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tv   1979 Iran Hostage Crisis  CSPAN  November 29, 2019 8:00pm-9:31pm EST

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it was 40 years ago marking the final year where they consumed carter and reshaped foreign policy. from the next hour and a half you will write on here and we will look at the
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events how it unfolded and from the canadian documentary this look on how it all happened 40 years ago. just before 11 am, the attack begun. >> they were over the walls who assumed this this was filled by a student here it's being over run the motor pool was behind the main gate to the right was the chancellor the operational, of the communication all systems the chancery, was shot inside for 45 americans and staff. the marine guard inside
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fired tear gas to buy time. when it was realized help was not coming, one of the security officers tried to persuade students to leave. he was immediately captured. the staff are treated floor by floor. one american who spoke farsi went out. he was immediately threatened with death. the americans surrendered. >> just a portion of a canadian documentary which will be seen later today. we want to welcome stuart eizenstat. his new book, president carter: the white house years. and john limbert negotiating with iran: wrestling with history. we saw a portion of you in that documentary. explain what happened as he went outside and then were taken hostage. >> first, thank you for having the program. as they mentioned the documentary, those responsible for our safety, the iranian government, was clear they were not going to do anything. or could not do anything. when i called over there, i reach the prime minister's office. the first thing she said was what about those passwords we sent over? are the visas ready? they were not going to help. we were on our own. going out to talk to the crowd was not a smart
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thing to do. it was one of the least successful negotiations that i had. we did not have a lot of choices. the priority was to make sure no one got hurt. if somebody did, if there had been bloodshed, and i take my hat off to our marine security guard, if they had started shooting or somebody has started shooting, things would have ended differently and i probably would not have been here today. >> take a step back. the hostage crisis began in november 1979 but the roots extend back before that. you were inside the carter white house as this unfolded. how >> you have to go back to 1953, when a popularly elected prime minister of iran was deposed in a coup by the cia and british intelligence because he was going to naturalize the oil industry nationalize the oil industry. this young shah was put on his father's throne.
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from that time, the shah was our man in the middle east. he was our principal ally. republican and democratic presidents gave him an open shopping list. by the time we had come into office, almost $11 billion of military aid half of it went to iran. he had some of our most sophisticated planes and arms. he was able work able work a bulwark against the soviet union. he was the principal supplier of oil for israel. he was suave, debonair, beautiful wife, gorgeous palace. he seemed impregnable. no one would have foreseen that what we saw occurring here in november of 1979 would have happened except when the shah was forced to leave. when he was, there was an earlier efforts to get into
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the embassy in february of 1979, which john will remember. in that instance, i told the leader of the radical revolutionaries the prime minister and foreign minister got the police to intervene and take students out of the embassy. this was a repeat later in that same year after circumstances had changed. you have to go back to 1953 to understand the feeling in iran that the shah had been imposed on their country. one last point you cannot say the shah was a typical autocrat. he had a tough security service that went after any opposition, but he was a reformer in many ways. he had a white revolution to compete with the red revolution of communism. he empowered women, did not require them to
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wear the veil, stressed education, try to reform. any sense, got in front of a very fundamentalist conservative society. >> he was diagnosed with cancer the late 1970's. you said the following i was not privy to the exchanges that went on before the shah was admitted to the u.s. because of his cancer. what i have seen sense is that he said if you do this you are putting all of us in danger. jimmy carter himself, when he come against his own better judgment, decided to allow the shah to come in,
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along with his chief of staff and press secretary, said if i do this, what are you going to advise me to do when our embassy is overrun and our people taken hostage? >> president carter and very smart man president carter, very smart men. he foresaw what was going to happen. our chief had warned him this would have serious consequences, including the fall loss of the missing. embassy. somewhere around october 20, when they made the decision to admit him for medical treatment, we were essentially informed. the message to us was you are expendable. you are out there. good luck. do the best you can. why not have us come back? that is a good question. when i used to teach at the naval academy, my students would ask exactly that same question. it seemed so obvious to them. i have asked people within the administration. as i can piece event together, it was never discussed. perhaps the reason was cold war calculations. it sounds strange saying this now, but iran was a piece in the
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cold war game with the soviets. the centerpiece of our policy since the 1940's was to keep the soviets out of iran. the 1953 coup that was just mentioned was justified in washington as an anti-communist step that would not be able to resist communist influence. at that point, the administration looked at it and said, "if we leave, we are abandoning 30 years of resist american policy of resistance to the soviets." we are turning over iran to our enemies. i think the problem was the administration thought it could have its cake and eat it too. we can admit the shah and preserve this foothold in iran with its anti-soviet goals. >> is that a fair assessment? >> it is. in my book i am candid about mistakes. this was the single worst intelligence failure in american history. the cia, which had reinstalled the shah and who was our key ally in the region, did not know for five
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years he was secretly getting cancer treatments for incurable lymphoma. they did not realize his domestic support rested on quicksand. they did not appreciate the leader of the radical revolution in exile the cassettes he was sending back were stirring up fundamentalist revolution. they do not understand the leader himself. they did not understand the domestic politics. it is an unacceptable intelligence failure. in my book, the head of the cia apologized and said we did not give the president the intelligence he needed. why didn't he then withdraw? in february, when the first assault was made against the embassy, it was repulsed. the government was able to repulse it. there was not an
