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Iran's Danse Macabre

How is Iran trying to spin President Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel rant?

November 3, 2005

How is Iran trying to spin President Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rant?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose from relative obscurity to become Iran's president in August 2005 — and wasted no time in gaining global notoriety. His recent remarks calling for the annihilation of Israel confounded much of the rest of the world — and set off tortured explanations by other Iranians. In our Read My Lips feature, we present the key opinions on the Iranian president's outburst.

What exactly did Mr. Ahmadinejad say?

“As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”
(Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a reference to the late Ayatollah Khomeini, October 2005)

Did he leave it at that?

“Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation.”
(Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, October 2005)

Do the Palestinians agree?

“We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel — and we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran. This is unacceptable.”
(Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator with Israel, October 2005)

How did some spin doctors interpret Ahmadinejad’s remarks?

“What the president meant was that we favor a fair and long-lasting peace in Palestine.”
(Ahmed Nateq Nouri, senior conservative cleric, October 2005)

Do other Iranian leaders favor a different reading?

“Two decades ago, when the Imam said Israel should be wiped off the map, they thought this was merely a slogan. Now they see fresh unity in the Islamic world as the Palestinian intifada shows a new form of struggle.”
(Masoud Jazayeri, spokesman for Iran's Revolutionary Guards, October 2005)

Are Iran's diplomats worried that they will lose further international support?

“Mr. Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak in sharp terms and engage in a conflict.”
(Statement by the Iranian Embassy in Moscow, October 2005)

What was the UN's official reaction?

“Under the United Nations charter, all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
(UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, October 2005)

And what did Washington have to say about the whole affair?

“When the president of one country says that another country should be wiped off the face of the map — in violation of all of the norms of the United Nations, where they sit together as members — it has to be taken seriously. It only demonstrates why we are working so hard to keep Iran from getting technologies that lead to a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear power.”
(U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, October 2005)

How did Israel itself react to these statements?

“I truly feel a country whose head of state is capable of making such a statement is not worthy of a seat in the United Nations.”
(Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, October 2005)

In the eyes of some Iranians, is the global outrage simply a Western plot?

“The United States and the Israelis are trying to make propaganda to cover their defeats in Gaza and Iraq.”
(Rahim Savafi, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, October 2005)

What is curious about the whole Ahmadinejad affair?

“It seems that time has frozen for him and he is repeating the same slogans from when he was a student now in the position of president.”
(Issa Saharkhiz, reformist politician and journalist in Tehran, October 2005)

And finally, how did Mr. Ahmadinejad himself react to the outpouring of criticism from around the globe?

“Westerners are free to comment — but their reaction is invalid.”
(Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, October 2005)