Friday, March 30, 2007

British hostages: Another black page in Iran's history

On November 4, 1979, hardline Iranian students, backed by Ayatollah Khomeini and other radical elements of the new Iranian regime, overran the US embassy in Iran, took sixty six American diplomats and marines hostage and subjected them to physical and psychological abuse for 444 days (13 hostages were releases two weeks into the crisis.) As Kenneth Pollock states in his wonderful book "Persian Puzzle," the crisis did take its toll on both Iran and America: "The hostage crisis has left a terrible scar on the American Psyche...Few americans have ever forgiven the Iranians for it. It is America's great underlying grievance against Iran....we never discuss it openly, but the residual anger that so many Americans feel toward Iran for those 444 days has colored every decision we have made about Iran ever since."

In retrospect, Iran's take-over of the US embassy in 1979, which blatantly violated all international diplomatic protocols, turned the country into an international outcast. Although Khomeini and his radical followers greatly benefited from it, the Iranian people never fully recovered from the tragic effects of this appalling act.

It is in light of this abhorrent background that, as a peace and freedom-loving Iranian, I find Tehran's taking 15 British navy personnel hostage a nightmare revisited. What bothers me the most is the sense of powerlessness that we in the free world feel toward mullahs and their shameless behavior. As National review Online perfectly puts it, it seems like "no act of warfare against the civilized world, no defiance of the United Nations, no violation of international norms, no brazen lie is ever enough to mark Iran as unworthy of outreach, dialogue and the art of sweet persuasion."

Tehran's abominable behavior and its brazen disregard for the international laws should once and for all be met with a firm and direct international reponse. Further isolation and solid sanctions can bring mullahs to their knees only if the international community puts its money where its mouth is.