Even as the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton is urging America to negotiate with Iran, the regime in Tehran is coming under renewed internal and external pressure.
Iranian students yesterday staged a bold protest against President Ahmadinejad, interrupting his speech with firecrackers and burning his picture. The students cried "death to the dictator," and one carried a sign referring to Mr. Ahmadinejad as a "Fascist president."
The demonstrations came as the Iranian government was serving as host and sponsor of a two-day conference looking to cast doubt on the murder of 6 million Jews during World War II. That conference drew denunciations in New York and Europe.
The activity also came as Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was recently hospitalized with a cardiac crisis and cancer, according to a report by Michael Ledeen on PajamasMedia.
Billed by Iran as a forum for "independent research" on the genocide, the two-day summit in Tehran is bringing together Holocaust deniers from around the world, including a former head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and a French radical, Robert Faurisson, who received a three-month suspended jail sentence in October for denying the Holocaust, which is a crime in France.
Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered the event after calling the Holocaust a myth last year. The Iranian leader has also said that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
The Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, hailed the "bravery" of participants at the conference, saying the West did not allow the Holocaust to be "freely investigated," Bloomberg News reported.
In Tehran yesterday, a group of students disrupted a speech by Mr. Ahmadinejad at Amir Kabir University, smashing cameras and shouting "death to the dictator," Agence France-Presse reported. The president, who has faced repeated student demonstrations in recent days, responded by criticizing America as "the worst type of dictatorship," the student news agency ISNA reported.
The Holocaust conference drew strong denunciations from America and Israel, but also from Germany, where historians held a separate forum on the facts about the Holocaust. The German government has labored for decades to come to grips with the genocide Nazi leaders perpetrated between 1939 and 1945. Its foreign ministry has summoned Iran's representative in the country to discuss the conference, the Associated Press reported.
Outside the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan yesterday, elected officials, Jewish leaders, and Holocaust survivors rallied against the conference and the regime in Tehran.
"It is important for us, but it is most important for the entire world to stand up," the speaker of the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver, said. "Nations around the world must stand up and tell this hatemonger, ĎYou're not acceptable. Your tone is not acceptable. Your rhetoric is not acceptable. Your denial of the Holocaust is not acceptable.'"
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat representing parts of Queens and Brooklyn, used the rally to call on the U.N. to adopt a tough stance on Iran and take Mr. Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel and America seriously. "Do we believe what the Iranian leader is saying, or do we believe he's just posturing?" Mr. Weiner asked. "History shows us that if you take the latter position, you're probably wrong."
Saying policymakers and citizens alike have to "respond as if this guy is as crazy and his country is as erratic as it seems to be," Mr. Weiner warned that Iran's provocations represented a test for the U.N. "This is what the United Nations was created for," he said. "It was created to make sure we don't have Ahmadinejads of the world running around unchecked. It was created to make sure people who promise to do evil, hateful things are stopped before they do."
A spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, said last week that Mr. Annan "personally believes that any attempt to cast doubt on the reality of this unique and undeniable horror must be firmly resisted by all people of goodwill and of whatever faith." The General Assembly in January passed a resolution rejecting any denial of the Holocaust, "either in full or part."
At the New York rally, leaders of several Jewish organizations called Iran's denials of the Holocaust an "insult."
"This is not free speech; this is hate speech. This cannot be tolerated," the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said.
Senator Clinton sent a letter to the organizers of the New York rally in which she decried the "hateful and inciteful actions of the Iranian government," saying they add greater urgency to the need to prevent Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.