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Marking the Anniversary of the Embassy Seizure

Iran hostage crisisToday marks the 30th anniversary of the seizing of the U. S. embassy in Tehran by factions of the revolution that overthrew the shah. President Obama has issued a statement on the occasion which I will reproduce in full here:

Thirty years ago today, the American Embassy in Tehran was seized. The 444 days that began on November 4, 1979 deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice.

This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation. I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran. We have recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community. We have accepted a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet Iran’s request for assistance in meeting the medical needs of its people. We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community.

Iran must choose. We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for. The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history. The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice, and their courageous pursuit of universal rights. It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people.

I find the statement strangely detached. In every action and statement, including its non-responsive retort this very week to the offer to end its nuclear enrichment program made by the governments of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, the leaders of the Iranian government have demonstrated that they have already made their choice. Ray Tayekh of the Council on Foreign Relations states the situation quite plainly:

Dealing with Iran has always been a complicated enterprise with moral hazards. The persistent mistake that the West has made is to place the nuclear issue above all other concerns. The Iran problem is not limited to illicit nuclear activities, and it is somewhat incomprehensible that the United States and other nations can contemplate nuclear transactions with a regime that maintains links to a range of terrorist organizations and engages in brutal domestic repression. Western officials would be smart to disabuse Iran of the notion that its nuclear infractions are the only source of disagreement. Iran’s hard-liners need to know that should they launch their much-advertised crackdown, the price for such conduct may be termination of any dialogue with the West. Only through such a policy can the United States advance its strategic objectives while standing up for its moral values.

Iran’s support for terrorist organizations and domestic repression are manifest this very day. Its leaders have made their choice and the time for counter-offers is over while the time for consequences has arrived.

We should implement consequences for Iran as stern as we can make them, non-violent in nature but punitive in quality. We should muster all of the permanent members of the Security Council to participate in these measures but be prepared to proceed without them. A peaceful, prosperous, and just Iran is in Russian and Chinese interests as it is in ours and, if they elect to support tyranny in Iran, Russia and China should be made aware that this latest tyranny in Iran will eventually end and the Iranian people will know who supported the tyrants and who opposed them.

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About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging.

Comments

  1. I don’t quite get the “detached” characterization. It seemed straightforward.

    As for threatening sanctions, I’d rather we see if we can make them effective — including Russia and China — rather than mostly symbolic, which is what they’d be without Russia and China.

    If we tell the Russians or the Chinese that a some-day-free Iranian people will hold a grudge I think we’ll just get a good, hearty laugh. Why would these two dictatorships ever believe any such thing?

    The Iranians can more easily turn the heat up in Iraq than we can cut off gas to Iran.

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  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    I am most emphatically against a major military confrontation with Iran. This blog has agreed with this in the past and has been over this before and still the basic question has not, IMO, been answered and perhaps it can’t be answered. It is this: What are the stern, non-violent but punitive in nature consequences that must be implemented?

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  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Here’s an example: blocking Iranian financial transactions in U. S., French, German, and British banks. Inducing other trading partners to do the same. That could be done without Russian or Chinese cooperation and would have serious consequences for Iran’s ability to function.

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  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Michael, it’s detached from the events on the ground. The regime has already made its choice. They’re making it daily.

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  5. DL says:

    I still see the failures of Jimmy Carter as the reason we’re in big trouble today. One power plant taken out the first day would have done the trick. Far more lives were at risk than just those of the hostages.Carter looked like a fool when he finally screwed up enough couurage to try and rescue them. Unfortunately, the left’s rape of the defense budget to buy votes from the special groups they’ve split off from a once indivisible America has cost us and still is.
    So we were weak and now we have Iran and nukes, and Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, Iran and Venuzuela, Iran and Iraq was fun for a while. Wimpishness is suicide with evil people intent on doing you harm. Thanks jimmy.

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  6. Ugh says:

    So are we going to be imposing punitive sanctios on Pakistan too, because pretty much all the things that Ray Tayek says about Iran also apply to Pakistan, a nation that, unlike Iran, actually has nuclear weapons. And yet our response in that case is to send them billions of dollars in military and other aid.

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  7. PD Shaw says:

    The financial sanctions available are serious, but Iran has been preparing for them by putting together a financial system in Latin America (with Venezuelan fronts). That plus, Hezbollah training dissident groups in the region makes Iran a “local” issue in our safe little section of the hemisphere.

    I think Obama was fine for a start. He gave a list of particulars that most Americans are probably not following closely.

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  8. PD Shaw says:

    Here’s what the Supreme Leader has said about Obama’s outreach:

    This new President of America said beautiful things. He sent us messages constantly, both orally and written: ‘Come and let us turn the page, come and create a new situation, come and let us cooperate in solving the problems of the world.’ It reached this degree! We said that we should not be prejudiced, that we will look at their deeds. They said we want change. We said, well, let us see the change. On March 21, when I delivered a speech in Mashhad, I said that if there is an iron fist under the velvet glove and you extend a hand towards us we will not extend our hand. This was the warning I made eight months ago. During the past eight months, what we have seen is contrary to what they orally express and pretend.

    I believe this is from yesterday, but the whole speech (the above is an excerpt) gives an entirely different view of the last eight months.

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  9. Mithras says:

    I don’t understand the linkage here. Sanctions and other economic punishment only increase the Iranian regime’s grip on power. The reformers can get no traction when outsiders like the U.S. try to pressure their country by crippling the economy. Linking additional “consequences” to the Iranian government’s reaction to protesters is a sure way to turn the Iranian public against the protesters.

