign Office. In the corridors I ran into one of my very old friends, Homayon Samiie, who was Political Joint Secretary. He said “ Hashem, I don’t know what you did but we never had such a successful relations with Iraqis before. Keep doing whatever you are doing”. That was quite heartwarming for a young diplomat.
Now an adjunct, I am sure that the conversation with al-Khalaf was reported to the higher Iraqi authorities and probably was discussed it in their cabinet. Yet, the same Iraqis who did not even dream of attacking us, after few years did exactly that. They knew very well that they would be committing suicide. It is a matter of record that the Iraqis were encouraged, enticed and assisted by the US and their collaborators, the old colonial power. The result was a disaster as Kaze al-Khalaf had concluded years before.
B. The Paper
I mentioned earlier in part two asking my colleagues to prepare a paper for the senior officials in our foreign office. It was ready running into some 35 pages. With the swift departure of Faridany I could not go to Tehran to present the paper. I therefore prepared a covering letter, saying that Zolein & Moqtaderpour had prepared the attached paper with my supervision and sent in the diplomatic pouch. The paper was an extensive, direct assessment of almost all the aspects of our relationship with Iraq. We did not beat around the bush, no lies, no deceptions, no double-speak, it was what we thought that the relevant authorities, especially, the Shah who guided our foreign policy, ought to know. We knew very well that Foreign Minister did not dare to hush it up. He had to present the report to the Shah. After the recent fiasco, it was quite a revelation & refreshing.
Within two days, I got a personal coded telegram from Aram the Foreign Minister, reprimanding me to for submitting such a report! Moqtaderpour handed over the telegram with a long face I smiled & asked him to call Zolein. I read the contents of the telegram & simultaneously we all started laughing. I assured them, that nothing is going to happen, since we had delivered our duty to our country. We had nothing to fear of. The three of us had to prepare ourselves for the wrath of Aram. He now had us in his sights and we had to be very careful with him. That was a hint to Moqtaderpour to be extra diligent and to make sure there was no repeat performance like that of New Delhi.
With the first diplomatic pouch, along came an official letter signed by Ahmad Mirfendereski the Political Undersecretary, acknowledging our efforts. Ahmad and I had met and become good friends during an earlier assignment in India. He had given me the nickname ‘Hashem-e-Barghi’ or Hashem the electrician because of my hobbies, the letter reads:
I have submitted the request for your promotion to Personnel and made the recommendation to the board. I hope, it will be awarded soon. Your efforts are appreciated. Keep up the good work and we see what happens.
I called in the two colleagues and showed them the letter. They were happy yet they realized what kind of a tug of war was going on inside the Foreign Office (hinted at in the last comment of AM’s memo).
Here I should add that, sometime in this period Ansari had left the Foreign Ministry with disgust over Aram’s doings. One day he simply did not show up at his desk. The Foreign Office had appointed Mirfendereski in his place 12th Khordad 1343 (1964) as the Political Undersecretary (or Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs). I had lost a good supporter who had sent me to Iraq initially for four months, but now it seemed that I was going to remain in Baghdad for quite some time to come. Needless to say that with Aram as the Foreign Minister, I knew rough times were ahead.
C. The Clergy
I followed my brief and laid low as far as the clergy were concerned. There was not any reason to either while Faridany was in-charge. The only contact with the Clergy was with Khalessyzadeh.
Now that I was the senior diplomat left in-charge of the embassy, there was no escape. Few days after I became Charge des Affairs, the embassy’s accountant, Akbar Ismailnia, approached me to say that Agha Shamse and some others want to pay their respect to the new Charge des Affair.
Agha Shamse, as he was called and known by the Iranians, was the self-appointed chief of Iranian/Shia pilgrim guides (Ziarat Namehkhans), frequenting the holly Shai shrines of Karbala, Najaf and Kazemein, guiding the Iranian pilgrims through the pilgrimage (Ziarat) rites. Agha Shamse was therefore an authority by himself.
