Anniversary Post: Iranian Hostages Released

Iranian Hostages ReleasedOn this day in 1981, the remaining 52 hostages were released by the Iranian government after 444 days. This was also the day that Ronald Reagan was inaugurated fortieth President of the United States. For years, this has been part of the Republican myth that Carter was weak and Reagan strong. Indeed, just last weekend, Marco Rubio was on Meet the Press, where he made the de rigueur Republican claim that the world only respects and fears America when a dry mouthed Eagle Scout brays and beats his chest. He said, “When I become president of the United States, our adversaries around the world will know that America is no longer under the command of someone weak like Barack Obama, and it will be like Ronald Reagan, where as soon as he took office the hostages were released from Iran.”

If you look at the timeline of the Iranian hostages crisis, you will see that the Carter administration was not sitting on its hands. The first attempts at negotiation were on 7 November 1979 — three days after the attack on the embassy. The Iranians would not meet with the US, so Carter froze their assets. Originally, there were 66 hostages taken. On 17 November 1979, Iran released all the female and African American hostages — reducing the number down to 53. On 11 July 1980, another hostage was released due to illness. That left the 52 who were released on 20 January 1981.

On 12 September 1980, Iran declared that they would release the hostages if the Shah’s assets were given to Iran and if Iran’s assets were released. The Iranians went to the Carter administration that month with the offer to negotiate. From then through January of 1981, Warren Christopher led the US delegation in negotiations with the Iranians. On 19 January, a deal was settled — the Iranian hostages were exchanged for roughly $10 billion in Iranian assets. And the next day, the hostages were released.

According to PolitiFact (which has debunked this claim before because Republicans so like it), there were a couple of reasons for the Iranian hostages release. First, the Iranians were tired of keeping the hostages. They had to take care of them and keep them from escaping — at the same time having to worry about an American attack, which would have been widely seen as justified. Second, they had been negotiating for months and they didn’t want to start all over with a new administration. And third, the Iranians wanted to insult Carter as the symbol of the United States.

It’s interesting how often Republicans align themselves with enemies of this country just to score cheap domestic political points. Remember Tom Cotton’s ridiculous letter to the Iranians that totally disrespected the office of the president just to make a grand statement? Remember what the letter actually communicated: you should not trust the United States of America.

As for the Iranian hostages deal, no one from Ronald Reagan’s administration took any part in the negotiations. The deal was finalized because of negotiations with the Carter administration. And it was all about money. Nothing else. Rubio is an idiot. But that’s what Republicans are. In 2012, Mitt Romney said the same thing. That’s because chest thumping is the extent to which Republicans think about foreign policy.

16 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Iranian Hostages Released

  1. Oh I miss the days when the Republicans were smart enough to select impossible to win candidates to avoid having to do the hard work of running the country during difficult times. (I am referring to picking Wendell Willkie in 1940.)

    • You think if they got into power they would do the hard work?! Look at how the Bush administration dealt with Iraq. Didn’t they send some teenager over there to set up a stock exchange?

  2. Are the allegations of ‘hostages for arms’ unfounded? Have I misled the youth of my family by teaching them there was a conspiracy from the Right?
    I think I also drew a line (in the sand?) pointing to south and central American exploits related to the gained proceeds….as I thought hostages were not the only gain.

    • There is some evidence that there was something going on between the Iranians and the Reagan people but it is far from conclusive that they specifically spiked the hostage negotiations. Apparently someone wrote a book on it and other things the Republicans have done over the years. In light of other information we know now, it does appear that there were shenanigans but nothing concrete enough to hang a prosecution on.

      • I think you are conflating two things. I’ve heard rumors that some Reagan people negotiated with the Iranians to screw up the Carter negotiations. I don’t really buy that. That would be flat out treason. But this is the Reagan (or proto-Reagan) administration, so who knows.

        Iran-Contra was a different issue that took place right at the beginning of Reagan’s second term.

        • I was referring to the two-in light of Iran-Contra, the conspiracy theory of the Reagan advisory group actually committing treason by interfering with the negotiations is not as easily dismissed especially since some people apparently did in fact meet with some of the Iranians based on some documents found in George H.W. Bush’s library.

          It is probably nothing but since they did actively commit treason just a few years later?

          • I think they are at very different levels. It would be a lot easier for them to justify the 1986 stuff. But I will have to look into the 1980 stuff. I’ve always just kind of dismissed it as too over the top. But I would have said the same thing about Watergate. It’s like in All the President’s Men. The foreign editor says, “Why would the Republicans do it? McGovern’s self-destructed just like Humphrey, Muskie, the bunch of them. I don’t believe this story. It doesn’t make sense.” I’m glad they put that in the film because that was the reasonable thing to think. And if anything, the Reagan administration was more foolhardy. So now I’ve got to check.

    • There was definitely a conspiracy there. But that was a different set of hostages. That’s the thing: hostages taken under a Democratic administration means Democrats are weak. Hostages taken under a Republican administration is just erased from public memory because the media has decided that Republicans are strong. Look at the way that Republicans talk about how George W Bush “kept us safe” — as though 9/11 never happened. It’s just weird. Thank God we have Wikipedia now, so we can at least look it up. It used to be so hard to figure out what was going on because the news always assumes you’ve read everything that came before. If I’m more than hour into a news item, I go to Wikipedia to figure out what’s going on. Within 24 hours of a mass shooting, it’s usually impossible to figure out what has happened based upon the news (other than that there was a mass shooting).

    • It was probably the first political event that I really paid attention to. It made me really angry that North could come in and by pure belligerence convince most of the nation that what he did was right and patriotic. The man was a traitor. So was Reagan.

Leave a Reply