Amidst widespread dissatisfaction with the recent interviews by US broadcasters of President Ahmadinejad, both in Tehran and on his trips to New York, two analysts --- Karim Sadjadpour and Abbas Milani --- put their lists of Top 10 Questions for Ahmadinejad as he visits the United Nations this week:
1. Your boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was selected by a few dozen clerics more than 20 years ago. Do you believe that he — as his office has asserted — is the prophet’s representative on Earth?
2. Khamenei hasn’t left Iran since 1989. Nearly half of Iran’s population was born after 1989. Do you think this provides him with a good understanding of the modern world in which they live?
3. One of your key clerical backers, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, proclaimed after your contested reelection in 2009 that obeying you was akin to obeying God. More recently he has asserted that you are under the influence of Satan. What explains Mesbah Yazdi’s, or God’s, fickleness?
4. There is evidence that your chief adviser, [Esfandiar] Rahim Mashai, helped secure loans for the leading suspect in a $2.6 billion bank fraud case, the largest embezzlement scandal in Iranian history. You came to office vowing to “cut off the hands” of the corrupt; how will you deal with Mashai?
5. Your opponents in 2009, Mir Hossein Mousavi, 69, and Mehdi Karroubi, 73, have been held incommunicado for nearly a year. On what basis are they confined? If they have no influence, as you have said, why are they under house arrest?
6. Somayeh Tohidlou, a 32-year-old female sociology PhD student, recently received 50 lashes in prison for having “insulted” you by campaigning for Mousavi in 2009. Do you believe that men lashing women for their political views is an appropriate form of punishment?
1. Your administration came to power on the platform of fighting corruption and nepotism; you now stand accused by your own country’s judiciary, media, Parliament, and even your own brother, of having the most corrupt regime in the post-shah era. Your son’s father-in-law has been appointed by you to more than 13 key positions, with billions of dollars of funds at his disposal, and he now stands accused of complicity in a $3 billion heist, as well as theft of antiquities. Your brother and many in the official Iranian media accuse your confidants of voodoo and devil worship. What say you to these allegations?
2. When the Islamic Republic of Iran took over the country, virtually every socioeconomic category—from annual economic growth to life expectancy—was on par with Turkey. Now Turkey is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and Iran is its junior economic partner. Is it true that economic statistics, like growth of GNP, inflation, and unemployment, are so disastrous that you have ordered the government to keep them secret?
3. You have repeatedly claimed that in Iran no one is in prison for their political views, but as we speak your two opponents in the last contested election have been in prison for 178 days, with no indictment; dozens of top journalists, politicians, and public intellectuals have suffered similar fates; and only last Thursday, a young doctoral student of sociology was humiliated by receiving 50 lashes in Evin prison simply because she had been a volunteer in Moussavi’s campaign. Do you deny these claims?
4. What say you to the fact that members of a pious Sufi sect, Gonabadi Darvishes, members of the Sunni minority, and also members of the Bahai faith have all been persecuted under your administration—Darvishes and Bahai leaders been put in prison, Sunni mosques destroyed, and Sunni leaders banned from holding religious ceremonies?
5. Your critics, which now include websites close to the Revolutionary Guards (Jahan and Javan Online) and to [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei (Kayhan), accuse you of trying to create controversy in your New York trip as a way to deflect attention from the problems your allies and advisers face at home. Is that why you are raising the issue of war reparations for the Allied occupation of parts of Iran in World War II?