Questions for an Ahmadinejad / Obama Debate

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected in New York this September to attend the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly. While members will convene to assess progress made in achieving the U.N.’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals, Ahmadinejad sees in the summit an opportunity to accomplish one of his own:

“We are ready to sit down with Mr. Obama face-to-face and put the global issues on the table, man-to-man, freely and in front of the media, and see whose solutions are better.”

The White House predictably spurned Ahmadinejad’s challenge to a televised debate, depriving the international community of hearing answers to these questions:

Questions for President Obama

1. The National Intelligence Estimate [a consensus view of 16 American spy agencies] concluded that Iran halted a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has seen no evidence it was ever restarted. Iran, unlike Israel, is as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has allowed IAEA inspectors into the country to verify this assessment. Therefore, under the NPT, do they not have the right to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes? And why has the U.S. rejected Iran’s nuclear fuel-swap agreement with Turkey—precisely the kind of exchange your country once advocated?

2. After decades of providing Israel with a three billion dollar annual disbursement—making it the world’s largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid—and in light of the animosity generated by its illegal expropriation and settlement of Palestinian land as stipulated by the Fourth Geneva Convention and innumerable U.N. resolutions, can you tell us exactly what political, economic, military or strategic advantage Israel provides the U.S. in return?

3. Why did your administration express more outrage at Helen Thomas’ comments on Palestine than the murder of an unarmed American civilian aboard the relief vessel Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos?

4. Why is the U.S. instigating sectarian strife and instability in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province through CIA funding of the al-Qaeda affiliated, Sunni insurgent terrorist group Jundullah?

5. How is unqualified U.S. support for a host of Mideast dictatorships that govern without popular mandate and routinely disregard the will of their people—especially as it pertains to ending the siege of Gaza—consistent with the high priority your country places on establishing democratic institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Questions for President Ahmadinejad

1. Is Iran’s alleged civilian nuclear program merely a slow run-up to the development of weapons capable of acting as a deterrent to the perceived Israeli threat?

2. The results of the June 2009 presidential election were released before the majority of votes had been counted and gave you an uncanny identical margin of victory across all Iranian provinces, even those in the other candidates’ home constituencies. Among other irregularities, Mehdi Karroubi reportedly received fewer votes than the number of his campaign volunteers. Am I speaking to Iran’s legitimately-elected president?

3. You criticize U.S. support for repressive Arab dictatorships. Yet in the aftermath of your re-election, those peacefully protesting its outcome were arrested, imprisoned and in some instances, raped. Show trials of those loyal to the tenets of the Revolution were televised “confessing” their “crimes” of implicitly questioning the Supreme Leader’s judgment or being part of a Western-backed conspiracy. On what basis does Iran claim to hold itself to a higher standard?

4. The IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] has near complete control of Iran’s telecommunication sector, is accorded a lead role in guiding foreign policy, and is at the helm of suppressing domestic protests and internal dissent. By all measures, its influence and authority in multiple spheres of Iranian society continues to expand. Has Iran transformed itself from an Islamic Republic into a police state?

5. Nearly five months after Iraq’s parliamentary elections, a new government has yet to be seated. Has Iran’s determination to see its preferred alliance emerge victorious circumvented the will of the Iraqi voter? Hasn’t your country’s interference in the natural give-and-take between parties led to this prolonged political vacuum and the resultant uptick in violence?

Ahmadinejad: As this debate proves, only through dialogue and direct talks will the United States and Iran be able to resolve our disputes, reduce the prospect of armed conflict and avert a regional catastrophe. What prevents the U.S. from agreeing to them?

Moderator: President Obama?

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator. He may be reached at: rbamiri [at] yahoo [dot] com.




Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.