On Iran and al Qaeda partnerships, the report concluded, "there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers. There also is circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000."
The report said of Iran training al Qaeda that "In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support -- even if only training -- for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives . . . The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations."
You won't be surprised, then, to learn that the weekend before Mahmoud arrived at Columbia, foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia met to "stress the need for unity among world Muslims, and called for vigilance in the face of plots hatched by enemies to sow discord among the Shiite and Sunnite Muslims." No, it didn't come up in the "debate."
On my train ride home from Mahmoudapalooza, I spoke briefly with a Columbia University grad steeped in the Ivy League haze of non-judgment. She was upset and embarrassed -- not by Columbia president Lee Bollinger's bone-headed decision to legitimize Ahmadinejad at its World Leaders Forum. No, she was mortified that Bollinger had delivered his face-saving introduction challenging Ahmadinejad.
With childlike naivete, this Columbia alum told me: "I'm frightened by the polarity." Which about sums up the majority view of academia and the Ahmadinejad excusers on the left: They are more afraid of standing up and calling out evil than losing the West, their country and their own lives to it.