The Ayatollah Drops by the Stem Cell Lab UPDATED!

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"Ayatollah Khamenei visiting Royan Institute for Reproductive Biomedicine," Instagram via @Khamenei_ir, the Iranian Supreme Leader's Twitter feed. The Royan Institute is Iran's center for stem cell research.


Khamenei has just over 5,100 Twitter followers. The image first appeared three days ago.

UPDATE: While scrolling through Khamenei's list of followers, the address @USEmbassyIran leapt out at us. Two hours later the State Department's Laura Seal, a spokeswoman, confirmed that the US had rolled out a digital Radio Free Europe-esque effort directed at Iran last December. Called the Virtual Embassy -- the US does not have a physical embassy in Iran -- the effort seeks "to penetrate the electronic curtain of isolation the Iranian leadership has imposed on its people," according to the inevitable backgrounder. They publish US news in English and Persian to whomever is reading.

That's the official version. The practical result is exponentially weirder. What appears to be Virtual Embassy's related Twitter feed @USEmbassyIran, is a hoax -- but otherwise seems to act like a real feed, rather than the usual satires. It has only ten followers, comprised of  an oil and mining newsletter, a few spambots, an Undersecretary of State's assistant, and, curiously, the city of Los Gatos, California's "ShopLosGatos" initiative.  The giveaway is the tweets themselves are peculiarly airy in tone, occupying a rare literary space halfway between Wikileaks and Rumi:

US Embassy Iran ‏@USEmbassyIran

@khamenei_ir - Peace requires mutual sacrifice, two hands, walking off a cliff together.

US Embassy Iran ‏@USEmbassyIran

@khamenei_ir - A leap of faith requires one to act without sight, but in hope of the desired outcome. For peace faith is required.

US Embassy Iran ‏@USEmbassyIran

@khamenei_ir - We look forward to the continued normalization of ties between our two great nations. -A

The address follows four feeds itself, three of which are the White House, the US mission to the United Nations and the State Department itself. The fourth is Khamenei. If it's a joke, it's a subtle one. If it's a promotional effort, it's failing. If it's someone's pastime, it would be interesting to know if that person is American, Iranian, or from elsewhere. The State Dept's Seal said it's not their work.