Reagan’s record on Iranian hostage crisis

During a March 6, 2012, video address to a conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Mitt Romney seized the tough foreign policy mantle of President Ronald Reagan.

“I believe the right course is what Ronald Reagan called peace through strength,” Romney told the pro-Israel group. “There’s a reason why the Iranians released the hostages on the same day and at the same hour that Reagan was sworn in. As president, I’ll offer that kind of clarity, strength and resolve.”

“Well before Reagan became president, the deal for releasing the hostages had already been worked out by the Carter administration’s State Department and the Iranians, ably assisted by Algerian diplomats,” said David Farber, a Temple University historian and author of Taken Hostage: The Iranian Hostage Crisis and America’s First Encounter with Radical Islam.

“No Reagan administration officials participated in the successful negotiations,” Farber added. “The Iranian government waited to officially release the Americans until Carter had left the presidency as a final insult to Carter, whom they despised. They believed Carter had betrayed the Iranian revolution by allowing the self-exiled Shah to receive medical attention in the United States and then had threatened their new government by attempting, unsuccessfully, to use military force in April 1980 to free the hostages.”

“By doing this, Iran thought they were showing the world that they could meddle in our affairs, just as we had done to them in 1953,” added Dave Houghton, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida and author of U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis. Houghton suggested that Iran had a relatively unsophisticated grasp of U.S. politics, and said he thinks it’s possible that the Iranians “didn’t even know what Reagan had said on the campaign trail.”

“I don’t think they were scared into the release,” Houghton said. “In all likelihood, they released the hostages because they needed the sanctions we’d placed on them lifted so they could finance their war with Iraq.”

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