Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has given Western commentators plenty to condemn in recent weeks, from his continued crackdown on protesters to his incendiary attempt to whip up anger by once again denying the Holocaust. Is it all calculated to distract attention from his weakness in Iran?
A number of commentators fear that it is--and that it's working. Well, sort of. With everyone worrying about Ahmadinejad's efforts to distract attention from his tenuous political standing, a lot of people are writing about his tenuous political standing. In fact, the Western media is nearly unanimous on this one:
- 'Up to His Old Tricks,' wrote Melody Moezzi of the Iranian president, "[a]nd sadly, the global community seems to be falling for them." In the Huffington Post, she argued that Ahmadinejad "has managed to divert attention from his disputed re-election in June" and recent "human rights abuses ... by publicly engaging in what appears to be his favorite pastime: bashing Israel and denying the Holocaust."
- Holocaust Instead of Human Rights? Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council agreed: "Ahmadinejad can handle the scorn of world leaders and the Western media with his questioning of the Holocaust ... What Ahmadinejad cannot handle, however, is extensive and relentless focus on Iran's human rights record." So, "[i]f he has his way," she explained, "the international media may forget about the killings in Iran and focus on his provocative Holocaust comments instead."
- See Nuclear Program Commenting on Parsi's writings, the New York Times' Robert Mackey added that "[t]he same argument might be made to explain why the head of Iran's nuclear agency chose Tuesday to announce to reporters that 'Iranian scientists have made a new generation of centrifuges.'"
- No One's Listening! The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg noted the trend in punditry, but still sounded convinced that the ploy was working:
A number of pundits are commenting on Ahmadinejad's diversionary tactics, which ... are distracting everyone else from addressing a crucial point: his illegitimate reelection and the grave human rights violations that followed. I've commented on Ahmadinejad's futile attempt to distract his own people with a massive we-hate-the-Jews rally, but the rest of the world doesn't seem to be listening.
- Clowning Around Ahmadinejad's diversion was the subject of much discussion on Anderson Cooper 360 last night. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, speaking of both the Iranian president and Muammar Gaddafi noted that their antics made it "easy to dismiss them as clowns," but that "when you do that you forget that they are cold-blooded killers." Fareed Zakaria elaborated:
You notice actually he hadn’t spoken much about the Holocaust; he hadn’t brought up his bizarre and repugnant views about it. Now he’s trotting them out again because every time he wants to change the subject … and forget that the real story is that this guy is heading a regime that is deeply divided internally has turned itself into a ruthless military dictatorship. That’s the big story.