Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the motives of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta who said it’s only a “matter of time” before a revolution hits Iran, like the one that swept the region this Spring.
“Does he have any plans for any interference in Iran or does he… foresee the future,” the president asked.
“If he has a plan, let him announce it so that we’ll learn it as well. But if he’s foreseeing the future, he should let us know how he’s doing it,” he told me. “Does this mean the U.S. has some plan for the Middle East?”
I asked Ahmadinejad if he feared a plan. He told me he has “no fear of the U.S.” since it has “been against us for 50 to 60 years” but he fired a warning at Panetta.
“Does the Secretary of Defense wish to inform us of plans that have been drawn up or he’s just talking? If he’s just saying something, that’s not important, a lot of people talk,” the president said. “It’s not worth being analyzed. But if he has some plans, and he’s announcing it, I would be telling him you’re making a mistake and the response will be very resolute.”
The president said he supports freedom, justice and the people’s right to chose. But during the 2009 Iranian anti-government protests – which turned violent – he was quoted as calling the protestors “dust and dirt.”
The president explained that there’s a difference between “protestors who have something to say and who have some demands, and those who set buildings on fire.” When I questioned why they didn’t go through due process Ahmadinejad told me that wasn’t true.
“Certain demands were made, certain claims were made. The judicial authorities reviewed them. They responded to all of them. And there were some other than ordinary people who attacked buildings in an organized fashion and set them on fire. They had nothing to do with each other at all. They are two separate issues,” he said.
During our exclusive 30 minute interview we covered a broad range of topics including:
Ahmadinejad said the United States and NATO should not intervene in Syria, where the government crackdown has killed more than 2,600 this year.
“They shouldn’t kill each other, they should sit down and talk and solve their problems. And nobody should interfere,” he said. “And the American President does not have the right to call someone and say ‘leave or stay on.’ Or to threaten some government or nation. These are the problems. If it were not for the American interference, or the interference of its friends, I think the problems would be solved more easily.”
Quest for Palestinian Statehood:
Before the United Nations Security Council this week the Palestinians plan to seek recognition as a state – causing a flurry of diplomacy behind the scenes. Ahmadinejad was clear in his support of Palestine, but questioned why the recognition of Palestine implies the recognition of Israel.
“Why? Why does it have to be like that? We do recognize Palestine, but we will not recognize the Zionist regime. Why do they set conditions when some nation wants to be independent in its own homeland – it has to recognize an occupying and illegal government? Is that fair? If the Palestinian nation has any rights, it has the rights to have any position,” he said.
The Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, accused Iran of “denial, deceit and evasion” because of its refusal to cooperate with inspections. Ahmadinejad again denied that his country wants a nuclear weapon, and lashed out at Chu’s comments.
“Is he talking as the representative of one of those organizations? Or is he commanding those organizations. I think that’s where the problem lies,” he said.
I told him that Chu can’t command any regulatory organization, but he said that “it’s in the behavior and in the spirit of some of the leaders of the United States. They believe that they own the world. They interfere in everything.”
“I’ve said many times we don’t want a bomb and we are against any nuclear bombs. But the government that has stored thousands of bombs, can it say anything against others? This is the problem. This is the wrong spirit. This kind of spirit cannot lead the world to peace,” he said. “If there are any problems between the United States and Iran, it’s because of this spirit held by some American politicians. They bully. And this won’t solve the problem.”