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26.10.2014
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Iran flexes muscles as Geneva talks renew
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Boaz Bismuth

Smile -- and escape

It is not easy being an Iranian journalist these days. The Iranian journalists in Geneva are more open than ever, going along with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani's policy of smiles. This is entirely different from how they acted in the past in Turkey, Iraq and Kazakhstan. But on Wednesday, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a very aggressive speech, and this also influenced the Iranian journalists in Geneva. Should they smile like Rouhani or curse like Khamenei? To smile or not to smile, that is the question.

The same Iranian journalist who on Wednesday morning spoke to me knowing exactly who I was, even interviewing me for his media outlet, quickly came back to me later and asked me not to publish the picture I took with him during the interview. In the new Iran, there are still many shades of gray.

Iranian journalists transmitted reports from Geneva with headlines like "Iran stands behind the spiritual leader" and "Nuclear talks renew based on Iran's conditions." Rouhani and his smiles were suddenly pushed to the back pages.

In the press room, a very special dynamic has developed -- a fraternity of waiting. Everyone is talking with everyone, everyone wants information from everyone, and, most of all, everyone wants to go home. Chinese journalists are trying to get information from their German counterparts, who are fed information by French journalists, who check out what is being said by British journalists, who receive reports from American journalists. Standing in the background are the many Iranian journalists, who are willing to volunteer information to those who want it. Hours pass and even tweets do not excite the crowd of journalists. They fear a repeat of the scenario two weeks ago in which they were forced to spend a Saturday night anxiously waiting with growling stomachs. Some of them do not care whether there will be an agreement or not, or whether Iran will get the bomb or not. They just want there to be an epilogue to this never-ending story.

If I were Khamenei, I would be worried about one thing: Iranian journalists getting too much exposure to their Israeli colleagues. Since 1979, there have not been many chances for natural encounters between Israelis and Iranians. Suddenly, after so many years, the nuclear talks have given Israelis and Iranians a common interest: to escape the meeting hall in Geneva.

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