Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich opined he was surprised by “how historically ignorant most politicians and commentators are” about the reality of Iran.
President Trump gave on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, the “most honest and direct speech about the Iranian dictatorship that has ever given by an American president,” said Gingrich after observing some reactions against the military operation that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“The reality is: The Iranian dictatorship has been waging war against the United States for more than 40 years,” Gingrich said, noting that it all began with the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became Iran’s dictator after overthrowing Shah Pahlevi.
Khomeini maintained a good relationship with the administration of then President Jimmy Carter until he came to power; from then on he clearly showed his hostility toward the United States, Gingrich said.
In fact, “On November 4, 1979, protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ seized the embassy” in Tehran and took dozens of American hostages. The Khomeini government not only failed to prevent the assault—as required by international law—but used the situation to put pressure on the United States, Gingrich continued.
The then Carter administration, far from responding forcefully to Khomeini’s dictatorship, offered economic aid, offered to fulfill its military contracts, and promised to supply military parts for Iran’s existing weaponry.
Beginning in 1987, in commemoration of the violent occupation of the U.S. Embassy, Nov. 4 even became a national holiday called “America’s death day,” Gingrich added.
This display of American weakness would be reversed, if only in part, with the arrival of Ronald Reagan. “The Iranians knew they had to take whatever concessions they had gained from the Carter administration through the Algiers Accord and release the hostages, because Reagan wouldn’t have given in to any of their demands,” Gingrich recalled.
As soon as Reagan was sworn in as president, Iran’s dictatorship released the 52 American hostages who had been held for 444 days. However, he never stopped his attacks.
Kidnapping, torture and attacks in the Middle East
According to a report by University of Arizona law professor Orde Kittrie for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, U.S. courts hold Iran responsible for several attacks as well as kidnappings and torture in Lebanon, Gingrich said.
In April and October 1983 in Beirut, two truck bombings by the Iranian Hezbollah movement—created to help Ayatollah Khomeini consolidate his power—resulted in 63 deaths at the U.S. Embassy and 241 deaths at a U.S. Marine barracks.
The following year, President Reagan’s State Department called the Iranian dictatorship a “state sponsor of terrorism,” Gingrich said, a designation that has been maintained to date because of its “continued support” of terrorism.
Nevertheless, Iranians have continued efforts to “expand their terrorist network” by funding and creating “state satellites” in the Middle East, as investigative journalist Niall McCarthy reported for Statista.
Active representatives and militant groups in Syria alone receive some “$6 billion a year in economic aid, subsidized oil, product transfers, and military assistance. In addition, every year it sends $1 billion to Iraq, $700 million to Lebanon–Hezbollah’s home–$100 million to Yemen, and $100 million to Gaza, among others.
Iran and Sept. 11
But, terrorist acts are not limited to the Middle East. Gingrich said that according to Kittrie, “U.S. federal courts ,over the last two decades, issued some 92 judgments finding the Iranian government and its officials liable for acts of terrorism that claimed American victims.”
Even the worst attack on U.S. soil has an Iranian component, he said, citing Kittrie again: “The September 11, 2001, attacks that killed some 3,000 people. In December 2011, a U.S. District Court found the Iranian government and Khamenei [Iran’s current supreme leader] himself among those responsible” for the worst attack in U.S. history.
In that context, he recalled that Ayatollah Khamenei also approved, according to a federal judge’s ruling, the Iranian truck bomb attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members in 1996.
In the absence of a response from the Clinton administration, the Iranian dictatorship continued to support attacks against Americans. Two years later, in 1998, actions, again backed by Iran, with truck bombs on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania resulted in 300 deaths and thousands of injuries.
Seventeen U.S. sailors were added to the list of dead in 2000 when militias in Yemen, supported by Iran, attacked the USS Cole.
After Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also failed to address the problem, Barack Hussein Obama came into office and “ignored their terrorist activities, sent them $1.7 billion in cash, and promised to help release $150 billion in frozen or sanctioned Iranian assets through the faulty Iran nuclear deal,” Gingrich said.
As expected, Obama’s “fantastic outlook” with which he hoped to “stabilize the region” also did not yield the expected results. Today, President Trump’s stance and speech may mean that “we may finally be on a path to ending the 40-year war,” he concluded.
On the other hand, “Gen. Soleimani’s replacement, Gen. Esmail Ghaani, vowed ‘to remove the American presence from the region’ and help bring about the ‘global rule of the hidden imam,’ a messiah figure in Shiite Islam, one whose will is done through the supreme leader,” Clifford May reported for The Washington Times.
While “Yahya Rahim-Safavi, a senior adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, vowed the United States would leave the Middle East ‘in disgrace and defeat,’” he warned.
It should be noted that President Donald Trump also assured in his speech that there were no “fatalities” and that the material damage was “minimal” in the ballistic missile attacks launched on Tuesday night by Iran—in reprisal for Soleimani’s death—against two bases in Iraqi territory housing U.S. troops.
“As we continue to evaluate options, the U.S. will immediately impose additional sanctions against the Iranian regime. These sanctions will remain in place until Iran changes its behavior,” the president warned.