Before his State Department days, while he was still a graduate student at Oxford, Cohen talked his way into a visa for Iran, where he hoped to interview members of the political resistance. Instead, he made friends his own age, while being dogged by a full-time official “tour guide,” whom he and his new companions nicknamed Ayatollah Assahola. (He is quick to point out that “if one didn’t know the context in which I was making those jokes, with friends, it might come across the wrong way.”) At night, his friends helped him evade his official escort and took him to Tehran’s underground house parties. “They make alcohol in their bathtubs and their sinks,” Cohen said. “And the drug use—it’s really no different from a frat party. You have to pinch yourself and remind yourself that you’re in the Islamic Republic of Iran.