Wednesday, November 04, 2009

This Day In History: Iran Takes Over US Embassy In Tehran

On this day 30 years ago, Iranian students invaded the US embassy and took 53 hostages who would be held for 444 days. It should have been construed as an act of war by Iran against the US, but it wasn't by then President Jimmy Carter.
Iran celebrates the embassy takeover as an official holiday, and tens of thousands showed up in Tehran on Wednesday to hear anti-American speeches.

The anniversary was also an opportunity to reignite the anti-government protests that were sparked in June, following a disputed presidential election, and thousands of anti-government protesters ignored warnings from Iranian authorities to stay home.

One of the leaders of the 1979 hostage-takers says the United States and Iran must not be hostages to history.

"I am not willing to be a hostage of that historical event," Ebrahim Asgharzadeh said on CNN's "Amanpour," in an interview marking the anniversary.

"Neither Iran nor the United States should be hijacked by that historical event," he said from Tehran, where he went on to become a reformist lawmaker and was himself jailed by the Islamic regime.

He said the two sides need to be aware of the past without being imprisoned by it.

"If they do not pay attention to ... history they will have an unstable future, an impermanent future," he said.

Asgharzadeh said he and his fellow students had been offended that Jimmy Carter, then the U.S. president, had let the deposed Shah of Iran into the United States for medical treatment -- and said the actions of his compatriots had parallels in the United States.
Carter's failure to decisively deal with the crisis allowed it to fester for more than a year and played a significant role in his defeat in the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan.

Carter undertook a failed rescue operation that left 8 US servicemembers dead and four others wounded. The failure of Operation Eagle Claw was exploited by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeni, who saw it as divine providence and strengthened his negotiating position thereafter. A second attempted rescue operation was aborted when the technologies to enable extreme short takeoffs and landing failed in demonstrations stateside.

We live with the repercussions of the inability to deal with the hostage crisis to this day as terrorist groups like al Qaeda point to the Iranian effort and US reluctance to use force to stop Iran as a sign that the US could be pushed around. Iran continues to pursue an anti-US agenda and its current nuclear ambitions are fueled by a belief that they can push around the US and bluster their way to fulfill their religious and theological ambitions.

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