by Kam Zarrabi
Out of sheer curiosity, I watched the speeches by President Obama and the Iranian President, Rouhani, at the United Nations on Tuesday. Obama's speech was broadcast live on major news networks; not so Mr. Rouhani's, which you could only watch on C-SPAN. The "majors", meantime, had chosen to air one of the dumbest programs of zero consequence, featuring a silly informal conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Clinton and President Obama about, well, nothing!
I read later that the Israeli delegation was ordered by the Israeli PM, Netanyahu, to walk out of the UN session when Mr. Rouhani took the podium. No surprise there.
Of great interest to me, but totally anticipated, was the news media's immediate and well-choreographed analysis of President Rouhani's UN address. The roster of "Iran Experts" included all the familiar faces with their all too familiar opinions.
One "expert", Fouad Ajami, is supposed to know all about the workings of the Middle East and the Islamic world, and especially about the troubled areas from Lebanon to Iran; after all, he has a beard and speaks with a charming Arabic accent! Oh, he loves America and definitely mistrusts the Iranians. What better way to mole your way to academic tenure as "Senior" this or that?
We also had Frank Gaffney, another media favorite when it comes to issues with any bearing on Israel in any form or shape.
Then, of course, there is one Christine Amanpour, the Senior or Chief International Correspondent with her own Iranian ancestry through her father, now married to James Rubin. I have often wondered about Amanpour's proper position in the news and information media; is she a reporter/journalist/correspondent, or does she really belong in the opinion page or the op-ed side of journalism. Because of her name alone she has a much easier time landing interviews with Iranian politicians, who, quite wrongly I must say, assume that she would have a better understanding, even a more sympathetic or less confrontational attitude in her approach. She does not!
I wished someone would have warned Mr. Rouhani against granting the overzealous Christiane Amanpour the interview she had so gleefully announced on CNN. It was quite clear where she was going to go with it.
Sure enough, the question of Holocaust became the point of primary focus. Forget about the current problems in the Middle East that could potentially set the world on fire if not intelligently dealt with, and keep harping on the one issue that trumps everything else. In subsequent airings of her interview, only the Holocaust segment was shown over and over again!
I was truly disappointed that President Rouhani did not turn the table around to question Ms. Amanpour's motives and methods. It got so bad that I wished Mr. Ahmadinejad was there to respond, instead.
"What are you trying to do, Ms. Amanpour," Rouhani should have said, "why keep on bringing that subject up?
"I have traveled half-way around the world to help bring about an atmosphere of positive change and a new approach to resolving our troubling differences and to create a better understanding between our two countries. So, what is this preoccupation with something that goes back over six decades? What is it to you whether I believe Holocaust happened or whether I'd refute my predecessor's remark that you people had so masterfully twisted out of context?
"What's your personal angle in this line of questioning? Are you trying to score points with your media masters for more publicity and better pay?
"Why should you care, why should the United States of America care, whether my predecessor or I believe the accounts of the Holocaust; how would that have anything to do with what's going on in the world today?
"It is so much like your Senate inquisitor, that nutcase, what's his name, Ted Cruz, demanding a yes or no answer from Chuck Hagel, asking him if he believed that Iran's IRGC, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, was a terrorist organization, or whether he agreed that Iran was the world's main supporter of international terrorism. Poor Hagel; he had to go through all that nonsense to be confirmed!
"I know full well that our interview will be doctored up through creative editing, mistranslation, omissions or additions, before it is aired here.
"People are dying and suffering around the world, the Iranian nation is being squeezed economically for fabricated excuses, and all you are concerned with is the Holocaust?
"Weren't you jumping up and down in anger and frustration when decision was made by the British and finally the American governments not to militarily interfere in Syrian civil war? You showed quite an emotional reaction, not as an honest reporter/journalist, but as someone with very strong personal opinions. Were you truly concerned about the fate of the Syrian people, or were you worried about making just the right kind of impression to your benefactors?"
President Obama did manage to mention the issue of Iran's nuclear program, the resolution of which would pave the way, as he implied, to an easing of tensions between the United States and Iran. His comments were very significant in my mind. I have always been of the opinion that the nuclear issue has been an excuse and not the true cause of the rift between the two countries. I have brought that up several times in my writings in the past many years.
President Barack Obama addresses the 68th United Nations general assembly in New York. Photograph: Pool/Reuters
I, therefore, believe that resolving the nuclear issue with Iran, a real non-issue, should not be a difficult challenge to overcome when the time is right, and the time is right now.
Obama, however, simply had to not sound overly eager in paving the way toward a rapprochement with Iran. He had to add that the differences were deep rooted and difficult, and the road long and arduous.
Well, I don't think the road is that long or the path so arduous. As I have said before, Obama should make an effort to overcome the pressures confronting him and earn the Nobel Peace Prize he was granted so prematurely; his time is running out.