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appreciation for the underlying conflict between the pro-democracy nationals and the fundamentalists. he used john and the hostages as political ponds to solidify his support and push out the democratic nationalists. they resigned after the hostage crisis. because of opposition to international principles. why didn't we in february say we had one of these. let's take everybody out. there were 1000 people on the staff and the ambassador got it down to 70. he reinforced the gates. he put more security in. at the end of
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the day, we had so many assets in iran planes, spare parts, cia opposition to the soviet union and the cold war, and since they had once repulsed students, the feeling was that would happen a second time. in the cold war calculation, we do not want to turn iran over to the soviet union. >> we have a poll on twitter @cspanwj. what's the iran hostage crisis the main reason why president carter was defeated in 1980? join in and participate in the pool and we will have more
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results later. let me ask you what it was like for you personally. you were held hostage for just over a year. where were you held and what was it like? >> it was not pleasant. on the other hand, we all survived. all of us came out. all of us survived, which is a great tribute to president carter and his patients. he was determined that we were going to stay alive. it did not necessarily have to happen that
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way. it could have gone in a different direction, very badly. the iranians still repeat a narrative that we were treated well, that we were guests in a hotel. this is absolute nonsense. in the 14 months i was there, i was nine months in solitary, threatened many times. they arranged mock executions for us. they cut us off from news and information. we were held in camino cotto they attempt to convince us we had been forgotten. we had little to medication with family. we were part of the
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time in iran, part of the time after the failed rescue mission in april scattered around the country. we were in a prison in downtown tehran. very easy to hear the iraqi planes that point attacking tehran. we were held in various places around the city until we were released in january. our plane took off just 15 or 20 minutes after president carter left office. >> we will get to that later the program. you met with the current head of iran. what was that like? >> that was a very strange meeting. he was at the
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time a second ra nk cleric. we fell into a iranian host and guest interaction. i do not abuse him. i did not use bad language. it was tempting to do so, but i did not. instead, my message to him was. was sir, i know how to be a guest in your culture. you treat a guest in a certain way. i treated him as a guest in my space. i asked him to sit down. i offered him whatever i had. my message to him was, i know how to treat a
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guest. you do not. what has happened here is absolutely shameful, disgraceful, and violates every tenant not just of religious law, of international law, but if the deepest principles rooted in your culture. the iranians have an expression. you cut off someone's head with cotton. that was my purpose. >> let me add something to john's moving account and something he would not have known at the time. president carter decided not to use military action at the
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beginning. i had recommended it along with our national security advisor, blockade the harbors. he chose instead to plummet see diplomacy but he passed a clear message to the germans and others that if one hair on the head of any of our hostages was harmed, if there was any torture, if there were
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show trials in which they were forced to "admit" some guilt, there would be immediate military action. as a result, there was none. while john and his colleagues were mistreated, the absence of torture, of show trials, came because of that repeated message my press carter that military action by president carter that military action will result if those actions occur. >> 40 years since the iran hostage crisis and that is our focus here on c-span. joining us for the conversation is stuart eizenstat, senior domestic policy advisor to president jimmy carter. he is now the author of the book >> the white house years. and john limbert his book, negotiating with iran. he served as the political officer in iran. he was held hostage for 441 days. we will go first to mickey from milwaukee. >> good morning. i am very sorry about what you went through in iran. i'm iranian. it is a sad part of iranian history and our
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relations. it is widely known amongst iranians that jimmy carter's presidency was responsible for the downfall of the shah's regime. the ideas william sullivan, the last ambassador to iran, and his
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message to the shah that president carter wants you to leave iran. i wanted your opinion on the carter presidency and the price we have been paying for the last 40 years. >> thank you for the call. i will have you take that first. >> i am candid in my book about the mistakes the administration made. terrible intelligence, muddled messages, differences between the secretary of state and national security advisor, wrote diplomacy of abbasid o'sullivan, and much ambassador sullivan, and much else. it is unfair to suggest that jimmy carter lost iran. the shah lost iran by losing support of his own people. as a result, we have the situation we have today. it is no more fair to say that jimmy carter lost iran that would be to say and i would say
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this to your viewer that dwight eisenhower as president lost cuba when we had a castro communist revolution 90 miles from our shore or that president obama was responsible. there are certain things a superpower 7000 miles away cannot do. the only way the shah could have saved would have been massive use of military force, which he himself in his own memoirs said a monarch cannot shed the blood of his own countrymen to save his throne or a very clear message from the carter administration that the shah should use such force. there
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was a muddled message that respect. the bottom line is the shah lost iran, not jimmy carter. >> there is a picture in your book from september 1977 in the white house. there is teargas that was in the air. you can see the shah is wiping
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his eyes. explain this photograph. >> the first state visit the shah made in the carter administration was in november of 1977. in the outdoor welcoming ceremony, there were demonstrations across the south lawn of the white house in the park by iranian students. they were radical students. to disperse the crowd, the national park service used teargas. the wind blew it into the face of the shah and the president, causing them to tear up. it was the first sign that anybody had that the shah might be in trouble., time and time again,,
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time and time again, when the immigrations occurred, the president demonstrations occurred, the president supported the shah. he wanted to fire our abbasid or for suggesting we should reach out to khamenei. carter ordered teargas and other supplies to be given to the shah to put down demonstrations. he constantly and consistently back to the shah but the shah lost support and lost support of much of the military, which was his real all work bulwark. >> what your viewer said is a common and powerful narrative. many of my iranian friends believe that the shah's fall was arranged by president carter. i agree with i don't
