For relaxation he does grocery shopping [Fairway?] and walks through Central Park. According to Hoge, Zarif has been "listened to respectfully and often applauded warmly" by American audiences because these audiences suspect that he "contests the extreme views of Mr. Ahmadinejad."
Nothing too remarkable here. Until Mr. Zarif spins Ahmadinejad on the Holocaust.
Mr. Zarif contends Iranian President Ahmadinejad has been misunderstood regarding the Holocaust. According to Mr. Zarif, Mr. Ahmadinejad was not questioning whether the Holocaust had occurred, “but merely saying that the Palestinians wrongly bore the consequences of it.”
Apparently Mr. Zarif simply ignores Mr. Ahmadinejad’s frequent statements to the contrary. And surprisingly Mr. Hoge does not bring them up. The Iranian president has not been shy about raising all sorts of questions about the Holocaust. He has done so in speeches and in writing.
For example: In December 2005 he described the Holocaust as a “legend” that had been “fabricated,” In a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel he said, regarding the Holocaust, that the victorious countries of World War II “create[d] an alibi.” He wrote
But, does it not stand to reason that some victorious countries of World War II intended to create an alibi on the basis of which they could continue keeping the defeated nations of World War II indebted to them. Their purpose has been to weaken their morale and their inspiration in order to obstruct their progress and power.
In a May 2006 interview with the German publication Der Spiegel Mr. Ahmadinejad insisted that there were “two opinions” regarding the Holocaust. He told Der Spiegel
We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not.
But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed.
Mr. Zarif also ignores the fact that Mr. Ahmadinejad convened a conference to explore the existence of the Holocaust which was dominated by the appearance of Holocaust deniers. At the conference Ahmadinejad claimed that Western governments did not allow research into the Holocaust.
Mr. Zarif is not the only Iranian official to attempt to reinterpret Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statements. Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi has also argued that the statements were “misunderstood."
Mr. Zarif and his colleagues' know that, while Ahmadinejad's statements may play well with certain audience in Iran, they do him and their country no good in Western eyes. In fact, they make their country's leadership look ridiculous. Hence their efforts to spin his statements.
Their efforts to make Mr. Ahmadinejad sound more reasonable notwithstanding, his statements speak for themselves.
* I orignally posted this blog with the following headline: The New York Times' glowing portrait of Iran's UN Ambassador. I changed it because I decided that it placed the emphasis on the NY Times and not the attempt by Iran to burnish Ahmadinejad's record.