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Iran Video: Full Ahmadinejad Interview with NBC News

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See also Iran Latest: Ahmadinejad "Unilateral Pardon" for US Hikers Bauer & Fattal in 48 Hours
Iran MediaFail: America's NBC News Proudly Presents "A Day in the Life of Ahmadinejad"

This is effectively a 45-minute political advertisement by President Ahmadinejad.

NBC News has paid a high price for its access to the President and the "exclusive" that Ahmadinejad will give a "unilateral pardon" to US hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, sentenced to eight years for espionage. (It is an interesting question whether NBC knew in advance, as a sweetener to do the interview, of the President's plan or at least was told that Ahmadinejad would make an "important announcement".) The US channel agreed to an advance, glowing profile of "A Day in the Life of the President". I am certain that the list of questions was submitted to Ahmadinejad's office in advance, and I strongly suspect that NBC agreed that it would ask only those questions, with no follow-ups on Ahmadinejad's points. At points, interviewer Ann Curry is embarrassingly deferential --- note, for example, her obsequious, almost apologetic, introduction of a question (at the 18:00 mark) of a question about Iran's co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. At no point does she interrupt to challenge or even clarify Ahmadinejad's answers, which last up to five minutes without pause.

The outcome is the jettisoning of anything but the pretence of effective broadcast journalism.

The first five minutes, after Curry's "What goal, more than any other, drives you as President of Iran?", can be skipped --- Ahmadinejad repeats platitudes about Iranian progress, his wish for the advance of humanity, and his intention to talk about international problems at the United Nations. And the next 15 can be summarised as this:

Curry: "Is Iran building nuclear weapons?"
Ahmadinejad: "No."

Curry then sets up Ahmadinejad to express his disappointment in President Obama (25:30), before the announcement --- to which Curry expresses or feigns surprise --- of the imminent release of US hikers Bauer and Fattal (26:20). Ahmadinejad easily handles the query on Israel (38:30), and in an eight-minute answer, he turns Curry's purported challenge about his statements on the US Government's responsibility for 9-11 into a call for Obama to cut the costs of American intervention and withdraw troops from Afghanistan (30:00).

There are two --- and I think only two --- points of interest until the last minutes of the interview. Curry asks a rare probing question about the declaration by the head of Iran's atomic energy agency that Tehran will increase the production of 20% enriched uranium. Ahmadinejad, in a confused answer, contradicts his offical as he says that Iran does not need to raise production because it can get the uranium from abroad.

Is this an opening by Ahmadinejad, in the same week that Iran gave a letter to the European Union expressing its willingness for resumed nuclear talks, that a deal on enrichment can be reached? Possibly, but Curry does not ask a further question.

And then, hidden away around the 47-minute mark, is Ahmadinejad's reference that he stands with the Syrian people. Given the President's recent shift in public remarks about Damascus, calling for reforms and engagement with the opposition, is this another sign of Tehran distancing itself from the crackdown of the Assad regime?

Beyond these two points, there is one section that deserves particular attention --- not to get insight into Ahmadinejad and Iranian policy, but to illustrate how NBC aids and abets the President to the point of complicity in the abuse of human rights. At the 42-minute mark, Curry concludes a question --- her only question on Iranian internal matters --- "Did Iran respect the rights of its own citizens in the crackdown following the [2009] Presidential election?"

Ahmadinejad, who nods in anticipation during the question, immediately responds, "Who has been repressed by us? Nobody was suppressed here.” Only 33 Iranians died in the clashes after the election, he explains, and two-thirds of these were police officers. Far more people die at the hands of police each day in the US, he declares.

The reply rambles on. "I love all segments of the population," the President explains. He says nothing about detentions, abuses in prisons, cut-off of communications, repression of attorneys, suspension of political prisoners, closures of newspapers, or the house arrests of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Instead: "There are people who did not work for me in the Government and they are senior officials....It is the right to vote for anybody [people] wish....I work for all of them....NATO can never bring democracy to other nations. NATO is a killing machine."

Curry says nothing during the six-minute response. She says nothing at the end of it except, "Thank you, sir."

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