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Waiting for a US-Iran handshake

Iran's diplomatic elite believe that the time has come to lead the region.

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Alireza is an unassuming 20-something Iranian. He works as a producer for Iran's state broadcaster. But he is no ordinary Islamic Republic civil servant.

Alireza returned to Iran two years ago, after growing up in New York and studying at an elite Canadian university. His bilingual ability in English and Farsi, fluent Arabic, and good government connections will serve him well in the evolving Islamic Republic of the 21st century.

He is, ultimately, a symbolic face of Iran's diplomatic future. And if Iran's growing regional clout compels Washington years from now to offer Tehran allied status, Alireza could quite possibly be part of the handshake that confirms the deal.

Sitting in a plush traditional restaurant in Tehran's upscale Vanak Square one rainy afternoon last month, Alireza, who preferred that his last name not be published, reflected on Iran's regional rise.

Iranian military speedboats had recently come within firing range of US warships in the Persian Gulf, nearly provoking an international incident. The Pentagon backed down after reports of early combative rhetoric and revealed that the Iranian Navy had not threatened to "blow up" the US ships as originally claimed.

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