Former Iranian leader said Reagan is keeping hostages locked up

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The then Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr held a press conference on December 3, 1980 in Tehran, Iran. At that time, 52 US hostages were held captive in Iran before their second Christmas celebrations.

Photo: Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, Iran’s first president after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 died in Paris on Saturday at the age of 88.

There have been remarkably few U.S. obituaries for such a significant number. Only one mentions what is probably the most important fact about Bani-Sadr’s life from an American political perspective: He claimed that Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign worked with the post-revolution Iranian government to hold US hostages until after this year’s elections in Iran keep.

The only exception was from The Associated Press, and even they mentioned the subject primarily to put it down. The AP obituary stated that Bani-Sadr “rose to fame after claiming in a book, without evidence, that Ronald Reagan’s campaign worked with Iranian leaders to prevent the hostages from being released.”

In fact, rumors that the Reagan campaign had made some sort of deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran began circulating in Washington shortly after Reagan’s landslide victory over President Jimmy Carter. The possibility came to be known as the “October Surprise” theory because of documented concerns in the Reagan camp that Carter would enforce the release of the hostages in October, shortly before the election. (The AP obituary incorrectly states that Bani-Sadr’s book “gave birth to the idea of ​​the ‘October Surprise’ in American politics.”)

The arrest of 52 US diplomats and citizens at the American embassy in Tehran by revolutionary Iranian students and the failure of the Carter administration to free the hostages were largely forgotten today, but a central theme in the 1980 presidential campaign.

In 1992, the final year of George HW Bush’s administration, there was enough political pressure on the matter for both the Senate and the House of Representatives to investigate. Both found that the allegations were not valid.

At this point in time, as mentioned by the AP, Bani-Sadr had stated in his 1991 memoir “My Turn to Speak” that in the spring of 1980 “Americans close to Reagan” “was not a reconciliation between the governments, but a secret agreement between the leaders . “

Bani-Sadr wrote that he had actually spoken out publicly about it in real time: “At the end of October 1980, everyone was openly discussing the agreement with the Americans on the Reagan team. In the October 27 issue of Enghelab Eslami “- or Islamic Revolution, Bani-Sadr’s newspaper -” I published an editorial saying that Carter is no longer in control of US foreign policy and has real power over them handed in, the … mullahs in the hostage situation. “

In December 1992, Bani-Sadr sent a detailed letter to the House of Representatives Commission of Inquiry. He said he learned of the possibility of a hostage deal in July 1980 from Reza Passendideh, the nephew of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s first supreme leader.

Bani-Sadr later wrote in 2013 that Ben Affleck’s film “Argo” has outrageously misrepresented some facts about the revolution in Iran. One example, he explained, was this:

Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a secret trial, later known as the “October Surprise,” which prevented attempts by me and then US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages. … Two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime for learning of this secret.

The passage shows Bani-Sadr’s strong animus towards the Khomeini government. Bani-Sadr was elected with almost 80 percent of the vote in January 1980, but held more moderate positions than other factions that fought for power in the flowing post-revolutionary era. He was charged with Khomeini’s assistance in June 1981 and soon fled for fear for his life.

Bani-Sadr’s credibility has been questioned. The House Task Force claimed that “Bani-Sadr’s analysis shows how some Iranians have mistakenly assumed that Khomeini officials met with Reagan campaigners.” Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., irritated Bani-Sadr on the floor of the house in 1991.

However, Bani-Sadr is by no means the only senior government official to claim there has been a secret settlement over the US hostages. The late reporter Robert Parry covered this issue extensively. point out that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir declared that there was “of course” a surprise October conspiracy. The biographer of Alexandre de Marenches, the then extremely conservative head of the French secret service, has said de Marenches told him that the French secret service had helped organize the meetings.

Bani-Sadr is far from the only high-ranking government official to claim that there has been a secret settlement over the US hostages.

Russia’s post-Soviet government sent the House of Representatives task force a report claiming that such an agreement exists. However, House investigators did not publicly endorse the report, only included it in the secret version of their conclusions. parry Accidentally stumbled upon the classified information in a Capitol Hill bathroom that has been converted for storage.

And the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Carter told directly in the 1990s, when the Reagan campaign approached him with an offer of arms for his Palestine Liberation Organization if he could help negotiate a deal with Iran.

Last but not least headline for the story of Reagan’s inauguration in 1981 in the Onion book “Our Stupid Century” reads: “Iran releases hostages; Reagan urges the nation not to add two and two. “

The steps of Reagan’s campaign would not have been a new path for a Republican aspirant to the White House. There is no doubt that the Richard Nixon campaign of 1968 Conspiracy with the government of South Vietnam thwart a peace deal that would have increased the odds of Nixon’s rival Hubert Humphrey.

Whatever the underlying truth of the October Surprise theory, it is simply a fact that Bani-Sadr has repeatedly said what he said.

Bani-Sadr’s obituary in the New York Times mentioned that the then Iranian ambassador to the United Nations resigned because of the hostage-taking and wrote a long article condemning him – and was only published in one place in Iran: a newspaper that supported Bani-Sadr.

The peculiar obscuration of Bani-Sadr’s perspective on the hostage-taking extension to Reagan’s political gain suggests that the distance between the US corporate press and the Iranian media is not as great as we could hope.


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