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Militants Seize US Embassy in Teheran - History

Militants Seize US Embassy in Teheran - History



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Angered by the arrival of the Shah for medical treatment in the U.S., militant students attacked and seized the American embassy in Teheran. The students held 49 embassy employees hostage for over a year. The U.S. attempted a rescue mission but it was aborted.

Iran hostage crisis begins after U.S. embassy in Tehran is stormed

Student followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini send shock waves across America when they storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The radical Islamic fundamentalists took 90 hostages. The students were enraged that the deposed Shah had been allowed to enter the United States for medical treatment and they threatened to murder hostages if any rescue was attempted. Days later, Iran’s provincial leader resigned, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s fundamentalist revolutionaries, took full control of the country𠅊nd the fate of the hostages.

Two weeks after the storming of the embassy, the Ayatollah began to release all non-U.S. captives, and all female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the United States government. The remaining 52 captives were left at the mercy of the Ayatollah for the next 14 months.

President Jimmy Carter was unable to diplomatically resolve the crisis, and on April 24, 1980, he ordered a disastrous rescue mission in which eight U.S. military personnel were killed and no hostages rescued. Three months later, the former shah died of cancer in Egypt, but the crisis continued. In November 1980, Carter lost the presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan. Soon after, with the assistance of Algerian intermediaries, successful negotiations finally began between the United States and Iran.

On January 20, 1981—the day of Reagan’s inauguration—the United States freed almost $3 billion in frozen Iranian assets and promised $5 billion more in financial aid. Minutes after Reagan was sworn in, the hostages flew out of Iran on an Algerian airliner, ending their 444-day ordeal. 


On This Day: Militants seize U.S. Embassy in Tehran

In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the steps leading to the tomb of Tutankhamen, ancient Egypt’s child-king. Unlike other burial places in the Valley of the Kings, King Tut’s tomb was largely untouched by looters.

In 1924, Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming is elected the first female governor in the United States.

In 1924, voters overwhelmingly re-elected Calvin Coolidge president of the United States over Charles Davis.

In 1952, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president, ending 20 years of Democratic administrations.

In 1956, Soviet forces entered Budapest to crush an anti-communist revolt in Hungary. UPI correspondent Russell Jones described the conflict as “the murder of a people.”

In 1979, Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking about 90 people hostage, 63 of them Americans.

In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th president of the United States in a landslide victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter.

In 1991, Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines, returned home, ending more than five years of exile in the United States.

In 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, 73, was assassinated by a Jewish extremist following a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

In 2002, Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston apologized for assigning priests who may have been sexually abusive to parishes where they continued to have access to children.

In 2003, the elevation of a gay Episcopal priest to bishop prompted worldwide opposition, a Kenyan cleric said, “The devil has clearly entered our church.”

In 2006, Katharine Jefferts Schori was installed as the first female presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

In 2008, Barack Obama, a Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois, was the first African American elected president of the United States, taking 338 electoral votes to 161 for Republican John McCain.

In 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change officially went into effect. One hundred and ninety-seven countries signed the accord promising to keep the global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

In 2018, Janet Jackson performed and received the Global Icon Award at the MTV Europe Music Awards show.


Key moments in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis at US Embassy

Here are key moments in the 1979 Iranian takeover and subsequent 444-day hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Day 1, Nov. 4, 1979 - Iranian protesters seize the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 98 people hostage. They demand the United States return the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who is in a New York hospital. The U.S. refuses. Khomeini called the takeover "a revolution bigger than the first revolution" that had toppled Iran's monarchy that February.

Day 2, Nov. 5 - Other followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader, seize the British Embassy in Tehran, claiming Britain is America's "evil" ally. But they give it up hours later.

Day 3, Nov. 6 - Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and his Cabinet resign.

Day 5, Nov. 8 - Militants at the U.S. Embassy claim documents found in the embassy prove the American diplomatic personnel were part of an "espionage unit."

Day 9, Nov. 12 - President Jimmy Carter orders a halt to oil imports from Iran, which provided nearly 4% of daily U.S. consumption.

Day 10, Nov. 13 - The Iranian government calls for a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss its complaints against the United States.

Day 11, Nov. 14 - All Iranian assets in the United States are frozen on Carter's orders.

Day 12, Nov. 15 - The embassy militants release one hostage, an Italian cook.