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agree with that. i would say to your iranian viewer we did it to ourselves. what you had was middle-class people, middle-class secular people, teachers, doctors, professionals, lawyers all out there marching and calling for an islamic republic without knowing what an islamic republic would bring them. president carter had gone to iran in late december, early january of 1978 1977, 1978 and made a speech, a toast, and a dinner in which he spoke about iran being an island of stability in a turbulent region. a year later, the shah
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was gone and iran was in chaos. if i might make one last comment on this from the shah's point of view, and the shah believed what are viewer said. he believed president carter and other western leaders had decided to get rid of him for reasons that he did not know. they were superpowers. they could do what they want. they did not have to tell him. from his point of view, looking at it from his point of view, when he got in trouble in 1978, president carter would not as he went to president carter and said what should i do, president carter said it is his country. he is the king. i cannot tell him what to do. which is quite correct. from the shah's point of view, for 30 years american presidents had told him what to do. looking at it from his point of view, he said president carter
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has abandoned me and thrown me under the bus. >> joining us from damascus, maryland. >> i have a quick question because i have to leave for church in about three minutes. i was wondering how the gentleman feels because iran and russia are aligned. this is been historic since kemeny meaning khameni came to power. how do they feel about the fact that president trump has given away syria to russia and iran? >>
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iran is a factor here as well because iran is not only the world's worst supporter of terrorism but in syria as well iran is trying to build a permanent military base with missiles that would be able to attack israel. interestingly, the administration, with all of its chest puffing, is pulling out of the middle east and sending the signal to the
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russians in particular that we do not want these "endless wars" so we step back from supporting the kurds, who have done so much for us. we are reducing our footprint in iraq and afghanistan. it sends a clear signal to iran and russia, who are filling that vacuum, that it is fair game and the u.s. is not going to block them. that is what is happening in syria now. instead of having a pro-american the pro-american kurds, we have the russians and irradiance. iranians. >> walk us through how the initial moments of the event unfolded. you are inside the u.s. embassy in tehran. you leave the front door. what happened after that for you and your other colleagues? >> when i went outside to talk to these people, they had me and one of our security officers, who was mentioned the documentary. they were in front of the door. they were in front of an iron door, which was the second floor about chancellery to the second
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floor of the chancery building where both american and iranian staff had taken refuge they put pistols to our heads. and they said, if you don't open this door in five minutes, we are going to shoot these two people. we are going to shoot these two men. were they
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bluffing? i don't know. but i have always been gratified we did not call their bluff and find out. once that happened the embassy would have fallen eventually anyway. when in any embassy, anywhere in the world, it is the host government that is responsible for the security of diplomats. if the case in washington. it is the case in london. it was the case in benghazi. sometimes governments build their commitments. obviously in tehran, they did not. the provisional governments, of which six months earlier had thrown out a group of invaders, by the way, who had absolutely left us unarmed, in this case was simply unable to respond. the only one who could have given the order was khomeini, and he was not going to do it. >> the political environment in the country where senator edward m. kennedy, was about to challenge president carter where were you involved in iran? >> i was very much involved. i was involved
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in trying to develop an energy policy because of the cut off of iranian oil. it's very important to understand, the notion that we left the shah to his own devices is not true. we said, you have two options. a military government or a coalition government with the second international front. we backed every effort made to put down the demonstrations and we sent a three-star general two weeks before the shah left to but got the military, to support his, the shah's, prime minister. we tried to get them to put down these demonstrations. at every step, there was an effort to save the shah, or, when it was clear he could not be, to make sure khomeini did not take over. >> did you realize this would into for more than a year? >> no one knew it. the prime minister, khomeini's own prime minister, and the foreign minister both said to us, the administration this is going to be like a vietnam era sit in. it will be gone in a couple days. what changed it was the embrace by khomeini of the student takeover, which he did not do in february 1979, because he used this to rally support behind his radical fundamentalism and push out his own moderate government. and we did not appreciate this at the time there was this huge underlying fight between the pro-democracy secular nationalists of the radical fundamentalists. john perhaps would have appreciated that but
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we did not understand that. it was a new thing press. what's a radical islamic government? is the person history. they had no idea that many of the nationalists thought, oh, khomeini will be a figurehead, on the sidelines giving sermons, not realizing he wanted to take over the government and make it a radical islam and government. >> we will go to randy in east chicago, indiana. good morning. >> good morning. i love the show. i appreciate your being there. my recollection i agree, this was a huge foreign-policy blunder. i think our country never really had an appreciation of the iranian people or the culture, what they were thinking. we viewed iran as a pawn on the chessboard against russia without appreciating what people were thinking. i remember the secret police, who were trained here in the united states, in the ways of torture and interrogation, it was a military dictatorship we created and i understand why the iranian people to this day are upset with us. i wish we had left them alone. >> you are
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shaking your head. >> it is a good point. the iranians, the last couple hundred years of history, have not been fortunate. these have not gone well. the last 100 years, there has been this ongoing struggle of iranians to establish a
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government that treats them with dignity, treats its own people with dignity, respects the country. the prime minister tries to take control of iran's oil. it is one main resource. perhaps the revolution was seen in this way. an interesting part, the u.s. originally, in this 100 year struggle, was on the right side of things. we lost the young missionary, princeton graduate the class of 1907, killed in the iranian constitutional revolution in 1908, 24 years old. president truman supported that she did not want to do the coup, he did not want to do the crew the coup. but somehow we ended up on a different side. the problem was when the administration was deciding whether to admit the shah or not, from all i have read and
