| ||For Israel's Last Military Attache in Tehran, "Argo" Is Kids' Stuff,
| ||Ha'aretz - Gilad Halpern
When IDF Brig. Gen. (ret.) Itzhak Segev, Israel's last military attache in Tehran, watched the Academy Award-winning "Argo," it was a reminder of his own much more harrowing experience.
On Feb. 1, 1979, when Khomeini returned to Tehran, six Israeli diplomats and a handful of businesspeople remained in Iran. The Israelis, headed by Ambassador Joseph Hermelin, realized they'd better take the first flight out of the country. That weekend, an angry mob took over the (empty) Israeli Embassy. Segev was entrusted by Hermelin to find an escape route for the 33 Israelis who were by then scattered in three hideouts across the city.
The IDF planned to send a transport plane. Then the Americans agreed to include the stranded Israelis in the evacuation of U.S. nationals - by two TWA jumbo jets the following weekend. While waiting in Tehran, Segev was the Israelis' only contact with the outside world.
"We ran out of vegetables, and I went to the Grand Bazaar to get some," he says. "I asked for boxes upon boxes of tomatoes, cucumbers, and so on, and then I made a little mistake. My pockets were full of local money, which had been devalued by 100 percent. So when the stall owner told me how much I owed him, I just gave him the money." That gave him away - an Iranian, true to his heritage, would always haggle, no matter what.
A militia commander asked him where he was from. "I mustered my survival instinct and said I was a PLO delegate in Tehran." The commander told the stall owner that as a hero of the revolution, Segev was entitled to receive as many vegetables as he wanted, for free.
On the day of the evacuation, Feb. 17, the assembly point, the Hilton Hotel, was teeming with revolutionary troops. Two Israelis were detained. Segev decided to come clean. "I went to the top commander and told him: 'My name is Sartip [General] Segev, and I would like to hand in my credentials to the new government.'"
Two nerve-wracking hours later, Ayatollah Beheshti, Khomeini's deputy, walked in. "I walked up to him and said in Persian: 'Your Highness, I'm honored that you came all this way to receive my credentials.'" Beheshti was not amused. "He looked at me and said: 'Sartip Segev, get the hell out of this country at once!' I said okay, but I'm not leaving without my men. He ordered that they be released, and I demanded that he put it in writing. And he did."
"The reason they let us out so easily wasn't because they wanted to be nice to us. It was much simpler: It was a few days after the revolution and they still needed to consolidate their rule. They didn't want to mess with Israel before they were safe in their new place."