Day 14, Nov. 17 - Khomeini orders the militants to release all women and black hostages if they are absolved of espionage.

Day 15, Nov. 18 - The militants announce they will free 13 hostages - eight black men and five women.

Day 16, Nov. 19 - Three of the hostages - two black Marines and a female secretary - are released.

Day 17, Nov. 20 - Ten more American hostages are freed.

Day 19, Nov. 22 - Five non-American hostages are freed from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Day 25, Nov. 28 - Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, considered a moderate on the hostage issue after having said he didn't believe they should be held indefinitely, is replaced as foreign minister by Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who advocates releasing the Americans only after the shah is returned.

Day 29, Dec. 2 - The shah leaves New York for a military hospital near San Antonio, Texas.

Day 30, Dec. 3 - Iranians vote overwhelmingly in favor of a new Islamic constitution giving Khomeini supreme power.

Day 31, Dec. 4 - The U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to urge Iran to free the American hostages.

Day 34, Dec. 7 - In Paris, the shah's 34-year-old nephew, Shahriar Mustapha Chafik, is shot and killed on the street.

Day 39, Dec. 12 - The U.S. State Department orders the expulsion of 183 Iranian diplomats.

Day 42, Dec. 15 - The shah flies to "temporary" exile in Panama. The International Court at The Hague orders Iran to free all the hostages.

Day 58, Dec. 31 - By a vote of 11-0, with four abstentions, the U.N. Security Council approves a resolution giving Iran until Jan. 7 to release the hostages or face possible sanctions. The hostages aren't released.

Day 71, Jan. 13, 1980 - Ten of 15 Security Council members vote in favor of economic sanctions against Iran but the Soviet Union, as a permanent member, vetoes the resolution. The United States decides on sanctions of its own.

Day 72, Jan. 14 - Iran's Revolutionary Council orders all U.S. news correspondents to leave Iran because of what it calls their "biased reporting."

Day 83, Jan. 25 - Presidential election day in Iran. U.S. officials express hope the election will change the tone of the hostage crisis. Bani-Sadr ends up winning.

Day 87, Jan. 29 - It is disclosed that six Americans, who escaped capture when the U.S. Embassy was seized Nov. 4, had slipped out of Iran with help of the Canadian Embassy, which issued them false identities. Decades later, the U.S. acknowledged the CIA's role in their escape, which was the subject of the 2012 film "Argo."

Day 140, March 22 - Khomeini says Carter confidentially writes to him promising to recognize Islamic Revolution in a public speech.

Day 141, March 23 - The shah leaves Panama for Egypt, ending a 100-day residence on a resort island.

Day 142, March 24 - Looking haggard, the shah arrives in Egypt where he began his exile in January 1979 and is greeted by President Anwar Sadat, who says he can stay permanently. The shah enters a Cairo hospital.

Day 146, March 28 - The shah undergoes surgery for the removal of his spleen.

Day 156, April 7 - Khomeini rules the hostages must remain in the hands of the militants. In response, the United States breaks diplomatic relations with Iran, expelling 35 diplomats remaining in the country and imposing a series of economic sanctions. Iran's army is put on alert after forces of neighboring Iraq attack an Iranian border post and nearby oil facilities. Iran orders its diplomats home from Iraq.

Day 158, April 8 - An angered Khomeini calls the United States "bloodthirsty" but tells his people the U.S. break in relations and other actions are a "good omen" because they mean the U.S. has lost all hope of controlling Iran. Bani-Sadr says, however, "I tell the nation, it is a war."

Day 158, April 9 - As Washington hints of a possible naval blockade of Iran, the militants say they will burn the U.S. Embassy and kill the hostages if the United States tries "even the smallest" military move against Iran.

Day 165, April 16 - A senior U.S. official says Iran has until mid-May to end the deadlock or face possible military pressure.

Day 166, April 17 - President Carter imposes more economic sanctions on Iran, bans travel there by Americans except news correspondents and says military action could be the next step if the hostages are not released.

Day 172, April 23 - Japan and Canada join in economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran. Iran announces new trade accords with the Soviet Union, Romania and East Germany.

Day 174, April 25 - The White House announces a U.S. military force flew to a remote desert in Iran in hopes to carrying out a rescue of the hostages in Tehran but the plan had to be aborted because of the failure of three helicopters. Eight American servicemen are killed in a ground collision of a C-130 and a helicopter as the aircraft were preparing to leave the area.

