Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, New York, demonstrates the futility of attempts at US-Iranian dialogue

The Iranian president, clearly enjoying every moment of the uproar he provoked in American discourse, parried the tough questions posed him at the end of his speech to 600 students and faculty Monday, Sept. 24, by throwing questions back, longwinded evasions and barefaced lies.
From his first words, Ahmadinejad showed that, far from being a potential partner for dialogue, he incarnates the arrogant, intolerant certainty that there is only one correct path, the one pursued by the Islamic Revolutionary Republic of Iran. Even so, his glib, hectoring style of speech is known to grate on more than one of his colleagues at home.
As demonstrators rallied outside the campus, the Iranian president was asked if he supported terrorism. He replied that Iran was itself a victim of terrorism. He did not mention the US, but cited the camps in Iraq housing terrorists responsible for 4000 Iranian deaths, a transparent reference to the opposition Iranian Mujahedin Qalq. The Americans banned this group for many years, reactivating it last year in response to Iran’s massive aid to Iraqi insurgents fighting US troops.
Asked about his government’s nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said its intentions were peaceful. Therefore, he said: “Iran does not want the bomb.”
Ahmadinejad dodged the question about his declared wish to wipe Israel off the map by saying the Palestinians must have the freedom to self-determination. But at the end of his speech, he said: Iran has always sought friendly relations with all nations except for two, “the South African apartheid regime (which no long exists) and the Zionist regime.”
He thus obliquely reaffirmed his wish for the latter to go the same way as the former, off the map.
Regarding his denial of the Nazi Holocaust, he declared piously: “We academics must always pursue more research.”
Women are free and respected in Iranian culture, said the Iranian president with great solemnity, when asked why Iranian women were denied human rights. As to the execution of homosexuals, “We do not have homosexuals in our country like you,” said he with a straight face.
Interestingly, the Iranian president was not heckled or interrupted even once, even at his most outrageous. Some of his comments were greeted with applause. He clearly attained his main objective: a respectful hearing in the heart of a prestigious American center of learning in New York.
Ahmadinejad showed he was skeptical not only of the “Holocaust myth” but America’s affirmation of the “real hands” behind the 9/11 atrocities when he asked: “Who really did execute the attack?” This question will be understood in Arab and Muslim bazaars as echoing the anti-Semitic libel current there that the al Qaeda attack was a Zionist plot.
Even though Columbia University President Lee Bollinger greeted the Iranian visitor as “a cruel and petty tyrant and terrorist,” there is no gainsaying that he granted a coveted platform to a world figure who abused it to disseminate a creed which preaches the superiority of the Iranian race, culture and religion and whose highest objective is the downfall of Big Satan America and Little Satan Israel.

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