27 May 2009

Ahmadinejad challenges Obama

So Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has offered to debate U.S. President Barack Obama at the United Nations on, in his words, "... global issues as well as world peace and security." Challenging the elegant, eloquent Obama is quite the display of confidence for the bumptious Iranian.

Nonetheless, the debate could prove interesting. Top of the agenda would probably be nuclear weapons with Obama demanding that Iran refrain from developing them. He would point out that Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which forbids non-nuclear nations from developing atomic weaponry.
Ahmadinejad would have little trouble countering this. He would claim Iran was not working on a weapon, but only advancing peaceful uses of the atom, and he could refer to the U.S.'s own intelligence reports to support that position. But that would just be for starters. He could then ask Obama why the Americans' best friend in the region, Israel, is allowed to have nuclear weapons and the U.S. has nothing to say about it. He could go on to point out that the Non-Proliferation Treaty also requires nuclear nations to disarm themselves of atomic weapons, which the United States is not doing and is therefore in violation of the treaty itself. Ahmadinejad wins this one easily.

Next up, probably, would be bringing peace and stability to the Middle East. Obama would accuse Iran of providing weapons to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and thereby creating instability. A fair charge. But again, Ahmadinejad could easily rebut it, stating that in the view of most people in the region Hamas and Hezbollah are legitimate resistance organizations. Obama would have trouble with that considering both groups have been legitimized to a U.S. standard by engaging in the democratic process and in fact being quite successful at it. As for the terrorism charges, both organizations have used terror but then so have Israel and the United States. And as for Iran's support of Hamas and Hezbollah, the United States has provided massive military aid to Israel creating a huge imbalance of power in the region. It is hypocritical, the Iranian president might say, to criticize Iran for providing a much smaller amount of aid to the other side, particularly as that side is the victim. In any case, after the Iraq debacle, the Americans have little credibility when it comes to peace in the region. Once again, Ahmadinejad has the edge.

A real danger for Obama would be Ahmadinejad going on the offensive about the history of the U.S./Iran relationship. He could bring up United States collaboration in the overthrow of the democratically-elected Mossadegh government, the first Islamic democracy in the Middle East. This was where the current hostility between the two countries really began. Not only would this put Obama on the defensive, it would undermine one of his real strengths, his country's support of democracy.

Will Obama take up the challenge, assuming Ahmadinejad wins Iran's June 12th presidential election? He has said he wants dialogue with Iran -- here is a splendid opportunity. As for my prediction for the debate, should it take place: Ahmadinejad wins on facts hands down. Obama, however, seduces the crowd with his charm and eloquence. I'll leave the final verdict to the members of the General Assembly.

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