you should permit impartial groups from
the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the
research to a certain group? Of course, I don't mean you,
but rather the European governments.
SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the
Holocaust is just "a myth?"
Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something
as truth if I am actually convinced of it.
SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars
harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?
Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions
on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of
them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then
there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite
position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most
part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to
investigate and to render an opinion on this very important
subject, because the clarification of this issue will
contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the
pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has
taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It
would therefore be very good if an international and
impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify
it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and
support the work of researchers on historical events and do
not put them in prison.
SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be?
Which researchers do you mean?
Ahmadinejad: You would know this better
than I; you have the list. There are people from England,
from Germany, France and from Australia.
SPIEGEL: You presumably mean, for
example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian
Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman
Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad: The mere fact that my
comments have caused such strong protests, although I'm not
a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with
certain persons in German history indicates how charged with
conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country.
Here in Iran you needn't worry.
SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this
historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are
you questioning Israel's right to exist?
Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are
quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred,
then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not
Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not
occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came
from. I believe that the German people today are also
prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the
Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We
condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of
whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a
Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60
million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?
SPIEGEL: That's just not the case. All
peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War,
Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we
as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt,
namely for the systematic murder of the Jews. But perhaps we
should now move on to the next subject.
Ahmadinejad: No, I have a question for
you. What kind of a role did today's youth play in World War
Ahmadinejad: Why should they have
feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of
the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people
committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have
been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German
people be humiliated today because a group of people
committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the
course of history?
SPIEGEL: The German people today can't do
anything about it. But there is a sort of collective shame
for those deeds done in the German name by our fathers or
Ahmadinejad: How can a person who wasn't
even alive at the time be held legally responsible?
SPIEGEL: Not legally but morally.
Ahmadinejad: Why is such a burden heaped
on the German people? The German people of today bear no
guilt. Why are the German people not permitted the right to
defend themselves? Why are the crimes of one group
emphasized so greatly, instead of highlighting the great
German cultural heritage? Why should the Germans not have
the right to express their opinion freely?
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we are well aware
that German history is not made up of only the 12 years of
the Third Reich. Nevertheless, we have to accept that
horrible crimes have been committed in the German name. We
also own up to this, and it is a great achievement of the
Germans in post-war history that they have grappled
critically with their past.
Ahmadinejad: Are you also prepared to
tell that to the German people?
SPIEGEL: Oh yes, we do that.
Ahmadinejad: Then would you also permit
an impartial group to ask the German people whether it
shares your opinion? No people accepts its own humiliation.
SPIEGEL: All questions are allowed in our
country. But of course there are right-wing radicals in
Germany who are not only anti-Semitic, but xenophobic as
well, and we do indeed consider them a threat.
Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you one thing:
How much longer can this go on? How much longer do you think
the German people have to accept being taken hostage by the
Zionists? When will that end - in 20, 50, 1,000 years?
SPIEGEL: We can only speak for ourselves.
DER SPIEGEL is nobody's hostage; SPIEGEL does not deal only
with Germany's past and the Germans' crimes. We're not
Israel's uncritical ally in the Palestian conflict. But we
want to make one thing very clear: We are critical, we are
independent, but we won't simply stand by without protest
when the existential right of the state of Israel, where
many Holocaust survivors live, is being questioned.
Ahmadinejad: Precisely that is our point.
Why should you feel obliged to the Zionists? If there really
had been a Holocaust, Israel ought to be located in Europe,
not in Palestine.
SPIEGEL: Do you want to resettle a whole
people 60 years after the end of the war?
Ahmadinejad: Five million Palestinians
have not had a home for 60 years. It is amazing really: You
have been paying reparations for the Holocaust for 60 years
and will have to keep paying up for another 100 years. Why
then is the fate of the Palestinians no issue here?
SPIEGEL: The Europeans support the
Palestinians in many ways. After all, we also have an
historic responsibility to help bring peace to this region
finally. But don't you share that responsibility?
