Tehran Its hard to believe that stately tree-lined
Teleghany Street in the north of the Iranian capital was once
the literal frontline of American domestic and foreign policy.
Nearly 20 years ago student revolutionaries stormed the huge
U.S. Embassy facility here and held the stations diplomatic
corps hostage for more than a year. The results of that takeover
can arguably be said to have irrevocably changed both Iran
and the United States.
you wouldnt have any notion of those momentous events
by the goings-on at this site now. Languid art and handicraft
galleries lay directly across the street from the quiet brick
walled grounds since transformed into a military school. Few
customers inspected the upscale art wares for sale on this
hot August afternoon. And absolutely no one strolled past
the tall pines providing welcome shade on the brick wall that
still sports anti-American imperialist invective in both English
and Farsi. Read the Koran as our weapon says one
in the native language. We will make America face a
severe defeat claims another in English.
focus of the grounds 10-foot high masonry remains a
beaten and badly worn stone disc at the main gate. Though
in rough condition, that disc still clearly displays a U.S.
eagle ringed with the words Embassy of the United States.
This stripped and ruined coin of the realm from an overextended
superpower is left as an obvious warning of sorts to anyone
who cares to notice. This mangled symbol also serves as an
unmistakable nameplate on the Wailing Wall of Washingtons
worst foreign policy debacle since Vietnam.
embassy takeover led directly to the wreck of the Carter presidency,
which in turn paved the way for a conservative backlash sea
tide in both American politics and society at large. It also
exposed again the dangerous lack of sophistication in our
understanding of international trends and events. You only
need to look at the unanticipated Indian-Pakistani nuclear
weapons tests and the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania to see the most recent examples of this endemic U.S.
Iran struggles to cope with a population that has almost doubled
since the 1979 revolution which toppled the Shah. At present,
60 percent of Iranians live below the official poverty line.
Actual revenues (based on the most recent available government
figures) in an economy based on oil sales were only 56 percent
of budget projections. And from that estimate -- a total of
$9 billion -- more than 11 percent had already been earmarked
for debt repayments alone. Last week the benchmark Brent crude
oil price hit a 10-year low of $11.55 a barrel. After three
weeks in country, I could find no one who admitted to a better
life since the religious clerics came to power. Of course,
the American-led economic embargo has only worsened matters.
Islamic Republic of Iran, however, is a nation and a people
with remarkable staying power, nearly 5,500 years worth of
recorded history as a unique and distinct culture apart from
the surrounding Arabs and far older than the Muslim religion
itself. At present, the Persian capital has an estimated population
of 10 million. And every one of them seems to be packed into
hundreds of thousands of cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles
that daily choke its crooked streets from dawn to well past
midnight. The city buses are segregated by gender women
and girls sit in the back. All the adult women and teenage
girls wear some type of cover on their heads. Most of the
middle-age men in the city center appear to wear casual business
attire and no one wears shorts except for the smallest tots.
While the former U.S. Embassy mostly plays host to silent
ghosts of the revolutionary past, Tehran remains a defiant
city where embassy protests are part of the landscape. During
the last few days, Iranians have demonstrated at the Pakistani
Embassy and elsewhere, venting their outrage at the Islamabad
government which is accused of assisting the Taliban forces
in neighboring Afghanistan. The Taliban reportedly have taken
Iranian diplomats and a journalist hostage. The Iranian government
has likewise condemned this Taliban action as a break with
internationally accepted standards of behavior. Some things
Video Still by LJM.