American Herald Tribune | DANIEL HAIPHONG: November 4th marks the 38th anniversary of the Iranian takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. Often labeled the “hostage crisis” by Western observers, the embassy takeover was one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of US foreign policy. For 444 nights, fifty-two Americans were held captive by Iranian revolutionaries. The event was a peak moment in the development of the Iranian revolution. The crisis is still hotly debated and the consequences it brought forth still relevant to US-Iran relations in the era of Trump.
Films like Argo (2013) depict the hostage crisis as a tale of US foreign policy heroism. Iranians are labeled villains while US officials are viewed as tactful strategists concerned about their fellow countrymen. However, what led militant Iranian revolutionaries to seize the embassy was far from heroic. US imperial interests had been waging a proxy war in Iran for decades. The US embassy was nothing but a symbol of the terror wrought on the majority of Iranians prior to the revolution’s victory.
US corporations set their sights on the colonies of Africa and Asia after the fall out from World War II. The British empire was severely weakened by the war, leaving British elites unable to maintain their colonies without US assistance. CIA operatives, in collaboration with the MI6, viewed Iran’s democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh as a threat to US dominance. Mosaddegh was elected in 1951 with a popular mandate to nationalize Iran’s oil deposits that had previously belonged exclusively to Anglo-Iranian oil corporation or what is now known as BP oil. Operation Ajax deposed of Mosaddegh, killed hundreds of people, and placed Mosaddegh under house arrest by the reinstated monarchy of Mohammad Reza Shah.
Iranian society under the Shah was extremely oppressive. At the behest of his paymasters in Washington and London, the Shah deployed a secret police to imprison and murder his opposition, especially but not limited to the communist Tudeh party. Iran’s oil was funneled out of the country to the benefit of the US and West. Inequality was rampant as labor and housing shortages plagued Iranian society. Popular anger flourished under these abject conditions.
The Iranian revolution set out to reclaim dignity to a nation that had been stripped of it. The seizure of the embassy has been subject to much debate. Scholars have framed the seizure as a matter of spontaneity or ruthlessness on the part of Iranians. However, some suggest a more complicated picture of the reasons for the crisis.
As the result of the crisis, Carter lost legitimacy in the eyes of the elite and much of his voting base. Politics in Iran became dominated by the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. However, the primary reason the US remains hostile to any real understanding of the hostage crisis is because of what the Iranian revolution has accomplished. Iran is no longer a US satellite. This fact has soured relations between the US and Iran long after the hostage crisis.
The US despises the fact that Iran has risen from the depths of underdevelopment. Since the revolution, Iran has achieved a 100 percent literacy rate. Universal health services are available for over 85 percent of the population. Infant mortality has dropped significantly and the life expectancy rate has increased by over two decades. All of these improvements have been made in less than forty years since the end of the Shah regime.
Iran’s independent economic and political orientation has placed it in the cross hairs of US foreign policy. The US supported Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s as means to divide the region. It has also maintained economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, preventing the country from acquiring life-saving medical supplies from the international market. Not even the concessions that Iran made in the nuclear agreement have been able to ease relations with the US.
In many ways, US relations with Iran have reached a historic low. Iran has been the target of many of President Trump’s foreign policy speeches as a way to cater to Israeli interests. Trump has decertified from the nuclear agreement. This continued assault on the part of the US is part of a larger policy strategy. The US hopes that a weakened Iran will lead to a weaker Syria, Russia, and China. These nations represent the biggest challenge to unquestioned hegemony in the region.
US hostility toward Iran is rooted in the worldview that the Islamic Republic is an international impediment to its rule. The memory of the hostage crisis still runs deep in the minds of the elites and Iranians alike. Iranians celebrate the day as a symbol of victory for the country’s independence from US domination. The elites remember the day as a reminder that Iran has yet to fall back under their control. For the rest of us it should be a reminder of the real reasons why the US is hostile toward Iran in the present day.