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all i have heard, this history was not known, so when the shah was admitted to the u.s. he had been deposed. 298% of iranians, roto 98% of irani is, it was like a rerun of 1953. >> we have a poll. the question is whether you think the incidence of the iranian hostage crisis was the reason for president carter'is defeat by president reagan. ohio, you are on. >> i have a question. i was not first of all, i did not vote for president carter. i did not agree with his policies. that being said, i remember after the inauguration president reagan stood up, and i believe he made the announcement the hostages have been released and as i recall, like most americans, i was glad they had been released, but even though i was not a supporter of president carter, i felt >> rick, you broke up a little bit, but we got the essence of it. that gives us a chance to talk about january 1981. i have a little bit of sound from president carter. he is on the phone trying to get the very latest on the release of the hostages, which did come later that day. let's listen. >> we have gotten word that another country, at 8:13 this morning, he stated he would inform when the plainly, so i presume that is the first measure. the plane will be leaving. >> stuart eizenstat, you are in the oval office. that was a very long morning. >> not just a long
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morning. these negotiations have been going on for a year. the last three days of the administration, literally, the president did not sleep. he stayed because he wanted to get that final agreement done before he left office. he cleared the deck for his successor, ronald reagan. and in a final act of speights, khomeini only allowed final act of spite, khomeini only allow the hostages to leave after ronald reagan was sworn in. the staff were in the west wing and had a connection to the president's appointment secretary as reagan was being sworn in, hoping to tell the president the passages the hostages had been released. unfortunately, they could only tell him they would be released afterward. the operator said, i'm sorry. your administration is over. i can give you that information. this was a clear in to the administration. it was so dramatic because literally the president worked day and night to reach the
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agreement that was finally reached in terms of the assets we froze, and many other details. it was reached beforehand, but khomeini, in a final jab at the present, would not allow him to have the and if it of having the hostages released on his watch. >> and on that day you were where? >> we waited we were told the
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night before we were leaving. we were examined by out jerry and doctors. actually we were leaving and there would be we would have a television
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interview, the implication being what we said in the television and review view would determine whether we left are not. but we were told by the algerians, you are all leaving. that was 2:00 in the morning. then we just sat there all day. sat there through the day and we were ready to go and we did not know what had
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happened until about 6:00 in the evening tehran time, which would have been 10:00 in the morning here in washington. they shoved us into buses to go
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to the airport. i went to the airport sitting in the bathroom. they got us to the airport. there were three planes on the tarmac. the swiss ambassador was there. make sure everyone was there. they checked off all 52 names and the plane waited, and in this final bit of spite if jimmy
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carter or the person who brought khomeini to power, this was an odd way for khomeini to behave, to put his finger in his eye. the other narrative which is out there and
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frequently heard is the whole thing was a put up job, that there was an agreement between the republican campaign, the reagan campaign, and the irani and to delay a release until after the election so jimmy carter could not benefit from this for his election. this is a very common narrative, but when people ask me about this,
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all i can say is, i don't know. there's never been any documentation of something like this happening. but there was a particular speights spite and dislike of the revolutionaries from jimmy carter. he took it from both sides. the revolutionaries disliked him and as our caller said, the opposition, the pro-shah iranians disliked him. >> only some of the hostages met with jimmy carter. why did 20 decide not to meet with him? >> this is new to me. i was in such a state i was not counting who was there and who was not there. and i knew he had sacrificed his presidency for us and i was not about to show disrespect at that point. there were others who disagree, she disagreed, who resented it. of our 52 people i love them all very dearly, but there are great political differences. >> our guest is john limbert, one of the hostages taken for 444 days. we are looking back at 40 years ago. and stuart eizenstat, who had a front row seat to all of this as president jimmy carter's advisor. >> there is a lever question and about whether there was a republican led october surprise. there is a book about this. he alleged there was a secret deal that
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was arranged, either by then vice presidential candidate george h w bush or william casey, who was the campaign manager, to tell iran, don't release the hostages before the election. there were congressional investigations that pound was inconclusive, but it is true that casey disappeared and bush went to paris. the evidence is inconclusive. i would not allege it occurred but there is lingering doubts. but more significant, what triggered, at the end, the hostage crisis? its unmistakable that with all the radical forces it was the decision of president carter as the last holdout to admit the shah cancer treatment. it's important to understand how this happened. there were efforts made for months once it was disclosed that the shah had
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problems to get him in the united states. president carter said, no. i remember what happened in february. our embassy was assaulted. i do not want pictures of him playing tennis in california. then what happened? a pr effort started by the shah with henry kissinger, david rockefeller, and they put relentless pressure on the president, saying how can you turn your back on an ally of 25 years who has done so much for us? you are weak. you are not standing height our guy in the middle east when he needs it. carter continued to say no. and then in october, only in october was it disclosed by david
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rockefeller that the shah had cancer and had been treated for five years. his own family did not know it. that changed the equation. vice president mondale, who had been against it, said, we can't let someone dying of cancer stay out of the u.s. the president, even then, one of the state department doctors to give an opinion. can he be treated elsewhere? two doctors said, probably not. it turns out he could easily have been treated in mexico by u.s. trained doctors. that was the precipitating factor. as carter said at the beginning, when all the others said, we have to admit him, carter said, what are you going to ask me to do if they storm the embassy again as they did in february, but this time they don't leave and they take our diplomats as hostages? >> we will hear from