Day 175, April 26 - Iran announces the hostages are being moved from the U.S. Embassy to other parts of Tehran and to other Iranian cities to foil another U.S. rescue effort. Iranians recover the bodies of the eight Americans killed on the rescue mission.

Day 176, April 27 - Iranians display bodies of eight U.S. servicemen at U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran.

Day 182, May 3 - The U.S. hostages complete a half year in captivity. Iran arranges for the return of the bodies of Americans killed in the aborted rescue mission.

Day 203, May 24 - The International Court of Justice calls for release of the hostages and says Iran should compensate the United States for the seizure. Iran dismisses the ruling.

Day 224, June 14 - Khomeini announces a Cultural Revolution "to finish the enemies of God," wipe out remnants of Iranian life as it was under the shah and put Islamic clergymen in charge of education.

Day 225, June 15 - Khomeini orders a purge of non-Muslims from Iran's state-run radio and television.

Day 238, June 28 - The shah is reported in "very serious" condition in a Cairo hospital, suffering from pneumonia which resulted from chemotherapy for his cancer condition.

Day 243, July 3 - The shah again is described as being in serious condition in Cairo. His affliction this time is reported as a typhoidal infection.

Day 245, July 5 - About 2,000 women wearing black mourning dresses demonstrate outside the presidential office to protest new rules requiring government employees to wear traditional Islamic clothing on the job.

Day 250, July 10 - Khomeini orders the release of hostage Richard Queen, a 28-year-old vice consul, who is ill.

Day 258, July 18 - An attempt is made in Paris to assassinate Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last Iranian prime minister under the shah and leader of an anti-Khomeini exile movement. Bakhtiar is unharmed but a French policeman and woman neighbor are killed.

Day 267, July 27 - The shah dies in a Cairo military hospital. Tehran rejoices but U.S. officials express doubt the death will speed the release of the hostages.

Day 269, July 29 - The shah is buried in a Cairo mosque after a state funeral attended by President Sadat and former President Richard Nixon, there in a private capacity.

Day 288, Aug. 17 - Britain temporarily closes its embassy in Tehran "as a precautionary measure" because of tensions over the arrests of Iranian demonstrators in London. Eight of the embassy's diplomatic personnel leave Iran.

Day 299, Aug. 28 - Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, says its investigations indicate that more than 1,000 people were executed in the first 18 months of the Islamic Revolution.

Day 311, Sept. 9 - Britain closes its embassy in Tehran, fearing retaliation by Iranians who claim Iranians were ill-treated in London.

Day 314, Sept. 12 - Khomeini lists four conditions for the hostages' release but omits a previous demand for a U.S. apology. The conditions: return of the late shah's wealth, cancellation of U.S. claims against Iran, unfreezing of Iranian funds in the United States and U.S. guarantees of no interference in Iran. Washington's immediate reaction is guarded.

Day 321, Sept. 19 - Air and ground battles break out between Iran and Iraq.

Day 324, Sept. 22 - Iraq says the border hostilities have become a "full-scale war." It launches air attacks on at least seven Iranian air installations, including one in Tehran.

Day 330, Sept. 28 - U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to call for a halt to the fighting between Iraq and Iran.

Day 341, Oct. 9 - Radio Tehran says Iraqi missile attacks kill 180 people and wound 300 others in two Iranian cities -- the highest casualty toll so far reported in a single day of the war.

Day 363, Oct. 31 - Radio Tehran says Iran has been victorious in the hostage crisis and a "just method" for freeing the captives has been worked out. A Swedish airliner is reported on standby to fly the Americans from Tehran. The White House continues to caution against over-optimism.

Day 365, Nov. 2 - Parliament votes to free the hostages if the United States meets conditions set by Khomeini and a parliamentary committee: Release of Iranian assets frozen in U.S. banks, return of the late shah's wealth, withdrawal of lawsuits pending against Iran and a U.S. pledge of non-intervention in Iranian affairs. President Carter says the terms "appear to offer a positive basis" for negotiations.

Day 366, Nov. 3 - With Ayatollah Khomeini's approval, the militants relinquish "responsibility" for the hostages to the Iranian government. U.S. officials call it a major breakthrough.

Day 367, Nov. 4 - Tens of thousands of Iranians demonstrate outside the U.S. Embassy to mark the first anniversary of its capture. Iran's Foreign Ministry demands a quick Carter administration response to Iran's terms for the hostages' release. Ronald Reagan defeats President Carter in a landslide vote.