One good day, my Private Secretary, Mohamad Ali Tijany, ushered Agha Shamse and a horde of some ten turbaned characters to my office. I greeted them with tea, biscuits and some other Persian sweet meat. Agha Shamse abruptly said: “that you have been in Baghdad about six months but have not visited the shrines. When will you do so?” I replied, “Agha Shamse, don’t you know that I am a Bahaie? I rather pay a visit to Haifa”.
Agha Shamseh and the others were aghast. Without giving them the chance to recover, I immediately added: “I’m a Bahaie, my wife is a European, and I frequent cinemas and cabarets. Further I have invited our Consul General in Karbala, Javad Behnam, to join me tonight in Abdullah Cabaret. You are all most welcomed to join as my special guests”. Abdullah Cabaret in Baghdad was a notoriously well-known place for outrageous shows they put up.
Agha Shamse with a long face said: “You’re joking, your mother is in Karbla right now, you have your family’s special burial ground, now you say, you are a Bahaie!” I told him: “Agha Shamse you are right, but don’t you see that I am old enough to choose my own faith?”
With that, they had nothing more to say and left my office with long puzzled faces. Agha Shamse was right. My mother had sneaked into Iraq without informing me. She knew that I would oppose her visit. But she had always been a single minded and independent woman. She was an educated liberal woman and a devout Moslem.
An hour or so past, Ismailnia, who was a religious man and visited the Shrines regularly ever Friday, came to my office. I saw that he was very much upset. He could not contain himself and finally asked, if I really was a Bahaie. I replied, no not at all, but I had to disarm these self-appointed over lookers so that they do not have the usual weapon of accusing any body that stands on their way by labeling them as a Bahaie. Now they would not know what to do. Nevertheless, I asked him to wait a few days & see what is going to happen, and he would have another surprise.
The clergy working as Pilgrim Guides (Ziarat Namehkhans) by the virtue of their profession was exposed to all manner of Iranians. The embassy had to maintain some influence with this group and a budget was set aside to support them. Regular payments were made to these parasites (moftkhors). In order to conserve our budget, and to practice a bit of divide and rule of my own and to put a stop to their incessant gossiping about myself, I asked Ismailnia to set up a meeting with Agha Shamseh in my office, as soon as he can, and nobody should know that he is meeting the Charge des Affaires. If I came to know that he had boosted about it, I would have his monthly retainer stopped. If he did not keep his mouth shut, there would be no money.
Within two days, Agha Shamse was in my office. I enquired if he had informed any body of his visit to the embassy. He assured me that he had been silent. Then I called Ismailnia to join our conversation. I told Agha Shamse, he should stand alone on the 50 Kilometer road sign on the way to Karbala at 10 AM two days from that day. I would come in a taxi, pick him up; he should guide me through the holy shrines of Karbala & Najaf and nobody could find out about this arrangement. I once again reminded him what would happened if he did not comply fully with my instructions, there would be no more gratuities from the Iranian government and I hoped it was clear where he stood.
Two days hence, I was there at the road sign at 10 AM sharp. Agha Shamse was standing at the side of the road on his own. The area that I had chosen was open desert, you could see if any thing moved. Agha Shamse took me to Karbala and Najaf. Having done the complete tour of the Shrines I dropped him at the same place where I had picked him up.
Later, Ismailnia informed me that the other clergies had mobbed and beaten Agha Shamse. I had to increase Agha Shamse salary as compensation. I had no further problems with the clergy during my assignment in Baghdad, save one peculiar episode.
One day I received a coded telegram from the ministry, asking me to arrange a fully-fledged military honor ceremony by the Government of Iraq for the corps of the deceased General Zahedi, who had just passed away while serving as our ambassador to the European headquarters of the U.N. in Geneva. A military transport plane would land in Baghdad within three days; Ardeshir Zahedi would be accompanying his father’s body. The body was to be taken for religious rights (Tavaf) to Karbla, Najaf and Kazemein to prepare him for his final journey.
I thought to myself, this is indeed too much to ask. General Zahedi had nothing to do with the government of Iraq all his life. To ask the Iraqis to arrange for full-fledged military honour ceremony was ridiculous. Yet, I knew that this is going to make or break me. It was a matter of life or death for my career. All my future was in stake for such an out of place request.
