By The Free Iranian Staff
It is now 40 years to the day when, on November 4th, 1979, armed mobs of Islamist militants calling themselves “Students of the Path of the Imam” stormed the US embassy in Tehran, in a then-unprecedented breech of international law and norms, and took 66 American diplomats hostage. The diplomats, and the volumes of classified documents that the Khomeiniist regime later exposed to the world, were relatively unguarded, despite warnings of danger from US intelligence, because then-president Jimmy Carter, who had helped the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seize control of Iran earlier that year, naively assumed that the Islamists would be his friends.
This event, considered by many the true commencement of radical Islamism’s war on the West, though not much remembered now in the US, is annually commemorated by the Khomeinist regime with much fanfare. To the regime, their successful holding of 52 American diplomats for 444 days, while facing no severe consequences, was one of its biggest triumphs, and set a pattern for further actions that the regime has undertaken until today.
Though the regime’s initial pretext for invading the embassy was to demand the extradition of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was then receiving treatment for the cancer that would ultimately kill him in New York, it is now known that the seizure was pre-planned by regime insiders close to Khomeini. These individuals were seeking a dramatic crisis with the USA, to both distract the Iranian people from domestic problems, as well as to drive other regime officials seen as being too closely linked to the US out of power. The hostage takers were also trained and aided by the Soviet Union’s KGB, which benefited from the Iran dilemma the US was boxed into by taking the opportunity to invade neighboring Afghanistan.
During their captivity, the Americans were brutally tortured. As Barry Rosen, one of the diplomats, later reminisced, he was forced to falsely confess to being a spy after guns were pointed at him and he was told he had to confess or be executed. The hostages were finally freed after Khomeini, who feared that the then-incoming US President Ronald Reagan might take more forceful action than President Carter had, agreed to release them in return for some $8 billion of Iranian funds that Carter had seized in retaliation. Carter also promised, in the Algiers Agreement of 1981 that ended the crisis, that the US would not support a change of regime in Iran, a promise that the US has kept, so far. As one writer would later observe, the hostage crisis “was the first sign to the Islamic world that it could act with impunity against any Western citizen –and act it did. A series of attacks throughout the Middle East followed.”
Thus, the biggest lesson the regime learned from the embassy-seizure experience was that it could successfully use hostages’ lives and freedom as bargaining chips to obtain money, and security guarantees, from western governments. As a result, there has never been a day since November, 1979, that at least one western national hasn’t been imprisoned by Tehran. One of the more recent hostages was Lebanese journalist, and US Green Card holder, Nizar Zakka. After his release this summer, as a result of secret negotiations between the US and Tehran, Zakka spoke at the United Against Nuclear Iran conference in September. There, in conversation with Barry Rosen, Zakka shed light on how hostage-taking has become a “business” for the regime, and how it will not cease until more concerted international pressure is exerted against Tehran.
Rosen and Zakka also pointed out how the west has not yet exacted repercussions on the 1979 hostage takers, many of whom later advanced to high levels in the Islamic regime. The most glaring example is, of course, Tehran’s vice president for women and family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar. Known to the American hostages as “Tehran Mary,” Ebtekar was reviled for her cruelty to them, yet, today, her son is a post-graduate student at an American university. Meanwhile, the former American hostages and their families have yet to receive any compensation for what they underwent.
This year, in addition to the annually staged anti-America demonstrations that Iranians are forced to attend, the regime marked the anniversary most notably by declaring that it was increasing its enrichment of uranium, from one pound a day to eleven pounds daily, seemingly ending any last chance of resurrecting the failed 2015 JCPOA. Two days beforehand, Ayatollah Mohammad Saidi, the representative in Qom of regime supreme leader Khamenei, cited the 1979 embassy seizure as an example to be followed as he called on the regime’s proxy forces in Iraq to seize the American embassy in Baghdad. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the regime-run Kayhan newspaper, also called on the regime’s Iraqi forces to “end the presence of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.”
In response, however, the regime is beginning to taste a little of its own medicine. Last night, Iraqi protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in the city of Karbala, lowered the regime flag, and broke down the building’s wall. US President Donald Trump shared a video of the assault on the consulate on his Twitter account, giving an online “smirk” to the regime’s hysterics.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also used the anniversary occasion to speak out in defense of Xiyue Wang, an American academic who has been imprisoned by the regime for over three years, and also to announce a $20 million reward for information on the fate of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who hasn’t been since or heard from since he entered Iran in 2007. Pompeo also noted, in his official statement, that the Iranian people are not responsible for the actions of the regime, and are fellow victims of terrorism:
“While the Iranian regime’s decision to jail our diplomats has cast a 40-year shadow over our relations, the United States knows that the longest-suffering victims of the Iranian regime are the Iranian people. We wish nothing more for them than a future with a truly representative government and friendship with the American people.”
#BREAKING: Dozens of Iraqi demonstrators have stormed the Iranian consulate in #Karbala, lowering the flag and burning part of the outer wall #IraqProtestshttps://t.co/axoNKBjwHhpic.twitter.com/4wLEJYImKW
— Arab News (@arabnews) November 3, 2019
The US Treasury Department also honored the anniversary by sanctioning nine more regime leaders, including Khamenei’s eldest son, Mojtaba, and the judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, both of whom are seen as possible successors to Khamenei. In declaring that “This action further constricts the Supreme Leader’s ability to execute his agenda of terror and oppression,” the Americans are showing, perhaps, that after four decades of bearing the brunt of Khomeinist terror, the Islamic regime is now being forced to bear the consequences of its crimes.