The arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York on Sunday evoked statements of condemnation from former Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The Iranian leader is in the city to address the United Nations General Assembly today. Jewish and pro-Israel groups held a planned demonstration, protesting remarks made by the Iranian President in 2005 in which he said “Israel should be wiped off the map”.
Senator Clinton had planned to go to the rally but pulled out last week when she was made aware that Palin was also due to attend. Bizarrely, the organisers then banned Palin from attending citing unwanted media attention. Malcolm Hoenlein, one of the organisers of the demonstration, told FOX News “Regrettably the focus of the rally has been obfuscated by media feeding frenzy in recent days.”
It was an odd statement. Surely the organisers wanted the protest to make front page news – guaranteed were Palin to attend – leading some to suggest that the Democrats had applied pressure on the organisers, threatening IRS action if they allowed the Republican running mate to speak.
Despite their absence, both women offered comment on the ever-deteriorating relationship between the US and Persian state, with Clinton maintaining her stance that that Iran “cannot be allowed to build or acquire nuclear weapons”.
When Senator McCain was asked in April about a second military invasion in the region, he replied by singing “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,” to the tune of the Beach Boys Barbara Ann. Palin’s statement was a little more measured: “We must start with restrictions on Iran’s refined petroleum imports. We must reduce our dependency on foreign oil to weaken Iran’s economic influence.”
Neither Clinton nor Palin emerged from the mess with any great credit. In fact, the only winner on show was Ahmadinejad who, aware of the storm around his visit, lapped up the media attention, revelling in the role of international bête noir.
Outside the UN, the demonstration, attended by thousands, boasted several international speakers, with Hoenlein delivering an impassioned condemnation:
“This (Iran) is the leading sponsor of state terrorism in the world. This is the leading executioner of women and children. This is a man (Ahmadinejad) who persecutes his own people, even Muslims who don’t agree with him. It’s time to end the terror by stopping Iran now.”
There is no question that Iran is a major threat to the Middle East and consequently world security. Ahmadinejad too is rightly regarded as a pariah for his comments on the destruction of Israel and his denial of the holocaust.
However, is Iran really the leading sponsor of State terrorism? Iran doesn’t use use money from oil production to export of virulent form of Wahhabi extremism, sanctioning the murder of non-believers. That’s Saudi Arabia.
It is also notable that not one of the 9/11 hijackers came from within Iranian borders. Nine of them did come from Saudi Arabia. And when it comes to persecuting their own people, Saudi Arabia is far more repressive than Iran (women aren’t even allowed to drive in the Saudi state).
That’s not to say that Iran pales in comparison; the Iranian Revolutionary Guard regularly carry out public beheadings and reportedly rape women accused of adultery. And, unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia does not have the technology or presently the desire to create a thermo-nuclear arsenal. Still, the difference in US attitudes towards the two states is instructive.
Ahmadinejad’s visit to the US is scheduled to last a week, with more protests planned when he attends a dinner with Christian groups on Thursday.
Simply by turning up the Iranian leader has woven himself into the tapestry of the forthcoming election. Before the week is out, you wouldn’t bet against him adding a few more threads.