I paid a visit to my friend, Kazel al-Khalf. I told him I was going to ask you to do me a personal favour, which could make or break me. Then I told him the unusual story. Kazel al-Khalaf paused a bit and told me not to worry, as they would put up such a show that, even I would be impressed.
And, that is exactly what they did. The plane landed. Iraqi armed personnel shouldered the coffin with all their colorful picturesque regalia to the waiting military ambulance. All the way to Karbala, Najaf & Kazemein, Iraqi solders were standing guard every 50 meters. Ardeshir Zahedi, whom I had never met, was very much impressed by the show. He asked me, how I’d managed it? I could not give him a proper reply neither did I try.
I had informed Agha Shamse of the program instructing him to be present at the ceremony. The corp was taken first to Karbala. As part of Islamic burial preparations, they had to open the sealed coffin and wash the corps Islamic way. Upon opening the coffin, our burial rites call for the clergy to perform a special death prayer to the deceased. None of the clergy would step forward and it became obvious to me that I had something of a political protest on my hands (given the General’s close relations with Reza Shah and the latter’s disdain for the clergy). Everybody was waiting. The clergy’s refrain to do their religious duty was outrageous and could turn the meticulously arranged ceremony into a fiasco ruining me in the process.
I took Agha Shamse to a corner threatening him that if he could not find somebody to do the prayer quickly, nobody will receive a penny of contribution for as long as I was in-charge of the embassy. Immediately after our conversation, a turbaned fellow came forward and said the prayer. A disaster had been averted. Then & there I asked Ardeshir to reward the fellow lavishly.
D. Diplomat Turned Spymaster
The Embassy’s accountant was Akbar Ismailnia, whom I had talked about earlier was a religious man frequenting the shrines of Karbala & Najaf almost every weekend. We had cordial relations since I never asked him to do any personal favour for me or ever questioned his accounting. His accounts were impeccable and we never had any problems in this area. I trusted my accountant without reservation.
One night he called me at home asking if he could come over to discuss an important affair in person. He then came over to my home and informed me that he had become quite friendly with a non commissioned officer of Iraqi security agency (Amn al-Aam). He added that the man being a Shia Moslem felt some loyalty to Iran and wished to help us in any way he could. The man worked in the section responsible for liaison between Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office and the Amn al-Aam. He therefore had access to all the correspondence between the two offices.
Ismailnia suggested that we should pay the man a small token of 30 Iraqi Dinars (almost 30 English Pounds) a month to show our appreciation. Ismailnia was seeking my permission and approval as go between as well as starting the intrigue.
I informed him, that it would be fine with me to try him for a month; if the information supplied was worth anything then we would carry on. I gave the following instructions to Ismailnia:
1. Ismailnia was to deduct the token payments from my own salary, which meant that no record of this arrangement would have appeared in our accounts. There should not be any names mentioned anywhere. No records what-so-ever.
2. I was not interested into whatever went on in the Iraqi Cabinet; I only wanted to receive the material relating to their discussions & decisions about our country, our Embassy, our Consulate Generals in Karbala & Basreh.
3. Ismailnia was to receive the documents from our mole, bring it to my home for only few minutes, & return it to him immediately.
4. I did not want to know our man’s identity and did not wish to meet him or ever be told of his name.
I have always been a keen amateur photographer and cinematographer. I always carry some sort of photographic equipment wherever I am. Nevertheless, this affair needed special spy equipment. Therefore, I went to the Baghdad branch of a company called Hassu. Hassu represented Kodak as well as many other electrical and electronic equipment manufacturers in the Middle East. I was a good customer of theirs in Tehran. I was surprised to find that I did not need to introduce myself, as the manager apparently knew who I was! I placed and order for a German made Minox camera with all its accessories, developing, printing etc. not forgetting an adequate supply of black & white films. He asked for a few days to acquire my order. After a week, I had everything needed for doing a proper spying job.