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present carter 1980 at his state of the union address in a moment. president carter in 1980 at his state of the union address in the moment. but first we have our caller. >> hello. hello to your to guests. let's get to the root of the problem, at the beginning of the history of this country. our first foreign war that was fought was called the barbary wars, it was a war on the religion of islam. it was not a war of radical extremists. this was something that jefferson and adams addressed to congress, addressing the ruthlessness and savagery on our merchant ships on the mediterranean and they quoted the ambassador to tripoli and were asked, why are
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you being so savage against us? why are you asking for tribute, and the ambassador quoted from the koran. so this is the beginning of our history with islam and you can take it all the way back to the sixth century. >> thank you. your point? >> i am an historian by training. i do not know the ins and outs of the war with the barbary pirates. this whole episode has nothing to do with this with islam. i'm sorry. islam is one of the world's great monotheistic religions, shares a great deal with christianity and judaism, and nowhere in islam, as i
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understand it, is such an action as was taken in tehran permitted. >> patrick in minnesota, good morning. >> thank you, gentlemen. my question was and it was answered in the past segment to quite an extent the flavor of the culture, the country, the timeline was horrible. the economy was in shambles. pride was in tatters. kids were going into college wondering where we stood, why we stood. my question was who was to be credited? the carter administration in all it's hard work that the individual just mentioned its hard work that
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the individual just mentioned, or just happenstance that they collided at the same time and i think the question got answered. but where are we in history? it seems like carter's still seems to be the deemed failure in this and reagan seems to be the dean savior. deemed savior. >> which is outlined in stuart eizenstat's book. >> he is deemed a success because the hostages were released when he was inaugurated after president carter had negotiated it. i want to be frank. we had a
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major decision to make once the hostages were taken four years ago. a military option, which i recommended not dropping bombs on tehran but preventing their oil from being exported. the argument against that by the military in others was we are in the cold war. the soviets could try to confront us. that is one option, and i think if it had been taken, the hostages might well have been released. the second was diplomatic. the president had the hostages'families to the white house and he said, our number one priority is to get your
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loved ones out safely in sound. and he did. but that met he took the military option off the table. third, he made a mistake in a holing himself up in the white house, canceling foreign trips, canceling campaign events to show he was spending day and night working on the hostage crisis, but instead it made him, in a sense the hostage, gave khomeini more negotiating authority and caused your profession to spend even more attention. the nightline program, ted koppel, what the concrete walter cronkite, every single broadcast. it was like taking a drop of poison every single day. and one last point because you're caller talked about the state of the economy. the decade of the 70's was a decade of slow growth and high inflation under nixon, ford, and carter and we got to double-digit inflation.
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insignificant part because of the iranian revolution. why? because it cut off the oil. oil prices doubled. and here was carter in one of his most courageous decisions he appointed paul volcker to head the fed, knowing he was going to choke the economy, raise interest rates, raise unemployment to deal with this embedded in inflation and carter said to us, i don't want my legacy to be perpetual high inflation, even if it means my reelection. >> was the hostage crisis the main reason carter lost reelection? would you say yes, no, or is compensated. >> i would say yes, but the risen economic impact. absolutely it was humiliating the superpower could not get john and his
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colleagues released after 444 days. in by the way, we had several agreements with his prime minister and each time khomeini would veto it. in my opinion, yes, it was the prime reason and the hostage rescue became a matter for for the failure to get the hostages out. that was the thread, in my opinion, that led to his overwhelming defeat, but the point i was also making, steve, there was an iranian there was a to mystic economic impact shutting down iranian oil. >> we will talk about the rescue section in a moment. let's go to phil. >> the role of the cia
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was basically to stay quiet. and of course, that is when they began to clamor for attention. >> have you heard of that? >> i don't know that the cia was. i think the shah's government subsidized a lot of the clergy and there is one theory that when faced with economic difficulties, that created problems for khomeini. but the idea of a blockade or cutting off the shipment of oil, it might have worked. it might not have work. we don't know. but i am not a disinterested observer in this. for me
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personally, and i think for my colleague, the priority was to get out of this alive, and if it took a long time, so be it. i remember hearing that they wanted us to deliver the shah. i was sitting in a cell thinking, if they want the shah, that sounds alright to me. if they want their parts for aircraft. by that point of view, that was clearly the priority.
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>> what the caller talked about that's absolutely untrue. the shah substantially restrict did the activities of the cia restricted the activities of these cia. he only focused on the soviet union. so these cia was hobbled. it's totally fanciful that the cia was using u.s. government money to pay off those who were the opposition. >> in december of 1979, jimmy carter did not like the national christmas tree as a symbol of unity for those held hostage. did that become another matter for metaphor? >> it was. i talked to him, during the book, to a number of your colleagues, people who were reporters at the time and they all said that carter called and
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he admitted it to me in an interview for the book, that he gave too much attention to it. he could have said, we made an offer to the iranians about negotiating this. they are responsible for the safety of john and his colleagues. if they violated, we will go about it militarily. instead you had yellow ribbons all over, not lighting the christmas tree. he caused more attention for this crisis. you could not have avoided it, obviously, but he made it the centerpiece. he said publicly, every morning when i get up, the first thing i think about is the hostages.
