Where Should Ahmadinejad Bunk Down in New York?
by CLAUDIA ROSETT
August 27, 2012
Plaudits to the watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which is again tackling the mission of persuading New York City hotels to spurn Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his entourage when they come to Manhattan for the late-September opening of the United Nations General Assembly. This will be Ahmadinejad's eighth consecutive year of attending the UN's annual opening, and in years past UANI has led campaigns to drive him out of the Intercontinental and the Hilton Manhattan East, and is now calling on the Warwick Hotel - which hosted him last year - to give him the cold shoulder. In a Thursday press release, UANI congratulates an array of other hotels for refusing to provide rooms to the smirking face of Iran's terror-based regime.
All of which is gratifying, but presents an intriguing question - since it looks quite likely that even if Manhattan hoteliers take a principled stand for U.S. interests, the UN and the U.S. State Department will do no such thing. They will almost certainly insist that regardless of Tehran's baggage of terror plots, genocidal threats, domestic repression, illicit nuclear activities, and U.S. and UN sanctions, Ahmadinejad will yet again be accorded the full array of privileges and immunities that the UN is pleased to bestow on all its member tyrants. Ahmadinejad and his retinue will be permitted entry to the U.S., ushered into Manhattan, and provided with top-notch security, courtesy of the same U.S. taxpayers whose country and way of life he would like to destroy.
But the question. If New York hotels won't host Ahmadinejad, then where should he stay?
Maybe he can pitch a tent in Central Park? Fuggedaboutit. The late Moammar Gaddafi made a bid for that when he came to the UN's annual opening in 2009, the year Libya's man presided over the UN General Assembly. New York City said no. So did New Jersey.
There are plenty of other possibilities, of course. Perhaps Ahmadinejad could offer to deliver another lecture at Columbia University, in exchange for access to visiting faculty housing. Or, on a more pedestrian note, he could simply bunk down in the quarters of Iran's ambassador to the UN, and cram his retinue into the broom closets. One can come up with all sorts of ideas.
But I have my own preferred solution. It's obvious. By now, it would be entirely fitting for Ahmadinejad to bunk down in New York as the house guest of none other than Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the UN.
For Ban to refuse Ahmadinejad such a favor would be nothing short of churlish. After all, Ban is about to avail himself of the Iranian regime's hospitality later this very month, when he travels Tehran to to attend the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. For reasons having no discernible connection to experience, reality, or even sanity, the UN secretary-general has apparently decided that if he can just spend a few days rubbing elbows with Iran's terror-masters, he can talk them into good behavior.
Ban is wrong - even more wrong than when he went to Libya in 2010 to attend an Arab League summit hosted by the late Gaddafi, with whom Ban was photographed whooping it up at a banquet. But if Ban really believes his own bunkum about needing some quality time with the ayatollahs, then let's see him follow through, and offer Ahmadinejad some down-home hospitality in New York. That should leave plenty of time for edifying chat at the end of a long day's propagandizing in Manhattan.
Courtesy of the good old United States, Ban certainly has the digs to accommodate Ahmadinejad's yen for plush rooms in Manhattan. Ban lives in the multi-million dollar Sutton Place Georgian town house that has served for decades as the official residence of the UN secretary-general. This 14,000 square-foot luxury dwelling is just up the road from the UN's midtown Manhattan headquarters. It's a lovely stroll on crisp autumn days, or at least a convenient strip for motorcades to race back and forth, protected by barricades and security officers from the gridlock that plagues the lesser folk of Manhattan during UN high-level events.
Surely Ban would be generous enough to share with Ahmadinejad for a few days the fruits of the relatively recent $4.9 million renovation of this spacious UN residence - the largest share of that tab paid, as usual, by U.S. taxpayers. Improvements, as reported at the time in the Washington Post, included "a new $2.1 million central heating and air-conditioning system, and a $200,000 kitchen upgrade" (at least those were the preliminary estimates; let us not be shocked should it turn out the real cost ran higher). Should Ahmadinejad wish to straighten his lounge suit before heading out into the streets of the Great Satan, Ban's residence reportedly boasts two small bathrooms in the entryway alone. We know that because it reportedly cost $100,000 to renovate them.
Yes, I know. Morally, this proposal is disgusting. Politically, it is outrageous. And surely the vision of Ahmadinejad during his next New York trip availing himself of the lavish comforts of Ban Ki-moon's UN residence, while dignified with special access to the secretary-general himself, is hardly in keeping with the UN's founding promises to promote peace, prosperity, and human dignity.
But as shorthand for the current relationship between Iran and the UN secretary-general, Sutton Place seems just the ticket. So, my vote is for Ban Ki-moon to return Iran's gracious hospitality, and open up his spare bedrooms, armchairs, and $200,000-upgraded kitchen to the UN's guests from Tehran. Would it really be all that different from what's going on anyway?
Claudia Rosett is a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.