Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the 1979 Hostage Crisis

On June 29, 2005,Specify|date=July 2008 shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the Iranian presidential election, several major news outlets publicized allegations that he participated in the 1979–1981 Iran Hostage Crisis.

Ahmadinejad and his political supporters have denied these allegations. Even his political opponents in Iran have specifically denied the allegations. The Iranian government stated that the allegations circulating against Ahmadinejad in the Western media are part of a smear campaign orchestrated by the United States and what Iranian officials have referred to as "Zionist media,"Fact|date=September 2007 directed against Ahmadinejad in specific and Iran in general.

On June 30, 2005, US President George W. Bush declared that these charges were serious. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Bush Takes Iran Allegations Seriously |url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5109896,00.html |work=Guardian Unlimited |publisher= |date= 2005-06-30] [ [http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/06/30/iran.president/index.html CNN.com - Former hostages allege Iran's new president was captor - Jun 30, 2005 ] ] [ [http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=626 Latest Bush administration war propaganda: Iran's president-elect as hostage taker ] ] [ [http://www.popmatters.com/columns/taghizadeh/050725.shtml PopMatters | Columns | Tara Taghizadeh | Global Graffiti | Iran: Dancing in the Spotlight ] ] [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iran/2005/iran-050701-rferl01.htm Iran: U.S. Examines Hostage Accusations Against Ahmadinejad ] ] [ [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/7/992E9294-D81D-4093-A38B-20DC9642013B.html Iran: U.S. Examines Hostage Accusations Against Ahmadinejad - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY ] ]

The United States Department of Homeland Security initially found Ahmadeinjad ineligible for a visa to enter the US, citing "reason to believe" that he was involved in the seizure. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/06/AR2005090601602.html U.S. Grants Visa for Iran's New President to Visit U.N ] ] The US Department of State interviewed hostages about their experiences. [ [http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/08/12/cia.iranpresident/index.html CNN.com - Sources: CIA finds Iranian president likely not hostage-taker - Aug 12, 2005 ] ]

A later CIA investigation determined "with relative certainty" that he was not involved in the takeover. Another U.S. official said of the report that there was "no evidence" that he was among the captors. [http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/08/12/cia.iranpresident/index.html Sources: CIA finds Iranian president likely not hostage-taker] . CNN. August 12, 2005.]

Alleged participation in the planning and leadership of the embassy takeover

"Shargh" has identified the three main leaders of the takeover as Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, Mohsen Mirdamadi, and Habibolah Bitaraf.Fact|date=September 2007

Masoumeh Ebtekar, a spokeswoman for the hostage takers who was nicknamed "Sister Mary" by U.S. media during the crisis, said Ahmadinejad had actually been opposed to the takeover of the embassy.Cite web|url=http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=16442|title=Iran says 'Zionists' behind Ahmadinejad charges|accessdate=2006-05-06|publisher=Daily Star|year=2005|author=Daily Star staff ] Ahmadinejad has also said that he did not support the embassy takeover until Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini endorsed it. [http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200510/iran-president-ahmadinejad Mahmoud the Bashful ] ] The endorsement came late on November 4, 1979, the day the embassy was seized. Reportedly, Ahmadinejad argued that the protest ought to be directed at the Soviet embassy instead, and al-Jazeera reported that when OSU leaders planned the attack on the US embassy in 1979, Ahmadinejad actually proposed simultaneous action against the Soviet embassy. [ [http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/91109A0C-83F4-438F-9CC1-52DF6936CC6B.htm Al Jazeera English - Archive - Profile: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ] ]

Abolhassan Banisadr, the exiled former President of Iran stated that Ahmadinejad's job on the hostage holding team was to act as direct liaison reporting to Ayatollah Khomeini the status of the hostages. Bani-Sadr also reported that the photograph identified as Ahmadinejad was another agitator who was later imprisoned by Rafsanjani and "committed suicide" while in prison.

Rejection by the CIA

CNN has reported from multiple official sources the result of a CIA investigation into whether Ahmedinejad was involved in the hostage taking:The CNN report continues stating that "CIA analysis of a photograph of one of the hostage-takers determined that the man was not Ahmadinejad."

