On Monday, the day Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his controversial appearance at Columbia University, Michael Slackman wrote from Tehran wondering what all the fuss was about ("U.S. Focus on Ahmadinejad Puzzles Iranians").
Slackman soft-pedaled both Ahmadinejad'ssignificance and his Holocaust denial and dreams of Israel's annihilation, as merely "provocative remarks," and accused the West of "demonizing" the Iranian president.
"But it is because of his provocative remarks, like denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, that the United States and Europe have never known quite how to handle him. In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts....When Mr. Ahmadinejad was first elected, it appeared that Iran's hard-liners had a monopoly on all the levers of power. But today it is clear that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not a hard-liner in the traditional sense. His talk of economic justice and a redistribution of wealth, for example, ran into a wall of existing vested interests, including powerful clergy members and military leaders."