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What to Make of Recent Remarks from Former IRGC Commander on US Embassy Hostage Taking

iran tehran rafiqdoust rezaee us embassy seizure

In an interview on August 16, Mohsen Rafiqdoust, a former IRGC Logistics Commander and the head of the Mostazafan Foundation, shared some intriguing remarks. The timing and intention of these comments have left observers of Iran’s developments pondering over a truly complex calamity whose consequences are still effective today.

Discussing the US Embassy hostage crisis, Rafighdoost revealed that the IRGC played a role in orchestrating the attack on the US Embassy.

“I was involved before the takeover of the spy nest and as the logistics officer of the IRGC, I assisted the students with their work. I provided them with resources and facilities,” Rafiqdoust said.

He elaborated, “I was even briefed in a meeting to help with this task. In a meeting where Mr. Mohsen Rezaee, who was in charge of intelligence (IRGC) at that time, took us to a place where Mr. Lahouti and Mirdamadi were present, they mentioned that it was planned for the US Embassy to be captured the day after tomorrow.”

Rafighdoost’s statement directly contradicts the assertion that the embassy attack was solely a voluntary effort by unaffiliated students. His subsequent statement carries significant implications: “During the meeting, I was instructed to assist in the embassy takeover. As a result, I provided certain resources to support the students.”

The US Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran occurred on November 4, 1979, when so-called Iranian students seized the US Embassy and held 52 American diplomats, military personnel, and citizens captive for 444 days. Despite attempts by some proponents of engaging with the clerical regime to justify the attack and dissociate it from senior officials of the regime, the subsequent events following the hostage crisis strongly indicate who gained the most from the incident.

On November 6, 2012, only three days after the anniversary of the US embassy hostage-taking, Sadegh Tabatabai, a family member and close associate with former Supreme Leader Khomeini, stated in an interview that their goal was to oust the Liberal government of Mehdi Bazargan. He particularly quoted former IRGC Chief Mohsen Rezaee as saying that Americans had infiltrated his government and thus he and his cabinet needed to be removed from office.

On November 6, 1979, following a nine-month tenure, the interim government of Mehdi Bazargan resigned, creating an opening for Khomeini to further consolidate his control over Iran’s political landscape and the society that emerged after the revolution. Building on this momentum, Khomeini seized the opportunity to introduce the principle of Velâyat-e Faqih [Supreme Leader’s authority] into the new Constitution.

Interestingly, the original draft of the Constitution did not incorporate any principle based on the Velayat-e Faqih, nor was there an initial intention for its inclusion. However, responding to Khomeini’s guidance, the Assembly of Experts commenced the drafting of a new constitution for the regime on August 19, 1979. The final text was declared as complete on November 14, 1979.

Subsequently, a nationwide referendum was conducted on December 2 and 3, 1979. Astonishingly, the constitution received an overwhelming approval rate of 99.5% from the voters. In the backdrop of the US embassy takeover just less than a month prior, it becomes evident that any dissenting voices within the ruling establishment or opposing groups would be swiftly labeled and marginalized accordingly.

However, what Iranian state officials have consistently failed to acknowledge is the regime’s primary objective. Confronted with a turbulent society in the aftermath of the revolution, Khomeini and his clerical associates, devoid of any real solutions for Iran’s profound socio-economic challenges, turned to manipulation and deception. Exploiting the nation’s aversion to those who had backed the deposed Shah, Khomeini aimed to establish himself as a leading figure in the battle against American Imperialism. He sought to eliminate all political groups and intellectuals who opposed his agenda by labeling them as pro-American.

Some time later, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi said, that the slogan death to America has served the Islamic Republic more than the war with Iraq did. The IRGC-run Fars news agency also quoted Mousavi as saying on October 24, 1984, that the slogan was of strategic importance to the regime.

A significant number of individuals who participated in the seizure of the US embassy later ascended to prominent positions within the regime’s hierarchy.

Ever since, the clerical dictatorship that originated in Paris with Khomeini’s connections and reassurances to specific Western governments underwent a shift in strategy, positioning itself as a worldwide hub of anti-Western sentiment. Capitalizing on historical grievances held by Middle Eastern nations, the clerics strategically harnessed and propagated extremism on a global scale. Labeling this fanaticism as a source of strength, they perceive it as a tool to exert influence, compelling the West to persist in its policy of appeasement toward the most active state sponsor of terrorism.

As Iran is approaching the first anniversary of the 2022 uprising, and with the regime’s leaders grappling to rally the disenchanted and demoralized security forces, the unexpected comments from Mohsen Rafiqdoust regarding the IRGC’s involvement in a prominent anti-American incident cast a revealing light on the regime’s priorities.

This sentiment ironically and conversely resembles a chant frequently heard during recent protests: “Our enemy is right here; they lie when they say it’s America.”