Former Iranian leader says Reagan left hostages locked up
Photo: Bettmann Archives / Getty Images
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, The first Iranian president after the 1979 Islamic revolution died on Saturday at the age of 88 in Paris.
There have been remarkably few American obituaries for such a large number. Only one mentions what is probably the most important fact about Bani-Sadr’s life from the point of view of American politics: he claimed that Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980 was in collusion with the post-revolutionary Iranian government. to keep American hostages in Iran until after that year’s election.
The only exception was from The Associated Press, and even this one mentioned the topic primarily to bring it down. The PA obituary stated that Bani-Sadr “gained notoriety after alleging without evidence in a book that Ronald Reagan’s campaign was colluding with the Iranian leadership to delay the release of the hostages.”
In fact, rumors that the Reagan campaign had made some sort of deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran began to circulate in Washington shortly after Reagan’s landslide victory over President Jimmy Carter. The possibility became known as the “October surprise” theory thanks to the fear documented in Camp Reagan that Carter would secure the hostages’ release in October, just before the election. (The PA obituary incorrectly states that Bani-Sadr’s book “gave birth to the idea of the ‘October surprise’ in American politics.”)
Though largely forgotten today, the seizure of 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by revolutionary Iranian students, and the Carter administration’s failure to free the hostages, was a central issue in the contest. Presidential 1980.
In 1992, which would be the last year of George HW Bush’s administration, there was enough political pressure on the matter for the Senate and House of Representatives to investigate. Both concluded that there was no significant substance to the claims.
By this point, Bani-Sadr had – as the PA mentions – stated in his 1991 memoir, “My Turn to Speak,” that in the spring of 1980, “Americans close to Reagan” had proposed “not a reconciliation. between governments but a secret agreement between the leaders.
Bani-Sadr wrote that he had actually spoken about it publicly in real time: “At the end of October 1980, everyone was openly discussing the deal with the Americans on Team Reagan. In the October 27 issue of Enghelab Eslami “- or Islamic Revolution, Bani-Sadr’s newspaper -” I ran an op-ed saying that Carter no longer controlled US foreign policy and had ceded real power to those who … had negotiated with the mullahs on the hostage affair.
In December 1992, Bani-Sadr sent a detailed letter to the House investigative working group. He had learned of the possibility of a hostage-taking in July 1980, he said, 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” blatantly distorted some of the facts surrounding the revolution in Iran. An example, he explained, was this:
Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had staged a clandestine negotiation, later known as the “October Surprise,” which prevented attempts by myself and US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages. … Two of my advisers, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by the Khomeini regime because they learned of this secret.
The passage testifies to Bani-Sadr’s strong animosity towards the Khomeini government. Bani-Sadr was elected in January 1980 with nearly 80 percent of the vote, but held more moderate positions than the other factions vying for power in the fluid post-revolutionary period. He was deposed with Khomeini’s support in June 1981 and quickly fled the country fearing for his life.
Bani-Sadr’s credibility has been questioned. The House task force claimed that “Bani-Sadr’s analysis shows how some Iranians may have erred in thinking that Khomeini’s representatives met with Reagan’s campaign officials.” Representative Bob Livingston, R-La., Excoriated Bani-Sadr on the floor of the House in 1991.
However, Bani-Sadr is by no means the only senior government official to claim that there was a clandestine US hostage deal. The late journalist Robert Parry covered this topic in depth, noting that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said that “of course” there had been an October Surprise conspiracy. The biographer of Alexandre de Marenches, the extremely conservative French intelligence chief at the time, said de Marenches told him that the French secret service had helped organize the meetings.
Bani-Sadr is by no means the only senior government official to say there was a clandestine US hostage deal.
Russia’s post-Soviet government sent the House task force a report claiming that there had been such an agreement. Still, House investigators have not publicly acknowledged the report, including it only in the classified version of their findings. Parry stumbled across the classified documents in a Capitol Hill bathroom reused for storage.
And Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat directly told Carter in the 1990s that Reagan’s campaign had approached him with an arms offer for his Palestine Liberation Organization if he could help negotiate a deal with it. Iran.
Last but not least, the title of the story of Reagan’s investiture in 1981 in the Onion book “Our Dumb Century” is: “Iran frees hostages; Reagan urges the nation not to put two and two together. “
Reagan’s campaign moves would not have been a new tactic for a Republican aspirant to the White House. It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign conspired with the government of South Vietnam to thwart a peace deal that would have increased the chances of Nixon’s rival, Hubert Humphrey.
Whatever the underlying truth of the October Surprise theory is, it is simply a fact that Bani-Sadr has said what he has said, on several occasions.
Bani-Sadr’s New York Times obituary mentions that Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time resigned from the hostage-taking and wrote a lengthy article condemning it – and only one place in Iran has it. published: a newspaper supporting Bani-Sadr.
The particular blackout from Bani-Sadr’s perspective on extending the hostage crisis for Reagan’s political gain suggests that the distance between the American corporate press and the Iranian media is not as great as we might l ‘hope.