Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: $12 Million Iranian Embassy In Washington Remains Empty

The $12 million compound, once a playground for the Iranian ambassador and guests like Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol and Richard M. Nixon, now sits empty on Washington’s Embassy Row. The five-story Upper East Side townhouse that served as a consulate was long ago repurposed as the headquarters of a dealer of old master paintings. And the seven-bedroom Bethesda, Md., ranch house for Iranian diplomats is now the home of a family of five. The properties, and seven others across the United States assessed altogether at more than $50 million, still belong to the Islamic Republic of Iran. But for nearly 40 years, the task of maintaining and putting the properties out for rent has fallen to an unlikely management company — the State Department. The arrangement is one of the stranger consequences of the diplomatic freeze between United States and Iran, two former allies that cut official ties after Iranian revolutionaries took 52 Americans hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Although much has changed since the nuclear deal last year, when Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, experts say Iran and the United States are still years away from re-establishing diplomatic relations. As a result, Iran’s properties in the United States remain in limbo, with little prospect of change.

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