Tabloids Have Field Day with Ahmadinejad Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address at New York's Columbia University produces screaming headlines in New York's tabloid newspapers. Overseas publications are more restrained and more circumspect.
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Tabloids Have Field Day with Ahmadinejad

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Tabloids Have Field Day with Ahmadinejad

Tabloids Have Field Day with Ahmadinejad

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: The Evil Has Landed.

Overseas, papers were more restrained. London's Daily Telegraph had this headline: President Ahmadinejad booed at U.S. university.

Joining us for a reaction from Iran is Ali Ansari. He's professor of Iranian history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and he's been monitoring the Iranian press.

Hello. Thank you for joining us.

ALI ANSARI: Good morning.

: How is Ahmadinejad's visit to the United States and the U.N. being treated outside the U.S.?

ANSARI: Well, having had a brief look at the Iranian coverage, I mean, I have to say, they've been fairly circumspect to make coverage of it. There's been some division among the reformist press and the - the more supportive hard line press over the value of his trip. And one reformist paper actually scolded his supporters by saying they were making far too much of his Columbia visit. Apparently they were selling this sort of visit to Columbia as a sign that he was sort of popular with students or something or other and that he was a major international figure. And the reformist press that, well, you know, actually the fact that he's been invited to the Columbia against the - the sort of protests, I think, of many New Yorkers was actually good propaganda for the independence of American universities and had nothing to do with whether Mr. Ahmadinejad was popular or not.

I mean, so there's been a certain debate about the process and a certain debate about the nature of his visit, but actually there's been very little about the actual substance of his visit, particularly to Columbia.

: Any reaction at all to President Bollinger's rather harsh introduction?

ANSARI: There's been absolutely nothing. I mean, it's been as far as I've seen, in any case, and I would assume that in perhaps the next couple of days there would be more analytical pieces in some of the Iranian press, but I have to say, on a number of different levels, it was a fairly harsh encounter. And I think some people have commented that certainly President Bollinger's comments may have been in tune with the fact that Columbia in some ways have to sort of almost compensate for the fact that they invited him by sort of playing to a certain audience. But it's certainly true that his tone was extremely harsh and in some ways it certainly could have backfired very possibly.

: Does, though, Ahmadinejad get more support at home when he's pitted against the U.S.?

ANSARI: I mean I don't actually believe the encounter at Columbia or even much of what he does in the United States will convince people on either side of the divide. I think his supporters will see him of as having entered the lion's den and survived. I think his critics will also say, quite rightly in my view certainly, that he didn't really answer many of the questions.

I know a number of people who have been to listen to him at other meetings have said that basically he still tells everyone how successful the country is going economically, which for instance, everyone know is completely untrue. He's a rather persistent master of spin, and few people are really convinced on either side of the divide.

But certainly it's interesting to see that the only official round up of the meeting in Columbia, for instance, was barely a few paragraphs long and simply recounted some of his comments about Iran being in pursuit of simply peaceful nuclear power, not wanting to attack anyone, so on and so forth.

: Does the Western press make Ahmadinejad out to be more powerful than he is?

ANSARI: I think they certainly do. I mean, I think there's an element where the Western press are fascinated by him. He loves it too. I mean there's almost an unholy relationship between the two. He thrives on the attention he gets and he thrives on the fact that the more obnoxious comments he can make, the more - I mean, his view is basically that the reason why people are critical of him is because the truth hurts. You know, that's his view. And you can see this in the Holocaust comments he made, even the comments he made last night, which were wholly, to my mind, you know, unsatisfactory in the way that he was in a sense avoiding the question, although he said some interesting things about, you know, knowledge being - a lack of absoluteness in knowledge and everything could be up for debate. I mean the interesting thing about that is if you take that methodology and apply it to all sorts of things in Iran, it could open up debate quite dramatically in the country.

: Thank you very much for joining us.

ANSARI: Great. Thank you.

: Ali Ansari is professor of Iranian history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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