Identification by some former hostages

Several former hostages allege that during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis Ahmadinejad was one of the key individuals holding Americans inside the embassy.

A former Iranian secret agent said that the allegations were untrue: “I’m opposed to Ahmadinejad’s policies and thinking but he was not involved in the hostage drama nor in the assassination of an Iranian opposition Kurdish leader in Vienna.” [ [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8442940/ "Ex-agent: Iranian leader wasn’t a hostage-taker"] MSNBC July 2, 2005] A classified CIA report says the claim is not proven. [ [http://www.nysun.com/article/19982?page_no=1 Ex-Hostages Demand CIA Release Its Report on Iranian President] "The New York Sun" September 14, 2005]

With Ahmadinejad's recent publicity, five former U.S. hostages Dr. William Daugherty (who worked for the CIA in Iran), Kevin Hermening, David Roeder, US Army Col. Charles Scott (Ret.), and US Navy Capt. Donald Sharer (Ret.) have alleged that Ahmadinejad was one of the leaders of the Iran Hostage Crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, during their 444-day captivity starting on November 4 1979. All of the above-mentioned hostages have claimed that Ahmadinejad is the man whom they remember from their captivity. Ahmadinejad denies his presence in the embassy, other hostages are unsure about the identification and the CIA has reportedly questioned this identification.

Col. Charles Scott, now seventy-three, recently told the "Washington Times" [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4613644.stm BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Excerpts: Ahmadinejad conference ] ] that "He was one of the top two or three leaders; the new president of Iran is a terrorist." Col. Scott claimed to recall an incident when Ahmadinejad berated a friendly Iranian guard who had allowed the two Americans to visit another U.S. hostage in a neighboring cell. Col. Scott, who understands Persian, said Ahmadinejad told the guard: "You shouldn't let these pigs out of their cells". Donald Sharer, a retired Navy captain who was for a time a cellmate of Col. Scott at the Evin prison in northern Tehran, remembered Ahmadinejad as "a hard-liner, a cruel individual". "I know he was an interrogator", said Capt. Sharer, now 64. Former hostages William Daugherty and Kevin Hermening also claim he was involved.

Scott and Roeder have also expressed certainty that Ahmadinejad was present at their interrogations. Scott asserted his certainty forcefully, stating: "This is the guy. There's no question about it. You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him." Both men, along with Sharer and Hermening, have stated their recollections of Ahmadinejad as an "extremely cruel" ringleader. Of the above men, only Hermening has expressed that he was not immediately sure that Ahmadinejad was involved in the Hostage Crisis.

However, former hostages USAF Col. Thomas E. Schaefer (Ret.), Paul Lewis (a former Marine embassy guard), and Barry Rosen (former embassy press attache) have expressed uncertainty regarding whether Ahmadinejad was actually involved. Schaefer stated that he does not recall Ahmadinejad by face or name, and Lewis expressed noticing a vague familiarity upon seeing Ahmadinejad's picture, but said that he could not be sure if Ahmadinejad was actually the same person as his captor. "My memories were more of the gun barrel, not the people behind it," stated Lewis. Rosen, while not claiming to personally recognize Ahmadinejad, professes to believe those who do claim to recognize the new Iranian President-elect. "When you're in a situation like that… it doesn't go away" Rosen stated.

In a September, 2005 interview of Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow on the Washington based Council on Foreign Relations, discussed his opinions on the above allegations, stating:

Identification by former Iranian President Bani Sadr

Former Iranian president Abolhassan Banisadr claimed that Ahmadinejad was among those inside the Embassy but was not a decision maker. [ MSNBC, July 2, 2005, [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8442940/ "Ex-agent: Iranian leader wasn’t a hostage-taker"] . This source says that he was an advisor to Ayatollah Khomeini instead of Khamenei] According to Banisadr, Ahmadinejad was not only present in the occupied compound, but served as liaison between the hostage-takers and Ali Khamenei, the Friday prayer leader of Tehran at that time. (He stated Khamenei himself, today Iran’s Supreme Leader, visited the hostage-takers repeatedly in the compound.) [ Matthias Küntzel, Hoover Institution, Policy Review, December 2006 [http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/4884331.html#n2 From Khomeini to Ahmadinejad] ] Bani-Sadr also confirmed that Ahmadinejad was initially opposed to the hostage-taking but once Khomeini gave his agreement, he changed his mind.

