Dr. Ardeshir Zahedi, who spent 27 years as Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, died last week, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. His death marks the end of an era. Zahedi, who was born in Tehran in 1926, worked in public diplomacy on both sides of the Atlantic, pioneering efforts to persuade the West to abandon nuclear weapons.
Having abandoned his political aspirations early in life, he worked in the foreign service as a diplomat before becoming a diplomat on the West Bank and Jordan. He became Iran’s ambassador to New York in 1979, shortly after the 1979 revolution brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Shiite Mavi Marmot government to power.
Zahedi, who was 93, was known for his flamboyant oratory and for his sometimes no-holds-barred speeches, reminiscent of the time as a young diplomat. During his tenure, he helped negotiate the Agreed Framework with the United States in 1986. Then in the last year of his diplomatic career, he famously walked out of the U.N. Security Council chamber during a vote on a resolution that would have sanctioned the publication and distribution of a controversial Iranian film called Three Sons.
The film depicted the author, the reformist Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and his wife as a drug mule who returns to Iran in an attempt to help his brother, the former Shah, restore the monarchy to its former glory. Iran’s clerical establishment later accused the film of being intended to seduce the sons of the late Shah into violent radical acts, a claim rejected by those who had seen the film.
In an article he co-wrote with his son in The New York Times Magazine, Zahedi condemned what he described as the rejectionism of the United States and the Persian Gulf’s chief protector, Saudi Arabia, toward the rights of the Iranian people.
At the time, ISIS’s cruel and relentless invasion of Iraq was intensifying Iran’s struggle with the Gulf’s monarchies. “The Islamic Republic has a common enemy — Saudi Arabia,” he wrote. “This common enemy has more strategic commonalities than its ‘divide and rule’ view of the world, as Iranian popular media have played in describing Saudi Arabia.”
Dr. Zahedi was appointed to a high-level post in Iran’s foreign ministry, where he served as the undersecretary in the ministry’s General Administration of Foreign Relations.
After the presidential election of President Hassan Rouhani and the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States, Zahedi emerged as a staunch supporter of the Rouhani administration. In a Reuters interview, Zahedi denounced attacks on the former government in the Iranian media, as well as Iran’s arrest of opposition activists in recent months. He also condemned the jailing of hundreds of human rights activists in neighboring Bahrain for simply standing up for human rights. “I know the West is saying that this is our problem, but for me, the West has many problems and many of these problems have to do with corrupt politicians ruling the West and fixing problems for the ones who don’t obey them,” he said.
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