The latest outrage at Turtle Bay had been Moammar Gaddafi’s plans to pitch a tent in New Jersey, plans that got canceled after the outrage over the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi by the UK. At least Gaddafi has diplomatic ties to the US, although that’s still a sore point for many here. Now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that he will address the UN in New York this month, which should set off some fireworks — and not in celebration:
With weeks to go until a U.S. deadline for opening talks, a spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that he plans to travel to New York to give a speech during the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 23. The announcement came as international pressure continued to build for sanctions unless Iran is willing to negotiate over its nuclear program.
The visit will roughly coincide with a Sept. 15 deadline set by the White House for Iran to respond to an offer to open talks on the nuclear issue. It will be Ahmadinejad’s first visit to a Western country since the country’s June election, which was officially declared a landslide in his favor but which the opposition contends was stolen. The vote led to weeks of demonstrations, with dozens of protesters dying after security forces violently cracked down. President Obama condemned the violence but stopped short of siding with opposition demands that the election be annulled. …
U.N. officials confirmed Ahmadinejad’s attendance and said he will be accorded the same honors due any other head of state. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently took a step toward recognizing Ahmadinejad’s disputed electoral victory by sending him a customary diplomatic letter on the occasion of his inauguration.
U.S. officials said that the United States respects U.N. invitations to even the most controversial foreign dignitaries and that they assumed Ahmadinejad would have his visa approved for travel to the United States this time. But the prospects for direct talks with the Iranian leadership appeared dim in light of the violent post-election crackdown. In July, the United States disinvited Iranian diplomats from attending Fourth of July celebrations at American diplomatic missions and embassies.
The US respects UN invitations to legitimate leaders of nations even when we have no diplomatic relations with them. However, the Obama administration would have grounds to refuse a visa to Ahmadinejad, given the nature of the election and the dispute among Iranians over its legitimacy. Unfortunately, this administration doesn’t have that kind of imagination, and it has already all but endorsed Ahmadinejad.
As for the deadline on talks, the Iranians will take that as seriously as they have taken all the other threats. Ahmadinejad didn’t pick this moment in a vacuum, after all. The Iranians announced today that they will have a new offer for the permanent members of the UNSC and Germany and want to restart talks with the six nations, including the US. They want to stall for more time, as they have no intention at all in shutting down their nuclear-weapons program, and the Ahmadinejad visit is nothing more than a diversion.