Ahmadinejad does New York

The West constantly asks itself: What is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really saying? The Iranian president’s translator during the recent trip to the U.N. General Assembly sheds some light on this question in a fascinating piece for the New York Observer. He notes how translations often miss the subtle jabs that Ahmadinejad delivers. For instance, when the newscaster ...

606888_AhmadinejadNBC5.jpg
606888_AhmadinejadNBC5.jpg

The West constantly asks itself: What is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really saying? The Iranian president's translator during the recent trip to the U.N. General Assembly sheds some light on this question in a fascinating piece for the New York Observer. He notes how translations often miss the subtle jabs that Ahmadinejad delivers. For instance, when the newscaster Brian Williams asked Ahmadinejad why he was wearing a suit for his interview rather than his trademark canvas jacket, Ahmadinejad's reply was rendered as "you wear a suit, so I wore a suit." When what he really said was more like "you are a suit, so I wore a suit."

It seems Ahmandinejad is far from curious. He displayed zero interest in doing any sight-seeing while in New York. But he did want to meet with Michael Moore (first bin Laden, now Ahmadinejad - Moore has quite the fan club). What Mrs. Ahmadinejad (who, unlike the wives of previous Iranian leaders, accompanied her husband) thought of all this is unclear. Ahmadinejad had a couple of events in New York that were closed to the press, including a dinner with 500 ex-pat Iranians. There he explained to a supportive crowd why Iranian relations with the United States were now much better than they were last year: 

Last year," he said, "we were under serious threats—military threats. Today, at the very worst, it's economic threats, and even that—well, I don't really want to say, but for those who would like to pursue them, the situation is not conducive."

The West constantly asks itself: What is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really saying? The Iranian president’s translator during the recent trip to the U.N. General Assembly sheds some light on this question in a fascinating piece for the New York Observer. He notes how translations often miss the subtle jabs that Ahmadinejad delivers. For instance, when the newscaster Brian Williams asked Ahmadinejad why he was wearing a suit for his interview rather than his trademark canvas jacket, Ahmadinejad’s reply was rendered as “you wear a suit, so I wore a suit.” When what he really said was more like “you are a suit, so I wore a suit.”

It seems Ahmandinejad is far from curious. He displayed zero interest in doing any sight-seeing while in New York. But he did want to meet with Michael Moore (first bin Laden, now Ahmadinejad – Moore has quite the fan club). What Mrs. Ahmadinejad (who, unlike the wives of previous Iranian leaders, accompanied her husband) thought of all this is unclear. Ahmadinejad had a couple of events in New York that were closed to the press, including a dinner with 500 ex-pat Iranians. There he explained to a supportive crowd why Iranian relations with the United States were now much better than they were last year: 

Last year,” he said, “we were under serious threats—military threats. Today, at the very worst, it’s economic threats, and even that—well, I don’t really want to say, but for those who would like to pursue them, the situation is not conducive.”

Ahmadinejad is clearly confident that the international community lacks the will to stop his nuclear program. One has a horrible feeling that he might be right.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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