Day 373, Nov. 10 - Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher leads a party of Americans to Algiers and delivers the U.S. hostage reply to Algerian envoys who will relay it to Tehran.

Day 414, Dec. 21 - Iran announces the United States must deposit with the Algerians the equivalent of $24 billion in cash and gold representing its estimate of the shah's wealth and frozen Iranian assets - before the hostages are released. The U.S. calls the demand "unreasonable."

Day 427, Jan. 3, 1981 - Radio Tehran says it is "totally improbable" the hostages will be freed before Reagan's inauguration and that even after that the issue "will remain as it is now, at an impasse," unless the United States meets Iranian demands.

Day 428, Jan. 4 - The Iranian government claims it now has full control of the 52 hostages, who had been under the control of the militants who seized them.

Day 435, Jan. 11 - Iran drops its demand that the United States deposit $24 billion in Algerian banks.

Day 438, Jan. 14 - The Iranian parliament passes a key bill on the hostage question, authorizing third-country arbitration of conflicting U.S.-Iranian financial claims.

Day 440, Jan. 16 - A U.S. Air Force jet flies U.S. and British bankers to Algiers to work out with American negotiators already there the financial arrangements sought by Iran. The United States sends the draft of a proposed agreement to Iran and the White House says if it is accepted the hostages could be free before Carter leaves office.

Day 442, Jan. 18 - Iran announces acceptance of agreement for the release of the hostages. Final details are worked out in Algeria for the transfer of Iranian funds frozen by the United States. Plans are made to fly the hostages to West Germany.

Day 443, Jan. 19 - The release of the hostages is delayed by complications in financial aspects of the U.S.-Iran agreement.

Day 444, Jan. 20 - The financial complications are resolved and the hostages are released as Reagan takes office as president.


On This Day In 1979, Iranian Students Stormed The U.S. Embassy In Tehran

On November 4, 1979, a group of students stormed the U.S. embassy in the Iranian capital, Tehran, taking over the compound and seizing the embassy staff. The young militants would eventually hold more than 50 American hostages in tense conditions for 444 days.

Iranians marked the anniversary of the takeover on Tuesday with a major anti-U.S. rally in the capital. The Associated Press reports that radical protesters chanted "Down with America," "Death to Israel" and "Death to Britain" while the crowd burned American, British and Israeli flags.

Take a look at these intense images from November 1979 in Tehran.

Iranian students climb over the wall of the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution, 4th November 1979. The students went on to seize the embassy staff, and hold 52 of them as hostages for 444 days. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)

Students occupying the United States Embassy compound in Tehran at prayer on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 1979. (AP Photo)

Ayatollah Lahouti, in charge of the Revolutionary Guard and a close aide to Ayatollah Khomeini addresses the crowd gathered outside the American Embassy on Nov. 10, 1979 in Tehran. (AP Photo)

Iranians chat through the gates of the American Embassy compound in Tehran on Nov. 9, 1979 which covered with banners and pictures of U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Shah of Iran -- both depicted chained and tied. (AP Photo)

Portraits of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and anti-American slogans decorate the gates of the United States Embassy in Tehran, on Nov. 6, 1979 as armed revolutionary guards stand on the street. (AP Photo)

An Iranian student shouts anti-American slogans as he waves an automatic rifle in the air, in Tehran, on Monday, Nov. 5, 1979 soon after the occupation of the American embassy by students.(AP Photo)


Contents

1953 coup d'état Edit

In February 1979, less than a year before the crisis, the Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown during the Iranian Revolution. For several decades before that, the United States government had allied with and supported the Shah. During the Second World War, the British and the Soviet governments dispatched troops to occupy Iran to force the abdication of first Pahlavi monarch Reza Shah Pahlavi, in favor of his eldest son, Crown Prince Mohammad. [16] The two nations feared that Reza Shah intended to align his petroleum-rich country with Nazi Germany, but Reza Shah's earlier declaration of neutrality, and his refusal to allow Iranian territory to be used to train or supply Soviet troops, were the strongest motives for the operation. Because of its importance to the Allied war plans, Iran was subsequently referred to as "The Bridge of Victory" by Winston Churchill. [17]

