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My Breakfast With Mahmoud

And now for something completely different. I’ve had breakfast with a lot of politicians over the years, but this morning’s was more memorable than most: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a session for about 20 media types, arranged by Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations. I’m no foreign policy guru, but Ahmadinejad is up for reelection next year, and it was fascinating to consider his performance through a campaign lens.

U.S. politicians tend to be the glossiest in the room, with the well-polished look of those who are always camera-ready. Ahmadinejad was, by contrast, the scruffiest of his crew. Most were tieless but wore suit jackets. Sitting among them, in his trademark beige sports coat that looks like something like a thrift store windbreaker, Ahmadinejad reminded me of a criminal defendant with his better-dressed legal team.

But he seemed anything but uncomfortable -- and why should he be? He had arrayed before him, with still and video cameras to record the scene for the folks back home, titans of the U.S. media establishment: the presidents of NBC News and CNN, CBS anchor Katie Couric, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, as well as a few of us lesser mortals. Ahmadinejad proceeded to deliver a lecture that could be summarized as the Farsi version of The Times They Are A-Changin', with a pounding anti-Zionist backbeat.

The age of the American empire is over, Ahmadinejad said -- you could imagine that the folks back home would eat this up -- and he was simply “giving assistance to the politicians here so they can think about changing their behavior.” When Ahmadinejad told the group that it was “high time for the media to also prepare itself for the new era,” you had the sensation that some in the audience, struggling to figure out a workable new business model, had heard that message before, although perhaps in a different context.

As a politician, Ahmadinejad plays a good net game. Every time he was challenged, he stepped up and volleyed right back. If people were worried about Iran in possession of nuclear material, well, what about all the nuclear weapons in the United States? If people wondered why it made sense for Iran to produce nuclear fuel rather than purchase it, well, such contracts were summarily canceled by Western countries, and France ended up instead providing “a bunch of ridiculous, silly cars like Peugeots... toys”

When the Washington Times’ Barbara Slavin asked about the detention of two AIDS activists and the firing of Iran’s central banker, Ahmadinejad dismissed those as the same questions he had been getting for four years of United Nations visits. “Whereas it seems to me... a lot of new things have happened,” he said. “I don’t think the main questions are the ones you touched on.”

There was a flap in Iran recently when Ahmadinejad’s vice president for tourism ventured to suggest that Iran was a friend to the Israeli people, even if it wanted to see the regime itself destroyed. Questioned on this, Ahmadinejad took the opportunity to discourse on freedom of speech -- Iranian-style. “In Iran, it’s free to express yourself,” he said. “Naturally, when it comes to the Zionist regime, there are different opinions. Everybody is opposed to the regime, but there are differences in how you approach it.”

On next year’s presidential election, Ahmadinejad was questioned about an expected challenge by parliament speaker Ali Larijani. Actually, Ahmadinejad said, he encouraged Larijani to run. Maybe politics is different that way in Iran -- but somehow I don’t think so.

By Ruth Marcus  | September 25, 2008; 5:31 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Comments


Ms Marcus undoubtedly would prefer dining
with one of the corrupt leaders of Israel, home of apartheid and aggression and occupation.

Ohlmert, perhaps, if he hadn't had to resign for being a crook. Maybe "the butcher", the odious Sharon, enabler of settlements and 60 years of war.

Or surely, the heiress of the terriorist Irgun group, Ms. Livni.

People who are detestable to our allies and enemies alike.

But each to his/er own taste.

Posted by: whistling | September 25, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Ahmadinejad is a showboat and a hotdog and has extreme psychological problems. He is a psychopathic murderer. He might fool the people in Iran but he doesn't fool me.

Posted by: digby2 | September 25, 2008 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Ok, Ruth is not a foreign policy expert. Then, that breakfast was an excellent opportunity to get some education, by asking some basic questions:

- Why does Iran want to destroy Israel?

- What goals do you pursue by partnering with Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez?

- Why do you think the American empire is near its end?

- What role do you expect oil to play in the next 20 or 30 years, both in your country and around the world?

- Under what conditions would you see the United States as a friend of Iran?

But that was just too much for Ruth. As an old-guard feminist, she prefers to write about suits, shirts, beards, and -lack of- ties.

