Monday, August 31, 2009


Dispatches from ambassadors are not always as insightful as they should be. Britain’s man in Iran, Sir AnthonyParsons, got it famously wrong on the eve of the 1979 Iranian revolution.

As the shah’s security forces gunned down protesters in May 1978, he sent a telegram to the then foreign secretary,David Owen, insisting that there was no “serious risk” of the “king of kings” losing his throne. “My honest opinion is that the Pahlavis, father and son, have a good chance and my guess is that they will make it.”

In a more recent embarrassment, our man in North Korea, Peter Hughes, had his blog on the March elections likened to Pyongyang propaganda.

“Outside the central polling stations there were bands playing and people dancing to entertain the queues of voters waiting patiently to select their representatives in the country’s unicameral legislature,” Hughes wrote.

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