Iran’s nuclear envoy borrows handy nearby chair–of Israeli delegation

In the high-stakes arena of international nuclear politics, Middle Eastern adversaries Iran and Israel rarely miss a chance to publicly declare their hostility. But sometimes, like everybody, their envoys apparently get distracted from the whole arch-foe, kabuki body language such demonstrations of formal hostility mandate.

Witness that Iran's diplomatic delegation somehow managed to park itself at Israel's seating area at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency last week, as originally reported by Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blogger Colum Lynch.

In the photo provided to Lynch, Iran's envoy to the UN atomic watchdog agency, Dr. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, seems simply to be too absorbed by the diplomatic business at hand to notice the symbolic--if no doubt inadvertent--seat-swap with the Israeli delegation on the conference floor. (That's Soltanieh, bearded in the white shirt, sitting at the Israeli delegate's seat, flanked by two standing Iranian aides, conferring with his Cuban and Irish counterparts.)

"It's hard to imagine how the top Iranian diplomat, after serving more than six years as Tehran's envoy to the atomic agency, wound up in the Israeli seat without an alarm bell going off in his head," Lynch mused. "You'd think there was a protocol office within the Iranian foreign mission responsible for avoiding such a diplomatic faux pas."

Or perhaps the more likely explanation came via Foreign Policy editor David Kenner in a tweet: Sometimes you just really need a place to sit down.

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