It has been three decades since Iranian college students overran and occupied the American Embassy in Tehran, and we are still dealing with that country's revolution.
Americans at the time were understandably preoccupied with the fate of 66 countrymen who were held captive, accused of being spies, and threatened with prosecution and punishment—which in the Iran of those days tended to mean firing squads or the noose. We still refer to this outrage as the Iran Hostage Crisis. Yet this way of remembering the episode ignores its larger significance in Iran, and impedes our understanding of the political drama unfolding there today.
The movement to oust the Shah was primarily a nationalist one, albeit colored by the religious rhetoric of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Many of those who took to the streets in 1978 and 1979 were motivated not by a desire to establish a theocracy but by the same thing that stirs the reform movement there today—a desire to cast off authoritarianism and establish democracy. The seizure of the U.S. Embassy was the pivotal event in the takeover of the revolution by the mullahs of Qom.>>>
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