300. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Algeria1

165006. Subject: Iran Hostages Conversations With Algerians (addressee please handle as Stadis).

1. Secret–Entire text.

2. In your conversations with leading Algerians following your return, you might want to consider the following themes and points in describing attitudes in Washington toward the Iranian hostage crisis:

—The frustration level seems to be rising again. After the rescue mission which tended to relieve the popular feeling that “something must be done,” the public seems to place a great deal of hope in quick, positive action by the Iranian Parliament. Several weeks have gone by, however, and the Iranians seem no closer to the day in which the Parliament will address the hostage issue. The public is still patient but clearly the idea is growing that key Iranian leaders are willing to exploit the hostages for their own internal political purposes and that other leaders who want to end the crisis are powerless to do so. Out of that kind of perception could again come the demand that the U.S. “must do something.”

—The press, radio and television have been giving less prominence to the hostage issue, partly because there is less news coming out of Iran and partly because the administration is working to keep public anxiety about the hostages at a restrained level. The issue has not figured recently in the political campaign.

—Next month, however, the Republicans have their convention and in August the Democrats will meet. Then the campaign will be [Page 826] fully under way. The hostage issue will inevitably move to a place of prominence as election activity heats up. Thus, we have only a relatively few weeks before the hostage issue will become increasingly difficult to manage in the U.S.

—There is a growing feeling in informed circles that the Iranians are putting the hostage issue aside while they indulge in the intense religious-secular power struggle. Americans see little evidence that the Iranian leadership is taking any effective steps to prepare for a successful resolution of the crisis. The American frustration is compounded by the apparent lack of any constructive, detailed thinking by Iranians as to how a release scenario could be managed in Tehran. With no UN Commission on the scene or other similar presence to remind the Iranians of the importance of ending the crisis and to keep the pressure up, the Iranians appear to many Americans to neglect it.

—Some State and local governments have in recent weeks taken legal steps which discriminate against Iranians. This is a reflection of the bitter public mood that has grown up against Iran since the inception of the crisis. The Iranians simply do not realize how much intense feeling they have created against themselves among ordinary American people. This helps explain the sharp public reaction against the U.S. delegation to the Tehran conference.2

—In these circumstances it has not been easy for the USG to deal with Iranian issues. Our room for maneuver is restricted by popular feeling. Nevertheless, we have taken two steps recently to assure that Iranians are fairly treated in this country. First, we eased certain INS restrictions on Iranian students.3 Second, the Department of Justice has entered in court cases to combat discriminatory actions by State and local governments against Iranians in the U.S. We would hope to see some reciprocal gestures from Iran.

—Despite the strong emotions on both sides, the USG still hopes that the crisis can be ended in an honorable way that will eventually permit the restoration of normal ties with Iran. We have no interest in interfering with Iran’s political processes, nor in seeking revenge or retribution after the crisis. We want to see an Iran that can build a stable political system that will resist external or internal Soviet pressures. Achieving this kind of resolution to the conflict means we must move quickly before the current opportunity of public patience is lost.

—There are inevitably a number of bilateral problems we must discuss with the Iranians before reaching a final resolution to the crisis. We are ready at any time and through any means for such discussions.

[Page 827]

—There is a sincere appreciation in Washington for the quiet but very helpful role Algeria has played in the crisis. The Algerians are not only highly perceptive in analyzing the crisis, but they enjoy superb access and influence in Tehran. We would like to encourage them to continue their quiet contact work on behalf of an early settlement.

  1. Source: Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Iran NODIS Cables June 1980. Secret; Immediate; Stadis; Nodis; Special Encryption. Drafted by Precht. Approved by Saunders.
  2. See footnote 9, Document 291.
  3. See Document 291.