As the Iranian nuclear crisis continues to simmer, the question grows more urgent: would a President Obama really be able to wring concessions from the Iranian mullahs? Some think so — and point to a largely forgotten incident during the Iranian hostage crisis as proof.
When Iranian jihadists seized the American Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, they took sixty-six hostages. Fifty-two of these were held captive for fourteen grim months. Of the remaining fourteen, one was released in July 1980 after falling ill, but thirteen were released just two weeks after they were taken hostage: on November 19 and 20, 1979, the Iranians released thirteen black Americans and women. Blacks were oppressed in America, they said, and they were sympathetic to “oppressed minorities” — and as pious Muslims they did not fight against women.
Some are now actually arguing that Obama could succeed in negotiations with Tehran just because he is black. But the hard fact is that the Iranians released the black hostages to manipulate the press and gain political advantage. Obama’s race will give him no advantage in talks with the ayatollahs.
Obama has long claimed that he would bring an insight to international relations that other American Presidents have not had. He explained last February: “As somebody who has family living overseas, who myself have lived overseas for a time, I would be able to — I think the world would see me as a different kind of President, somebody who could see the world through their eyes….If I convened a meeting with Muslim leaders around the world, to discuss how they can align themselves in our battle against terrorism, but also put our, the relationship between the West and the Islamic world on a more productive footing, I do so with the credibility of somebody who actually lived in a Muslim country for a number of years.” And indeed, majority-Muslim countries have greeted his candidacy with immense enthusiasm. One Indonesian Christian leader even said: “We are praying for Obama because we feel he can help reduce the widespread stigma and misperception that Muslims in Indonesia are fundamentalists.”
So maybe President Obama would carry two advantages into a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As one who has lived among Muslims, he would know how they feel, and perhaps they would believe that he, as a black man in America, would understand their grievances against the West. Perhaps the mullahs in Tehran would even be disposed to grant concessions to him, given their solicitude to the “oppressed minorities” among the hostages in 1979.
But how much hope can we really place upon an affirmative action program in Tehran? After all, the Iranian regime is not a champion of the oppressed, and Barack Obama has never been oppressed. Iran is constantly trying to portray itself as the victim of American and Israeli machinations, and these attempts are transparently dishonest. Recently it complained to the UN Security Council about Israel’s threat to its nuclear program – while never mentioning, of course, the oft-repeated Iranian saber-rattling against Israel. Iran’s Foreign Minister has called on Muslim nations to “erase” Israel, and Ahmadinejad himself has frequently indulged in genocidal rhetoric against Israel. He declared at the notorious “World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran in 2005 that “there is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma [Israel] from the face of the Islamic world….Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury, Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.”
This violent rhetoric belies the victim status the Iranians are trying to claim, and places Obama’s claimed advantage in a vastly different light. Iran has been cloaking its belligerence as a strike against oppression ever since it took those hostages back in the Carter years, and the Khomeini regime’s release of the black hostages was nothing more than a ham-handed endeavor to portray an act of naked aggression as something that soft-hearted and soft-headed Leftists could support. Obama, entering Tehran for talks with all the good will his background and race would afford him, would only reinforce the Iranian regime’s hollow attempts to claim victim status — and thereby win a platform for concessions. And since Obama would really bring to the table only warmed-over Carterism, those concessions would most likely start flowing copiously — to the detriment of American interests and those of our allies.
Barack Obama’s naivete would make Jimmy Carter look like Winston Churchill. Any actual “credibility” he would actually have in Tehran would be based not on his experience in a Muslim country or the color of his skin, but on his readiness to grant concessions. And that readiness could put us all at grave risk.