Ban is wrong — even more wrong than when he went to Libya in 2010 to attend an Arab League summit hosted by the late Gaddafi, with whom Ban was photographed whooping it up at a banquet. But if Ban really believes his own bunkum about needing some quality time with the ayatollahs, then let’s see him follow through, and offer Ahmadinejad some down-home hospitality in New York. That should leave plenty of time for edifying chat at the end of a long day’s propagandizing in Manhattan.
Courtesy of the good old United States, Ban certainly has the digs to accommodate Ahmadinejad’s yen for plush rooms in Manhattan. Ban lives in the multi-million dollar Sutton Place Georgian town house that has served for decades as the official residence of the UN secretary-general. This 14,000 square-foot luxury dwelling is just up the road from the UN’s midtown Manhattan headquarters. It’s a lovely stroll on crisp autumn days, or at least a convenient strip for motorcades to race back and forth, protected by barricades and security officers from the gridlock that plagues the lesser folk of Manhattan during UN high-level events.
Surely Ban would be generous enough to share with Ahmadinejad for a few days the fruits of the relatively recent $4.9 million renovation of this spacious UN residence — the largest share of that tab paid, as usual, by U.S. taxpayers. Improvements, as reported at the time in the Washington Post, included “a new $2.1 million central heating and air-conditioning system, and a $200,000 kitchen upgrade” (at least those were the preliminary estimates; let us not be shocked should it turn out the real cost ran higher). Should Ahmadinejad wish to straighten his lounge suit before heading out into the streets of the Great Satan, Ban’s residence reportedly boasts two small bathrooms in the entryway alone. We know that because it reportedly cost $100,000 to renovate them.
Yes, I know. Morally, this proposal is disgusting. Politically, it is outrageous. And surely the vision of Ahmadinejad during his next New York trip availing himself of the lavish comforts of Ban Ki-moon’s UN residence, while dignified with special access to the secretary-general himself, is hardly in keeping with the UN’s founding promises to promote peace, prosperity, and human dignity.
But as shorthand for the current relationship between Iran and the UN secretary-general, Sutton Place seems just the ticket. So, my vote is for Ban Ki-moon to return Iran’s gracious hospitality, and open up his spare bedrooms, armchairs, and $200,000-upgraded kitchen to the UN’s guests from Tehran. Would it really be all that different from what’s going on anyway?