Posted by: tropicalfolk | September 26, 2008 12:21 AM | Report abuse

I love the serious over-reaction to Ahmadinejad that occurs in the US media. You'd think he was Hitler and Stalin and Mao reincarnated. If you actually listen to the guy rather than rely on the media spon, you'd realize that he actually makes a lot of sense. Why SHOULD the Palestinians have to suffer for the Holocaust? Why are teh countries with the nules telling Iran that it can't have a civilian nuclear program? Why are the same countries that backed Saddam and armed him with chemical weapons now beating their chests about human rights in Iran? You have to admit -- he has a point.

Posted by: hassani1387 | September 26, 2008 12:44 AM | Report abuse

The chap Mahmoid certainly seems to me to be a very articulte guy who does not break his sentences, knows what he is talking about, is polite but firm.

No wonder the media take so adoringly to him. And no wonder that Ms. Marcus is jealous --- presumably she was beter dressed.

And she does not tell us how did she detect the 'anti-Zionist backbeat', although I myself would have thought that the anti-Zionist (not anti-Jewish, mind you!) drumbeat would be the up-front marching drumbeat, considering that Mahmoud may have received confiramtion, just before he came to the 'suhoor' -- Ramadan breakfast -- event, that Israel had consulted with the US about the country's wish to strike the nuclear-research facilities of Iran but had been dissuaded by Washington.

Let's elect Mahmoud ... no. no not President of the US! Let's not even re-elect him as President of Iran next year. Ali Larijani would do very well, and Mahmoud may second Khatami in the superb job he is doing to present to the world the glory of the Islamic Religion, the peaceful practices of which 99.999% of its 1.3 billion adherents abide by.

Meanwhile, allow me, a fasting, peaceful but outspoken Muslim citizen of the world who is not Arab, not Iranian, not Shia, not Pakistani to say with great pride: IRAN KHAIR-E-KHOUB!

Posted by: MohamedMALLECK | September 26, 2008 2:01 AM | Report abuse

The media is in a large sense responsible for perpetuating this maniac and his ideas. For someone who is patently anti-democracy he sure like to visit the US and expound his vitriol. I'm sure his own country or Saudi Arabia would not tolerate equivalent negative comments about their country, faith, and values. The media should stop following him around and giving print to his opinions just because they generate revenue.

Posted by: kidkayt | September 26, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

1) Iran is pursuing its efforts to attain nuclear weapons in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Iran has systematically concealed its effort at attaining nuclear weapons.
2) Iran is an 'Islamic Revolutionary regime' and the major actor in terror actions against the West. It and its surrogate Hizbollah have been responsible for more terror- deaths in the Middle East than any other actor.
3) Iran is an aggressive, expansionist power which has a hold now on the world 's energy supplies through the Strait of Hormuz.
4) Iran is the heart of the world terror network, and has also worked despite the Shiite- Sunnite conflicts with Al- Quaeda.
5) Iran with nuclear weapons will change the whole world- power balance and lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
6) The Bush Administration's failure to honor its committment from attaining nuclear weapons will go down as its major foreign policy blunder.

Posted by: ShalomFreedman | September 26, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

The major difference between a picture and a portrait is that the picture just states the facts without filtering or hiding any details but the portrait is what the painter presents (sees or wants us to see) and as a result could be extremity inaccurate and biased. I wonder if an Iranian journalist had written such an article about the US president would people take her seriously or not! I prefer pictures to portraits.

Posted by: Kiumars2000 | September 26, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Really,Ruth, did you expect anything different? Personally, despite several of your commenters who think this guy is great- the best media response to this pathetic man was "Iran so Far" on SNL.

Posted by: AndrearKline | September 26, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

To: ShalomFreedman | September 26, 2008 10:29 AM
I bet you cannot prove any of your wild accusation which are the products of your imagination, can you? You would be a billionaire if you could!
Fortunately we live in the 21st century and we all have access to reliable sources of information at a click of a button. Those days that writing an article in a News Paper could form the public opinion is passed (unfortunately for you!)
Next time provide some credible sources to support your accusations at least!
Shaloom!

Posted by: Kiumars2000 | September 26, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

1) Iran is pursuing its efforts to attain nuclear weapons in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Iran has systematically concealed its effort at attaining nuclear weapons.
- Every country has the right to determine its own actions unless it agrees to submit itself to a larger body. General assembly resolutions are meaningless, and the security council has made no resolutions with teeth because of China and Russia. In other words... so what?

