Ahmadinejad’s shtick is getting a bit stale
There was a time when a visit to New York by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the subject of extraordinary curiosity, leading to appearances on the nations’ top news shows, including Charlie Rose, and providing fodder for Saturday Night Live skits. Who can forget the image of the comedian Andy Samberg serenading the faux Iranian ...
There was a time when a visit to New York by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the subject of extraordinary curiosity, leading to appearances on the nations' top news shows, including Charlie Rose, and providing fodder for Saturday Night Live skits.
There was a time when a visit to New York by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the subject of extraordinary curiosity, leading to appearances on the nations’ top news shows, including Charlie Rose, and providing fodder for Saturday Night Live skits.
Who can forget the image of the comedian Andy Samberg serenading the faux Iranian leader, dressed in a shoulder-less red dress, on a romantic stroll through Manhattan streets? "I know you say there are no gays in Iran, but you’re in New York baby," crooned Samberg.
The controversial Iranian leader still attracts the media elite, with lunches for top editors, broadcast anchors, and TV appearances. And the timing of the release of the two imprisoned American hikers on the eve of his visit has given a boost to his newsworthiness.
But his appearances before the U.N. General Assembly are beginning to have a routine feel to them. The Iranian provocateur mounts an attack on American and European world domination, mixing some awkward truths with patent distortions.
He takes jabs at the Zionists, and then throws out a conspiracy theory for the world to chew on. As if on schedule, the United States and its Western allies, usually represented by junior diplomats, walk out in protest.
Today was hardly different. Ahmadinejad delivered a lengthy speech that revisited a litany of Western offenses, beginning with slavery and U.S. intervention in Korea and Vietnam, and culminating with recent Western-led wars in Afghanistan, Iran, and Libya. "Do these arrogant powers really have the competence and ability to run or govern the world?" he said. "Can the flower of democracy blossom from NATO’s missiles, bombs, and guns?"
Ahmadinejad then played the Holocaust card, saying the West has used "their imperialistic media network" to "threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the Sept. 11 event with sanctions and military actions."
"If some European countries still use the Holocaust, after six decades, as the excuse to pay fine or ransom to the Zionists, should it not be an obligation upon slave masters or colonial powers to pay reparations to the affected nations?" he asked?
He also rehashed a previous conspiracy theory suggesting that the United States had engaged in a cover-up to shield the true perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. "Who used the mysterious Sept. 11 incident as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, killing, injuring, and displacing millions in two countries with the ultimate goal of bringing into its domination the Middle East and its oil resources."
The Iranian leader sharply criticized the U.S. assassination of Osama bin Laden, suggesting that it might be a cover-up. "Why should it not have been allowed to bring him to trial to help recognize those who launched terrorist groups and brought wars and other miseries into the region?" he asked. "Is there any classified information that must be kept secret?"
After the speech, the United States quickly issued a statement denouncing Ahmadinejad. "Mr. Ahmadinejad had a chance to address his own people’s aspirations for freedom and dignity, but instead he again turned to abhorrent anti-Semitic slurs and despicable conspiracy theories," said Mark Kornblau, the spokesman for Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Human rights groups also weighed in. "While President Ahmadinejad is lecturing the world from the U.N. podium, dissent is still being crushed ruthlessly in Iran and basic rights demanded by millions in the Arab world are brutally denied to Iranians who are demanding the same," said Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch. "The world assembly should take with a grain of salt the remarks of a leader who said nothing about the public hanging yesterday of a 17-year-old in his own country."
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
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