Every so often Ismailnia would come with the documents; I would take the pictures with the Minox camera in few seconds & sent him back. I had already set up a make shift dark room at home. I would develop the films and make several prints. My private Secretary, M.A. Tijani, was in charge of translating the Arabic text to Persian. He was puzzled but preferred not to ask any questions about the origin of the documents. Nasser Keshvari was my trusted Persian typist. He would type the translations. He also did not ask any questions.
I would then send the films, the pictures, and the Persian translations with a hand written covering letter to Gholam Abbas Aram, the Foreign Minister. I did not disclose the source of my information to the Minister either. Given our previous experience, I dared not trust him to reveal the source of the information. Since the Shah was as the head of state and he was formally responsible for our country’s foreign policy, the Minister had no choice but to take my hand written letter addressed to him and the attachments to the Shah himself. With the result that our head of state knew well what was going on in the Iraqi Cabinet concerning our country. I did not know what was being discussed or what action resulted form the intelligence I supplied until I met General Hassan Pakravan on short visit to Tehran to attend to my personal affairs. While in Tehran, I asked General Pakravan for a meeting to update my Savak briefing. However, the General instead invited me for lunch in a restaurant off Roosevelt Avenue which I had not heard of before and was perhaps chosen for being off the beaten track.
During lunch he told me among other subjects that His Majesty had said something about me that he was not very comfortable to reveal to me. I replied that whatever his Majesty had said about me, I was most eager to know. General said that, His Majesty was giving your reports to me for verification. Your reports were all confirmed. One day His Majesty said “Hassan see what this young rookie (Yek Alef Bacheh ) is doing?” His Majesty had added that “I have inquired; he does not even charge the government a penny for what he is doing. Yet your men, with their colossal budget at their disposal, cannot match him “Be Gardesh Ham Nemiresand”. I thanked the General, but asked why were you not comfortable telling me this? The General replied: “because of the young rookie (Yek Alef Bacheh)”. Being an extremely polite and deferential man, he had thought I would be hurt being called ‘Alef Bacheh’. I said, His Majesty was right, after all, I am the youngest head of one of his missions abroad and proud of what His Majesty has said about me.
D.1 Major Pejman Episode
Major Eesa Pejman was the Savak agent in the Embassy and was introduced to Iraqi authorities as a Deputy Military Attaché. I never trusted the Major. He had a dubious character behaving in a detestable manner. We never had any clashes, since he had been ordered to cooperate with me.
Once among the documents I received from our mole, there was a hand written message revealing that starting from a given date, Major Pejman was to come under surveillance by Amn al-Aam agents for 15 days. Their purpose was to determine whether Major Pejman was meeting with CIA Agents stationed in the American Embassy in Baghdad.
They were going to follow him with a motor cycle and a military Jeep. The registration number for each vehicle was also mentioned. Before sending the usual report of our mole’s intelligence material to Tehran, I summoned Major Pejman to my office informing him about what was being planned by the Iraqis.
Major Pejman asked me to reveal the source of my Information, which I declined. He then said “you are putting an obstructing me in my duty and you’re therefore a traitor – Khaen in Persian. I replied traitor or not, it was my duty as the head of our mission to inform him and dismissed him without further ado. I included this conversation in my report to Tehran.
On the day that Major Pejman was supposed to be followed, I went to the street and saw the Iraqi agents’ motorcycle & Jeep with the specified number plates were parked at the corner of the street outside the Embassy and a wide avenue running along the wall at the far end opposite the compound. I called Ishagh my trusted driver and asked him to get the entire supply of empty wooden beverage boxes from the cellars & quickly construct a make shift platform by placing the boxes upside down about 1.5 meters inside the embassy’s walls on the corner overlooking both avenues. The reason for making the platform was that the embassy had brick walls of 1.40 meters with an iron grid half as high on top of the bricks. Since I am not a tall person I had to improvise a way to be able to use my camera.
Although I could see, he was clearly puzzled, Ishagh did not question me. I told him after he had finished the job I would like to inspect it. I pointed out that nobody should know about this arrangement.
