Ben Affleck New Movie Argo is a Harsh Reminder of US Iran Relations

Friday, the feature length film, Argo, hits the big screen. The film tells the true story of how the CIA helped six U.S. State Department consular affairs employees escape Tehran under the all-seeing eye of the Revolutionary Guard during what was arguably the worst period of hostility between Iran and the U.S. in history.

The film, which has received 90% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, stars Ben Affleck as Antonio Mendez, CIA chief officer of technical services who was in charge of disguise, fake IDs, and all around spookery. Mendez’s mission was to create a scenario in which the CIA could sneak out the consular employees from a Canadian safe house they had escaped to. Meanwhile, 66 other U.S. embassy employees were held hostage for 444 days as the result of the Iranian revolution. His answer? Stage a movie shoot and use the consular employees as part of the crew.

I’ve been waiting for someone to make a movie about this tumultuous period in Iran – U.S. relations and now couldn’t be a better time. Looking back to the events that unfolded in 1979, Iranian anger had come to a boiling point over what they correctly perceived as an affront to their right of self-determination by the United States. The U.S. had overthrown Iran’s elected government in 1953 and installed a brutal dictator that was friendlier to U.S. interests in the region. The Iranians suffered at the hands of the Shah, and had finally had enough in 1979. 

But the transition to Islamic theocracy was not a welcome one to some. Under the Shah’s rule, questioning the regime may have landed you in prison, but Iran was a much more secular nation. To many, the Islamic revolution came as shock and awe, depending on whom you ask of course. But under the Shah, Iran’s economy was better than it is now, struggling under the death grip of Western sanctions due to its controversial nuclear program and all around aggressive attitude.

I’m sure Argo will not disappoint, as it serves as a reminder of the tense relations between our nations, provides a rare glimpse at how incredibly effective the CIA can be when given the room to operate, and most importantly, we get to see Ben Affleck’s boyish good looks in yet another starring role. I think they could’ve picked a more believable actor though, maybe Harvey Keitel or Javier Bardem? Ladies, feel free to weigh in!


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Joseph Sarkisian

Joseph graduated with a Master of Science in international relations from the University of Massachusetts Boston and was an intern at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC. He completed his BA at Arizona State University in political science as well as studied Arabic language, terrorism/counterterrorism, and religion. Joseph also lived in Egypt where he studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo in 2007. Joseph was the Secretary of the Executive Committee for the University of Massachusetts Graduate Student Government, a teaching assistant in his department, and teaches a class on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. His main areas of interest are the Af/Pak region, Iran, Syria, and other current foreign policy issues.

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