Political Storm in Tehran

Rohani Did Not Recognize the Holocaust, Iran News Agency Claims

New York Times says Fars accuses CNN of fabricating parts of Iranian president's interview; Government officials say Iran must 'gain something from the Americans before we pose and smile with them.'

Iran's semiofficial state news agency Fars claims Iranian President Hassan Rohani did not use the word Holocaust or characterize the Nazi mass murder as “reprehensible” in his interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, the New York Times reported.

In what has been considered by many a dramatic departure from his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's blatant Holocaust denial, Rohani responded to Amanpour's question about the Holocaust by describing it as a “crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews” and called it “reprehensible and condemnable.” According to the CNN translation:

“I’ve said before that I am not a historian. And when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust, it is historians that should reflect on it.” But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis committed against the Jews, is reprehensible. Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn. Taking a life and it makes no difference whether that life is a Jewish life, Christian or Muslim – for us it is the same.”

According to the Times, Fars, which has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, accused CNN of fabricating portions of the interview, despite the fact that CNN officials said they used an interpreter provided by the Iranian government. Fars posted its own translation of Rohani’s answer, and claimed that he did not use the word “reprehensible” and that he said historians should be left to judge “historical events,” not “the Holocaust.”

That translation is more similar to the way Ahmadinejad used to discuss the issue. In an interview with CNN in 2012, he said: “Whatever event has taken place throughout history, or hasn’t taken place, I cannot judge that. Why should I judge that?”

The dispute over different translations has set off a political storm in Tehran, with government advisers and analysts warning that Rohani has projected too many conciliatory gestures, letting the excitement had gotten out of hand.

According to the Times report, Hamid-Reza Taraghi, an official who is one of the few trusted to interpret the speeches of Ayatollah Khamenei, said:  “We need to gain something from the Americans, before we pose and smile with them. Of course, Mr. Rohani also needed to convince some at home that he is not making any wild moves.”