By Isabel Vincent
Source: New York Post
A former Iranian revolutionary who led the 1979 attack against the US Embassy in Tehran said he now regrets his actions on the eve of Monday’s 40th anniversary of the tumultuous events that led to the Islamic Revolution and a 444-day hostage crisis.
Ebrahim Asgharzadeh said students were trying to pressure the US President Jimmy Carter to return Iran’s shah — Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — to stand trial on corruption. The shah had fled his country in February 1979 to seek treatment for cancer in the US.
“Like Jesus Christ, I bear all the sins on my shoulders,” said Asgharzadeh in an interview with The Associated Press last week.
Asgharzadeh, a 23-year-old engineering student at the time of the uprising, said a group of students had just wanted to stage a sit-in at the US Embassy, but events soon spiraled out of control.
“Our plan was one of students, unprofessional and temporary,” he said.
But once Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the long-exiled Shiite cleric, returned to Iran and got behind the student protest, the country erupted in Islamist revolutionary fervor, he said.
“Everything happened so fast,” Asgharzadeh said. “We cut off the chains on the embassy’s gate. Some of us climbed up the walls, and we occupied the embassy compound very fast.”
Even as they led the protest at the embassy, Asgharzadeh and his comrades believed the uprising would only last a short time.
“A few months after the takeover, it appeared to be turning into a rotten fruit hanging down from a tree and no one had the courage to take it down and resolve the matter,” he said. “There was a lot of public opinion support. The society felt it had slapped America, a superpower, on the mouth.”
Iranians had long been angry with the US after a CIA-directed coup had helped Pahlavi rise to power in 1953.
After the hostage crisis and the implementation of a hardline Islamist regime, Asgharzadeh became a reformist politician, and served time in jail for his views that Iran should stabilize relations with the US. When asked if he felt relations between the two countries could ever be restored, he said, “I do not see any prospect.”