Iran U.S. Policy Towards Iran: 25 Years Of Denial
This week marks 25 years of America's appeasement toward Iran, which began in earnest on November 4, 1979, the day Iran declared war on America. Ayatollah Khomeini's thugs stormed the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, and held 52 Americans as prisoners for 444 days. Despite a previous attack, the embassy's U.S. Marines had orders not to shoot.
Americans were blindfolded, beaten and held in dank prison cells, according to the Washington Post. During one interrogation, an Air Force officer had several teeth knocked out. Jihadists told another prisoner, who lived in Virginia, the number of his child's school bus. It was the beginning of Iran's systematic military siege against the West. Describing his reaction to the September 11, 2001, attack, one former prisoner, Bill Daughtery, asked: "What took them so long?"
Iranian-sponsored acts of war against America include truck-bombing 241 Marines in Lebanon, the worst single attack on Marines since World War 2, kidnappings, executions, and airline hijackings. Iran was linked to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000 and, according to the 9/11 Commission, to the September 11 attack.
Iran attacked in America, too, sending its soldiers of God to Maryland in 1980 to assassinate a former diplomat critical of Islamism, who was gunned down at his Bethesda home. Another target was the Navy commander whose ship, the U.S.S. Vincennes, had been attacked by Iranian guns in the Persian Gulf. During his response, the Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner. In 1988, his minivan exploded in San Diego while his wife was driving. Iran ordered assassinations on British writer Salman Rushdie, threatening attacks on his American publisher and U.S. bookstores, while President George Bush refused to defend them or retaliate. The Death to America! chants have only grown louder since 1979, moving from the streets of Teheran to the parliament. America is in denial that Iran seeks to destroy us.
The terms of appeasement were set in 1979, when the war was first declared and America refused to respond with military action. President Carter, who had nixed a plan to assassinate the Ayatollah Khomeini, instead negotiated with the Islamist state, releasing blocked funds. Only then did Iran return America's prisoners of war in what was widely (and wrongly) heralded as a victory for America's new president, Ronald Reagan.
Reagan's presidency would begin and end with appeasement of Iran, contrary to his reputation as a strong leader, but it was Carter who set the conditions. Carter defined Iran's act of war as a crisis. Carter referred to prisoners of war with similar language -- calling them hostages, a commonly used term to describe snatched Americans who are now routinely beheaded. Carter led America in lighting candles and tying ribbons around trees -- proving that, when Americans are attacked, America will reflect, not respond, a notion which has dominated U.S. policy toward Iran ever since.
Following the September 11 attack, one of the Teheran prisoners, Moorehead Kennedy, said: “when we came back, the State Department didn't even want to debrief us. They didn't want to know the names of our captors. The war was over. We had won. Reagan was president. And it would never happen again. And ladies and gentlemen, it's happened again, and it's going to happen more.”
While Iran sponsors Islamic terrorists and builds nuclear weapons, President Bush, like those before him, has demonstrated that he will defend America's interests with half measures. When Iran attacked America's embassy -- which was an attack on U.S. soil -- Carter negotiated with Iran's Islamists. When Iran attacked America's Marines, Reagan negotiated with Iran's Islamists. With Iran declaring their intention to manufacture -- and use -- nuclear weapons, Bush, who has negotiated with Iran's Islamists, is leaving the matter to Europe and the United Nations.
By this date in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini had seized Iran, instituted a dictatorship, and waged a jihad against America that has spread into an Islamist crusade. America's appeasement began long before the embassy attack in 1979. But that single act was a real, explicit declaration of war on America. For those who seek to understand the war, what happened -- and what did not happen -- 25 years ago is an important lesson. It explains what caused today's war; it reminds us that we have yet to fight back.
This 2004 commentary was published at the online Capitalism Magazine.