Monday, April 20th, 2009
What did Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance at the opening of the Durban II conference on racism do to President Obama’s stated desire to look for new routes for dialog with Iran?
Here’s a clue: it probably didn’t help.
This morning Ahmadinejad – the only major world figure to address a conference that the U.S. is boycotting because it seems designed to be a repeat of a 2001 meeting dominated by anti-Israel rhetoric and, sometimes, overt anti-Semitism – confirmed the views of U.S. officials and produced criticism from U.N. officials who somehow hoped the meeting wouldn’t be a rerun.
Apparently referring to the West, the Iranian president said “following World War II they resorted to military aggressions to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering. They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine.”
Interestingly, Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust, made an oblique reference to it, saying “In compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”
Does that mean he now accepts the reality of the Holocaust?
Amb. Edward Walker, a longtime State Department official and onetime U.S. ambassador to Israel, said Ahmadinejad’s tirade didn’t help the Obama administration as it reexamines the U.S. policy of keeping Iran in the diplomatic deep freeze.
The outburst “makes President Obama’s olive branch to Ahmadinejad look absurd,” he said today. “I don’t see how you have ‘dialog’ with an insane man.”
The saddest comment of the day may have come from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite. We must all turn away from such a message in both form and substance.”
Which ignores the question of why his organization allowed a conference under its auspices to turn into the kind of farce U.S. officials had predicted.