May 21, 2013
Iran, the U.S. and Israel: Blind Man’s Bluff
Posted on Jan 16, 2012
By Barry Lando
We also reported on some of the classified U.S. government documents divulged by the Iranians who had taken over the American Embassy. Those documents showed that American diplomats based in Tehran had warned Washington months earlier of the threat of a possible hostage taking—particularly if the U.S. allowed the despised shah to come to America for medical treatment, as the U.S. ultimately did. Those warnings had been completely ignored by Washington.
In return for releasing the hostages, what the Iranian government of President Abulhassan Banisadr was demanding was a pledge by the U.S. not to interfere in the future affairs of Iran and an agreement not to block its efforts to arrest the shah and get back the wealth of Iran he had embezzled. They also wanted an admission by the U.S. of past wrongs. In light of that past, we asked, were those demands so outrageous?
In the context of America’s superheated passions at the time, however, even posing that question was considered outrageous.
Over the next few days, as we were preparing the report, we received calls from many Washington officials concerned about the broadcast. This was capped by President Jimmy Carter himself, who called Bill Leonard, the president of CBS News, to try to persuade him to not broadcast the report. It would, he said, undermine U.S. negotiations with Iran at a very delicate time.
When questioned by Leonard, we argued that it was difficult to understand how our report could upset the hostage negotiations. We were not revealing any secrets to Iran. The Iranians already knew well the role of the U.S. in their own history. The people we were informing were our 20 million American viewers—who didn’t understand what was really roiling Iran.
And still don’t.
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