Ahmadinejad: Yes, but aggression,
occupation and a repetition of the Holocaust won't bring
peace. What we want is a sustainable peace. This means that
we have to tackle the root of the problem. I am pleased to
note that you are honest people and admit that you are
obliged to support the Zionists.
SPIEGEL: That's not what we said, Mr.
Ahmadinejad: You said Israelis.
Next Page: Do you want nuclear weapons
for your country?
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we're talking
about the Holocaust because we want to talk about the
possible nuclear armament of Iran -- which is why the West
sees you as a threat.
Ahmadinejad: Some groups in the West
enjoy calling things or people a threat. Of course you're
free to make your own judgment
SPIEGEL: The key question is: Do you want
nuclear weapons for your country?
Ahmadinejad: Allow me to encourage a
discussion on the following question: How long do you think
the world can be governed by the rhetoric of a handful of
Western powers? Whenever they hold something against
someone, they start spreading propaganda and lies,
defamation and blackmail. How much longer can that go on?
SPIEGEL: We're here to find out the
truth. The head of state of a neighboring country, for
example, told SPIEGEL: "They are very keen on building the
bomb." Is that true?
Ahmadinejad: You see, we conduct our
discussions with you and the European governments on an
entirely different, higher level. In our view, the legal
system whereby a handful of countries force their will on
the rest of the world is discriminatory and unstable.
One-hundred and thirty-nine countries, including us, are
members of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA)
in Vienna. Both the statutes of IAEA and the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as all security agreements
grant the member countries the right to produce nuclear fuel
for peaceful purposes. That is the legitimate legal right of
any people. Beyond this, however, IAEA was also established
to promote the disarmament of those powers that already
possessed nuclear weapons. And now look at what's happening
today: Iran has had an excellent cooperation with IAEA. We
have had more than 2,000 inspections of our plants, and the
inspectors have obtained more than 1,000 pages of
documentation from us. Their cameras are installed in our
nuclear centers. IAEA has emphasized in all its reports that
there are no indications of any irregularities in Iran. That
is one side of this matter.
SPIEGEL: IAEA doesn't quite share your
view of this matter.
Ahmadinejad: But the other side is that
there are a number of countries that possess both nuclear
energy and nuclear weapons. They use their atomic weapons to
threaten other peoples. And it is these powers who say that
they are worried about Iran deviating from the path of
peaceful use of atomic energy. We say that these powers are
free to monitor us if they are worried. But what these
powers say is that the Iranians must not complete the
nuclear fuel cycle because deviation from peaceful use might
then be possible. What we say is that these countries
themselves have long deviated from peaceful usage. These
powers have no right to talk to us in this manner. This
order is unjust and unsustainable.
SPIEGEL: But, Mr. President, the key
question is: How dangerous will this world become if even
more countries become nuclear powers -- if a country like
Iran, whose president makes threats, builds the bomb in a
Ahmadinejad: We're fundamentally opposed
to the expansion of nuclear-weapons arsenals. This is why we
have proposed the formation of an unbiased organization and
the disarmament of the nuclear powers. We don't need any
weapons. We're a civilized, cultured people, and our history
shows that we have never attacked another country.
SPIEGEL: Iran doesn't need the bomb that
it wants to build?
Ahmadinejad: It's interesting to note
that European nations wanted to allow the shah's
dictatorship the use of nuclear technology. That was a
dangerous regime. Yet those nations were willing to supply
it with nuclear technology. Ever since the Islamic Republic
has existed, however, these powers have been opposed to it.
I stress once again, we don't need any nuclear weapons.
We stand by our statements because we're
honest and act legally. We're no fraudsters. We only want to
claim our legitimate right. Incidentally, I never threatened
anyone - that, too, is part of the propaganda machine that
you've got running against me.
SPIEGEL: If this were so, shouldn't you
be making an effort to ensure that no one need fear your
producing nuclear weapons that you might use against Israel,
thus possibly unleashing a world war? You're sitting on a
tinderbox, Mr. President.
