Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Ahmadinejad as Hitler

He called for more "research" into the unequivocal facts of the Holocaust, said Iranian women were among the freest in the...

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

He called for more "research" into the unequivocal facts of the Holocaust, said Iranian women were among the freest in the world, and declared that homosexuality did not exist in his country. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad courts controversy wherever he goes, and his visit to New York last week was no exception. Addressing the UN General Assembly last Tuesday, Iran’s president said he considered the dispute over his country’s nuclear program "closed." Even before his arrival, he had asked—and was denied—permission to lay a wreath at the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.

But it was Ahmadinejad’s appearance last Monday at Columbia University that generated the most press buzz and protests. In a chiding introduction that has since generated sharply divided reactions, university President Lee Bollinger described the Iranian leader as "exhibiting all the signs of a cruel and petty dictator" and condemned his denial of the Holocaust as "either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated."

Ahmadinejad came out swinging, calling Bollinger’s words "insults" and proceeded to deliver a speech to the university’s faculty and students that meandered between a religious sermon and a treatise on science. He repeated provocative statements that at times bordered on the absurd. He remained evasive on questions that ranged from human rights abuses in Iran to his call for Israel to be "wiped from the pages of history," often responding to them with opaque rhetorical questions.

When asked for a one-word answer—"yes or no"—as to whether his government desired the "destruction of Israel as a Jewish state," Ahmadinejad responded: "And then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn’t really a free flow of information. … I’m asking you, is the Palestinian issue not an international issue of prominence or not? Please tell me, yes or no." His answer received laughter and applause.

Ahmadinejad’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, with the George W. Bush administration pushing the UN Security Council for a third round of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic for its refusal to shut down its nuclear program. Analysts suggest that the Iranian leader’s meandering monologues and fiery rebuttals are all part of a contest of rhetorical muscle, a classic game of political theater.

"It’s a last bid to divide the West," said Michael Hirsch, a senior editor at Newsweek magazine, during a forum at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He added: "I think it’s generally a good idea when you’re inviting people to your university not to tell them upon arrival that they’re not welcome, because then you look crazier than Ahmadinejad."

Ahmadinejad has used the Khomeinist-inspired rhetoric of the Islamic Revolution to his advantage, playing a widely despised villain in the Western media while pandering to his domestic base and projecting an air of defiance toward U.S. power.

But experts say that the Iranian leader has also drawn heavy domestic criticism for his mismanagement of the Iranian economy, as well as his brash remarks about the Holocaust, comments that, in the long term, threaten to derail any possible improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations.

"I was astonished when I was [in Iran]. I actually had more on-the-record conversations criticizing Ahmadinejad with Iranian politicians and businessmen than I have here in Washington criticizing Bush," said Hirsch.

In one interview with an Iranian newspaper editor, Hirsch said that the editor remarked: "You know, one of the things we say around here is that Bush is your Ahmadinejad."

"They’re similar personalities, both sort of pandering to their conservative religious political base, crudely spoken, not especially masters of their native languages," said Hirsch.

The rhetoric portends an ominous future for the tense standoff between Israel and Iran, which analysts believe is a geo-strategic conflict that is largely being couched in ideological terms.

While it appears the Iranian government has made an explicit effort to bring Israel into the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad’s comments about the Holocaust have angered many inside Iranian elite foreign policy circles because they distract from the more pressing issues of the country’s security.

"[Ahmadinejad] actually crossed an invisible red line that exists inside Iran’s own internal politics," said Trita Parsi, an Iran specialist and head of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council who also writes for the Inter Press Service.

"Criticizing Israel was never something the Iranians were sensitive about—they’re quite thick-skinned about it to be frank—but talking about the Holocaust was no longer about Israel, and this was something about the entire Jewish experience," he said. "[Ahmadinejad] caused a tremendous amount of anger."

It appears that Israeli politicians are also using the rhetoric to their advantage.

"[Benjamin] Netanyahu, he has a metaphor. It’s 1938, and Iran is Germany, and he goes on to imply that Ahmadinejad is Hitler," said Parsi, referring to the former Israeli prime minister and head of the right-wing Likud bloc in Israel’s Knesset. "If Iran is Germany and Ahmadinejad is Hitler, who in his or her right mind wants to play the part of Neville Chamberlain?"

It remains to be seen what impact Ahmadinejad’s visit will have on the more crucial issues at hand. So far, Iran’s attempts to foment division among the key members of the UN Security Council appear to be working.

Six nations—Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States—agreed Friday to delay until November a new resolution that would toughen sanctions against Iran, waiting to see if Tehran cooperates with UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei and answers outstanding questions about its disputed nuclear program.

To more discerning critics, Ahmadinejad’s U.S. visit only adds more smoke and mirrors to an already-tangled political situation in the Middle East, one that the United States cannot afford to exacerbate further by militarily confronting Iran.

"The overwhelming tide of opinion that Bush is hearing from the Pentagon is that this would be foolhardy and extreme and result in many repercussions in Iraq," said Hirsch. "Bush knows that Iraq is his legacy, and that has sucked all the oxygen out of the room."

Khody Akhavi is a writer for the Inter Press Service.

 

Citations

Khody Akhavi, "Ahmadinejad as Hitler," Right Web Analysis (Somerville, MA: International Relations Center, October 2, 2007).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share