Iran student leader ‘regrets’ 1979 US Embassy attack

Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, one of the Iranian student leaders of the 1979 US Embassy takeover, speaks in an interview with The Associated Press, in Tehran. (AP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Iran student leader ‘regrets’ 1979 US Embassy attack

  • Seizing or attacking diplomatic posts remains a tactic of Iranian hard-liners to this day

TEHRAN: His revolutionary fervor diminished by the years that have also turned his dark brown hair white, one of the Iranian student leaders of the 1979 US Embassy takeover says he now regrets the seizure of the diplomatic compound and the 444-day hostage crisis that followed.
Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s 40th anniversary of the attack, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh acknowledged that the repercussions of the crisis still reverberate as tensions remain high between the US and Iran over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.
Asgharzadeh cautioned others against following in his footsteps, despite the takeover becoming enshrined in hard-line mythology. He also disputed a revisionist history now being offered by supporters of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that they directed the attack, insisting all the blame rested with the students who let the crisis spin out of control.
At the time, what led to the 1979 takeover remained obscure to Americans who for months could only watch in horror as TV newscasts showed Iranian protests at the embassy. Popular anger against the US was rooted in the 1953 coup cemented the power of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
The shah, dying from cancer, fled Iran in February 1979, paving the way for its Islamic revolution. But for months, Iran faced widespread unrest ranging from separatist attacks, worker revolts and internal power struggles. Police reported for work but not for duty, allowing chaos like Marxist students briefly seizing the US Embassy.
In this power vacuum, then-President Jimmy Carter allowed the shah to seek medical treatment in New York. That lit the fuse for the Nov. 4, 1979, takeover, though at first the Islamist students argued over which embassy to seize. A student leader named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who later became president in 2005, argued they should seize the Soviet Embassy compound in Tehran as leftists had caused political chaos.

HIGHLIGHT

Seizing or attacking diplomatic posts remains a tactic of Iranian hard-liners to this day. A mob stormed the British Embassy in Tehran in 2011, while another attacked diplomatic posts of Saudi Arabia in 2016.

But the students settled on the US Embassy, hoping to pressure Carter to send the shah back to Iran to stand trial on corruption charges. Asgharzadeh, then a 23-year-old engineering student, remembers friends going to Tehran’s Grand Bazaar to buy a bolt cutter, a popular tool used by criminals, and the salesman saying: “You do not look like thieves! You certainly want to open up the US Embassy door with it!”
Like other former students, Asgharzadeh said the plan had been simply to stage a sit-in. But the situation soon spun out of their control. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the long-exiled Shiite cleric whose return to Iran sparked the revolution, gave his support to the takeover. He would use that popular angler to expand the Islamists’ power.
Seizing or attacking diplomatic posts remains a tactic of Iranian hard-liners to this day. A mob stormed the British Embassy in Tehran in 2011, while another attacked diplomatic posts of Saudi Arabia in 2016, which led to diplomatic ties being cut between Tehran and Riyadh.


Pompeo says US to call UN vote on Iran arms embargo extension

Updated 4 min 46 sec ago

Pompeo says US to call UN vote on Iran arms embargo extension

  • The resolution is widely expected to fail, as the other members of the Security Council have signaled their opposition
  • If the vote fails, Pompeo suggested the US would invoke the so-called “snapback” mechanism

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration will press ahead with efforts to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran despite widespread opposition to such a move at the world body, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday. The decision sets the stage for a potential crisis at the UN Security Council amid rising tensions in Middle East.
Pompeo said the US would call for a Security Council vote next week on a US-drafted resolution to extend the embargo that is due to expire in October. The resolution is widely expected to fail, as the other members of the Security Council have signaled their opposition.
“The Security Council’s mission is to maintain international peace and security," Pompeo told reporters. "The council would make an absolute mockery of that mission if it were to allow the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons openly.”
If the vote fails, Pompeo suggested the US would invoke the so-called “snapback” mechanism that would restore all UN sanctions on Iran. Snapback was envisioned in the 2015 nuclear deal in the event Iran was proven to be in violation of the accord, under which it received billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
“One way or another we will ensure that the arms embargo will be extended,” he said. "We’re not going to let the arms embargo expire on October 18. We’re deeply aware that snapback is an option that is available to the United States.”
Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and has steadily reimposed US penalties on Iran, leading Iran to step up uranium enrichment and heavy water production outside the allowed limits. Disputes over those violations remain unresolved.
The remaining participants in the 2015 nuclear deal have said the US no longer has standing to invoke snapback. Administration officials and Iran hawks argue that as a permanent member of the Security Council, the US remains party to the separate UN resolution that endorsed the deal and still has the legal grounds to call for the reimposition of sanctions.
Under the nuclear deal, the UN arms embargo against Iran will expire Oct. 18 if Iran is in compliance with the agreement. For several months, Pompeo and other US officials have been lobbying for the indefinite extension of the embargo, saying its expiration would allow Iran to import weapons at will and further destabilize the Middle East.
The European participants in the nuclear deal, Britain, France and Germany, have said they have concerns about Iran's ability to import and export weapons but have also pointed out that it was envisioned by the agreement. China and Russia have threatened to veto any attempt to extend the embargo.
But a snapback of UN sanctions would not be subject to veto, due to the unusual way the provision was worded. The other members of the Security Council could, however, simply choose to ignore a US invocation of snapback, which would create a crisis of credibility in the UN's most powerful body.