Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi cast doubt on whether the Holocaust happened and called Israel a “false regime” in his first interview with a Western media outlet, which aired late Sunday.
Speaking with veteran US reporter Lesley Stahl on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Raisi also said he couldn’t trust the United States in the beleaguered nuclear talks and called Washington’s sanctions “tyrannical,” as he heads to New York to take part in the UN General Assembly.
The interview with Raisi, who took power last year, was conducted last Tuesday at the presidential compound in Tehran, according to interviewer Stahl, who was wearing a headscarf. “I was told how to dress, not to sit before he did, and not to interrupt him,” she said.
CBS said that at the end of the hour-long interview, the US network’s team was surprised when “a member of Raisi’s staff reached up and blocked one of our cameramen from shooting our goodbyes.” CBS added that “another one of our cameramen’s phone was confiscated and held by President Raisi’s security team for two and a half hours.”
During the interview, Stahl asked Raisi: “Do you believe the Holocaust happened? That 6 million Jews were slaughtered?”
Raisi answered that “historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians. There are some signs that it happened. If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.”
Stahl then said: “So you’re not sure, I’m getting that you’re not sure.” Raisi didn’t challenge that conclusion.
Iranian leaders have a long history of Holocaust denial and Holocaust revisionism.
When asked if he believed the Holocaust happened, Iranian President Raisi told Lesley Stahl, “There are some signs that it happened. If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.” https://t.co/CChTRxBFcr pic.twitter.com/7ZSBEknrh1
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 19, 2022
Asked whether he supports Israel’s right to exist, Raisi said: “You see, the people of Palestine are the reality. This is the right of the people of Palestine who were forced to leave their houses and motherland. The Americans are supporting this false regime there to take root and to be established there.”
Asked about the Abraham Accords, which have seen multiple Arab nations normalize their ties with Jerusalem, the Iranian president replied: “If a state shakes hands with the Zionist regime, then they are also an accomplice to their crimes. And they are stabbing the very idea of Palestine in the back.”
Elsewhere during the interview, Raisi said that while his country wants “justice to be served” for the killing of its Quds Force terror chief Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike in 2020, it won’t retaliate by assassinating officials in former US president Donald Trump’s administration.
“That’s the type of the actions that the Americans and Zionist regimes are doing in the world — we are not going to carry out the same actions,” he claimed, even though the US government has charged a Revolutionary Guard member with planning such an assassination.
Raisi rejected the notion of a potential face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden during the UN General Assembly, which they will both attend, saying that wouldn’t be “beneficial.”
Commenting on the stalled talks on potentially signing a new nuclear deal after Trump in 2018 withdrew from the original 2015 accord, Raisi said: “The Americans broke their promises. They did it unilaterally. They said, ‘I am out of the deal.’ Now making promises is becoming meaningless.
“We cannot trust the Americans because of the behavior that we have already seen from them. That is why if there is no guarantee, there is no trust.”
Asked about the difference between the Biden and Trump administrations, Raisi said: “The new administration in the US, they claim that they are different from the Trump administration. They have said it in their messages to us. But we haven’t witnessed any changes in reality.”
This was a reference to Biden declining to lift the increasingly severe sanctions Trump imposed on the Islamic Republic as it moved to breach its own promises under the nuclear deal, enriching uranium to levels nearing weapon grade.
“The sanctions are very tyrannical. This is a tyranny against the people of Iran. It is important to us to have the sanctions lifted,” Raisi said.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid bitterly mocked Raisi’s remark, with a tweet that read: “Some signs,” alongside images taken of the genocide.
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) September 19, 2022
President Isaac Herzog responded to his Iranian counterpart by tweeting a photograph he said he keeps on his desk of Holocaust survivor Dora Dreiblatt Eisenberg’s forearm, tattooed with her prisoner identification number. Dreiblatt Eisenberg’s arm is shown being held by that of her infant great-granddaughter Daniella Har-Tzvi, against a background of the Israeli national flag.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Herzog posted with the photograph.
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) September 19, 2022
In a statement Herzog added that once seen, the photograph “can never be forgotten.”
Military chief Aviv Kohavi responded to Raisi’s remarks during a visit to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Poland, saying, “You don’t have to be a historian or a researcher to understand the horrors of the Holocaust — you have to be a human being.
“Whoever lies and denies the painful and solid truth of history easily lies today, and will naturally lie in the future,” Kohavi added. “This is another reminder that such people should not be allowed to possess any capacity of any kind for development of weapons of mass destruction.”
Israel’s UN envoy Gilad Erdan tweeted that Raisi’s remarks about the Holocaust were “shocking,” urging UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to “deny that [Holocaust] denier a world stage to spread antisemitism and hatred.
“The UN will reach a new low if they give the Butcher of Tehran a platform,” he said, referring to Raisi’s past authorization of thousands of executions of political dissidents when he headed the judiciary.