Insulting a Guest

With Such Rudeness, How Can Iran Trust the U.S.?

Opinion | Hossein Nababi | October 2007

About 25 years ago, during the first years of the Iranian revolution, the Iranian Prime Minister Mohmmad Ali Rajayi referred to French President Francois Mitterrand by his surname only, "Mitterrand," without using Mr., or President or any other honorific title. The next day, the Ayatollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, asked the Prime Minister to send a formal letter of apology to President Mitterrand for not using the proper form of address.

Recently, the situation was reversed, but with a quite different response.

On Sept. 24, Lee Dollinger, President of Columbia University in new York, addressed Iranian president Dr. Mahmood Ahmadinejad with an accusation:

"You exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," he said, "and when you come to a place like this, this makes you quite simply ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated."

An academic atmosphere needs an academic manner. Many, particularly those abroad, were shocked to see the president of Columbia University act in this way – although Americans themselves seem somehow proud of him. One would be much less shocked to hear these kinds of words from public officials, because that seems to have become the norm is an era of political insults.

President Ahmadinejad probably does not like U.S. President George W. Bush, but he does not insult him. Because ultimately, Bush has been elected by American people; in respecting him, he basically respects the American people themselves.

Who can accept inviting a guest, being it particularly the head of a nation to visit and then insult him in this manner, especially in an academic setting – leaving aside the question of whether or not the claims were true.

Iran has been receiving a lot of this kind of behavior from U.S. officials, threatening Iran with war and sanctions and the like. Some of people in Iran call that "American arrogance."

Knowing this, how can one expect the Iranian government to trust the United States and look forward to the resumption of direct negotiation with them? By his visit to the U.S., President Ahmadinejad has explicitly shown that he is ready to do so.

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    the vienna review October 2007

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