Magazine article The New Yorker

PARTY ON?; DEPT. OF DIPLOMACY Series: 4/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

PARTY ON?; DEPT. OF DIPLOMACY Series: 4/5

Article excerpt

Each February, the Islamic Republic of Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations is obliged, by diplomatic etiquette, to throw a cocktail party in celebration of the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This year, it couldn't have fallen at a less opportune moment. On the day of the party, Iran's government accelerated its nuclear program, and one of the country's leading newspapers put out a call for cartoons mocking the Holocaust. The beleaguered staff at the Iranian Mission went ahead with the party anyway. They had invited representatives from most of the countries of the world, along with a few of the Iranian exiles in the city whose exile was not caused by the very revolution the party was commemorating, for kebabs and non-alcoholic drinks.

The reception was held in the Delegates' Dining Room, on the fourth floor of the U.N. Building. The only indications that it was a party to celebrate Iran were the smell of basmati rice and the sight of some women wearing hijab. (Invitations to Iranian guests included an insert, in Farsi, politely requesting that they observe Islamic dress.) The Iranians gathered in clutches and largely ignored the foreigners. The foreign diplomats were also in groups: the Africans together, the Spanish-speakers in one corner, the Arabs in the back of the room, drinking Perrier. The Iranian Ambassador, the charming and elegant Javad Zarif, stood at the door and welcomed each guest.

About an hour into the reception, the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, arrived with a small entourage. …

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