- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2010

UNITED NATIONS | American and European diplomats walked out of the room in protest Thursday as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested before the U.N. General Assembly that the U.S. government may have orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in an effort to somehow bolster Israel.

The incendiary remarks upstaged President Obama, who hours earlier touted the latest round of sanctions against the rogue nation, yet said the “door remains open to diplomacy” if Iran decides to meet its international obligations by allowing U.N. inspectors access to its nuclear facilities.

Mr. Ahmadinejad discussed the 9/11 conspiracy theory in a characteristic rambling tirade that hit the U.S. for its “occupation” of Iraq and Afghanistan, and predicted an end to the current world order.

He said one possible explanation for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is “that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime.”

The incendiary statement drew a sharp and immediate response from the Obama administration.

“Rather than representing the aspirations and good will of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable,” said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N.

Indeed, the diminutive leader has made a habit of provoking the West in his annual speech to world leaders, describing “Zionists” as “murderers” in his 2008 address, for example. His anti-Semitic comments last year prompted a similar walkout.

Fariborz Ghadar, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments are clearly outrageous, but “the question is, why is he saying it?”

“This is basically for consumption in the Middle East. It certainly doesn’t play well in New York, and I don’t necessarily think it plays well in Tehran,” said Mr. Ghadar, drawing a distinction between the “average Iranian” and hard-liners like Mr. Ahmadinejad. “He wants to make some gestures to the West, but whenever he makes them, he gets a fair amount of pushback from the factions within conservative groups in Iran, so he then has to say all sorts of outrageous things.”

In an interview with reporters earlier in the week, Mr. Ahmadinejad gave the impression that he is open to relaunching nuclear talks with the West, saying there “is a good chance” that negotiations would resume “in the near future,” according to Politico.

But even before his 9/11 comments, the Obama administration greeted the statement with skepticism.

“We’re looking for actions from the Iranians, and not just words about diplomacy,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters, adding that a series of international and unilateral sanctions against the regime were having a more dramatic effect than its leadership had anticipated.

In his address earlier on Thursday, Mr. Obama publicly chided Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government, hailing the new round of multilateral sanctions against Iran as proof that “international law is not an empty promise.”

Iran is the only party to the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy, should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.”

The president devoted much of his second annual address to the world body to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that while “rejectionists on both sides” will try to derail new direct peace negotiations between the longtime foes, familiar grievances must not stand in the way of a peace agreement that would create a Palestinian state.

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