By the 1950s Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was engaged in a power struggle with Iran's prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, an immediate descendant of the preceding Qajar dynasty. Mosaddegh led a general strike on behalf of the Iranian public, demanding an increased share of the nation's petroleum revenue from foreign oil companies operating in Iran, most notably the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. However, he overstepped in trying to get a $50 million increase and the amount of revenue given to the Iranian government was reduced. [18] [ better source needed ] In 1953, the CIA and MI6 helped Iranian royalists depose Mosaddegh in a military coup d'état codenamed Operation Ajax, allowing the Shah to extend his power. The Shah appointed himself an absolute monarch rather than a constitutional monarch, his position before the 1953 crisis, with the aim of assuming complete control of the government and purging "disloyal" elements. [19] [20] [21] The U.S. continued to support and fund the Shah after the coup, with the Central Intelligence Agency training SAVAK (the Iranian secret service). In the subsequent decades of the Cold War, various economic, cultural, and political issues united Iranian opposition against the Shah and led to his eventual overthrow. [22] [23] [24]

Carter administration Edit

Months before the Iranian Revolution, on New Year's Eve 1977, President Carter further angered anti-Shah Iranians with a televised toast to Pahlavi, claiming that the Shah was "beloved" by his people. After the revolution culminated in February 1979 with the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini from France, the American Embassy was occupied and its staff held hostage briefly. Rocks and bullets had broken so many of the embassy's front-facing windows that they had been replaced with bulletproof glass. The embassy's staff was reduced to just over 60 from a high of nearly one thousand earlier in the decade. [25]

The Carter administration tried to mitigate anti-American feeling by promoting a new relationship with the de facto Iranian government and continuing military cooperation in hopes that the situation would stabilize. However, on October 22, 1979, the United States permitted the Shah, who had lymphoma, to enter New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center for medical treatment. [26] The State Department had discouraged the request, understanding the political delicacy. [25] But in response to pressure from influential figures including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Council on Foreign Relations Chairman David Rockefeller, the Carter administration decided to grant it. [27] [28] [29] [30]

The Shah's admission to the United States intensified Iranian revolutionaries' anti-Americanism and spawned rumors of another U.S.–backed coup that would re-install him. [31] Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been exiled by the shah for 15 years, heightened the rhetoric against the "Great Satan", as he called the United States, talking of "evidence of American plotting." [32] In addition to ending what they believed was American sabotage of the revolution, the hostage takers hoped to depose the provisional revolutionary government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, which they believed was plotting to normalize relations with the United States and extinguish Islamic revolutionary order in Iran. [33] The occupation of the embassy on November 4, 1979, was also intended as leverage to demand the return of the shah to stand trial in Iran in exchange for the hostages.

A later study claimed that there had been no American plots to overthrow the revolutionaries, and that a CIA intelligence-gathering mission at the embassy had been "notably ineffectual, gathering little information and hampered by the fact that none of the three officers spoke the local language, Persian." Its work, the study said, was "routine, prudent espionage conducted at diplomatic missions everywhere." [34]

First attempt Edit

On the morning of February 14, 1979, the Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took a Marine named Kenneth Kraus hostage. Ambassador William Sullivan surrendered the embassy to save lives, and with the assistance of Iranian Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi, returned the embassy to U.S. hands within three hours. [35] Kraus was injured in the attack, kidnapped by the militants, tortured, tried, and convicted of murder. He was to be executed, but President Carter and Sullivan secured his release within six days. [36] This incident became known as the Valentine's Day Open House. [37]

Second attempt Edit

The next attempt to seize the American Embassy was planned for September 1979 by Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, a student at the time. He consulted with the heads of the Islamic associations of Tehran's main universities, including the University of Tehran, Sharif University of Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology (Polytechnic of Tehran), and Iran University of Science and Technology. They named their group Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line.

