Terror, Hostage-Taking Are in Iran's DNA, Critics Say, 40 Years After U.S. Embassy Seized

Patrick Goodenough | November 4, 2019 | 4:38am EST
Text Audio
00:00 00:00
Font Size
Iranians burn an American flag on the walls of the occupied U.S. Embassy in November 1979. (Getty Images)
Iranians burn an American flag on the walls of the occupied U.S. Embassy in November 1979. (Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – As the United States marks the 40th anniversary Monday of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, opponents of the regime said terrorism and hostage taking remains part of its “DNA,” and noted a recent call by a confidant of the supreme leader for Shi’ite militias in Iraq to seize the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

On November 4, 1979, students loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini occupied the U.S. mission in Tehran, and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The regime celebrates the event each year with a “National Day of Campaign against Global Arrogance.”

Many of the individuals involved in the hostage-taking went on to hold prominent positions in the regime and establishment – and some still do – according to a new report by the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

The NCRI, which Tehran considers a terrorist organization, argues that the inherent nature of regime remains unchanged despite the passage of time. Among other things, it points to current events in Iraq and Lebanon.

Weeks of protests in Iraq and Lebanon were sparked by economic grievances, but Iran’s deep involvement in both countries has also drawn strong criticism.

In Iraq, where more than 250 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since early October, snipers belonging to Tehran-backed Shi’ite militias are accused of contributing to the death toll, and some of their offices have been targeted as protesters calls for an end to Iranian influence.

“Terrorism and hostage-taking are a part and parcel of the Iranian regime’s DNA,” Ali Safavi, an NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee official said from Paris. “All regime factions view repression, export of terrorism and Islamic extremism as pillars of their survival.”

“This regime has made hostage taking and terrorism a statecraft,” he said.

“This is abundantly clear in Iraq and Lebanon where the Iranian regime and its proxies view the only way out of the current uprisings in those countries – which have delivered a tremendous blow to what they have long boasted of being their strategic depth – is to create another crisis, namely the call by Tehran to seize the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.”

Iranians at a ceremony unveiling new murals painted on the walls of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 2, 2019. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
Iranians at a ceremony unveiling new murals painted on the walls of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 2, 2019. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

Last week the editor of the hardline Iranian paper Kayhan in an editorial called on the Shi’ite militias to seize the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital.

As quoted by NCRI, Hossein Shariatmadari – who is appointed by and viewed as a confidant to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – wondered why Iraq’s “revolutionary youth” were not “ending the presence of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which is the epicenter of conspiracy and espionage against the innocent people of Iraq.”

“The takeover of the U.S. espionage center in Islamic Iran and eliminating that epicenter of conspiracy had many benefits for us,” Shariatmadari continued, in reference to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which the regime dubbed a “den of spies.”

“So why then are the revolutionary youths of Iraq depriving their holy land from these benefits?”

‘Long history of malign behavior’

Against the backdrop of the Islamic revolution, the Tehran hostage crisis saw 52 American diplomats, embassy staffers and others held for more than 14 months, until eventually released on January 20, 1981, the day President Reagan was sworn in.

An abortive rescue attempt the previous April cost the lives of eight U.S. servicemen when a helicopter crashed in the Iranian desert.

The crisis led to a severing of U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations and acrimony that remains to this day.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to host an event remembering “the bravery that all former hostages and their families have shown during unimaginable circumstances,” the State Department said in a statement.

“We look forward to the day when we can again safely send U.S. diplomats to Tehran. It’s unfortunate that this anniversary serves as a reminder of the long history of malign behavior by the Iranian regime and the danger it has posed to the United States and the world over the past 40 years.”

The department called again on the regime to release missing or detained Americans, including Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang, and Robert Levinson, the former FBI agent who went missing in Iran 12 years ago, and remains unaccounted for.

According to the NCRI, key figures in the hostage-taking include:

-- Masoumeh Ebtekar, a spokeswoman for the hostage-takers, who went on to serve ministerial posts in the Mohammad Khatami administration, and is currently minister for women and family affairs in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet.

-- Hamid Aboutalebi, who held various foreign minister and ambassadorial posts – although his nomination as Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. in 2014 was blocked by Senate legislation signed into law by President Obama. Aboutalebi is a political advisor to Rouhani.

-- Hossein Sheikholislam, a lawmaker and former deputy foreign minister who advises Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

-- Mohammed Ali Jafari, who was commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from 2007 until earlier this year. The NCRI describes him as “one of the plotters” of the embassy takeover.

-- Hossein Dehqan, who served as deputy head of the IRGC Air Force, defense minister in Rouhani’s first term, and now advises Khamenei on military matters.

 -- Reza Seifollahi,who became a senior IRGC commander, national police chief, and held senior posts at the Supreme National Security Council and the Expediency Council, a body that advises the supreme leader.

-- Alireza Afshar, who held senior IRGC posts including chief of general staff, and became commander of the regime’s notorious Basij volunteer militia.


mrc merch