This was clearly an olive branch; at that time, relations between Iran and the West generally were cool, to put it mildly.
A number of sovereign nations have developed nuclear weapons, including rising super-power China, belligerents India and Pakistan, Israel, and most of all the United States, the only country that has ever used them in anger. If America can have “the bomb”, surely any nation can. Not Iran, apparently. In fact, Iran is not to be permitted to develop anything in the nuclear field.
Facing this mindset, and at times veiled and not so veiled threats to strike at his country, Ahmadinejad kept his cool. On accepting an invitation to speak at Columbia University, he was treated like a pariah instead of being afforded the courtesy an ordinary foreigner should have received. At times the denunciation of the then President and his country has been hysterical.
Many Westerners, especially our self-styled elites, don’t like the way Iran conducts its business at home much less abroad, but what business is Iran’s domestic policy of the USA, Britain or anyone else?
Iran is an Islamic Republic, so alcohol is banned. Is that any business of ours? Moslems have a different mentality; there are no drunk drivers on their roads. Earlier this month, the BBC broadcast a documentary which related, inter alia, how a young woman in Manchester had got so drunk that she was raped by not one but two strangers in an alleyway. She had no recollection of one of these assaults, she was so far gone. In Iran this wouldn’t have happened because a) women don’t get drunk, at least not in public, and b) because aggravated rape, when proven, attracts an exemplary sentence which can include whipping or even execution.
The Iranian penal system has been much criticised, but it is not Iran that has locked up men unconvicted indeed uncharged for a decade and more. It is not Iran that uses extraordinary rendition. It is not Iran that is currently at the centre of a storm over warrantless searches and spying on a colossal scale, it is us. What right has the West to attempt to impose its brand of democracy, its brand of freedom on a nation of over 70 million people?
The real crime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is that rather than being a Western lapdog he stood up for his country and acted in what he believed was the best interests of Iranians. Whatever he does now he has left office, and whatever scorn and vitriol is poured on him today, he will be judged more kindly by history than many of his contemporaries, including without doubt Tony Blair, George W. Bush and the still in office Binyamin Netanyahu.