Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More About Ahmadinejad

It still sounds like the Columbia gambit was a fiasco. Was there any other outcome? The hubris of the university and its feckless president - they conceive themselves as international wheelers and dealers, as a sovreign nation with the president as a head of state.

As this analysis from today's Haaretz by Yossi Melman shows, the whole prospect was ludicrous:
50 minutes of fame - Khamenei still calls the shots
By Yossi Melman

The easy questions of Columbia University's moderators enabled him to repeat his familiar mantras, while appearing open to dialogue and both willing to persuade and to be persuaded. But there is no chance of persuading an ideologue whose world view is as clear as Ahmadinejad's, a member of the most radical messianic stream in his country. He is so extreme that his spiritual mentor is Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, a man whom even Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, the leader and founder of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, thought should be placed under house arrest.


These questions are especially inviting for him, and reflect something of the naivete and liberalism characterizing American academics, who have difficulty understanding that it is almost impossible to have a dialogue between a fanatic religious ideologue and people who truly believe in the freedom of information and human rights. Ahmadinejad took full advantage of this naivete on the stage he was given without even asking. The university had invited him at its own initiative.

Ultimately, the importance of Ahmadinejad's appearance in the United States should not be overestimated. He is not the man who calls the shots in his country. The leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran is Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei who, as the supreme religious authority, head of state and supreme military commander, is the guardian of the revolution. Khamenei brought Ahmadinejad to power, when he supported him against his old rival, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Therefore it is all up to Khamenei. When he decides Ahmadinejad is more of a burden than an asset, he could remove his support. It's doubtful Ahmadinejad would be allowed to present his candidacy for president in the elections due in about two years without his approval.

Alternatively, Khamenei could support a rival against him altogether.
So even Bollinger's inane conceit - that by inviting Ahmadinejad, Columbia would help him lose more power by losing Iran's elections - is disproven because the real power doesn't lie in the electorate.

Academics are no better than politicians at learning from mistakes, so I'm sure this folly will be repeated. But let's at least get the idiocy on record.

{2009 Update: the great pic is from here.}

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