Since many of today’s decision-makers in Congress and the Senate, members of the American news media, and potential voters weren’t around nor lived through one of the worst ordeals the United States has ever endured, a little history lesson seems to be in order for those who are inclined to hail the recent nuclear agreement between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran as an example of an American diplomatic achievement.
On November 4, 1979 Iranian “students”, with the approval of the then Iranian leadership stormed the American Embassy in Tehran taking and holding fifty-two American diplomats hostage. And eventually releasing them only after abusing and torturing them for four hundred forty-four days.
Regularly throughout the ordeal tens of thousands of Iranian demonstrators could be heard and seen on television enthusiastically chanting “death to America” outside our former chancery building in Tehran, setting the Stars and Stripes aflame and burning effigies of President Jimmy Carter and Uncle Sam almost daily.
The Iranian leadership at different times threatened to charge the American hostages with “espionage”, hold a show trial, and then execute them once they were convicted in an Iranian kangaroo court. The hostages were only released on the Inauguration Day of the new American President Ronald Reagan.
On a very cold night with many of my colleagues and other well-wishers I anxiously waited for the hostages to arrive at the Frankfurt International Airport, their first stop on a very long trip home. After their arrival at Frankfurt they were to be whisked away to the military medical facility in Wiesbaden, West Germany for treatment and evaluation, before making the final leg of their journey back to America.
Then former President Jimmy Carter arrived in Frankfurt as the personal envoy of his successor President Ronald Reagan, to help welcome the hostages home. Carter had been vilified by the Iranians in Tehran for over a year, and most attribute his loss in the previous November’s election to the former California governor to Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis.
Since that cold January night in Frankfurt the United States has been on the receiving end of Iranian aggression over and over again right up until the present day. In 1983 the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut was destroyed by a suicide bomber assisted by the Iranian government, killing over two hundred American Marines.
That same year the American Embassy in Beirut was likewise attacked by a suicide bomber, killing sixty-three people, seventeen of them Americans, and destroying our chancery building in Beirut.
Going back to their old playbook the Iranians would periodically abduct an American working in the Middle East and hold him hostage. Bill Buckley, the American CIA chief in Beirut was abducted and tortured to death, which prompted President Reagan to approve what eventually became an “arms for hostages” debacle that evolved into the Iran-Contra scandal, and very nearly brought down the Reagan presidency as well. And right now Americans still languish in Iranian jails.
During our effort in Iraq the Iranian military and intelligence services were in active contact and cooperation with our enemies in the Iraqi insurgency. Weapons and technology supplied by the Iranians killed and maimed hundreds of American soldiers.
Iran has continued unabated its support of terrorism around the world, responsible for terrorist activities and attacks in every hemisphere. The fact that the Iranian people were suffering under strict international sanctions made no difference in Iranian meddling in other countries. The Iranian people could suffer as long as the ruling Iranian elite were able to continue their support of international terrorism. Most of it with the United States of America directly in their crosshairs.
While the president may believe that this agreement burnishes his foreign policy legacy, and with his recent Supreme Court victories reserves for him a place alongside the others on Mount Rushmore, the reality is that his place is reserved alongside that of Neville Chamberlain, another person well known for capitulating before the enemy.