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and every night when i go to sleep, the first thing i think about is the hostages. he put the spotlight much more than the then there would have been otherwise. >> there is also the canadian six. >> this is a very good story which became a good book and a movie "argo." six of john a posse of austria's colleagues were not in the embassy. they found their way to the embassy. the canadian ambassador, kim taylor, hid them. there's a wonderful story. working with the white house and the state department, we got the cia to masquerade as a canadian film company coming in to take film footage in iran and then, through kim taylor, the canadian ambassador, got this fake canadian task force and we had to have a special secret session of the canadian parliament because you couldn't come into canada under fake passports to allow
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this to happen. interestingly again for president carter, he did not try to take credit for it. he did not want to risk john's life is saying we just got 6 through the canadian passport, six of our diplomats out. it only came out with this book. >> you mentioned ted koppel. he told the hollywood reporter the following. several journalists became aware of this faction. koppel was one of those. he said, i got a call from the canadian ambassador. he said, i understand you are going to put this story on the air tonight. i can tell you not to. but i would ask you not to. ultimately decided not to go with the report, the only time in more than 50 years that i ever killed the story. >> that's absolutely correct. ted deserves a great deal of credit. the story hadley doubt. we implored them not to do it because it would risk those six it might have wrist john and his colleagues'life. i give great credit to ted koppel and his colleagues for not running with what would have been a
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great headline. >> toby, lexington, kentucky. good morning. >> good morning. this question is for mr. stuart eizenstat. i read you book. carter broke off campaigning and left chicago, flew back to washington to deal with this i think this was early sunday. the country seemed to get its hopes up, only to be disappointed when the hostages were not released. how much of an impacted this have on the election, in your opinion? the election seemed close up that point. what is his hunch about how the election might have turned out if none of that had happened that final weekend? >> it's a great question. it's not a hunch. let me give you the figures. going into the one and only debate with ronald reagan, eight days before the election and one should never give a challenger a debate that close. reagan did very well in that
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debate >> in cleveland, ohio. >> we were ahead at that time. reagan surged. not just our own internal polls, but cbs, abc, they all have him ahead and gaining among undecideds, because reagan was an unknown figure. i was in the hotel with the president and his traveling carter party that last weekend and i am told that at 3 a.m. i get on air force one, the president is going back to the white house. there has been a new offer from the iranians and i said, no. don't go back. look at the offer and determine if it's adequate. if you go back it will bring the whole hostage crisis story back. he insisted he had to go back. we looked at the offer. it was a positive step, but not enough. myself, and jordan, the chief of staff, we all said, if you are going to do it, last the hell out of the a ring is for trying to interfere it in the election. instead he gave a very balanced statement. all the support collapsed. it was not
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sufficient to resolve it. it was a huge mistake and i think the election would have been very different had we ignored it or simply said, the press statement is inadequate. >> let's go back to president carter delivering these remarks in his state of the union address. >> we continue to pursue these specific goals. first to protect the long-range interests of the united states. second to secure as quickly as possible the hostages'safe release. impossible to avoid, bloodshed which might endanger the lives of our fellow citizens, to enlist the help of our fellow nations and condemning this act of violence which is shocking and violates the moral and legal standards of the civilized world, and also to convince and persuade the uranium leaders that the real danger iranian leaders that the real danger to their nation lies to the north in the soviet union, and from the soviet troops now in afghanistan and that this hampers their response the squirrel with the united states
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hampers their response to a far greater danger. if the american hostages are harmed, a severe price will be paid. >> that was in january of 1980. then there was a rescue mission. president carter said one of his greatest regrets was not having another helicopter. where were you? >> they came in. they did not tell us what happened. but there was a sense of hysteria on the streets. the crowd seemed to be much less disciplined, but the hysteria was rising. they came into ourselves. of they said, packed up. they said, packed up to the we are leaving. this is not just going from one building to another. they did a lot of that. i ended up about seven hours south of tehran. i did not know until about a week later when i was able to steal a newspaper and in the newspaper there was a story about the mission, and what i learned, there had been a mission, it had failed and there had been american casualties. they spread that story i spread that story as well as i could. the reaction from most of us was first of all, obviously, disappointment.
