Eye to eye with a madman

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on September 22, 2006

Something positive may have come out of the Council On Foreign Relations meeting with Iranian "President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- it looks like the influential group may have come to the conclusion that the head of state of Iran is a madman.

According to Maurice R. Greenberg, a holocaust survivor and head of the Nixon Center, Ahmadinejad is a very bad man.

Q: Please give us your perspective of President Ahmadinejad's much-publicized performance yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relation, where only members were invited and no televisions cameras were present. Could we start with your personal exchange with the president of Iran?

MRG: He has been quoted many times, including last evening, that the Holocaust needs to be explored as to whether or not it really occurred. And he says, "Well you know, every time somebody tries to do that, they get imprisoned." Well, the reason some have been imprisoned is because it's against the law in some places to deny that the Holocaust occurred.

Of course it occurred. And when he said that, I responded: "Listen, I went through Dachau during the war. To suggest it didn't occur is simply a lie." So he turned around and asked me how old I was, to determine if I was old enough to have been there. And then he changed the subject.

Q: So that was the extent of it?

MRG: Yes, but then there was a lot of follow up on that. He wanted to know why there was an objection to have professors and historians explore whether or not it had occurred. The fact of the matter, obviously we said, is that it's a recognized fact that it occurred; it was 6 million Jews that perished in the Holocaust and that any single individual that denies that is not only wrong but is also trying to be revisionist of history.

Q: Was it your sense that he truly doubts whether the Holocaust occurred or was he grandstanding? He was presumably playing just to that audience because there were no television cameras there.

MRG: No, no, but there were reporters there. Look, he has said this on many occasions, not just last evening. And it's offensive. I would say that this man, he's not only out of touch, he's very clever and I worry about what he's capable of doing. And I do believe that the administration's, and the president's in particular, view of Iran and the danger that it presents to the world, particularly our country and Israel, is not only real, it reflects a real and present danger. I do not think that we can take lightly what he stands for and is capable of, if he came into possession of nuclear weapons.

I encourage you to read the whole thing and see what it is we're facing. The sad truth is that with the Russian and Chinese refusals to stand fast against Iran's nuclear program are likley to put the U.S., Israel and other responsible nations must act without the United Nations' blessing. From an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal:

Chinese Middle East envoy Sun Bigan has rejected sanctions on Iran as "detrimental not only to the region but also to ourselves"--the latter a reference to China's oil imports from Iran, up 56% from last year. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov--who is selling Iran a $700 million air-defense system--also says sanctions won't work. That sentiment was echoed earlier this week by France's Jacques Chirac, whom the Bush Administration has claimed is a stalwart ally in stopping Iran. "I am never favorable to sanctions," said the French President, adding that, if they are unavoidable, they should be "moderate and adapted."

In other words, it has taken less than a month for the deadline set by Resolution 1696 to prove to be absolutely meaningless, something Mr. Ahmadinejad predicted in April. Why then would the Permanent Five risk their credibility as an institution by setting a deadline in the first place? Why threaten sanctions if they have no intention of imposing them?

The answer may be that U.N. diplomacy has come to serve as a deterrent not against Iran but against any American effort to do anything about Iran's rush to acquire the bomb. Iran's nuclear programs are accelerating under this diplomatic cover, as its inauguration of a heavy-water nuclear plant late last month shows. Heavy-water reactors are the kind that throw off more weapons-usable fuel. The Iranian newspaper Siyasat-e Ruz underlined that event as evidence of the "worthlessness of this American resolution."

Meanwhile, the "cowboy" American President looks increasingly like the one who's been lassoed by the U.N., not vice versa. In 2003, the U.S. agreed to downplay clear evidence that Iran was cheating on its nuclear nonproliferation treaty commitments in order to give European diplomacy a chance. The U.S. continued to do so even after it became clear that the Iranians continued to cheat well into 2004.

The world is becoming an ever more dangerous place -- and it's not because of the "cowboy" American president.

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