Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, lived up to his reputation for sophistry during an address last week to the UN General Assembly, a prickly interview on CNN, and an exchange with two dozen members of the Council on Foreign Relations. There is a value in giving public exposure to the prideful leader of the radical faction within the Iranian regime. The idea that Ahmadinejad should not be given a forum for expressing abhorrent or false views assumes that his listeners might fall prey to his persuasive powers. But in his appearances he was tellingly rigid. He repeated a few simple, self-serving notions, telling questioners they had their facts or their history all wrong.

The purpose of Ahmadinejad’s brief against the Security Council, however, is to delegitimise the resolution passed by the council calling on Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium. His tirade was also meant to preempt any resolutions for sanctions that Iran might face if it does not suspend enrichment and renew negotiations next month with France, Britain, Germany, and the US. If those negotiations take place, the more pragmatic elements of Iran’s Islamic republic will have prevailed. If not, it will mean that Ahmadinejad’s radical gang is in the ascendancy. And Americans have now had the benefit of sizing up its leader directly.