"Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia has helped him solidify his position as an international figure in Iran and the world," Raz Zimet, a research fellow at the Institute for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Ynet.
Iranian opposition newspapers were critical of the Iranian President's last two visits to the United States. They accused Ahmadinejad's latest visit of being meaningless and criticized him of spewing nationalistic rhetoric and behaving in a vulgar manner that does not benefit Iran.
The newspapers urged their president to change his message to the Americans instead of repeating the same old impassioned message about the struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors.
"His positions are more or less the same ones he expresses when he is in Iran. He simply tries to present them in more subtle manner that a western audience will be more receptive to," Zimet explained.
"Instead of calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, he says he believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be solved by a national referendum with all original residents of the British Mandate of Palestine participating. This is just another way to call for Israel's destruction without explicitly saying so," the research fellow said.
Ahmadinejad. Controversial appearance (Photo: Reuters)
Zimet points to recent events in Iran as a sign that the Iranian leader's position is weak. "Although all of Ahmadinejad's declarations on the Holocaust, Israel, and its nuclear program are, in principle, identical to those of the senior Iranian leadership, the Iranians say that they oppose his style and some people have told him that his declarations are hurting Iran."
During the question and answer session after his appearance Monday, Ahmadinejad declared that homosexuality did not exist in Iran, prompting some chuckling and whistling from the audience.
The president would probably be very interested in speaking with N, an Iranian student who lives in Tehran, who told Ynet that she knew more than a few young Iranians who were gay.
"They have to hide their true sexual orientation. Although they don't have their own places, their own cafés to hang out in, they do exist," she said.
Dana Zimmerman contributed to this report