Staff editorial: Restricting Ahmadinejad’s travel an unnecessary measure
New York City officials have barred Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from visiting the World Trade Center memorial during his visit next week. And while it might seem a little unnerving to have a foreign dignitary who has a history of making inflammatory comments visit hallowed ground, the intent behind his visit is quite interesting: He wanted to lay a wreath.
Ahmadinejad wanted to "pay his respects" to the victims who died in the 2001 al-Qaida attacks when he was in the city to visit the United Nation’s General Assembly. But the foundation of the site is undergoing construction, and it wouldn’t be possible for him to visit the site, officials told CNN.
This seems to be a valid point to limit a person’s accessibility to the site, but the outcry from federal officials and politicians adds a political element that should be left out -†especially with a sign of possible good will.
Presidential forerunners such as Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -†who demonstrated grace under pressure when the rest of the city was in disarray -†have described the request as audacious and shocking. Giuliani went on to say that "under no circumstances" should the Iranian leader be allowed to visit the site.
The United States has continuously criticized Ahmadinejad’s authoritarian hand in Iran despite the supposedly democratic parameters that put in him in office. Limiting the movement of a foreign dignitary, despite the political stances he makes, contributes nothing to the dialogue of freedom that this nation is founded upon.
The fear that Ahmadinejad could make incendiary comments at the site is a legitimate concern, but keep in mind that this president has no qualms about making explosive comments in any setting -†he could make some controversial statement in front of the world when he visits the U.N. General Assembly.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, Mohammed Khatami, condemned the violent acts. Iran also cooperated with American-led coalition forces to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The United States and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations since militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Iran’s capital, Tehran, and took Americans hostage for 444 days in 1979. The American government also considers Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and has accused the country of exacerbating the situation in Iraq.
Iranian officials haven’t made any additional requests to visit the site, CNN reported. But the damage has been done. This barring only gives Ahmadinejad more room for criticism against the United States. It might seem strange to consider, but the chance of this being an honest act of good will between two nations is possible. It may be a small chance, but it’s a chance, nonetheless.