    It’s good to remember the date of the taking of the embassy hostages, because it was an unjustified act. We should also mark August 19th, 1953, the date of Operation Ajax and July 3, 1988, the date of the downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the U.S.S. Vincennes. (Just imagine our reaction if an Iranian warship shot down a U.S. airliner and then the captain of the ship was decorated for his actions.)

    Point is, the Iranian regime is not popular with a significant chunk of the people of Iran, but our government is even less popular. Our options are limited. If you want to feel tough by imposing “consequences”, you’ll be perpetuating the regime while not doing much to contain its bad acts in the region. On the other hand, if you reward good external behavior and dangle the possibility of more reward if the regime cooperates, you might feel less manly but maybe you’ll get the external result that you seek. As for regime change, that’s up to the people of Iran themselves.

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  10. PD Shaw says:

    Mithras, the reformist argue that the regime’s belligerence is alienating Iran from the international community and if it’s continued will hurt the Iranian people. The regime says that Iran is strong and the U.S. is cowardly. American policy should work with the reformist by sanctioning the regime, while making clear that there is another way. To do nothing is to strengthen the regime’s hand.

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  11. Everything I’ve seen suggests that reformers oppose sanctions. That’s not necessarily the final word, but it’s important.

    I think financial sanctions against a regime swimming in petrodollars is probably pointless. Money tends to flow pretty freely. We don’t seem to have managed to cut off the relatively small flow of money to Al Qaeda. I have a hard time believing we’re going to seriously impede Iranian cash flow.

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  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    We are on a collision course with Iran. We have been since this happened. Iran is, in fact, at war with the U.S and is directly responsible for the deaths of most of the casualties in Iraq suffered by our forces. We need a strong leader to deal with these people or we will suffer great loss. We are going to have to fight them. It will either be on our terms or theirs.

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  13. PD Shaw says:

    Ahmadinezhad’s argument during the election was that Iran’s foreign policy during his tenure has been a success. Mousavi argued that the policy has been a disaster in alienating Iran from the international community and if it continues it will hurt the Iranian people. Certainly, Mousavi didn’t call for the Iranian people to be harmed, but that doesn’t mean that sanctions aren’t consistent with the positions he’s taken and the reasons he believes Iran should change.

    BTW/ I don’t understand U.S. policy to be regime change or empowering of so-called moderates. It’s to change regime behavior in a specific area.

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  14. davod says:

    1. I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.

    2. We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs.

    3. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran.

    4. We have recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power.

    5. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community.

    6. We have accepted a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet Iran’s request for assistance in meeting the medical needs of its people(. [?]

    7. We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community.

    Please, please, Mr. Supreme Leader, throw me a bone.

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  15. Davod:

    Your proposal is?

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  16. PD Shaw says:

    I would propose a number of steps that have secondary benefits for the U.S.:

    1. Find ways to get more Iranian doctors, nurses and medical technicians to migrate to the United States. Background:

    Estimates by the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research and Technology indicate that the flight of human capital costs the government over $38 billion annually, two times the revenues received from selling oil. As a point of comparison, each inventor or scientist who leaves the country has the same economic impact as the destruction of 10 oil wells, according to a daily Iranian newspaper.

    2. The government should buy up energy-hog appliances and clunker cars and ship them to Herat to be sold on the black market in Iran. Iran could be a net importer of energy in ten years at current rates, thus destroying its oil/gas advantage.

    3. Buy up Afghan opium crops for resale at Herat as well.

    4. Get the Saudis to pump more oil in exchange for security guarantees. Iran currently needs oil to be at least $90 per barrel in order to avoid deficits.

    5. Issue letters of marque and reprisal to Somali pirates against Iranian oil tankers and Hezbollah cargo ships.

    Ultimately, any economic sanction we can impose and get other countries to impose/honor should be pursued.

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  17. davod says:

    Micheal Reynolds:

    Micheal Ledeen’s comments Accomplice to Evil Redux. Go a long way to explaining my disdain with the Administration’s foreign policy:

    “What does it mean? I agree with an “elderly woman” to Radio Farda:

    I was in the demonstrations this morning. You can’t imagine the number of security troops that had been deployed. It looked like there was one regime agent for every protester. And all this to confront people with nothing to defend themselves with. I finally understood today how scared they are. This regime is over.

    The regime has failed to intimidate the people; the effect of the violence, the brutal savagery, the mass rapes, executions, and torture is to intensify their contempt (they trampled pictures of Supreme Leader Khamenei).

    Alas, their contempt is not limited to their own tyrants. It extends to President Obama, who today issued a masterpiece of appeasement and all but groveled in begging the leaders of the Islamic Republic to make a deal:

    “I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.”

    He could not spare a single word for the plight of the people of Iran, who were being beaten, clubbed, stabbed and shot as he issued his statement.”

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  18. An Interested Party says:

    I still see the failures of Jimmy Carter overthrow of the Prime Minister of Iran in 1957 as the reason we’re in big trouble today.

    Happy to be of help…

    Meanwhile, how exactly does this get accomplished…

    We should muster all of the permanent members of the Security Council to participate in these measures…

    Perhaps the president could wave a magic wand to bend the wills of the leaders of Russia and China to do what we want…

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  19. Mithras says:

    Issue letters of marque and reprisal to Somali pirates against Iranian oil tankers and Hezbollah cargo ships.

    Blockades are an act of war. We are not at war with Iran, assertions above to the contrary.

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  20. PD Shaw says:

    I didn’t call for a blockade.

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  21. Davod:

    I’ll ask it again: your plan?

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