The crowd was restless on the tarmac at Rhein Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany.It was a bitter cold January night in 1981and the waiting was starting to become monotonous.After a number of delays as we stood around trying to stay warm while chatting among ourselves, and a sense of apprehension was beginning to spread through the small crowd that was gathered.Was what we were patiently waiting for all an illusion ?Was it all going to end up being just one more slap in the face of America administered by Iran ?
We were the ‘unofficial’ welcoming committee for fifty-two Americans who had been guests of the Ayatollah for the past four hundred forty-four days, hostages held by the Islamic Republic of Iran.For the previous year and a half they had also been living bargaining chips used by Iran to humiliate the United States and President Jimmy Carter.Many of those assembled on the tarmac had known or previously worked with some of the hostages, and could only imagine the hardships they had endured.An unspoken “there but for the grace of God” permeated the minds of the crowd, since many of us had previously worked on embassy assignments around the world, just as the fifty-two had.Was what happened to them going to become a common threat for those in the foreign services ?
During the preceding months Iran had called the U.S. “weak”, “a paper tiger”, “the Great Satan”, and countless other insults were hurled our way.The U.S. had been humbled on the world stage by some third rate peddlers of flying carpets and Islamic extremism.
Hundreds of Iranian “students” had stormed our embassy in Tehran, ignoring all norms of international law and diplomatic protocols.They marched bound and blindfolded American diplomats out of the front door for all the world to see.Throughout their ordeal the hostages were repeatedly physically abused and beaten, threatened with being put on public trial for espionage, and then executed as spies by the Iranian “students” who were holding them.
Through documents recovered by the “students” after storming the embassy they were able to identify the very few remaining CIA employees left in Iran at the time, and those individuals were subjected to extra abuse and maltreatment.
Our one attempt at regaining some national dignity ended tragically in the Iranian desert, and was viewed by Iran and the rest of the world as just another example of American helplessness.
The fifty-two hostages eventually did make it to Rhein Main Air Base that cold January night, and after a very brief welcome ceremony which included the now former President Jimmy Carter, the fifty-two Americans were whisked away for medical care and debriefings.And eventually transported back to the U.S. to family and friends who had waited for their homecoming for four hundred forty-four days.
The long national embarrassment was over.The drama had played out every evening on the nightly news, with each day another number added to the daily tabulation.A sitting American president had been humiliated around the world, along with American prestige and respect in the world severely damaged.Islamic radicals across the Middle East cheered the Iranians and viewed what they had done as a motivation to further their own extremist goals.
Since that cold January night, America and Iran have been involved in an undeclared war for over thirty years.At least undeclared by the United States.Iran has often been very clear about their goals, which includes the destruction of Israel along with the United States.The ‘Great Satan’ and the ‘Little Satan’.
Until the September 11, 2001 attacks by al Qaeda, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist organization.Most often using their proxy Hezbollah to do their dirty work.Iran was behind the import and use of the deadly EFP’s (Explosively Formed Penetrators), used so effectively to maim and kill hundreds of American service members in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Iranian Quds Force members were captured inside Iraq by U.S. forces on more than one occasion providing technical and intelligence support to the Mahdi Army.The radical Shiite Followers of America-hating cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who were creating disruptions to the Iraqi political process in Baghdad, as well as committing attacks against American installations and troops in and around the Iraqi capital.
Iran’s hatred and true intentions have varied little if any since the Iranian Revolution which ousted the hated Shah of Iran back in 1979.Their goal of destroying Israel and the United States remains unchanged.
With Barack Obama’s recent comment that “he can envision re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran”, including one would presume opening an embassy in Tehran, the Iranians must be gleeful.A weak president such as Jimmy Carter only comes around once in a lifetime one would think.Now they have Barack Obama showing that history does indeed sometimes repeat itself.In their minds the only thing better would be for Hillary Clinton to show up with another one of those ‘Reset Buttons’.