Iran’s new president seems determined to make both him and his country international pariahs. He’s off to a great start. With the world growing apprehensive over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and getting to the point where it might actually do something about them, the wise course of action would have been for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be discreet, circumspect.
Instead in October, he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." The reaction was swift and predictable. Diplomacy and common sense called for Ahmadinejad to keep his mouth shut.
And in subsequent speeches, he expanded on his loopy idea that if the Holocaust were true, which he indicated he doubted, then Israel should be uprooted and moved to the scene of the crime. "This is our proposal: If you committed the crime, then give a part of your own land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to them so that the Jews can establish their country." Alaska?
Finally this week he came right out and called the Holocaust a "myth."
"Absolutely irresponsible," said one senior European Union official. Said another, "It calls our attention to the real danger of that regime having an atomic bomb," adding that the hapless Iranian people "do not have the president or the regime they deserve."
The State Department said, "This is one more indication that Iran is headed off 180 degrees from the rest of the world."
Even China denounced him, and the governments of other Muslim countries squirmed in visible discomfort.
The German Foreign Ministry summoned the senior Iranian diplomat there for a talking to. And on the eve of talks between Germany, France and Britain and Iran over its nuclear program, Germany’s foreign minister said, "The government in Tehran must understand that the patience of the international community is not endless."
That language echoes the words of Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency that may find itself forced to push for sanctions against Iran if there is no progress in the talks.
These are not people Ahmadinejad wants to rattle.
Perhaps Ahmadinejad has virtues discernible to the people who elected him, but invisible to the rest of us.
But it’s increasingly hard to escape the judgment that he is an ill-educated, ill-mannered nutcase who may one day have nuclear weapons.