Ahmadinejad's Friends in the United States

Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not have many friends, especially not in Iran. But in the distant United States, he appears to have quite a fan club. Take professors Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, whose class Ahmadinejad recently granted an interview. Or consider the recent televised dinner party for Iranian-Americans hosted by Ahmadinejad during his latest visit to the U.N. General Assembly. On minute 0:55 of the video, a lady dressed in a black manteau and headscarf says with tears in her eyes, "You don't know what you have! If you appreciated it. . . . If I see the soil of Iran I'll kiss it!" This lady is none other than Ghazal Omid, author of Living in Hell: A True Odyssey of a Woman's Struggle in Islamic Iran Against Personal and Political Forces; she regularly appears on Fox News as a critic of the Islamic Republic. Her "struggle" against "political forces" has apparently not prevented her from accepting a dinner invitation from the president of the "Hell" from which she escaped.

On minute 1:01 of the video, another lady expresses her devotion to Ahmadinejad: "First of all, I see His Excellency Mr. Ahmadinejad, to whom I am deeply devoted. I love him very much." Asked why, she says: "He always defends Iran in such a way that I too [believe I] can gather the courage to defend Iran. I am an author here [in the U.S.]." This lady is Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich, who usually presents herself as an "independent researcher, public speaker, radio commentator, political columnist, and peace activist." The same "independent" Ulrich recently accused Mehdi Khalaji, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, of "solicit[ing] sympathy from Iranians and Americans while betraying both nations." Ulrich's poison pen wrote these lines as Mehdi Khalaji's father, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Khalaji, was being held in solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin prison because he had the audacity to condemn the Islamic Republic's murder and arrest of protesters in the wake of the fraudulent June 12, 2009, presidential election. I am glad that Ulrich has proven her "independence" by declaring her devotion to Ahmadinejad on camera.

But Ahmadinejad is more than just a ladies' man: Male guests also expressed their "gratitude" towards a president whom they believe has "given Iran and Iranians a great name in the world and has firmly resisted [injustice]."

Watching the footage of this dinner party, I can't understand why these loyal friends of Ahmadinejad live in the United States, the very source of "force" against their beloved president. Why do they reside in the realm of the "Great Satan," which, according to Ahmadinejad, slaughtered its own population on September 11, 2001, when they are perfectly free to live in the Islamic Republic? Why don't these ladies wear the headscarf when appearing on Fox News or on their photos available online, given that they do so when meeting the target of their adoration?

In the midst of the nauseating duplicity of the dinner party, the footage provides one source of consolation: Their desperate need for dinner guests willing to be interviewed on state-controlled television forced the Islamic Republic to compromise its clandestine supporters, who are no longer able to claim "independence."

Speaking of independence, Hillary Mann Leverett's students showed greater integrity than their professor. Following the interview with Ahmadinejad, one of them said it's scary "when politicians keep repeating things until they believe it themselves." This is also true of the Islamic Republic's useful idiots and fellow travelers.

Ali Alfoneh is a resident fellow at AEI.

Photo Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

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About the Author


  • Ali Alfoneh's research areas include civil-military relations in Iran with a special focus on the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Islamic Republic. Mr. Alfoneh has been a research fellow at the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defence College and has taught political economy at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

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