On the occasion of the anniversary of Imam Khomeini's (r.a.) exile and the massacre of students, once again our youth entered the arena in the year 1358; they did something that astonished the world and brought America to its knees. This is the truth. It is not just a saying. You should know that the day the den of espionage was seized, the American government was several times more formidable and prestigious than today.
America has lost its prestige in the world today, and different people are openly insulting and cursing America. It was not like this at that time [when the den of spies was captured]. The U.S.A. used to be regarded as the world's top superpower at that time. Our young students —who were acting as the first line of defence in the Iranian nation's camp of resistance—courageously captured America's embassy, and those who were in the embassy were detained. Of course, Imam Khomeini (r.a.) was kind enough to let some of them (although guilty of espionage)—like the women—return to America soon after the spy den was captured. However, the main elements of espionage from the embassy remained here for a long time.
This was also a great movement which undermined America's power throughout the world. In spite of all that power, respect for America was suddenly lost in the eyes of people from around the world.
The situation became so severe that the American President [President Jimmy Carter] resorted to a covert military attack to rescue the detainees. They deployed their spies inside the country. They prepared the ground [for operations]. They spoke to different mercenaries. They considered different places for their operation. They attacked our country with their helicopters and airplanes.
The plan was to regroup in Tabas, go to Tehran, help the detainees escape, and take them to America. But a well-known event happened in Tabas, and Allah the Exalted destroyed their prestige. Their airplanes and helicopters caught fire, and they were forced to return to America from Tabas.
Imam Khamenei, Nov 3, 2010