After his recent rant at the U.N., during which he accused the U.S. of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad engaged in an hour-long tete-a-tete with 13 Yale graduate students.
The confab was arranged by Hillary Mann Leverett, a senior fellow at Yale’s newly created Jackson Institute and an advocate of engaging with Iran rather than imposing sanctions.
The dim view Iran takes of Yale appears not to have fazed Leverett. According to the Yale Daily News:
While the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence listed Yale as one of 60 subversive organizations in January, Leverett said being blacklisted did not pose a problem when arranging the meeting with Yale students. She said Yale’s ties to various human rights organizations that criticize the regime likely landed the University on the list, which she said was largely meant to make a statement that Iran does not approve of programs that challenge the government in Tehran.
What did this chat accomplish?
Leverett said she thinks students took away from the meeting in New York that Ahmadinejad is “not a crazy, irrational leader,” and whether students agree with him or not, he has a strategy for Iran … she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”
One student spoke out forcefully against the meeting and Leverett’s views:
Sharif Vakili ’13, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Iran and is not in Leverett’s class, said he opposed the idea of meeting . . . because it lends Ahmadinejad undeserved legitimacy.
For Leverett “to advocate a policy of engagement and show Ahmadinejad as a person and wash the blood off his hands is despicable and shameful,” Vakili added.