U don’t speak for the whole world

Posted: September 21, 2006 in News & Views

And it takes one short person from a third world country, carrying a big stick, to say this… in the Lion’s den even!

ahmadinejad.jpg

When President Bush and his advisers decided to allow President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran into the country to address the United Nations, their strategy was simple: containment.

It turned out that Mr. Ahmadinejad had a Plan B.

Over the objections of the administration and Jewish groups that boycotted the event, Mr. Ahmadinejad, the man who has become the defiant face of Iran, squared off with the nation’s foreign policy establishment, parrying questions for an hour and three-quarters with two dozen members of the Council on Foreign Relations, then ending the evening by asking whether they were simply shills for the Bush administration.

He traced the history of 50 years of unfilled deals with the United States, Germany, France and others — skipping over the Iranian revolution and the hostage-taking that followed — and concluded,

“How can we rely on these partners.”

His solution? The United States should shut down its own fuel production and:

“within five years, we will sell you our own fuel, with a 50 percent discount!”

He settled back into his seat with a broad smile that some in the group described as a smirk.

When Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, told Mr. Ahmadinejad that Iran “did everything possible to destroy’’ efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the president said,

“If you believe Iran is the reason for the failure, you are making a second mistake.’’ Why, he asked, should the Palestinians be asked to “pay for an event they had nothing to do with’’ in World War II, saying that they had nothing to do with the systematic killing of Jews — if those killings, he added, had happened at all.

“In World War II about 60 million people were killed,’’ he said at one point, when pressed again on his refusal to accept that the Holocaust happened. “Two million were military. Why is such prominence given to a small portion of those 60 million?’’

A few minutes later, he asked a question himself:

“In the Council on Foreign Relations, is there any voice of support for the Palestinians?’’

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s habit of answering every question about Iranian policy with a question about American policy was clearly wearing on some of the members, but at the end they acknowledged that he was about as skillful an interlocutor as they had ever encountered. “He is a master of counterpunch, deception, circumlocution,’’ Mr. Scowcroft said, shaking his head. Mr. Blackwill emerged from the conversation wondering how the United States would ever be able to negotiate with this Iranian government.

“If this man represents the prevailing government opinion in Tehran, we are heading for a massive confrontation with Iran,” he said.

The U.S. doesn’t speak for the whole world,’’ Mr. Ahmadinejad responded, noting that at a meeting of nonaligned nations in Cuba over the weekend “118 countries defended the right of Iran to enrich.’’

And as he left, it was with a jab to his hosts.

“At the beginning of the session, you said you were an independent group,’’ he said. “But almost everything that I was asked came from a government position.’’ Then he smiled, thanked everyone and left the room with a light step.

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