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Tehran's Man Onstage in Manhattan

All of which did Khazaee a certain injustice, in that it was pretty dull. Khazaee is a much more interesting man than he seemed, stringing together his rote phrases on the Asia Society stage. This is, after all, an Iranian ambassador who has been described by U.S. federal prosecutors in the Alavi Foundation case as directing the operations of an alleged Iranian-government front foundation in the heart of midtown Manhattan. It might have been fascinating to hear his version -- true or false -- of what that was all about. But he was not asked.

There were  so many big topics that never came up. What about that plot by Iran's Quds Force to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in 2011 by bombing him in Washington? What about the reports of Iranian scientists at North Korea's latest nuclear test? Was Iran involved in construction of the Syrian nuclear reactor built with North Korean help? Is it really a point of pride to represent a regime that runs Evin prison and leads the world in juvenile executions? Tell us about Hezbollah's arsenal, and how things are going with Hamas? What about the Iranian weapons smuggling via Sudan?

Yes, I know. It would have been impolitic. Undiplomatic. In the genteel setting of a well-heeled institution, decorated with lovely works of art, before a well-read, cosmopolitan audience, it would have been downright impolite to depart from courteous conversation to ask bluntly about some of the very rough and murderous realities that haunt this scene -- and which Iran's ambassador defends, protects, and indeed, represents. But in such a setting it is apparently so unprecedented that it simply wasn't done at all.