THE PLANK APRIL 20, 2009
After Ahemedinejad finished his speech, he immediately went downstairs to give a press conference. But waiting for him in front of the press conference room, blocking the doors, were hundreds of protesters chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!" and holding signs like "Respect Bahais and Minorities" and "Iran Funds Hamas and Hezbollah." Standing amidst the protesters were Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel and Iranian dissident (famously pictured on the cover of TIME) Ahmad Batebi.By the time I pushed my way through the crowd, I had missed most of the press conference. Most of the questions I heard came from what we call "single-issue journalists," like reporters from Albania and Ecuador, who asked questions specifically relating to their home countries. (I'll spare you the transcript.) I did get to hear two interesting questions. One reporter asked why Ahmedinejad was so quick to condemn Israeli violence, but never condemns violence perpetrated on Muslims by Muslims. (The reporter referenced some recent attack that I did not catch.) Predictably, he said that "all the problems and conflicts in the Muslim world are a result of Western interference."Another journalist asked if the row over Durban would affect the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. He repeated his usual response about Iran's rights to operate a peaceful nuclear program, the US not treating Iran with respect as a sovereign country, and the West wanting a monopoly on nuclear power. Then he went on a surprising rift about the environmental benefits of nuclear power, and that if we want to combat global warming, Iran must be allowed to have a nuclear program. He must be getting desperate.