Marking the Anniversary of the Embassy Seizure
Today 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.