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Iran Nuclear Bluster Another Bad Move by Tehran

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We are able to find people to comment about the situation in a major oil-producing nation. Foreign oil prices remain high and analysts say the standoff with Iran over nuclear development is one of the factors.

In the first of two commentaries about Iran, author Mark Bowden says he's been surprised by some of the opinions he's hearing.

Mr. MARK BOWDEN (Author; Journalist): Twenty-five years after a group of Iran's religious radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, kidnapped the entire American mission, and held them throughout a year, threatening to put them on trial and execute them as spies, a revisionist theory has emerged.

Some of my fellow Americans want to believe the whole thing was somehow America's fault. There's no doubt Iran had historical grievances against the United States.

In 1953, the Eisenhower administration helped topple Iran's elected prime minister, and placed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the peacock throne. But as determined forces rose up to dethrone him in 1978, America did not interfere significantly. If anything, President Jimmy Carter inadvertently helped the revolution by pressuring the Shah to liberalize his regime and reject violent repressive tactics against the crowds in the streets.

These efforts hastened the Shah's fall. All of which made more surprising the central allegation of the hostage-takers: that the United States was plotting to destroy their revolution, assassinate Khomeini and restore the Shah to the throne. None of it was true, and no evidence of such a plot has ever been found.

Nilufar Ebtekar, the infamous spokesperson for the hostage-takers, now a Vice President of Iran, recently wrote a book repeating these lies. But the most damning evidence she could find - a stolen embassy document - is nothing more than a routine political analysis by a Foreign Service officer - much of it off the mark.

The truth is, that the hostage-takers were wrong. They were wrong about the United States and they were wrong in what they did. Seizing a foreign embassy is a crime against the hopeful, fragile infrastructure of diplomacy.

Today, Iran has picked a new fight with America and the Western world over nuclear power. The conflict is not a clash of cultures, as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would have it. It concerns nuclear non proliferation, an issue all of us ought to be solidly behind.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty called for the major nuclear powers to disarm gradually and for smaller countries to forego new nuclear arsenals. Iran signed this agreement, and is presently in violation of it.

The hostage crisis reminds us that Iran has a long history of defying the most basic principles of international cooperation. Along with the global anti-American movement of Islamist militancy, it threatens the core of liberal values of Western society. We need to oppose what Iran is doing, not make excuses for it. The principles that define us - personal liberty, tolerance, free speech and strict separation of church and state - need to be defended in every generation.

In the past, liberals have led the fight for those principles within this country; it's time they recognized that the greater threat today is from without.

INSKEEP: Commentary from Mark Bowden, author of Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam.

Tomorrow, we'll hear another point of view from Barry Rosen. He was one of the hostages in Iran. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.