Ahmadinejad: Allow me to say two things.
No people in the region are afraid of us. And no one should
instill fear in these peoples. We believe that if the United
States and these two or three European countries did not
interfere, the peoples in this region would live peacefully
together as they did in the thousands of years before. In
1980, it was also the nations of Europe and the United
States that encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack us.
Our stance with respect to Palestine is
clear. We say: Allow those to whom this country belongs to
express their opinion. Let Jews, Christians and Muslims say
what they think. The opponents of this proposal prefer war
and threaten the region. Why are the United States and these
two or three European nations opposed to this? I believe
that those who imprison Holocaust researchers prefer war to
peace. Our stance is democratic and peaceful.
SPIEGEL: The Palestinians have long gone
a step further than you and recognize Israel as a fact,
while you still wish to erase it from the map. The
Palestinians are ready to accept a two-state solution while
you deny Israel its right to existence.
Ahmadinejad: You're wrong. You saw that
the Palestinian people elected Hamas in free elections. We
argue that neither you nor we should claim to speak for the
Palestian people. The Palestinians themselves should say
what they want. In Europe it is customary to call a
referendum on any issue. We should also give the
Palestinians the opportunity to express their opinion.
SPIEGEL: The Palestinians have the right
to their own state, but in our view the Israelis naturally
have the same right.
Ahmadinejad: Where did the Israelis come
SPIEGEL: Well, if we tried to work out
where people have come from, the Europeans would have to
return to east Africa where all humans originated.
Ahmadinejad: We're not talking about the
Europeans; we're talking about the Palestinians. The
Palestinians were there, in Palestine. Now 5 million of them
have become refugees. Don't they have a right to live?
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, doesn't there
come a time when one should accept that the world is the way
it is and that we must accept the status quo? The war
against Iraq has put Iran in a favorable position. The
United States has suffered a de facto defeat in Iraq. Isn't
it now time for Iran to become a constructive power of peace
in the Middle East? Which would mean giving up its nuclear
plans and inflammatory talk?
Ahmadinejad: I'm wondering why you're
adopting and fanatically defending the stance of the
European politicians. You're a magazine, not a government.
Saying that we should accept the world as it is would mean
that the winners of World War II would remain the victorious
powers for another 1,000 years and that the German people
would be humiliated for another 1,000 years. Do you think
that is the correct logic?
SPIEGEL: No, that's not the right logic,
nor is it true. The Germans have played a modest, but
important role in post-war developments. They do not feel as
though they have been humiliated and dishonored since 1945.
We are too self-confident for that. But today we want to
talk about Iran's current mission.
Ahmadinejad: Then we would accept that
Palestinians are killed every day, that they die in
terrorist attacks, and that houses are being destroyed. But
let me say something about Iraq. We have always favored
peace and security in the region. For eight years, the
Western countries provided arms to Saddam in the war against
us, including chemical weapons, and gave him political
support. We were against Saddam and suffered severely
because of him, so we're happy that he has been toppled. But
we don't accept a whole country being swallowed under the
pretext of wanting to topple Saddam. More than 100,000
Iraqis have lost their lives under the rule of the occupying
forces. Fortunately, the Germans haven't been involved in
this. We want security in Iraq.
SPIEGEL: But, Mr. President, who is
swallowing Iraq? The United States has practically lost this
war. By cooperating constructively, Iran might help the
Americans consider their retreat from the country.
Ahmadinejad: This is very interesting:
The Americans occupy the country, kill people, sell the oil
and when they have lost, they blame others. We have very
close ties to the Iraqi people. Many people on both sides of
the border are related. We have lived side by side for
thousands of years. Our holy pilgrimage sites are located in
Iraq. Just like Iran, Iraq used to be a center of
SPIEGEL: What are you trying to say?
