Ahmadinejad's Political Gains in NYC

September 27, 2007 08:53 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
New York rejects Ahmadinejad’s request to lay a wreath at Ground Zero; protestors mass at Columbia where he takes a public broadside from the university president––yet Iran’s media applaud his visit to the “Lion’s Den.”

30-Second Summary

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York prompted angry denunciations from politicians and pundits across the political spectrum. But amid the deluge of media coverage, a couple of pertinent facts went largely unmentioned.

First, Iran’s president is not the highest power in Iran. As Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd noted in The New York Observer, “It is the Supreme Leader”—Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—“who sets Iran’s foreign policy.”

Ahmadinejad does not have the final say on either the nuclear program or Iran’s stance toward Israel, the principal sources of antagonism between Iran and the West.

Secondly, the Iranian president comes to New York every year at this time to attend the U.N. General Assembly. He never expressed an interest in visiting the World Trade Center on previous visits.

When, in 2006, Time magazine asked him whether he had been to Ground Zero, he replied, “It was not necessary. It was widely covered in the media.”

If, as Time’s Bobby Ghosh concludes, Ahmadinejad’s request to lay a wreath at Ground Zero was a bid for media attention, then arguably it paid off. According to Reuters, the daily Iran News wrote that by “walking in the ‘Lion’s Den’ [Ahmadinejad] is sure to become even more of a hero in the Arab-Muslim street than before.” Both Ghosh and Majd surmise that he will likely return to Iran happy with his brief sojourn in New York.

According to these writers, his success comes not so much despite the vilification he received in the U.S. press, but because of it.

Majd argues, and is backed up by Time, that Ahmadinejad’s popularity ratings are low in Iran, and that his political power is waning. As a consequence, “In elevating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a position of power he simply doesn’t possess, the U.S. flatters him.”

Headline Links: Iran's media on Ahmadinejad in NYC

Reference Material

Key Players: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Opinion: What the media coverage means to Ahmadinejad

Background: Censorship and the Iranian president's past controversies

Media censorship in Iran and its effects

In the battle for media control, the Iranian government banned satellite dishes in the mid-90s, and more recently barred Iranians from appearing on foreign-produced broadcasts. All areas of the media come under strict state control and censorship.
Pervez Musharraf at Columbia
May '06 letter to Bush

President Ahmadinejad's eight-page letter to George Bush discussed several issues, including the attacks on the World Trade Center. The Iranian president described 9/11 as a “horrendous incident,” writing that the killing of innocent people was “deplorable.”

The letter also implied that the U.S. government had been involved in a cover-up regarding the atrocity: “Why have various aspects of the attacks been kept secret? Why are we not told who botched their responsibilities? And why aren’t those responsible and the guilty parties identified and put on trial?” asked Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad's Dec. '05 speech

An Iranian news agency reported that Ahmadinejad gave a speech describing the Holocaust, in which the German Nazis killed six million Jews, as a “myth.”
Ahmadinejad's Oct. '05 speech

Speaking in Tehran at a program called “The World Without Zionism,” Ahmadinejad was reported to declare that Israel should be "wiped off the map."

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines