The Iran Hostage Crisis: 10 Things Everyone Should Know About It

You would never know it now, but there was a day the United States and Iran were allies. Much of our oil supplies came from Iran.

We are going to take a step back in time in today’s post. Many who are reading this post may not had even walked their first steps with the situation that had many of us glued to our black and white televisions sets. They were days when websites such as Part Time Commander were just dreams in the minds of people.

It was the late 1970’s and I remember the day quite well. I had attended a KISS concert in Des Moines, Iowa with some friends the night before. It was a Sunday and I heard my Step-Dad cuss and yell for us all to get to the television. This was essentially the first major steps the United States was seeing of radical Islam. This is the Iran Hostage Crisis and 10 things everyone should know about it.

1: The U.S. should have seen it coming. The President of the United States was Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer from Georgia. He had good relations with Iran, with a large percentage of our oil supplies coming from the Middle Eastern country. But things began to sour and in February of 1979, militants took the United State’s embassy for 3 hours. In the aftermath, they had kidnapped a United State’s Marine and sentenced him to death. President Carter and Ambassador William Sullivan somehow gained his release.

This should have been a sign that the Embassy in Tehran was in serious danger, but the United States kept it running.

2: The Shah. His name was Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and both the the United States and Russia helped to put him into power during World War II. The CIA worked directly with the Shah to make sure his enemies were removed from Iran. In doing so, he kept the United States fed with oil.

The Shah was very “hard” on his own people. He had a secret police force that many claim the CIA helped in training. Many Iranians began to favor unseating the Shah. A Revolution began and in 1977, President Carter publicly gave support to the Shah. This angered many of the Iranians. The Shah was removed, but the United States Embassy remained open.

In 1979, it was discovered the Shah had cancer. He requested treatment by American Doctors, and President Carter allowed the Shah to enter the United States. That was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in the minds of the Iranian people.

3: The Ayatollah. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni had been run out of Iran because of his views against the Shah. He had exiled in France, but once the Iranian Revolution broke out, he returned to Iran.

The Ayatollah was very anti-American and he believed, and taught others that the United States was The Great Satan. He completely supported the takeover of the United State’s Embassy.

4: The Hostage Takers. The humans who stormed the Embassy called themselves Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line. It was supposedly led by a student named Ebrahim Asgharzadeh. Many people assume that many Iranian Soldiers were also involved in the takeover, because many were seen in the dark green fatigues that Soldiers wear, but that has never been absolutely proven. These were all students from the 4 main Universities in Tehran.

5: Oil and the CIA. I had delved slightly into this in #2, but just to explain further, many of us remember the gas and oil issues during the Carter administration. I remember waiting for hours just to put gas in the car. Oil was a huge issue and that was why in the 1950’s, the United States foresaw this. Our government supported installing the Shah in Iran just for the oil.

The CIA worked in multiple ways in Iran in an attempt to keep stability so we could keep the oil coming. It has been stated that for every 10 Americans in Iran in the 1970s, 8 of them worked for the CIA.

6: The Demands. When the students raided the Embassy, they took well over 60 people hostage. The Ayatollah supported the takeover publicly. They did immediately release 13 hostages that were either African American or citizens of other countries, but kept the majority of others for a total of 444 days.

What did the Ayatollah and the students demand?

The first demand was that the Shah would be extradited back to Iran for trial and execution. They also demanded that the United States apologize for interfering in the politics of Iran. Lastly, the Ayatollah and students demanded that all assets that were frozen in the U.S, were released.

7: Operation Eagle Claw. As President Carter would not give in to the demands, negotiations were at a stand still. Through meetings with consultants, Carter decided to attempt a military mission to rescue the hostages. It was a gamble, and a bad one. Operation Eagle Claw was a plan to send elite military in to the Embassy via helicopters. On the day the mission was to happen, a sandstorm hit and one helicopter crashed killing 8 Soldiers who were on-board. The mission was scrapped.

8: Ronald Reagan and the Release. The 1980 Presidential election was won by Republican Ronald Reagan. There are many speculations that the Republicans negotiated with Iran to not release the hostages until after Reagan was confirmed as President. Just hours after President Reagan was inaugurated, all the hostages were released.

While many assume the Republicans did this, many others just claim that President Carter became the object of Iranian hatred, and they did it just to spite him.

9: Den of Spies Museum. The building where the hostages were held for 444 days is now a museum. The one-time American Embassy in Tehran is a place where many meet yearly to shout “Death To America.” The museum is named The Den Of Spies.

Some speculate that well over ½ of the Embassy employees also worked for the CIA.

10: They Won a Lawsuit…Or Did They? In 2000, former hostages and their family members sued Iran for damages. Iran did not defend and the hostages won the lawsuit. The United States State Department requested a dismissal claiming it would harm U.S.-Iran agreements. A Judge agreed and dismissed the suit in 2002.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the United States learned some important lessons from the Iran Hostage Crisis. In many ways, our involvement created a monster. Now that we know about radical Islam, we are more cautious.

What are your opinions on the Iran Hostage Crisis? What do you remember about that day in history?

Thank you for reading, and all comments are welcome.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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1 thought on “The Iran Hostage Crisis: 10 Things Everyone Should Know About It”

  1. On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 American hostages. The immediate cause of this action was President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow Iran’s deposed Shah, a pro-Western autocrat who had been expelled from his country some months before, to come to the United States for cancer treatment. However, the hostage-taking was about more than the Shah’s medical care: it was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and an end to American interference in its affairs.

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