Ahmadinejad in New York
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
In some respects President Ahmadinejad’s visit is a public relations mission. He told CNN that he would meet with Senators McCain and Obama. In the General Assembly, he played to the passions of the American left by railing about the “occupation of Iraq.” On Israel he used Europe’s oldest anti-Semitic language to blame “a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists” for “dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers.” He told Los Angeles Times that Israel is an “airplane that had lost its engine,” whose inevitable crash would “benefit everyone.”
In last night’s interview with Larry King, the Iranian told the interviewer that he did not particularly care what the two major presidential candidates said during the campaign. “This is the campaign period, anyone can say anything,” he said. “What matters is that once someone is in office, we have to watch and see if that person will bring about some changes in policy or continue the same old path.”
This is surely the kind of talk that must be music to the ears of a diplomatic establishment that has, for some time, called for an unconditional dialogue with the mullahs. The problem is that these pesky politicians in the White House and Congress always seem to get in the way. But why have both Senators Obama and McCain been unflinching in at least describing the danger emanating from Iran?
It is not just because they see things that way. It is also because a man like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revolts Americans. When he acceded in 2005, many of the ex-hostages taken captive in 1979 identified the new president as one of their tormentors. More discerning Americans may have also remembered stories in our paper about the Austrian investigation in Mr. Ahmadinejad’s role in the assassination of a Kurdish Iranian leader.
Then there are the words of the Iranian president himself. He once commissioned a Holocaust cartoon contest whose winning entry depicted Hitler in bed with Anne Frank saying, “Put that in your diary.”
Finally there is the record of the Iranians themselves. Their foreign policy consists largely of financing, directing, and supporting terrorism throughout the Middle East and beyond. Their military in an important sense does not wear a uniform other than the suicide bomb vest.
Perhaps this new approach from Iran’s president is aimed at winning over the small minority of Americans who agree with the Quaker Lobby that is hosting him tomorrow at the Hyatt Hotel for an Iftar dinner. But we doubt it. It would be best if Messrs. Obama and McCain would seize the opportunity to correct any misimpressions the Iranian leader might have about their policies once one of them wins the White House. Realistically, a bipartisan position would express America’s deep commitment to Israel’s survival, a shared view of opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and a shared view about ending Iran’s transfer of arms and its financial support for terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.