Just a few days after the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will travel to New York City. Once he arrives he will be handed a platform to incite violence and hostility from the center of the UN universe, just a few miles from Ground Zero.
This is a man who openly advocates genocide, brazenly endeavors to commit terrorist attacks on American soil, kills and kidnaps Americans abroad, brutalizes his own people, sponsors terrorism around the world, and is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb.
Today, on 9/11, we need to ask why. Why is he being given this global megaphone?
In September of 2010 Ahmadinejad used the podium of the United Nations General Assembly to make this claim about the 9/11 terror attacks: “some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy…”
In September of 2011 he complained that “colonial powers…threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust.”
It is a moral outrage that the Obama administration is facilitating Ahmadinejad’s return to the United States in September of 2012.
Many argue that the 1947 Headquarters Agreement between the UN and the U.S. leaves no room for the White House to maneuver on this point. The deal that was struck states that the U.S. government “shall not impose any impediments to transit to or from the headquarters district” (a defined area in New York City’s east side) to a representative of a UN member state.
But the same agreement also says the following: “It is agreed that no form of racial or religious discrimination shall be permitted within the headquarters district.”
Ahmadinejad is the quintessential bigot. In 2008, he told the General Assembly “a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists…have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some Europeans countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.” If the agreement were applied as it should be, “no form of racial or religious discrimination” would mean no President Ahmadinejad in New York.
In 1988 Yassir Arafat, then Head of the Palestine Liberation Organization was denied a visa and unimpeded transit when he tried to address the General Assembly, despite the objections of UN legal counsel. The State Department pointed to the "security reservation" that Congress had attached to the resolution which brought the Headquarters Agreement into force. Congress had stipulated that nothing in the agreement diminished or weakened “the right of the United States to safeguard its own security...”
Surely, the security threat posed by aiding and abetting Ahmadinejad is as great or greater than the threat posed by Arafat.
Denying Ahmadinejad a New York launching pad also meets the expectations of the UN Charter itself – since all UN members have “resolved” “to reaffirm faith…in the dignity and worth of the human person,” “to establish conditions under which justice…can be maintained,” and “to employ international machinery for the promotion of…advancement of all peoples.”
But the Obama administration is not enabling Ahmadinejad’s warmongering hate speech just because today’s state department lawyers assert that their hands are tied. Legitimizing the presence of the Iranian president in the United States on the world stage is a key tenet of President Obama’s foreign policy. It goes by various lofty names like “diplomacy” or “engagement.”
Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Bloomberg Radio, when asked about setting “red lines” to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon: “We’re not setting deadlines…[W]e have more time…to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good faith negotiation.” Incredibly, Team Obama still believes that there is a chance that, Holocaust-denier, genocide-promoter and the man who claims that 9/11 was an ‘inside job,’ Ahmadinejad will enter into “good faith” negotiations with the United States.
History has another name for such delusional diplomacy – appeasement.
Over the president’s term of office Iran has gone from possessing 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium “sufficient for a nuclear weapons breakout capability” in February 2009, to the production of 190 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium at the Fordow underground nuclear site this August – according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In November 2011 the IAEA reported that Iran had carried out research “specific to nuclear weapons” and in August 2012 the agency said Iran was hampering their ability to conduct inspections at a suspect site.
This relentless march forward was met by a president-elect who said “we need…direct diplomacy with Iran,” and who followed that with repeated “offers of meaningful engagement” and a whole bunch of “the door remains open if Iran chooses to walk through it.” Timelines were kept fuzzy – like “the window is closing” and “we're not going to have these talks just drag out.”
Yet, fraudulent elections and freedom-seekers dying in the streets of Tehran in June 2009, a plot to bomb the Israeli embassy and kill the Saudi U.S. ambassador in Washington in October 2011, and the fact that Israel remains “in the bull’s eye” facing “an existential threat” – as Clinton put it Monday – seems to have changed nothing in the Obama White House.
The centrifuges spin and the president contended in April: “we haven't given away anything -- other than the opportunity for us to negotiate and see if Iran comes to the table in good faith.” Four barren months later, the administration is still using “good faith” in the same sentence as Ahmadinejad.
President Obama is also fond of declaring, as he did this past March, “The world is unified; Iran is politically isolated.”
Actually, it’s just the opposite: Iran is now completing a year’s term as vice president of the General Assembly and on August 26, 2012 in Tehran was crowned chairman of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement representing 60% of UN members, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General.
As for those “crippling sanctions on Iran” the Obama administration keeps talking about, doubling the number of centrifuges in its Fordow underground nuclear facility in the last three months alone doesn’t connote “crippled” to anybody.
Sadly, we can predict the words of President Obama and an unimpeded Ahmadinejad on September 25 and 26 respectively when both presidents will address the General Assembly. One president will say he denounces intolerance, and the other will say he denounces the United States. Both will give a warm shout-out to the UN. And those who hope and pray there will never be another 9/11 will have been failed.
Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.