Then I called the gatekeeper’s hut outside the Embassy’s public entrance asking him to stay put at his post. He was not to leave his post even if bitten by a snake! In addition, the moment Major Pejman left the office he should signal it by rushing to my office, opening the door & looking at me without uttering a word. At about 2 PM, the gatekeeper did exactly what I had asked for. My office had access to the Embassy’s gardens and I rushed out of it just in time to take some twenty rapid shots of Pejman, the motorcycle and the Jeep following one another outside on the street.
With the next weekly report, I included three copies of the photographs. Within three days, Major Pejman was summoned urgently to Tehran. He came back after a few days and rushed to my office looking devastated and his face was red with perspiration. He put one copy of the bunch of 20 Photographs in front of me asking if I knew who had taken them. I ignored his question and said: “dear Major Pejman are not it indeed interesting photographs, I can see a the motorcycle and the Jeep, which I had informed you. Now who is the traitor?”
D.2- The Naval base in Basrah
I was curious to know about the Iraqi Navy as they had been a major headache harassing shipping on the river running along our border. I felt it important to understand as much as possible about their bases in Basrah. I decided that under the guise of paying a visit to our Consulate General in the Basrah to take a look at their bases there. My very good friend Jahangir Jahandari was the Consul General over there.
I informed him of my visit a few days in advance. He was a patriotic, dedicated diplomat and a very pleasant man. I asked him to arrange for the two of us as well as our spouses to go for a day out on a motorboat. We packed our picnic lunch for the pleasure of going up and down the
Shat al-Arab (Arvand Roud).
I had come prepared with my Minox camera hoping to take some good photographs of the Iraqi Naval installations as well as their gunboats. Neither my friend nor the boat skipper could see what I was doing. I made two roles of films of every thing that I thought was interesting for our Naval Officers to know. As usual, the photographs along with my report went by the Diplomatic Pouch to Tehran.
There was no response from anywhere. As if it was usual for a Charge des Affairs to send such photographs and report regularly. Years afterwards, while posted as Consul General in Rome, a very handsome dashing young Iranian Naval Officer entered to my office, saluted me in the full military style and stood to attention! I was surprised and did not have a clue as to what this Navy Officer wanted. He read the expression on my face and said: “Mr. Hakimi, you do not know me but I know you very well and for years I was yearning to meet you in person, till I was informed by my colleagues in the Italian Naval Institute that you are in Rome. I came to meet you and thank you in person for the photographs and report concerning the Iraqi Naval Force.”
He explained that he was the Chief of the Section Two (i.e. Military Intelligence) Naval Contingent in Khorramshahr. My report and photographs were sent to him for assessment. In his words: “I was amazed to see the clear sharp photographs and your report which had boosted our intelligence on this subject. Therefore I was very much curious to find out the civilian gentleman who was so daring to have prepared such a report. I am very happy to have met you.”
Naturally I was very much amused by this surprise visit. It was very satisfying to finally learn that my effort had not gone without appreciation.
C-Discord & chaos in the Iraqi Cabinet
Javad Shalash was Chief of Protocol in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. He was known among the resident Diplomats as an unpleasant man. I personally disliked him for his brutish attitude. One day Javad Shalash who was earlier assigned to their embassy in Tehran and spoke fairly well Persian summoned me to his office.
Upon my arrival, He immediately announced that two of our very junior Consular staff of our Consulate General in Bassrah were undesirable persons (persona non grata) and should leave the country as soon as possible preferably within 48 hours! I could not believe my ears! I asked him to repeat what he’d just said to make sure there was no mistake on my part. This was a grave new development in the two countries’ relationship. It would have created a very ugly precedence and irreparable damage.
I had to think on my feet so I told him that the decision of the Iraqi Government to expel our consular staff would create a new chapter in our relations with very ugly consequences. I continued that there was no need to take such a drastic decision since the assignment of both people concerned would have terminated in two weeks and in any event they would be leaving Basrah. This way your task is accomplished & the relation between the two countries would not be harmed.
