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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'It's kind of like Jimmy Carter all over again'

If you want to find a group of Americans who really know Iran, the embassy employees who were held hostage for 444 days in 1979-81 would not be a bad place to start. They are mostly unenthusiastic about President Hussein Obama's new agreement with the Mullahcracy.
"It's kind of like Jimmy Carter all over again," said Clair Cortland Barnes, now retired after a career at the CIA and elsewhere. He sees the negotiations now as no more effective than they were in 1979 and 1980, when he and others languished, facing mock executions and other torments. The hostage crisis began in November of 1979 when militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and seized its occupants.

Retired Air Force Colonel Thomas E. Schaefer, 83, called the deal "foolishness."

"My personal view is, I never found an Iranian leader I can trust," he said. "I don't think today it's any different from when I was there. None of them, I think, can be trusted. Why make an agreement with people you can't trust?"

Schaefer was a military attaché in Iran who was among those held hostage. His wife of more than 60 years, Anita, also takes a dim view of the agreement: "We are probably not very Christian-like when it comes to all this," she said.


To be sure, the former hostages have varying views. Victor Tomseth, 72, a retired diplomat, sees the pact as a positive first step.


Tomseth, who was a political counselor at the embassy in Tehran in 1979, had written a diplomatic cable months before the hostage crisis warning about the difficulties of negotiation with the Iranians.

Still, he said in a phone interview Monday that it is possible to cut a mutually beneficial deal with them.

"The challenge is Iranian society and politics is so fragmented that it's difficult to reach a consensus," he said – a problem that is also present in the US. He said he considers the deal "in a category of an initial confidence measure."


For other hostages, though, their experience has led them to the conclusion that attempting to negotiate and expecting Iran to live up to its end of the bargain is a losing proposition. Sergeant Rodney "Rocky" Sickmann, 56, then a Marine sergeant, remembers clearly being told by his captors that their goal was to use the hostages to humiliate the American government, and he suspects this interim deal is in that vein.

"It just hurts. We negotiated for 444 days and not one time did they agree to anything ... and here they beg for us to negotiate and we do," he said. "It's hard to swallow. We negotiate with our enemies and stab our allies in the back. That doesn't seem good."

The deal may also have a direct effect on some of the hostages who have long fought to sue the Iranian government for damages. The new agreement calls for $4.2 billion in frozen Iranian assets to be released, which could make it more difficult to collect a judgment on any successful suit.
Anything to endanger Israel. Anything... 

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