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grief for the brave men who lost their lives in the iranian desert, but also a sense that, by gosh, we are not forgotten. we had no illusions about how difficult this was. you are extracting somebody from the middle of the city of 6 million people in broad daylight. how do you do this? how difficult this is going to be. but the people who did it i still talk and am in contact with a lot of them. they had the guts to try. they were willing to put their lives on the line to, and rescue us. >> as you point out in your book, the secretary of state a post to this mission and resigned. >> he did. we have to go back to the date two days before john and his colleagues were taken. two days afterward, the president authorized the beginning of the planning of a hostage rescue. we went through all the diplomatic channels to try to get them released, but during that time, we had what was called camp smokey in the hills of north carolina, rehearsals
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for this hostage rescue. we did not have a counterterrorism force. we created it then. this was its first opportunity. why did the president finally pulled the trigger? because the last effort in paris had failed and the president said, i've had it. we have to try this. we will pull this off the shelf. why did it fail? it was seen, instead of a gutsy move, as another failure by the president. the rad to be a minimum of six helicopters there had to be a minimum of six helicopters. they had to go on to the outskirts of tehran, stay overnight. they stormed the embassy and came back. only six of eight left. two had mechanical problems. there were only five left after a hydraulic failure. and the colonel was urged by colonel kelly from the air force, let's go when with five. it will be
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20 less men, but let's do it. and the colonel said, our agreement was we had to have a minimum of six. they called the president of the united states. at that point and the president said i'm not going to overrule colonel beckwith. if he feels we can't do it, i'm not going to take the risk. so we did not do it. we knew there were problems with the helicopter. there should have been 10 or 12 more backups. the helicopter pilots did not know, even though there was intelligence about it that there were sandstorms that blinded the helicopter pilots, coming in 200 yards above the surface. if they had gone about it, colonel kelly to that day says i wish we had not had radio silence because when they had the same storm, they could not communicate. and last, the lakh of interservice coordination. we had four military services. they were not properly coordinated. there was not one dress reversal. it was a lack of coordination on the ground. sandstorms. hydraulic problems. lack of coordination. terrible luck. when it was completed,
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the president got the word we have to abort and he said, thank god, no was lost their lives. at the end of the mission, one of the helicopter rotor blades, trying to take off they had already gone 600 miles in two iran into iran. because the huge flame. eight service members went down. >> our conversation is with stuart eizenstat, a former advisor to president jimmy carter, and john limbert, who served in the embassy for 444 days. good morning. >> you brought up interesting points about how jimmy carter was caught between old foreign policy and well, i am not going to say new because reagan continued it, but do you think if carter had been a little more forceful in his effort to obtain the foreign policy continued from gerald ford and richard nixon, do you think he would have been a do think he would have been a
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little more should i say, how the shah was running his economy? that seems to have brought it on as well. people do not flip overnight. they influence people who have been hurting for quite a while. >> thank you for your call. we will get a response. >> good question. the first, there's no question that the president there was a clear signal to the shah about using military force. second, there was a division between the secretary of state and the national security advisor who wanted a harder line. it is true, and i give ronald reagan full credit in the book, for bringing the soviet union to his knees. but we used the soft power of human rights and hard power. we and ronald reagan reversed the post-vietnam decline in defense spending. every single weapon system ronald reagan deployed against the soviets the long-range cruise missile, the
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stealth bomber, intermediate nuclear forces in europe every single one of those was greenlighted and started by jimmy carter. and after the afghan invasion, which collided with this crisis, christmas day 1979 right after the hostage crisis, the soviets invade afghanistan and even his conservative critics say it was carter's finest hour. increased defense spending, great embarq of even before the iowa caucuses against the opposition, the boycott of the olympics. we did use hard power. >> let's go to london watching on the parliament channel. good afternoon to you. >> good afternoon to you. thank you for taking my call. what they have
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learned, the best way is for them to react slowly. it is a successful strategy. they will take 15 months to return the punch. by that time, the adversary will be distracted by something else. this was the strategy of the islamic republic. it started with the hostages in 1979. with no deadline set, that even today is the state department strategy. >> john limbert, i will get your reaction. >> it's an interesting point. the survival of the islam and republic for 40 years has caught a lot of observers islam at the public for 40 years is caught a lot of observers by surprise. they did not expect it to happen. there was the eight-year bloody war with iraq, the economic catastrophe,
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international isolation, all of these things have not brought down the islamic republic and it's very clear the priority of those in charge is their own survival. their survival in power in they will make the kind of compromises they need to do. they may say never. they may huff and puff, but for example, in 1988, khomeini himself agreed to a cease-fire with saddam hussein, something he said he would never do. he only did it after tremendous cost. but the story is his advisors went to him and said, sir, we are finished. we are broke. we don't have the people. we have to get the best deal that we can. when we need to make a retreat, and i think
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the supreme leader khomeini has used the phrase "her heroic flexibility "her heroic flexibility "heroic flexibility" in this regard. they used events like the hostage crisis to cement their own power. one of my students said, this is not about you. this is not about america. this is not about the shah. this is not about settling scores. this is about ourselves. we want to push out the leftists, which they did. when i say we, i am talking about the religious seller, the ideologues, and very effectively they use these events to crush opposition and to monopolize power for themselves and they have done it for 40 years. how long will they go on? i will not predict. my record is not very good, but the problem they have, of course is the people who took power and consolidate power in 1979 in 1980, some of them are still there. they are still
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alive and still in power. >> stuart eizenstat? >> one of the lessons i draw from this whole episode is that with the uranian's iranians, you can't simply negotiate without some force behind you. either the military use, which we took off the table or a real sanctions regime. whatever one thinks about the nuclear negotiation during the obama administration, which i think was a positive, was the only reason be a ring is even came to the table was they refused to let international transactions be cleared through the swiss system unfortunately we were not able to get our allies to do it. they continued business with iran. they continued. 11 deals with iran, they are master negotiators. they play chess. chess was invented by the persians. they will continue to play chess with you. that is one of the lessons i learned.