Ahmadinejad: We have always said that we
support the popularly elected government of Iraq. But in my
view the Americans are doing a bad job. They have sent us
messages several times asking us for help and cooperation.
They have said that we should talk together about Iraq. We
publicly accepted this offer, although our people do not
trust the Americans. But America has responded negatively
and insulted us. Even now we're contributing to security in
Iraq. We will hold talks only if the Americans change their
SPIEGEL: Do you enjoy provoking the
Americans and the rest of the world now and then?
Ahmadinejad: No, I'm not insulting
anyone. The letter that I wrote to Mr. Bush was polite.
SPIEGEL: We don't mean insult, but
Ahmadinejad: No, we feel animosity toward
no one. We're concerned about the American soldiers who die
in Iraq. Why do they have to die there? This war makes no
sense. Why is there war when there is reason as well?
SPIEGEL: Is your letter to the president
also a gesture toward the Americans that you wish to enter
into direct negotiations?
Ahmadinejad: We clearly stated our
position in this letter on how we view the problems in the
world. Some powers have befouled the political atmosphere in
the world because they consider lies and fraud to be
legitimate. In our view that is very bad. We believe that
all people deserve respect. Relationships have to be
regulated on the basis of justice. When justice reigns,
peace reigns. Unjust conditions aren't sustainable, even if
Ahmadinejad does not criticize them.
SPIEGEL: This letter to the American
president includes a passage about Sept. 11, 2001. The
quote: "How could such an operation be planned and
implemented without the coordination with secret and
security services or without the far-reaching infiltration
of these services?" Your statements always include so many
innuendos. What is that supposed to mean? Did the CIA help
Mohammed Atta and the other 18 terrorists conduct their
Ahmadinejad: No, that's not what I meant.
We think that they should just say who is to blame. They
should not use Sept. 11 as an excuse to launch a military
attack against the Middle East. They should take those who
are responsible for the attacks to court. We're not opposed
to that; we condemned the attacks. We condemn any attack
against innocent people.
SPIEGEL: In this letter you also write
that Western liberalism has failed. What makes you say that?
Ahmadinejad: You see, for example you
have a thousand definitions of the Palestian problem and you
offer all sorts of different definitions of democracy in its
various forms. It does not make sense that a phenomenon
depends on the opinions of many individuals who are free to
interpret the phenomenon as they wish. You can't solve the
problems of the world that way. We need a new approach. Of
course we want the free will of the people to reign, but we
need sustainable principles that enjoy universal acceptance
- such as justice. Iran and the West agree on this.
SPIEGEL: What role can Europe play in the
resolution of the nuclear conflict, and what do you expect
Ahmadinejad: We have always cultivated
good relations with Europe, especially with Germany. Our two
peoples like each other. We're eager to deepen this
Europe has made three mistakes with
respect to our people. The first mistake was to support the
shah's government. This has left our people disappointed and
discontent. However, by offering asylum to Imam Khomeini,
France earned a special position that it lost again later.
The second mistake was to support Saddam in his war against
us. The truth is that our people expected Europe to be on
our side, not against us. The third mistake was Europe's
stance on the nuclear issue. Europe will be the big loser
and will achieve nothing. We don't want to see that happen.
SPIEGEL: What will happen now in the
conflict between the West and Iran?
Ahmadinejad: We understand the Americans'
logic. They suffered damage as a result of the victory of
the Islamic Revolution. But we're puzzled why some European
countries are opposed to us. I sent out a message on the
nuclear issue, asking why the Europeans were translating the
Americans' words for us. After all, they know that our
actions are aimed toward peace. By siding with Iran, the
Europeans would serve their own and our interests. But they
will suffer only damage if they oppose us. For our people is
strong and determined.
The Europeans risk losing their position
in the Middle East entirely, and they are ruining their
reputation in other parts of the world. The others will
think that the Europeans aren't capable of solving problems.
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we thank you for
Interview conducted by Stefan Aust,
Gerhard Spörl and Dieter Bednarz in Tehran.
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