Iran

Iran anniversary: Thirty-six years since 'Death to America' and there's no end in sight

Don Cooke shares memories of the ordeal

 

Wednesday, November 4 marks the thirty-sixth anniversary of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.  Fifty-two Americans were held captive by Iranian “students” at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, subjected to 444 days of living hell. 

The milestone might get a brief mention in U.S. news reports, but most Americans won’t reflect much on what happened that day. 

Not so in Tehran, where the regime plans to commemorate the Embassy takeover and several other key events in its “revolutionary” history with chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

They’ll hold “End of America” conferences and rallies against “global arrogance.” 

Today the Iranian regime is still taking Americans hostage. The announcement last week of the arrest of Iranian-American Siamak Namazi by the intelligence arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps—a unit that reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader—is the latest affront. This American executive, who ironically worked to promote closer U.S.-Iran relations, deserves to be home with his family. So do the four other Americans who languish in Iranian prisons.

Anti-American billboards and displays are also popping up in Tehran.  One features the iconic image of U.S. Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.  Except in this image, the hands of the Marines are soaked in blood and instead of rocks, the troops stand on a pile of dead bodies. 

Running-up to November 4, the Supreme Leader explained that the slogan “Death to America” is not aimed at the American people, just American policies.  Feel better?  

In promoting the recent nuclear agreement with Iran, Secretary Kerry and other Obama administration officials expressed the hope that the deal might signal the end of four decades of hostility between the Islamic Republic and the United States, setting the stage for further cooperation. 

Now they have invited Iran to the table as the U.S. and other powers attempt to find a solution to the conflict in Syria.

But with the ink barely dry on the nuclear deal and talks on Syria just getting started, the Obama Administration’s hope of cooperation already looks even more delusional. 

Indeed, today the Iranian regime is still taking Americans hostage.

The announcement last week of the arrest of Iranian-American Siamak Namazi by the intelligence arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps—a unit that reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader—is the latest affront.  This American executive, who ironically worked to promote closer U.S.-Iran relations, deserves to be home with his family.  So do the four other Americans who languish in Iranian prisons.

These five Americans have faced torture and been denied medical treatment, basic legal representation, and due process. Their treatment demonstrates how Iran’s leaders view the United States – with utter contempt.  Yet, the Obama administration refuses to demand their release so as not to upset the potential for cooperation.

The Supreme Leader voiced his preference for contempt over cooperation when, speaking of the United States, he declared – “We drove it out through the door, and we shouldn’t allow it in through the window.” On Israel he was even more direct, stating “God willing, there will be no such thing as the Zionist regime in 25 years.”

After four decades, some write off chants of “Death to America” as empty rhetoric. That’s exactly what the administration does. But if the Obama administration continues to put false hope for cooperation with Iran over basic U.S. interests — such as the safety of American citizens — I fear the death of American leadership in the Middle East.

Republican Ed Royce represents California's 39th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

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