Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, notorious Holocaust denier who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" is due to speak to Columbia University later today. In typical form Ahmadinejad has raised the ire of just about everyone. His request to lay a wreath at Ground Zero was denied citing security and logistical difficulties and condemned by New York officials as an insult to families who lost loved ones to 9/11. The Iranian President is expected to face large numbers of protesters organized by and composed of Jewish groups, New York city officials, and university students.
Iran has protested recently that it has no need for nuclear weaponry and down-played its effectiveness in the current international political situation. As Ahmadinejad put it in his own unique brand of rhetoric, he told CBS's 60 Minutes, "[i]n political relations right now, the nuclear bomb is of no use. If it was useful, it would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union. If it was useful, it would resolve the problem the Americans have in Iraq." Iran has tried to portray itself as a peace-seeker, while American governmental sources have complained that Iran is helping to arm insurgent groups and seeks to undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq.
Perhaps more disturbing that some of Ahmadinejad's outlandish rhetoric is the U.S. public's reaction to the visit. The condemnation of the President surrounding his request for a visit to Ground Zero is absolutely ridiculous. Iran has less of a connection to the attacks on New York than does that Wahibbist regime of Saudi Arabia that spawned most of the 9/11 hijackers. Although New York did turn down the $10 million offered by Saudi Arabia, Giuliani took Saudi Prince Walid on a tour of Ground Zero. The denial to Ahmadinejad is irrational on the part of New Yorkers.
Ahmadinejad does indeed represent an adversary to our interests and allies in the Middle East, but he also represents the last viable Islamist regime. He should be listened to with interest and not ostracized. People, the Bush administration included, dismiss Ahmadinejad as the crazy man in charge of a fanatical nation of Islamic extremists.
The influence of Iran on Iraq is very real and will not disappear no matter how many sanctions we place on it. Why the U.S. refuses to acknowledge reality and deal with the nation who, regardless of our preferences, will play an important role in the development of Iraq is baffling. If Iraq should have taught us anything, sanctions do not destroy regimes, they destroy the people under the regime. Important infrastructure and facilities in Iraq were destroyed by our own bombing campaigns and by cannibalizing mobs oppressed by years of hardship-inducing sanctions. If we need any further demonstration of the futility of using the threat of economic sanctions we need only to look at the ordeal of the 8 year Iran-Iraq war. Hardship and warfare only served to build support for the Ayatollah's regime.