I’m going to miss Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It will be a sad day for Iran’s avowed enemies when he steps down from the presidency, which he is scheduled to do in nine months.
Admittedly, his post is mostly symbolic; the real decisions are made by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. But Ahmadinejad performs an important, albeit inadvertent, role: He reminds Americans every year just how deranged and dangerous the regime in Tehran remains. Ahmadinejad has used his annual pilgrimages to New York for the UN General Assembly to opine on a host of topics–and almost everything he says offends some substantial American constituency.
As the New York Times notes in a tour de force summary of his latest remarks: “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran stoked the anger of Israel, the United States, Syrian insurgents and gay rights advocates on Monday, using the first full day of his final visit to the United Nations as Iran’s leader to assert that he has no fear of an Israeli attack on his country’s nuclear facilities, regards the Israelis as fleeting aberrations in Middle East history, is neutral in the Syria conflict, and considers homosexuality an ugly crime.”
Such remarks do not serve Iran’s purposes, since the Iranian government wants to project a false air of moderation. Rather, they serve to unmask the ugliness lurking not so far beneath the surface. They also serve as an implicit challenge to the U.S. and the West: Whatcha gonna do about it? Insofar as we have done precious little, beyond imposing sanctions, his annual mockery of the West is also a reminder of how much remains to be done to stop the Iranian nuclear program and to help the Iranian people rid themselves of their unelected rulers.