Rejection by former hostage takers

Many of the former hostage takers have stated that Ahmadinejad was in no way involved in the Hostage Crisis. Bijan Abidi, one of the hostage takers, said that "There was no one by that name (Ahmadinejad) among the students who took part in the U.S. Embassy seizure." Mohsen Mirdamadi, one of the student leaders, and Masoumeh Ebtekar, the spokeswoman of the students who later became a Vice President under President Khatami, have also denied Ahmadinejad's involvement. Abbas Abdi, another leader of the embassy takeover, and subsequently a political opponent of Ahmadinejad, expressed certainty that Ahmadinejad was not involved. "Definitely he was not among the students who took part in the seizure," Abdi said. "He was not part of us. He played no role in the seizure, let alone being responsible for security [for the students] ." Rosen has stated that Abdi lacks credibility on this issue. Rosen reported that Abdi told him personally during a 1998 meeting in Paris that Abdi, while heavily involved in the embassy takeover, was never actually inside the embassy building. "So he can't maintain that [Ahmadinejad] was or wasn't," Rosen stated.

Rejection by Ahmadinejad

An aide to Ahmadinejad, Meisam Rowhani, denied all claims that Ahmadinejad was involved in the Hostage Crisis. Rowhani stated that Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings if he had a role in the hostage taking. Rowhani said he replied, "No. I believed that if we do that the world will swallow us."Fact|date=July 2008 Although Ahmadinejad has publicly expressed support for the hostage taking, he has claimed that he only supported the embassy takeover after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini expressed support, and that he was never actually involved.

The "Iran Focus" photograph controversy

"Iran Focus", one of numerous web outlets of the MKO militant group (based in Camp Ashraf, Iraq)Cite web|url=http://www.iranian.com/Milaninia/2005/August/MKO/|title=MadeUpStories.com — The MKO propaganda machine|accessdate=2006-05-06|publisher=Iranian.com|year=2005|author=Milaninia, Nema] originally claimed that they had obtained a photograph of a younger Ahmadinejad with a hostage, which was quickly published by the major Western news agencies AP, Reuters, and AFP. Publication of the photograph drew criticism because it was presented to the world without due investigation or verification.

In response to the publication Saeed Hajjarian, a reformist politician with a background in intelligence, denied that the picture is Ahmadinejad. Hajjarian told Associated Press and later "ISNA" that the person in the photograph is a student named Taghi Mohammadi. Associated Press and other sources reported that Mohammadi was a militant who later turned into a dissident. He was arrested for being connected to the MKO and was involved in the assassinations of President Mohammad Ali Rajai and Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar. He committed suicide in jail. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/19/AR2006011903311.html Chirac: Nuclear Response to Terrorism Is Possible - washingtonpost.com ] ]

Alternatively,Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, one of the spokesmen for the hostage-taking students, identified the figure in the photo as "Ranjbaran". Asgharzadeh claims Ranjbaran was hanged for being a spy for MKO. [ [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/6/C10D5293-86D9-4C7D-8B9F-1A252BC10D3E.html Iran: Election Of Ahmadinejad Unlikely To Affect Nuclear Negotiations - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY ] ]

On July 2, 2005 the "LA Times" reported that "A U.S. official familiar with the investigation of Ahmadinejad's role said that analysts had found "serious discrepancies" between the figure depicted in the 1979 photo and images of the Iranian president. The discrepancies included differences in facial structure and features. [ [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-usiran2jul02,1,4292441.story U.S.: Photo Not of Iran Chief - Los Angeles Times ] ] Ahmadinejad is about 15 cm. (6 inches) shorter than the man in the photo.Fact|date=December 2007

References


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