Catalytic Diplomacy

Note to Political Exchange

In Teheran, there was a certain competition to receive me between the head of the Teheran Chamber of Commerce, Mohammad Reza Behzadian, and the head of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce. Behzadian, the head of the city chamber, was one of the student hostage-takers—now a successful businessman and former deputy interior minister. Allied with the reformist camp—as was Bijan—he was considered something of an opportunist who wanted credit for arranging reopening with America.

During the run-up to my visit, an article appeared in Agonist in which Behzadian talked of a “joint chamber of commerce” being organized by the U.S. and Iranian chambers. This upset my contact in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Gary Litman, vice president of the U.S. chamber) and me and Bijan, as none of us had communicated to him in this vein and the idea was a non-starter. Behzadian explained to Bijan that the interview was from November 2 and followed Bijan’s conversation with him about opening up trade channels—subsequent to which he had exchanged some e-mails with Gary Litman to set up a meeting in Europe that never came off.

Anyway, Behzadian was willing to host my entire visit or just a meeting or to work with the Iran chamber in dealing with my visit. I was eager not to be hosted by either chamber so as to preserve some independence and an ability to defer deciding with whom I wanted to work.

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