I came up with the name because there were 444 days that the US embassy staff was held hostage. The word con could be understood as a prank or as convict. One was that it was a game of bluff the Ayatollah played with Carter and his peace position. The convicts were the days the staff was held hostage as prisoners suffering torture like fake shootings. Additionally, I like the reference to early graffiti signing their name with numbers to indicate a street number in New York City. Another reason for 444 in the name was that 1979 was a bit obvious, so I chose the 444, which always surprised me. It seems odd that the number was 444 and not 425 or 433.
How did the situation develop?
Well, initially the students had planned a sit-in and then the regime supposedly just sat on their hands. Considering that the Ayatollah refused to accept any other party to the table during the free form government forming, I would say his philosophy directly led to this situation. When it occured, it was so popular the leader kept up the situation.
How did the situation get resolved?
Ironically, as the regime was taking such a one-sided view of the future government after consolidation they decided to “liberate” secular governments to become theocracies like in Iran. This was despite the fact Saddam had sheltered the Ayatollah for years from the Shah’s reach in Iraq. At the point of the start of the Iran-Iraq war, Iran decided they had a life or death survival situation and the US hostages were a distraction at that point. Both leaders had huge egos that thought they would free their world and expand.
How did the event effect the US policy?
One direct result was that the US backed Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war and sold them chemical weapons that Saddam used on Iranians and his own people. There are photos of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam. At the same time, al-Queda was getting formed to help defeat the Soviet puppet government in Afganistan, which the US initially supported.
What were the events leading up to the Iranians accepting this extreme Ayatollah regime?
In 1953, the CIA along with Shell and BP lobbying decided to reinstate the old Shah because the recently elected new Prime Minister Mossadegh had just nationalized the 2 major players old companies. It was kind of a replay of existing US policy that had played out earlier in the 1900s with US Fruit Company in Central America and related invasions to “free” the people and reinstate a dictator friendly to US business. I would call this the dark side of capitalism during the Cold War with the USSR.
What do you think of the suggestion that Reagan delayed the US hostages until he became President to win in the elections?
Many say this is circumstantial, but if you see the Iran-contra weapons scandal that follows it definitely seems very fishy. Another tie-in was that in Lebanon bombing of US Marines (sponsored by Iran), they also bombed French troops. During the withdrawal, the candidate Chirac decided to pay out 10 times the money to delay the release of the French hostages in order to win the election, which he did. So that Reagan might have done something similar would not be impossible.
So what inspired you to do the piece?
Recently, I saw the film “Argo” by Ben Affeck. It was a nail-biter movie that captured the fear and terror as the regime came to power. Additionally, I found out recently that Iranians had made Argo an black-market sell-out of the movie as well. Apparently, the new generation is seeing how the theocracy is now starting to brutalize its own people with the same methods used on the US hostages.
So is your piece pro-US or pro-Iran?
Well, in the work I tried to take the long-term approach in that each side is guilty. The US instigated the bitterness of the CIA overthrow while the Ayatollah fanned the flames of paranoia of US and Israeli power and continued the brutality of the secret police that were originally trained by the CIA for the Shah.
Do you think the US is now on a more democratic mission or is reverting to its old real Politik?
Great question. Its hard to say in the moment. Each side is trying to shape the public opinion to its own view as well as each citizenry has a limited understanding of each side as well. I definitely would say we went into Iraq for the oil and a bit on the terrorism, but now accomplished little from it. You can see the democrats and Obama step away from the active wars Bush started. One sad event is that Syrian civilians are being killed because of the West and US exhaustion of war intervention in the Middle East.