2) Iran is an 'Islamic Revolutionary regime' and the major actor in terror actions against the West. It and its surrogate Hizbollah have been responsible for more terror- deaths in the Middle East than any other actor.
- a 'major actor in terrorist actions against the west'? What are you talking about? Talk about Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, our supposed allies, and THEN maybe you can be taken seriously talking about Iran. Guess where Al Qaeda terrorists come from? Not Iran. And the Israeli conflict is not 'west' in nature- it is nationalistic and perhaps religious.

3) Iran is an aggressive, expansionist power which has a hold now on the world 's energy supplies through the Strait of Hormuz.
- What? Expansionist how? And I assume you come from Finland, or another similar country that isn't expansionist. You surely must not be an American or Brit, etc... because for an American to talk about Iran being Expansionist would be hysterical. You do realize we invaded the country next door to them, right? How would you feel if Iran invaded Mexico?

4) Iran is the heart of the world terror network, and has also worked despite the Shiite- Sunnite conflicts with Al- Quaeda.
- Saying "world terror network" makes me wonder if you've actually had any exposure to terrorism at all. Maybe you should read a book or two. You do realize that the VAST majority of terrorism is domestic, right?

5) Iran with nuclear weapons will change the whole world- power balance and lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
- And it's okay for Israel to have nukes?


6) The Bush Administration's failure to honor its committment from attaining nuclear weapons will go down as its major foreign policy blunder.

-This makes even less sense than your other statements. Incidentally, it's been decades since the NPT, why hasn't the US destroyed its nuclear weapons as it promised in that treaty?

Posted by: fake1 | September 26, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Did you vomit? I feel like vomiting everytime I hear this guy open his mouth. I can't imagine having breakfast with him.

Sometimes it seems like journalists go do these things for the sport of it...In this case, I can't imagine you thought he had anything constructive to say...just the same old tasteless circus act.

I'm not saying this as an apologist for Israel or its policies. Much of them are wrong. But as a non-aligned viewer of the dispute, it's clear to me that Israel's position is the more just of the two by far.

Regarding nuclear technology, Ahmadinejad simply doesn't understand that the issue is not possession, but inspections. He needs to continue feeling the pressure and the media should stop giving him so much free publicity.

Posted by: ttj1 | September 26, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse


Any Israeli Citing any UN resolution

to pillory Iran,
or defend constant savage Israeli behavior

is proof of just how far from reality discussion has become in the MSM.

Israel has thumbed it's NOSE at
-- every resolution,
--every international rule,
--every civilized proscription of decent people. It's getting old.

Genocide and apartheid and land grabbing and aggression are yearly business for Israel...all the time they screaming about Iran. Iran, for centuries, has not gone to war, practiced apartheid, etc etc etc.

Posted by: whistling | September 26, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

My Barry say who be carin if some jews over der get bombed. Fo'get bout spendin money on da military... put dat money in raises on welfare!!!

Posted by: MichelleObama | September 26, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Americans cannot to look past the unshaven face or the absence of suits and ties without feeling uncomfortable.

It is imperative that the US stop condemning people because are very different to what Americans want to see and what they understand.

America's inabilities lead to much friction and hate.

You might condemn Ahmadinejad fro jailing two AID's activists but Americans have their own cruelties and bigotry. Unfortunately, you see yourself as superior to the rest of the world.

Let me put it this way: McCain selected a dope as his VP nominee and many Americans have rallied behind her. If the Iranian President had a fool as his VP you would rightly condemn that fool. In your own case, you tolerate her and many of you seek to put her into High Office.

Just remember that the rest of the world sees the US as a mixture of clever and silly people. You see the rest of the world as foreign to the Brady Bunch or the LEave it to BEaver household and you feel insecure.

The problem belongs to the US but the US makes the problem belong to the rest of the world.

Posted by: robertjames1 | September 26, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

“a bunch of ridiculous, silly cars like Peugeots... toys”

This guy has never driven a Chevrolet or a Ford, he doesn't know how lucky he is to have Peugeots...

Posted by: journalator | September 29, 2008 2:35 AM | Report abuse

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