Commentary Magazine


Ahmadinejad’s Stale Script

Though the annual United Nations General Assembly speech from Iranian genocidal anti-Semite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is always offensive yet never truly interesting, his occasional interaction with the press can be worth watching. The delicate dance dictators do with their interviewers in the West often offers a cheat sheet in how the murderous maniacs code their hateful messages to give them a sheen of respectability.

Sometimes the press performs a valuable service in such cases by at least allowing monstrous men to display their monstrousness for all to see, though few fall into this trap. Other times, just asking a tough question or two can have the benefit of making the dictator and his audience painfully aware of the freedom enjoyed by the press and the public outside his country. So I can’t help but be puzzled by veteran foreign affairs editor David Ignatius’s interview with Ahmadinejad for the Washington Post, which seems to indicate that interviewing Ahmadinejad has nothing left to offer. Partway through the interview, the two have the following exchange:

Ignatius: Mr. President, can I ask you to turn to the P5+1 negotiations.

Ahmadinejad; “We are sincerely and truly ready. We have given many sound proposals as well. Fundamentally, we have no concerns about moving forward with the dialogue, we have always wanted a dialogue. We have a very clear logic: We do believe that if everyone adheres to the rule of law and everyone respects all parties, that there will be no problems.”

Of course the Iranians want to talk. Their strategy is to buy time, and prolonging failed negotiations that the Iranians conduct in bad faith is forever at the top of the Iranian wish list. But I suppose one question about negotiations is standard. So why does Ignatius take the interview in that direction and rarely veer back onto more concrete items?

The two talk about the P5+1 issue for a bit, but then just as soon as the two have moved on, they come right back to it and have this exchange:

Ignatius: So you wouldn’t expect significant progress until our election is over?

Ahmadinejad: “About the nuclear issue, you mean?”

Ignatius: Yes, dialogue between our two countries, significant progress in any of these negotiations.

Why would there be significant progress after a theoretical Obama re-election? Is Obama the problem? Has Obama been too tough in negotiations with the Iranians? Has the president shown insufficient “flexibility”–the new watchword for Obama’s diplomacy? Isn’t the answer to these questions an obvious “no”? Here is what comes next in the interview:

Ahmadinejad: “I firmly believe that the best type of government is the government that firmly pursues the wishes of her people. We have always been ready and we are ready. But experience has shown that important and key decisions are not made in the U.S. leading up to national elections. Am I right?”

Ignatius: You are correct. …So let me ask you about two issues where everyone wants to make peace and the interests of the United States and Iran might be similar. And the first is Syria. There’s a terrible war eating Syria alive, and I wonder if you, as head of your government, have any proposals that might lead to a just ceasefire. Not the status quo, but something different.

Yes, Mr. Ahmadinejad, you’ve wisely diagnosed the malady afflicting American democracy; now let us negotiate about the Syrian slaughter you’re aiding and abetting: any ideas?

When they finish solving Syria, they come around to this exchange:

Ignatius: What I’m hearing is that perhaps after the U.S. election, if the U.S. is interested in dialogue with Iran about Afghanistan, direct discussions might be welcome.

Ahmadinejad: Yes, as I stated we have been the main architects of several regional meetings, three of which have already taken place. And we are very willing to give them green light for their involvement in these gatherings, as well. But the condition is any country’s respect for self-governance and self-rule of Afghanistan, and the independence of Afghanistan.”

More negotiations, this time on Afghanistan.

I’m not suggesting Iran would not, in a more perfect world, have a serious role to play in the stability of the Mideast. But under current conditions, Iran’s concept of a stable Middle East is very different from ours, and its leaders have given us no indication that they take negotiations seriously or mean what they say. The conversation now goes around in circles: Ahmadinejad is asked for his help, he says sure, let’s talk, and then goes back to brutally suppressing his people, executing gays, working toward the annihilation of the Jewish people, and ordering terrorist attacks on Western targets across the globe. Then we ask for his help again.

Do the U.S. and Iran have anything left to say to each other? If they do, you won’t find it in Ahmadinejad’s interviews.

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