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MARCH 2015




When There Is No Relationship



Shawn Dorman is the editor of

The Foreign Service Journal.

the current talks prove immediately fruit-

ful or not, the examples of China, Viet-

nam and, more recently, Cuba, remind us

that, as Ambassador John Limbert puts it,

“no estrangement lasts forever.”

Jillian Burns starts us off with “The

Iran Watcher Program: A Different Kind

of Teleworking,” a look at the work of the

Iran watchers, those Foreign Service offi-

cers who work on the Iran portfolio from

places far from Tehran.

The Iran Watchers program is rela-

tively new at 10 years, but may serve as

a benchmark for success as the State

Department builds a cadre of Iran

experts, helping Washington better

understand Iran and all the complexities

in the relationship. (The need to build

Iran expertise within the Foreign Service

helps explain why AFSA has protested the

selection of a non-Foreign Service State

employee for the London Iran watcher

position. See AFSA News, p. 53).

The move from “watching” to

constructive interaction with Iran is

addressed by Amb. John Limbert—truly

the Iran expert within the U.S. govern-

ment, with 45 years of related experi-

ence. In “The Road Back to Tehran: Bugs,

Ghosts and Ghostbusters,” Limbert

discusses the requirements for effective

engagement, including contending with

the ghosts that haunt both Washington

and Tehran. He offers guidelines to help

the United States “get it right” this time.

My favorite: Don’t do or say stupid stuff.

The hostage crisis played a deci-

sive role in the collapse of U.S.-Iranian

relations back in 1979. So that today’s

Foreign Service members do not forget

this important chapter, we bring you

an up-close look at what it was like to

be a “guest of the regime.” Michael

Metrinko—perhaps the first (and only)

prisoner evicted from the Iranian prison

of Evin for bad behavior—describes his

14 months in captivity.

Ambassador Willard DePree takes us

back to the newly independent Mozam-

bique of the 1970s with the story of a time

when diplomacy made a difference in a

dicey situation. It is a case study on the

benefits of having diplomatic relations

not only with friends but with those who

might not be “natural allies” of the United


Retired FSO Luciano Mangiafico

brings the little-known tale of “Our Man

in Fiume: Fiorello LaGuardia’s Short

Diplomatic Career.” Our Speaking Out

takes a glass half-full look at the Foreign

Service today. AFSA President Robert

Silverman remembers Mary Ryan, “A

Doyenne of the Old School,” as a Foreign

Service hero.

As always, we welcome your feed-

back on this issue and all things Foreign


Next month’s issue promises to be a

special one as we remember the fall of

Saigon 40 years ago and consider the

Foreign Service in Vietnam, then and



s we went to press, we heard

the sad news of the passing of

the wonderful, retired Senior

FSO Ted Wilkinson. During

a lifetime of dedication to the Foreign

Service and to AFSA—as president in

1989 and later as retiree representative

and then FSJ Editorial Board chair for

six years (2005-2011)—Ted was a dear

friend to many, and he will be deeply

missed. Please look for an Appreciation

in the April issue.

This month we take a look at the For-

eign Service and Iran—not the Foreign



Iran, but rather

in connection


Iran. The U.S. has not had a diplo-

matic presence in Iran since the 1979

Iranian Revolution, and before that had

not made Iran expertise a priority. Our

focus is on the challenge of doing diplo-

macy where the United States has no

in-country representation, where there is

no relationship.

Eyes are on Iran today because, after

more than three decades of animosity

and alienation, groundbreaking diplo-

matic talks have been underway between

Washington and Tehran in the context

of the U.S.-led six-power negotiations

with Iran on the country’s nuclear

program. Hope for

an agreement thrives

alongside calls from

Congress to instead

expand sanctions

against Iran. Whether