Iranian loathing of U.S. on display at former embassy

Today the United States froze the assets of more than a dozen companies for evading the economic sanctions against Iran. Some of the companies are accused of helping Iran's nuclear program.

The United States and Iran, of course, have been at odds for more than three decades.

Today, in Tehran, we made a rare visit to the place where it all began.

From the outside, the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran looks much the same as it always did.


From the outside, the former U.S. Embassy looks much the same
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 But this week, we were offered a look inside.

It was here in 1979, at the height of the Iranian Revolution, that a student mob stormed the compound and took 52 Americans hostage.

For the hardliners, it was their finest hour.

After 444 days, they handed over their captives. But they kept the embassy to use as a training center and anti-American museum run by the youth wing of the Revolutionary Guard -- the Basij.

Our guide was Mohammed Reza Shoghi.

Graffiti reveals the hardliners' deep-seated paranoia and loathing of America.
Graffiti shows how much loathing there is for the United States
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 At the top of the stairs, Shoghi unlocked a door he said had led to the CIA command center.

And museum's first exhibit, a mockup CIA secret briefing, chaired by the last U.S. ambassador to Iran -- William Sullivan 

Up the hall, there was a case containing pictures of American kids who had gone to school on the embassy compound -- pictures, Shoghi assured us, the CIA had used to make fake IDs.

In the museum, a mockup CIA secret briefing
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 This obsession with American deceit is as carefully preserved as the old embassy code machines.

And it lies at the heart of hardline doctrine, even today.

In fact, past more graffiti, just next door, the Basiji are holding a conference on the Geneva nuclear deal..And, it's right on message.

"It's just an excuse to bully us," parliamentarian Ali Zarkani tells them. "The Americans are lying again."

No one here is going to question it.  They truly believe America will always be the Great Satan.

Of course, not all Iranians do. In fact millions would be embarrassed by these clumsy exhibits.

But to the old guard like Shoghi, they remain a proud truth.

What does that hardline view mean to the nuclear negotiations with the West?

There are hardline militants in very senior positions of power but the new president, Hassan Rouhani, is betting that the majority of Iranians want to move on. They want the sanctions lifted and they will back him in this pursuit of a comprehensive nuclear deal. But he's got to be prepared for a terrific internal power struggle.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."