Great moments in baseless Osama speculation: Stephanopolous vs. Ahmadinejad
A lot of folks who’ve speculated about the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted man over the last 10 years don’t look all that smart today. We have a list up now of some unfortunate statements made by Pakistani officials, but they were hardly alone. Consider this 2010 interview in which ABC’s George Stephonopoulos confronted ...
A lot of folks who’ve speculated about the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted man over the last 10 years don’t look all that smart today. We have a list up now of some unfortunate statements made by Pakistani officials, but they were hardly alone.
Consider this 2010 interview in which ABC’s George Stephonopoulos confronted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the completely bizarre claim that bin Laden is in Iran. Ahmadinejad countered with the even crazier claim that bin Laden is in D.C. (The exchange starts around 4:45 in the video above.) It wasn’t really a great moment for either of them:
STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question. There’s a new documentary out that says that Osama bin Laden is living in Tehran. And the subject of the documentary, a man named Alan Parrot, one of the world’s foremost falconers living in Iran, says he’s spoken to Osama bin Laden several times since 2003. Is Osama bin Laden in Tehran?
AHMADINEJAD: Your question is laughable.
AHMADINEJAD: The U.S. government has invaded Afghanistan in order to arrest bin Laden. They probably know where bin Laden is. If they don’t know he is, why did they invade? Could we know the intelligence?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think if they knew, they would find him. They would get him.
AHMADINEJAD: First they should have tried to find his location, then invade, those who did not know about his location first they invaded and then they tried to find out where he is, is that logical? Do you think this is logical?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What I think is that you didn’t answer my question. Is he in Tehran or not?
AHMADINEJAD: Our position is quite clear. Some journalists have said bin Laden is in Iran. These words don’t have legal value. Our position towards Afghanistan and against terrorism is quite clear.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it true or not?
AHMADINEJAD: Maybe you know, but I don’t know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m asking you. You’re the President of Iran.
AHMADINEJAD: I don’t know such a thing, you are giving news which is very strange.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, let me ask it a different way. If you did know that Osama bin Laden was in Tehran, would you show him hospitality? Would you expel him? Would you arrest him?
AHMADINEJAD: I heard that Osama bin Laden is in the Washington, D.C.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, you didn’t.
AHMADINEJAD: Yes, I did. He’s there. Because he was a previous partner of Mr. Bush. They were colleagues in fact in the old days. You know that. They were in the oil business together. They worked together. Mr. bin Laden never cooperated with Iran but he cooperated with Mr. Bush–
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ll ask one more time and then I’ll let you go. If you knew that Osama bin Laden was in Tehran, which you say you don’t. If you knew, would you expel him? Would you arrest him? Would you show him hospitality?
AHMADINEJAD: Our borders, our borders are closed to the illegal entry of anyone. Anyone who that may be. Whether it’s the three American mountaineers, Mr. bin Laden or anyone else. The borders are closed. Our position is clear.
I’m quite surprised, to see that you adjust your daily lives based on the news that is being broadcast. I’m concerned that the government of the United States takes positions based on such news. If it is so, it is too bad. The news must be accurate and accountable, otherwise it will disrupt the relations between the nations. Just like this, did the government of the United States knew about the location of Mr. bin Laden? And you said, "No, they went to find out." Well, first you locate–
STEPHANOPOULOS: They lost the trail.
AHMADINEJAD: –to find out they have invaded Afghanistan. First they have to find out his location and then invade. It’s like for a judge to arrest someone and then go after the evidence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you deny categorically that he’s in Tehran today? He is not– Osama bin Laden is not in Tehran today?
AHMADINEJAD: Rest assured that he’s in Washington. I think there’s a high chance he’s there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don’t agree.
Thank you for your time, Mr. President.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy Twitter: @joshuakeating