Barack Obama does not necessarily have in mind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he says he will meet with Iran’s leaders, a top Jewish proxy says.
“Ahmadinejad may not be the one to meet with,” U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, the top Jewish surrogate for the contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, told JTA in a recent interview. “He is not the person that ultimately controls power in Iran.”
In debates, the U.S. senator for Illinois has said he will meet with the leaders of rogue nations such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela in his first year in office, a repudiation of what Obama says is the failed Bush administration policy of isolating such regimes.
Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has gone beyond his predecessors’ anti-Israel hostility, denying the Holocaust, suggesting Jewish control of the West and wishing Israel did not exist.
Wexler told JTA that Obama would meet with Iranian leaders as a means of reducing its threat to Israel. “The only reason to meet with Iranian leaders is the cessation of uranium enrichment and financing terrorism,” he said. “You deal with those power structures that can implement a negotiated agreement.”
In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press in November, Obama suggested that he would meet with Ahmadinejad, but as a means of sending a signal to others in Iran, including the theocracy that props up the presidency.
“Look,” Obama said, “part of the reason it’s important for us to talk to countries we don’t like and leaders we don’t like, it’s not that I think that in a conversation with somebody like Ahmadinejad that I’m going to somehow change his mind on everything, but what we do is, we send a signal to other leadership in Iran, to the Iranian people and to the world community that we are listening and that we are willing to try to resolve conflicts peacefully.”