Of course, I had tricked Shalash, since what I told him about the assignment of the two junior officers ending in a fortnight was contrary to the truth. My purpose was to buy time in order for our government to decide how to react. Shalash believed me and agreed to wait 15 days. I immediately sent a coded telegram to Tehran saying: “I have been informed by a very reliable source that within 15 days that two of our junior staff in our Consulate General in Basrah will be declared non desirable persons and would then be given 48 hours to leave the territory of Iraq.”
It is obvious that nothing happened to the two junior officers within the time limit of 15 days. On the 15th.day the Chief of Protocol called me to his office to say that since the two officers had not left therefore the Government of Iraq was declaring them Undesirable Persons & they would have to leave the territory of Iraq within 48 hours. I again pleaded with him to use his good offices & reconsider this unprecedented action, which eventually will harm Iraq more than Iran. My plea fell onto deaf ears.
I immediately referred the matter as before to Tehran by coded telegram. Within two hours I got a reply that I have to approach the Foreign Ministry of Iraq & officially declare that the Consul General of Iraq & his Deputy in Khorramshahr were Undesirable Persons & would have to leave the Iranian Territory in 24 hours.
I called Shalash & asked for an urgent meeting. I took the telegram with me & read its content for him. His face became red & said: “Is this reciprocity or revenge? Why so fast?”
I replied that I had no idea whether it was reciprocity, but I had warned him that they had started something that neither of us could now predict the turn of events. I left him perplexed & speechless. It happened that the night after this episode, General Mohamad Aaref, the then President of Iraq was throwing a gala in honour of Sekotoreh visiting President of Ghana. The entire diplomatic corps in Baghdad were invited.to this gala.
I was chatting with my colleagues from the other Embassies when suddenly Major Abdul Hamid, the Iraqi Foreign Minister approached & took me away from others. He said: “your Government has created a bad precedence in the relations between our two countries by declaring our Consul General in Khorramshahr & his deputy undesirable persons.”
I immediately sensed that the Foreign Minister did not know what his underlings were up to, therefore I interrupted him saying “I am sorry Your Excellency but I have to correct you as it was your Government which initiated this bad precedent & I quite agree with you that it should have never happened.”
I could see in his face that Major Abdul Hamid was puzzled then I told him the full story. He was visibly shaken. He begged me not to move from there and stay in the same spot for a few minutes until he could come back for me. Major Abdul Hamid, the Foreign Minister of Iraq came back within 5 minutes & told me: ”Mr. Hakimi, I personally apologize for this incident. I take back the words of my Chief of Protocol. The two Iranian diplomats will remain as long as they wish & I hope your government reciprocates. We are not going to publish any news about this ugly affair & I beg the Iranian Government do the same.”
Needless to say I was overjoyed. I immediately returned to the Embassy. I called my colleagues Parviz Zolein & Ahmad Moghtaderepour to come to the Embassy at once for an urgent meeting. They came & I told them of my conversation with the Iraqi Foreign Minister.
We prepared a full report as a coded telegram giving all the details of what had happened, interjecting that I would do my best to know who was responsible for the bad episode. However, one thing was obvious, and that was discord & chaos in the Iraqi Cabinet.
Later on, I came to know that the Iraqi Prime Minister had acted independently through his Chief of Protocol without informing or consulting his own Foreign Minister! Years afterwards, when I met my dearest friend Ahmad Mir Fenderesky who was Deputy Foreign Minister at the time, and since Aram was away, he was the acting FM and had to present my first telegrams to His Majesty the Shah. The Shah had said: “This is a top secret of the Iraqi government. How could our charge in Baghdad have known it? Nevertheless, since he’s been doing so many unconventional things, he could well be right. You should prepare yourself immediately for prompt & immediate reciprocal action, if indeed such a thing takes place.” It was because of the Shah’s instruction that I had received Ministry’s response within two hours.
E. Relations with the Foreign Office and Secretary Of State, Aram
It was unfortunate for me to have replaced a man who became my immediate boss during two years of my assignment in Baghdad. Apart from the fact that I had sent political assessments and diplomatic reports that were contrary to his reports, my weekly hand written reports of the intelligence gleaned from our mole in the Iraqi Intelligence were putting him in an awkward position with the Shah. It is therefore natural for the man to hate me for what I was doing. In addition, it was also natural for some of the department chiefs to reflect the displeasure of the Foreign Minister.
