TEHRAN, Iran – Iranians expressed dismay Tuesday at the tough reception given to their president in New York, saying his host was rude and only fueled the image of the United States as a bully.
The scenes at Monday’s question-and-answer session at Columbia University and the outpouring of venom toward President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by protesters during his U.S. visit could bolster the leader at a time of high tensions with Washington.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s statement – including telling Ahmadinejad that he resembles a “petty and cruel dictator” – offended Iranians on many levels, not least that of simple hospitality.
The chancellors of seven Iranian universities issued a letter to Bollinger saying his “insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with … a recorded history of 7,000 years of civilization and culture is deeply shameful.”
Ahmadinejad’s popularity at home has been suffering, with many Iranians blaming him for failing to fix the faltering economy and for heightening the confrontation with the West with his inflammatory rhetoric.
But in the eyes of many Iranian critics and supporters alike, Ahmadinejad looked like the victim.