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defense spending. every single weapon system ronald reagan deployed against the soviets the long-range cruise missile, the stealth bomber, intermediate nuclear forces in europe every single one of those was greenlighted and started by jimmy carter. and after the afghan invasion, which collided with this crisis, christmas day 1979 right after the hostage crisis, the soviets invade afghanistan and even his conservative critics say it was carter's finest hour. increased defense spending, great embarq of even before the iowa caucuses against the opposition, the boycott of the olympics. we did use hard power. >> let's go
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to london watching on the parliament channel. good afternoon to you. >> good afternoon to you. thank you for taking my call. what they have learned, the best way is for them to react slowly. it is a successful strategy. they will take 15 months to return the punch. by that time, the adversary will be distracted by something else. this was the strategy of the islamic republic. it started with the hostages in 1979. with no deadline set, that even today is the state department strategy. >> john limbert, i
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will get your reaction. >> it's an interesting point. the survival of the islam and republic for 40 years has caught a lot of observers islam at the public for 40 years is caught a lot of observers by surprise. they did not expect it to happen. there was the eight-year bloody war with iraq, the economic catastrophe, international isolation, all of these things have not brought down the islamic republic and it's very clear the priority of
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those in charge is their own survival. their survival in power in they will make the kind of compromises they need to do. they may say never. they may huff and puff, but for example, in 1988, khomeini himself agreed to a cease-fire with saddam hussein, something he said he would never do. he only did it after tremendous cost. but the story is his advisors went to him and said, sir, we are finished. we are broke. we don't have the people. we have to get the best deal that we can. when we need to make a retreat, and i think the supreme leader khomeini has used the phrase "her heroic flexibility "her heroic flexibility "heroic flexibility" in this regard.
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they used events like the hostage crisis to cement their own power. one of my students said, this is not about you. this is not about america. this is not about the shah. this is not about settling scores. this is about ourselves. we want to push out the leftists, which they did. when i say we, i am talking about the religious seller, the ideologues, and very effectively they use these events to crush opposition and to monopolize power for themselves and they have done it for 40 years. how long will
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they go on? i will not predict. my record is not very good, but the problem they have, of course is the people who took power and consolidate power in 1979 in 1980, some of them are still there. they are still alive and still in power. >> stuart eizenstat? >> one of the lessons i draw from this whole episode is that with the uranian's iranians, you can't simply negotiate without some force behind you. either the military use, which we took off the table or a real sanctions
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regime. whatever one thinks about the nuclear negotiation during the obama administration, which i think was a positive, was the only reason be a ring is even came to the table was they refused to let international transactions be cleared through the swiss system unfortunately we were not able to get our allies to do it. they continued business with iran. they continued. 11 deals with iran, they are master negotiators. they play chess. chess was invented by the persians. they will continue to play chess with you. that is one of the lessons i learned. >> what was the
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algiers accord? >> in august of 1980 there was essentially an agreement. khomeini, after the shah died in july late july, i believe, he called in his advisors and said settle this. settle the hostage crisis. he enlisted one of his relatives who had good relations with the german spirit of the story goes one of his advisors came back to him and said, sir if we settle this we will have to make concessions and khomeini look to him and said, what part of "settle it" don't you understand? it took them four months, and eventually the mediation shifted from the germans to the algerians and i
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salute the algerians. they did a super herb job. very professional, and over that for months, that was the agreement that was reached. >> this is what he said in a 1996 interview in our studios. >> he got us back, but part of the arrangement was the algiers accord, that none of the hostages would be permitted to file suit for further damages against the government of iran. we signed onto that. worn christopher signed onto that warren christopher signed onto that. in my fellow hostages were concerned about that. we
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felt we were denied a sick human rights basic human rights. we were doing what we can, at first legally, and now through the congress to see if an arrangement cannot be made to permit us to gain some degree of compensation from the government of iran for the way we were held and treated in violation of all the principles of diplomacy. that was the bottom line. chris seek relief on that count in particular. >> by the way, he died earlier this year. stuart eizenstat? >> it's a very good point. we had an agreement basically in
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august. the human emission would come and the u.n. commission would come and interview. what changed it was the invasion of iran by oiraq, which they thought we engineered. second, i totally sympathize with what reuss said. one of the most difficult trade-offs was we gave up the right for the hostages to sue. i wish that did not happen. it was necessary to get the deal done and i wish we had given some of the 10 million dollars in assets and given it to the hostages and their families. in fact, this was done fairly recently by the congress, but bruce is correct. it was a terrible trade-off. but it's not as though we did not get something for it. not only did we get the hostages out, but we
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kept frozen assets to satisfy claims by companies who made sales to iran and never been paid. >> final word. >> as i understand the negotiations, this clause in the agreement that we be prevented from being sued, president carter did not want to agree. i understand he was assured by his lawyers this would never stand up in court. this was under duress. it has stood up in court. for 40 years, it has stood up in court. i would finally save the real damage from this what ever you think about what happened it it did immeasurable damage to iran. all indications, the government there continues to do so and continues to take
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hostages. dual nationals, foreign citizens and others. have they learned nothing, because they continue. >> john lindberg, one of the american hostages held. his book, negotiating with iran, wrestling with the ghost of history. a front row seat from here in washington. as the events in iran unfolded, to both of, you fascinating conversation, thank you for being with us. >> thank you very much.
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