Throwing A Lifeline to Ahmadinejad

I have a different take than Kyle on the whole controversy regarding the barring of Iranian President Ahmadinejad from placing a wreath at ground zero. I think it’s a diplomatic blunder that will only bolster Ahmadinejad at home because it will be seen as an insult to the Iranian people.

I am no fan of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has risen to power by demagoguing nationalist sympathies. He is firmly entrenched with fundamentalists who squelch individual freedom, support human rights abuses in the name of righteousness and who will game democracy wherever possible.

I am not concerned about barring him because of how it affects Ahmadinejad’s personal feelings, but because how it comes off to the Iranian people. The large majority of the Iranian people were shocked by the terrorist attack of 9/11 and were sympathetic to the victims of that horrible day. Like it or not, Ahmadinejad represents them in their desire to pay their respects to the victims of that attack, their families and to Americans in general. Barring this simple gesture simply because we don’t like the messenger makes the wrong statement to the Iranian people.

It is also counterproductive. Ahmadinejad has been largely a failure as a leader. From what I hear, his economic policies have been abyssmal and the Iranians are tiring of his lack of diplomatic acumen. His popularity seems to fluctuate on his ability to demagogue to nationalistic pride. When Bush called Iran part of the “Axis of Evil,” he was able to portray it as an insult to the Iranian people. When we invaded Iraq and with Bush constantly making hawkish statements about Iran, he has been able to engage in chest thumping about how he has always warned against American interventionism and been able to trump up fears of massive death and destruction in Iran.

The banning plays right into Ahmadinejad’s hands. It will help him get a boost at home just when his popularity seemed to be dwindling.

When can we get some people involved in diplomacy who understand that it sometimes requires intelligence and subtelty and not always a chest-puffing, sledgehammer approach?

UPDATE: Just put on the biohazard suit and jumped over to wingnut Malkin’s site for her in depth thoughts on this issue. With all the intelligence of the playground bully, she says: “Take Your Wreath and Shove It.” I suspect the worst day for her will come when Iran finally takes a step away from her brother-in-arms, Ahmadinejad. That’s the only explanation I can come up with the tactics righties like her engage in that continue to bolster this guy at home.

3 Responses to “Throwing A Lifeline to Ahmadinejad”

  1. I like this take, and kinda wish I would have thought of it first. Of course, you forget that only liberals are capable of playing into the hands of our enemy. If conservatives do something, by the mere fact that it was done by conservatives makes it right.

  2. Macswain says:

    True, true. The media would never dare question such chest thumping as counterproductive.

  3. John S. says:

    Remember How Iran Responded to the 9/11 Attacks?

    With all the ruckus over the request of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s request to visit “Ground Zero” during his visit to New York to lay a wreath [1], it is somewhat worth remembering how Iran responded to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

    Knowing how short American memories are and knowing how many Americans share President Bush’s habit of conflating all U.S. opponents and enemies into some sort of utterly fictional “united front,” like the now famous “Axis of Evil” (none of whom had anything whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks); I began preparing in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It was fully predictable that there would be an Islamaphobic backlash in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and that people with a vested interest in promoting anti-Muslim hatred would later try to equate the entire Islamic world with the attacks in New York and Washington DC. So, beginning on September 12, 2001, I began compiling the actual responses to the attacks by all the countries of the world with a Muslim majority regardless of their political standing or relationship with the United States. Visiting and saving snippets from official government outlets for these states (embassy websites, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, &c.) as well as searching the media for relevant articles discussing the reactions of these states, I saved all this data for the fifty-two states in question and put it online in the “International Islamic Response” website. After several moves to different hosts, I kept all this data and it can now be found online at:

    So what was Iran’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks?

    “On behalf of the Iranian government and the nation, I condemn the hijacking attempts and terrorist attacks on public centers in American cities which have killed a large number of innocent people,” President Khatami said in reaction to the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. … “My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims,” he said, noting, “terrorism is doomed and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it.” Khatami added that the Islamic Republic of Iran is treading a road to uproot terrorism and to this end, he noted, it will spare no efforts.

    And related news stories included:

    “Iranians Honor U.S. with Moment of Silence” (NY Post)

    “Khatami Condemns ‘Terrorist’ Attacks on U.S. Targets (People’s Daily, Iran)

    “US calls Iran’s response ‘positive’” (Economic Times)

    “Terror attacks transform U.S. image in Iran’s media” (Gulf News)

    “Powell sees hope in Iran, Syria response to attack” (Reuters)

    “’Iran News’ deplores attacks on major US landmarks” (Iran News)

    “Iran expresses rare sympathy for U.S. over attacks” (Reuters)

    “Iran ayatollah says he is heart-broke over U.S. attack” (Gulf News)

    “Iran seals Afghanistan border” (AP)

    All of this was saved in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 at though of course many of the links are no longer valid, being six years old.

    The point was – and remains – to show that contrary to whatever the Islamaphobic hate-mongers might say today, the vast majority of the Islamic world, even including states that the US has had difficult relations with, were sympathetic and supportive in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The whole supposition that there should be any problem with President Ahmadinejad laying a wreath at “Ground Zero” is just a statement of American ignorance, bigotry, and hated completely unjustified by anything Iran has done.

    Anyway, to learn more about the response of the world’s majority Muslim countries in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, visit the International Islamic Response website at: Just click on any of the countries listed on the left to see how they responded. Just to save you some time, the ONLY majority Muslim states that were not sympathetic was Iraq (at the time under Saddam Hussein and suffering from US imposed sanctions that resulted in the death of over a million Iraqis [2]) and Afghanistan (then under the Taliban).

    John S.


    [1] Pat Milton, “New York bans ‘photo op’ visit to Ground Zero by Iran’s president,” The Scotsman, 21 September 2007,

    [2] Peace Action, “End Sanctions on Iraq,” Peace Action Education Fund, undated,


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