politicians and state-controlled Persian media outlets this week celebrated the
40th anniversary of the taking of the US Embassy in Tehran. The Islamic
Republic broke international laws by instigating the 1979 hostage crisis, in
which the Iranian regime detained and humiliated 52 Americans and did not
release them for 444 days — the longest hostage-taking in modern history.
ought not to be viewed as an isolated or aberrant incident when examining the
four-decade history of the Islamic Republic, its foreign policy and US-Iranian
relations. It gave Iran’s hard-liners, ultra-conservatives and Principlists the
platform to consolidate their power. By taking 52 Americans hostage, the
Islamic Republic declared to the international community its core revolutionary
principles, which include anti-Americanism, the pursuit of hegemonic ambitions
and the willingness to break international laws and norms in order to advance
the regime’s parochial interests.
then-newly established theocratic government evidently desired to project the
power it had recently acquired. From the Iranian leaders’ perspective, their
hostage-taking policy was successful, as they had scored a victory against
their new enemy, which it called the “Great Satan.” Minutes after President
Ronald Reagan’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, Iran released the hostages. It
was obvious that Iran’s move to engineer the hostage crisis and President Jimmy
Carter’s inability to bring the American citizens home was one of the reasons
for his defeat in the presidential election of 1980.
factors demonstrate that hostage-taking remains an indispensable part of Iran’s
political establishment. Not only has the regime never offered an apology for
the 1979 hostage crisis or any of its subsequent hostage-taking efforts, but
those behind the crisis now hold senior positions after being promoted by both
the hard-liners and the so-called moderates. They include Masoumeh Ebtekar,
known as “Sister Mary,” who was the spokeswoman for the hostage-takers and is
now Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs; Hamid Abutalebi, the
political adviser to President Hassan Rouhani and who was the president’s
candidate to be Iran’s representative to the UN; Hossein Sheikholislam, who is
adviser to Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif; Mohammad-Ali “Aziz” Jafari,
who was commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and is now in
charge of the Baqiollah Cultural and Social Headquarters; and IRGC Brig. Gen.
Hossein Dehqan, who was defence minister in Rouhani’s first term from 2013 to
2017 and is currently adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on defense
industries and army support.
decades ago, the Iranian regime took hostages mainly for political gain and to
consolidate its power, it now takes foreign hostages as pawns to extract
economic concessions and obtain geopolitical and financial gain. Tehran also
uses hostages as a tool to silence the opposition, as well as to pressure the
West into ignoring its military adventurism, violations of international law,
nuclear proliferation and testing of ballistic missiles.
diplomacy and appeasement have not changed this core character of the Islamic
Republic. For example, the Obama administration reached out to the theocratic
establishment and sealed the 2015 nuclear deal, lifting US sanctions and
helping to remove four rounds of UN sanctions against Tehran. The argument for
these concessions was that they would inspirethe Islamic Republic to change its
malignant behavior, and that the resulting freedoms would trickle down to the
ordinary people. But Tehran only proceeded to take more Americans and Europeans
as hostages. For instance, in 2016, it seized two US Navy boatsand their crews.
Iran currently holds several foreign citizens as hostages in its prisons.
response to such belligerence cannot simply be further appeasement. That route
has been tried and has failed. The international community can see first-hand
the consequences of this approach.
pattern of hostage-taking and disregard for diplomacy and international
standards has continued and escalated in the last four decades, as it has
become a core pillar of this rogue state’s foreign policy and a crucial tool
for the ruling mullahs to strengthen their hold on power and ensure the regime’s
last four decades, the taking of hostages, blackmail, and defiance of
international laws have come to be the key underlying characteristics of Iran’s
political establishment. As long as the ruling mullahs are in power, Tehran
will not alter its character. If the international community submits to
Tehran’s blackmailing and hostage-taking game by accepting its terms, it will
only embolden and empower the regime’s hard-liners.
Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He
is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president
of the International American Council.
Headline: Hostage crisis set the tone for Islamic Republic’s rule
Source: The Arab News