The Iranian Foreign Minister’s abrupt exit from an Egyptian hosted dinner last week caused tongues to wag. Few believe Manouchehr Mottaki’s claim that a red dress, worn by a violinist performing that night, was offensive and caused his exit. More likely, he bolted because he was seated across from U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Iran and the United States have been at odds for almost thirty years. Recently, the relationship seemed almost impossible to repair due to Iran’s defiance over developing nuclear weapons. Both countries attended a summit this past week aimed at stabilizing Iraq. Neighboring countries had hoped that the two would make an effort to reconcile, but they were disappointed.
The parties attending the conference were invited to a formal dinner on Thursday night held at a Red Sea resort and hosted by Egypt. Manouchehr Mottaki and Condoleezza Rice were placed across the table from one another. Mottaki, who arrived first, immediately made his excuses and left. He claimed that the low cut, sleeveless red dress a female violinist wore was too revealing and offensive to Muslims. Rumors were circulating that Secretary Rice wanted to confront him about Iran’s role in arming Shiite militias in Iraq.
Sharm el-Sheik, the location of the dinner, is known for its lax enforcement of the Middle Eastern dress code. Women don mini skirts and bikinis there, something that would never occur in Iran. Surely, Manouchehr Mottaki knew the area’s reputation before accepting the dinner invitation. Larissa Abramova, the violinist, does not believe her dress was to blame and feels there was more to the story, as do many others.
The next day, the Iranian Foreign Minister took advantage of a speech before conference attendees by blasting the United States over its presence in Iraq. He also criticized Israel, defended Iran’s nuclear program, and demanded the release of five Iranians held in Iraq by the U. S. military. An Iranian national security adviser, Mohammed Javad Jaffari, backed Mottaki’s words and added, “All the problems in Iraq come from the west, not the east.” The reference is to Syria, which the U. S. believes sponsors terrorism.
Mottaki’s remarks angered many, including Iraqi officials attending the conference. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was especially disappointed. He has been working to bring the two countries together in an effort to gather regional support for Iraq’s young government.
Despite the tension between the United States and Iran, those attending the summit did formulate a plan. The goal is to transform Iraq into a stable country within five years. The Iraqi government pledged to do more to bring the feuding factions together, and other nations offered debt relief.
Secretary of State Rice did not close the door on Iran, despite the digs made by its Foreign Minister. It does not look as though they will talk any time soon, though. If they do meet, the Secretary would be wise not to wear red.