On the 40th Anniversary of the U.S. Embassy Takeover in Tehran

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Forty years ago today, heavily-armed followers of Ayatollah Khomeini broke the gates and scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.  More than 50 U.S. diplomats were taken hostage by the Iranian regime for 444 days.  For almost 15 months, these courageous and resilient Americans and their families did not know if they would live or die.  Thankfully, they lived.

Forty years later, the revolutionary regime in Tehran has proven, time and again, that its first acts after gaining power were a clear indication of its evil character.  The regime continues to unjustly detain Americans and to support terrorist proxy groups like Hizballah that engage in hostage-taking.

The Trump Administration has made clear that the regime in Iran must release all missing and wrongfully detained Americans, including Robert Levinson, Xiyue Wang, Siamak Namazi, and others.  We will not rest until they are reunited with their families.

Additionally, today the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program is advertising a new reward of up to $20 million for information leading to the safe location, recovery, and return of Robert Levinson, who was taken hostage in Iran with the involvement of the Iranian regime.  Mr. Levinson is the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of the Treasury took action today against nine appointees and representatives of Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime’s unelected Supreme Leader, whose office is responsible for advancing Iran’s radical agenda.  The designation seeks to block funds from flowing to a shadow network of Khamenei’s military and foreign affairs advisors who have for decades oppressed the Iranian people, supported terrorism, and advanced destabilizing policies around the world.  The action specifically targets Ali Khamenei’s appointees in the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Expediency Council, the Armed Forces General Staff, and the Judiciary.

Two of the Supreme Leader’s appointees, who are designated today, have also been linked to the 1983 U.S. Marine barrack bombing in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. personnel and the 1994 bombing of Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA).  As recently as October 2019, a representative of the Supreme Leader directly called on regional Iran-backed militias to capture Western embassies.

While the Iranian regime’s decision to jail our diplomats has cast a 40-year shadow over our relations, the United States knows that the longest-suffering victims of the Iranian regime are the Iranian people.  We wish nothing more for them than a future with a truly representative government and friendship with the American people.