Parviz Sepahbody, who was one of my best schoolmates, was the chief of the Personnel Department at that time. He went so far to ingratiate himself with Aram that he forgot our very old friendship. Nasser Keshvary my trusted Persian typist once came to me saying that his father was in his deathbed. He needed to visit Tehran as soon as possible. I sent a telegram to the Foreign Ministry asking for a week’s leave so that he could attend to his dying father.
I have to add that Aram liked and respected Nasser Keshvary while he was Ambassador in Baghdad yet after two days, I received a negative reply to my request. The telegram was signed by Parviz Sepahboudy. As the head of Personnel, Parviz Sepahboudy should have known the internal ministry procedures rules & regulations better than anyone, had knowingly overstepped his mandate. Moreover, he had no right or authority to write an official letter or send a telegram with his own signature to the Embassies or any Head of Mission. Only the Joint Secretaries, the Under Secretaries & the Foreign Minister had the right to sign any letter or telegram sent to the head of missions abroad.
As well as knowing my duty and responsibilities, I was well aware of the extent of my authority. Therefore using my own authority I sent a telegram direct to the Foreign Minister explaining the grave situation of Nasser Keshvary and that I have instructed Nasser Keshvary to fly to Tehran to adjust some discrepancy in the Embassy’s account with the Accounting Department! I asked the Foreign Minister to order the Personnel Department to issue a relevant order in that effect and instruct the Accounting Department to pay Keshvary’s travel expenses as well as his extra ordinary allowance for being out of his place of duty. I also wrote to the Foreign Minister to advise his chief of Personnel that he has overstepped his mandate by sending a telegram to this embassy with his own signature that is against the rules & regulations of the Foreign Ministry. I added that the Personnel Chief could afford to play this kind of games with privileged persons assigned to Paris, London, Washington etc, and to treat us, the ‘honourable prisoners under siege’ with deference. With that, I sent Nasser Keshvary to Tehran for a week of special assignment. I received no reply in response to my harsh telegram, because I had acted according to my mandate as a head of a mission abroad despite its harshness. Furthermore, they could not harm Kehsavie as he had written instructions from the head of the mission.
This is just an example to show how my own superiors treated me and the internal politics of the time. It is necessary to mention that along the way, the Iraqi Government had restricted all our movements within Iraq to the greater Baghdad and we were required to seek permission from their Foreign Office to visit our Consulate Generals in Karbala or Basrah. The Iranian Government had reciprocated the Iraqi decision & had restricted the movement of Iraqi diplomats in Iran. That is why I wrote in my telegram ‘honourable prisoners’
The above telegram put an end to what little I had with the Foreign Secretary in the way of a working relationship. Yet the minister could not touch me because he would have a difficult time to explain my removal to the Shah, as it will become apparent later. The only way for Aram to get rid of me was to appoint an Ambassador that he could not do by himself. It was only the Shah who could appoint an Ambassador to such important post as Baghdad. The Minister had no courage even to hint about the appointment of an Ambassador in Baghdad. However, according to Murphy’s Law, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
In Baghdad with Seyed Mehdi Pirasteh
After a year and a half as an independent Charge Des Affaires in Baghdad, I received the news that Seyed Mehdi Pirasteh, ex-Governor of Fars Province & ex-Interior Minister was appointed as Ambassador to Baghdad.
At the same time, I got a uncommon letter from my father warning that I should be careful with the man since he is rather load mouthed & not always polite. After a few days the new Ambassador arrived. Both our staff and Iraqis received him cordially and the usual formalities were dully observed.
The Ambassador’s residence and his office were ready for the new Ambassador to occupy. Pirasteh came to office for an inspection and acquainted himself with the staff. I provided the usual briefing about the workings of the office & political developments in Iraq.
The first thing he did was to call the representative of Savak, Lieutenant Colonel Pejman (recently promoted), to his office. He took out a stack of papers from his portfolio and said that it contained the speech he had prepared to deliver at the ceremonial occasion of presentation of his credentials to General Mohamed Aaref the then President of Iraq. It was a lengthy speech & in one point, he referred to the existence of a large Shia community in Iraq that makes the relationship between two countries so special!
