Abdi was one of the half-dozen principals who planned and executed the seizure of the US embassy in 1979. But like many of the others involved, Abdi mellowed over the years and concluded the takeover was a mistake that did not help Iran, although it did help Ayatollah Khomeini consolidate power.
Abdi later became a reformer and advocate of ending the confrontation with the United States.
Last week he gave an interview to The New York Times in Tehran.
He said he did not agree with some hawkish Iranian politicians who have suggested that “Argo” was made to remind Americans of old wounds and humiliations, preparing them for a possible war with Iran.
“That’s stupid,” Abdi said with a laugh. “That’s like saying ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was made to prepare US cinemagoers for going to war with Germany.”
Abdi, who now writes commentaries for the reformist daily Etemad, also said that the Arab uprisings have caused the Islamic Republic much pain—and not just in Syria.
Abdi said the changing power equations in the Middle East complicate Iran’s ambition to speak for all Muslims. “Under Mubarak, it was easy for us to criticize Israel,” he said, referring to deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But now that Mohamed Morsi is in power in Egypt and sends an ambassador to Israel, “This is much harder for us.”
Abdi said he believes the nuclear dispute could be resolved if Israel would stop pushing the United States to act, commenting that “America seems much less worried about our nuclear program” a conclusion that other analysts might dispute.
What is most important, Abdi said, is for the United States to realize that by imposing sanctions on Iran, it has become a domestic player. Iran’s leaders fear that the White House is secretly trying to use domestic political factions to engineer a change of government. “Instead, the US must allow us to rebuild our domestic politics and recognize Iran as it is,” Abdi said.
Bruce Laingen, the US charge d’ffaires in Tehran when Abdi helped engineer the embassy seizure, has said many times that his marching orders when he was sent to Tehran after the revolution was to explain to the new officials that Washington accepted the revolution as an accomplished fact and was ready to work with the new government. Laingen’s remarks are never published in Iran.