Watching the foreign policy crisis over Hamid Aboutalebi’s nomination as Iran’s new UN ambassador unfold, one thing was certain: while Capitol Hill was dominated by partisan politics, on the painful memory of the post-revolution hostage crisis, America was relatively undivided.
In a recent analysis, the BBC pointed out that while Washington was divided along party lines on many issues, the memory of the 444-day ordeal which left nine dead and US-Iranian relations altered forever still lay at the heart of America’s distrust towards Iran – to the extent that it would deny an Iranian diplomat entry on account of his involvement in it.
In Iran, despite overtures it has made to engage more closely with the US, it would appear that the hostage crisis – or the “conquest of the American spy den,” as it is termed in Persian – also remains very much unforgotten. In a recent overview, Al-Monitor’s Arash Karami noted that in the Iranian press, criticism of the hostage crisis is for the most part still taboo.
Karami followed the case of Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, a former leader of the student group responsible for the hostage crisis, who earlier this month issued an apology to those “mentally and spiritually hurt” by the incident. Speaking to ISNA, Asgharzadeh had said that sympathizing with the “pain and suffering” of Americans was nothing new, as former president Khatami had done the same over a decade before.
But in the Iranian press, Asgharzadeh’s words were met with harsh criticism. The country’s Fars news agency placed Asgharzadeh on its “Regret of the Week” list of unpopular politicians, while the Nasim news agency published an article proving that the man’s comments went against the ideals of deceased Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, in whose name the student group responsible for the crisis was acting.
Iran may have praised Aboutalebi’s qualifications as a seasoned diplomat while downplaying his involvement in the hostage crisis, but it would seem that Tehran isn’t really ready to say it’s sorry – or truly repair its US ties.