At this point, I intervened to indicate that the reference to the Shia community in Iraq was too sensitive an issue to mention at this occasion, it would create a fiasco & bring irreparable damage to our very delicate relations with Iraq. The Ambassador replied that His Majesty (Mohammad Reza Shah) had told him the same (presumably, when he had attended court to receive his appointment by the shah).
I added that even if His Majesty had highlighted this very sensitive subject, he would not have meant for it to be included into your ceremonial presentation speech as it is traditionally very brief and limited to diplomatic pleasantries. If he wanted to discuss this subject either he would have to arrange another meeting with the head of Iraqi state or if urgent, after presenting his credentials, to raise it during the informal chat which usually follows the ceremony when the President invites the new appointee to sit down for an informal chat & some beverages. Only then, he may discuss this sensetive issue in a very friendly way avoiding any possibility of misinterpretation.
The Ambassador was persistent and would not accept my advice. He boasted: “I have dealt with a lot of colonels such as this one”. By this time I was mad and reckless enough to retort: “Yes Mr. Ambassador, but this one is a head of state.” Colonel Pejman was sheepishly supporting the Ambassador.
Needless to say, I could well see the disastrous consequences of such a speech. At the Ceremony, against the tradition that ambassadors’ take with them only the big envelope containing their credential, our Ambassador took his briefcase inside the official hall. I again pointed to the Ambassador that he should have left his briefcase out in the reception room, but he stubbornly refused to take my advice and did as he wished. The Ambassador, Colonel Masoumi, the Military Attaché, M.A. Tijani our translator and I, entered the presidential ceremonial hall. General Aref was standing in the middle along with his Chief of Protocol as well as Sobhi Abdol Hamid, the Foreign Minister. President Aref shook hand with all of us & then Pirasteh took out his stack of Papers & started reading it. Suddenly President Aref pointed out that it seems that the Ambassador has forgotten some thing!
It was only then that Pirasteh realized that first he had to submit his credentials. The ambassador went back to his brief case, took out his credentials & handed it over to the President, which the president handed it to his chief of protocol told him that he should teach some necessary protocol to the Ambassador!
Then Pirasteh started again to read that lengthy speech. President Aref looked impatient. When the Ambassador referred to the Shia community, President Aref left the hall abruptly without a word with a look of disgust on his face. I was astonished and angry, since all my efforts to date to bring about some sort of a good relationship between the two neighboring countries suddenly evaporated.
Pirasteh got angry too for being ignored and started protesting. The Chief of Protocol as well as the Foreign Minister ushered us back to the reception hall and tried to calm the Ambassador down. But Pirasteh was loudly insisting that the President of the Republic of Iraq should apologize for ignoring the Ambassador and leaving the ceremonial hall. I told him that what he was asking was impossible since no head of state apologizes to any body including Ambassadors. I asked him to calm down and accept the apology of the President’s Chief of Protocol as well as the Foreign Minister. I added otherwise he would not be granted any meetings with Iraqi dignitaries. Pirasteh did not listen and we left the presidential palace in disgrace as I had tried to warn him.
Pirasteh, as if nothing had happened, started visiting other ambassadors. However, his requests to meet any Iraqi Minister or dignitary were unanswered. The result was that after 15 days he left Baghdad taking the Embassy’s car to Tehran.
In the two weeks that he was in Baghdad he met with CIA personnel of the American Embassy in Baghdad quite often. Some thing that I had avoided, due to the fact that I knew very well that contacting the CIA personnel would have created unnecessary friction with the suspicious Iraqis who were afraid of their own shadows. Moreover, I did not need their advice for the simple reason that our policies in Iraq differed from one another. In addition, I had my other means to know what was going on in the American Embassy.
The fact was that the private secretary of the American Ambassador was my girlfriend, visiting me in my home few times per week. Since I didn’t live in the Ambassadors residence or the compound, she could come &
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