“All propaganda is lies — even when it is telling the truth,” says George Orwell. Yet a careful examination of propaganda provides significant insight into the regime that produced it. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s propaganda on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the November 4, 1979, seizure of the United States Embassy in Tehran is a case in point.
Sobh-e Sadegh, a mouthpiece of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), hails November 4 as “the day of humiliation of world imperialism,” but goes on to reveal why this type of regime has prohibited normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries for more than three decades rather than “humiliate” the United States.
The author also stresses that November 4 marked the day when the “liberal political movements and those gravitating towards or dependent on the United States parted ways from the followers of the Line of the Imam [Rouhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic].” This vague statement references Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan’s transitional government which resigned in protest over the embassy takeover. Here, the author involuntarily shows that the Islamic Republic continuously provokes crises in Iran’s relations with foreign powers and facilitates a state of permanent political crisis to purge and “purify” the political system of undesirable political elements.
Sobh-e Sadegh’s columnist also argues: “Three decades after seizure of the Den of Espionage, it still symbolizes the unity of political groups of the Line of the Imam and the Leader and provides a distinction with deviating political movements dependent on the foreigners.” This point is of great policy relevance to those in the United States who advocate normalization of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic. The regime appears incapable of publicly committing itself to normalization of relations. How could the Islamic Republic’s leadership accuse its political opponents of being American agents if the regime were to normalize relations with the United States? This constitutes a particular source of concern to an illegitimate regime which is finding it increasingly difficult to redirect public anger away from its own shortcomings and towards external enemies.
Thirty-one years after the seizure of the United States Embassy in Tehran, several known perpetrators of the attack have repented of their participation. They have realized how their actions have shaped politics in Iran. Some have themselves become victims of this ruthless political system, which constantly looks for and finds fifth columnists. It is this side of the Atlantic where some are still unwilling to accept reality.
— Ali Alfoneh is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.