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State Department Takes 5 Days to Condemn Iran's Holocaust Denial

State Department condemns Iran’s Supreme Leader, but only after an investigative report reveals it failed to do so for five days.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/27/2014, 4:43 AM

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
AFP photo

The State Department on Wednesday condemned the remarks made by Iran’s Supreme Leader in which he denied the Holocaust, but only after the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) revealed that it had failed to do so for five days.

In a speech he gave last Friday honoring the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed, "In European countries, no one dares to talk about the Holocaust, and we do not know if it's real or not."

According to the Ayatollah, Europe's criminalization of denying the Holocaust is an attack on Iranian culture.

IPT noted that on the same day, Khamenei also vowed to "raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground" if "the Zionist regime makes a wrong move" in a post on his official Facebook page.

IPT also noted that a reporter asked State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki at last Friday's press briefing, the very day Khamenei made his remarks, if she had any comments about the statements which were described as "not very kind either to the United States or to Israel, to put it mildly."

Psaki responded by saying she didn't know about the specifics and would check into it. Told that the Ayatollah "again voiced doubts about the existence and the scale of the Holocaust," Psaki pledged to "take a closer look and we can get something around to all of you."

No statement was made by the State Department or the White House since then, revealed IPT.

The IPT asked State Department spokesman Peter Velasco Tuesday afternoon if, having had time to review Khamenei's remarks, they had any comment. Velasco said no, and asked that further questions be referred to the State Department's press duty officer's email. An email was sent, but no reply has been issued.

On Wednesday, shortly after IPT exposed the State Department’s failure to condemn the remarks, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf took to Twitter and posted: "FALSE. I addressed on the record in briefing. Said is abhorrent and insulting to millions who died in the Holocaust."

However, as IPT exposed using the State Department's transcript, even Harf's comments on Wednesday came only after a reporter brought the issue back up. The transcript reads:

QUESTION: Do you have anything – we asked the other day about the supreme leader's statements on Nowruz --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- on the Holocaust.

MS. HARF: Yes. Well – and we have seen them. Unfortunately, these statements are nothing new. We have heard these before and obviously would strongly condemn any anti-Semitic statements. They're inflammatory. They're, quite frankly, abhorrent. And it's insulting to the millions of people who died in the Holocaust.

IPT also noted that the State Department’s silence over Iran's most recent Holocaust denial stands in stark contrast with President Obama's repeated pledge to strongly respond to the anti-Semitic revisionism.

The United States would "pledge to speak truth to those who deny the Holocaust," Obama pledged in a January 2012 message commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. He directly addressed Holocaust denials coming from Tehran in an April 2012 speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, condemning Iran for denying the Holocaust and threatening to destroy Israel.

This is not the first time that the U.S. was late in condemning hateful remarks against Israel by Khamenei.

In November, the Supreme Leader said Israel is a "regime doomed to collapse" and proceeded to call Israel "the rabid dog of the region.”

France was quick to condemn Khamenei’s comments but it was not until an entire day after they were made that Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, condemned in a television interview what she described as Khamenei's "abhorrent” comments..