Denying Pt Ahmadinejad a visit to Ground Zero

Mr Ahmadinejad has been denied a visit to Ground Zero, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying that “it would have been a travesty”.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to draw much attention whenever he’s on a visit to the USA. All his activities become the focus of the media as everything he does or says is considered with significance. There was the controversy of whether he should visit Germany to support the Iranian football team during 2006 World Cup there because of denying the Holocaust and asking for Israel to be wiped out of the map.

Now on his visit to the USA, he has been denied to lay a wreath at Ground Zero. The security concern is groundless as the USA has sophisticated security system to guarantee his safety. The simplest thing to do is to close off the area during his visit. But as the USA still has Iran on the terrorist list, it can’t contradict itself by allowing Ahmadinejad to visit a place that was the target of the worst attack in the US after that of Pearl Harbour. As both countries haven’t normalised their relations, it seems absurd that the US government will allow Ahmadinejad to tour the country freely or to prolong his stay beyond the UN General Assembly summit for a private visit.

It seems allowing Ahmadinejad to go to Ground Zero is like him visiting the White House to say hello to Pt George Bush without having anything to agree upon. The visit can have a human gesture for Pt Ahmadinejad. But for the White House this can just boost his popularity as he will be shown around the world as a pigeon of peace while Bush and his company are hawks of war.

In politics, words and gestures matter. Iran and the USA are playing on words and gestures to further their cases. The good thing is that Ahmadinejad can attack the USA on its land through his addresses and press conferences broadcast on main news channels. But no American can do so in the same way on Iranian soil. That’s the big difference.

Should President Ahmadinejad have addressed the New York’s Columbia University?

Free speech is an undeniable right. President Ahmadinejad has the right to express himself in public. In the USA, probably people mainly listen to local news which doesn’t put them in the global picture. Iran has becomes in they eyes of many an additional threat, which is added to that of international terrorism from Al Qaeda. People should listen to what the Iranian president wants to say. The right to speak also entails the duty to listen. There were direct exchanges between President Ahmadinejad and his audience.

It could have been better if there were direct exchanges between Ahmadinejad and Pt Bush. It could have more weight. An academic and a president addressing each other seems disproportionate as the Iranian president was addressing an academic audience. On the whole the “academic” confrontation” was an occasion to shed light on the position of divergent sides. But politically concrete debates should be carried indoors in politically established institutions like the UN or the UN Security Council.

Symbolically Ahmadinejad was denied to lay wreath at Ground Zero. His address at the New York’s Columbia University brought zero results to the current intricate situation in the Persian Gulf that needs political will to resolve and not academic speeches to fuel it.

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