‘Argo’ helps Iran’s dictatorship, harms democracy
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution, says that by falsifying, misrepresenting, and taking critical facts out of context, the Academy-Award winning film 'Argo' delivers a pro-CIA message at the cost of the Iranian people and history.
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We must ask why the film is based on this false dichotomy, and what political need is served by putting Iranians in such a bad light.Skip to next paragraph
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I was deposed in June 1981 as a result of a coup against me. After arriving in France, I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism.
Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the “October Surprise,” which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.
Two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime because they had become aware of this secret relationship between Khomeini, his son Ahmad, the Islamic Republican Party, and the Reagan administration.
Apart from this, I have a deeper concern about the way the film legitimizes clandestine CIA operations. The refusal of the CIA officer (Tony Mendez, played by Mr. Affleck) to abandon the plan to rescue the Americans hiding in the Canadian embassy in light of information that a military operation was under way is reminiscent of the first attempted coup against Mossadegh’s democratic government in 1953.
When this failed, the CIA asked its master spy, Kermit Roosevelt, to return to the US. He refused and, with the help of monarchists and some clergymen, organized a second successful attempt three days later. This coup ended democracy in Iran and replaced it with what was to become 25 years of the shah’s dictatorship. This resonance makes one wonder whether the film could ultimately, as some critics have suggested, “tilt the balance of U.S. public opinion toward war” should the ongoing nuclear negotiations fail.
The film has drawn public attention once again to this terrifying episode in both Iranian and US history. However, by falsifying, misrepresenting, and taking critical facts out of context, it delivers a pro-CIA message at the cost of both the Iranian people and Iranian history.
It does not help people understand that rather than being emblematic of the 1979 revolution, the hostage-taking enabled the forces of dictatorship we see today to overpower democratic struggles against the occupation of the US Embassy and all forms of violence in society. “Argo” may ultimately cost us even more time in securing a democratic future for Iran.
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr was the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution – and during the American hostage crisis that was the basis of the recent Academy Award-winning film “Argo.” Written exclusively for Global Viewpoint, this article was translated by Mahmood Delkhasteh.