Asgharzadeh later said there were five students at the first meeting, two of whom wanted to target the Soviet Embassy because the USSR was "a Marxist and anti-God regime". Two others, Mohsen Mirdamadi and Habibolah Bitaraf, supported Asgharzadeh's chosen target: the United States. "Our aim was to object against the American government by going to their embassy and occupying it for several hours," Asgharzadeh said. "Announcing our objections from within the occupied compound would carry our message to the world in a much more firm and effective way." [41] Mirdamadi told an interviewer, "We intended to detain the diplomats for a few days, maybe one week, but no more." [42] Masoumeh Ebtekar, the spokeswoman for the Iranian students during the crisis, said that those who rejected Asgharzadeh's plan did not participate in the subsequent events. [43]

The students observed the procedures of the Marine Security Guards from nearby rooftops overlooking the embassy. They also drew on their experiences from the recent revolution, during which the U.S. Embassy grounds were briefly occupied. They enlisted the support of police officers in charge of guarding the embassy and of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. [44]

According to the group and other sources, Ayatollah Khomeini did not know of the plan beforehand. [45] The students had wanted to inform him, but according to the author Mark Bowden, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha persuaded them not to. Khoeiniha feared that the government would use the police to expel the students as they had the occupiers in February. The provisional government had been appointed by Khomeini, and so Khomeini was likely to go along with the government's request to restore order. On the other hand, Khoeiniha knew that if Khomeini first saw that the occupiers were faithful supporters of him (unlike the leftists in the first occupation) and that large numbers of pious Muslims had gathered outside the embassy to show their support for the takeover, it would be "very hard, perhaps even impossible," for him to oppose the takeover, and this would paralyze the Bazargan administration, which Khoeiniha and the students wanted to eliminate. [46]

Supporters of the takeover stated that their motivation was fear of another American-backed coup against their popular revolution.

Takeover Edit

On November 4, 1979, one of the demonstrations organized by Iranian student unions loyal to Khomeini erupted into an all-out conflict right outside the walled compound housing the U.S. Embassy.

At about 6:30 a.m., the ringleaders gathered between three hundred and five hundred selected students and briefed them on the battle plan. A female student was given a pair of metal cutters to break the chains locking the embassy's gates and hid them beneath her chador. [47]

At first, the students planned a symbolic occupation, in which they would release statements to the press and leave when government security forces came to restore order. This was reflected in placards saying: "Don't be afraid. We just want to sit in." When the embassy guards brandished firearms, the protesters retreated, with one telling the Americans, "We don't mean any harm." [48] But as it became clear that the guards would not use deadly force and that a large, angry crowd had gathered outside the compound to cheer the occupiers and jeer the hostages, the plan changed. [49] According to one embassy staff member, buses full of demonstrators began to appear outside the embassy shortly after the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line broke through the gates. [50]

As Khomeini's followers had hoped, Khomeini supported the takeover. According to Foreign Minister Yazdi, when he went to Qom to tell Khomeini about it, Khomeini told him to "go and kick them out." But later that evening, back in Tehran, Yazdi heard on the radio that Khomeini had issued a statement supporting the seizure, calling it "the second revolution" and the embassy an "American spy den in Tehran." [51]

The occupiers bound and blindfolded the Marines and staff at the embassy and paraded them in front of photographers. In the first couple of days, many of the embassy workers who had sneaked out of the compound or had not been there at the time of the takeover were rounded up by Islamists and returned as hostages. [52] Six American diplomats managed to avoid capture and took refuge in the British Embassy before being transferred to the Canadian Embassy. Others went to the Swedish Embassy in Tehran for three months. In a joint covert operation known as the Canadian caper, the Canadian government and the CIA managed to smuggle them out of Iran on January 28, 1980, using Canadian passports and a cover story that identified them as a film crew. [53]

A State Department diplomatic cable of November 8, 1979, details "A Tentative, Incomplete List of U.S. Personnel Being Held in the Embassy Compound." [54]

Motivations Edit

The Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line demanded that Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi return to Iran for trial and execution. The U.S. maintained that the Shah – who was to die less than a year later, in July 1980 – had come to America for medical attention. The group's other demands included that the U.S. government apologize for its interference in the internal affairs of Iran, including the overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddegh in 1953, and that Iran's frozen assets in the United States be released.

The initial plan was to hold the embassy for only a short time, but this changed after it became apparent how popular the takeover was and that Khomeini had given it his full support. [50] Some attributed the decision not to release the hostages quickly to President Carter's failure to immediately deliver an ultimatum to Iran. [55] His initial response was to appeal for the release of the hostages on humanitarian grounds and to share his hopes for a strategic anti-communist alliance with the Ayatollah. [56] As some of the student leaders had hoped, Iran's moderate prime minister, Bazargan, and his cabinet resigned under pressure just days after the takeover.

The duration of the hostages' captivity has also been attributed to internal Iranian revolutionary politics. As Ayatollah Khomeini told Iran's president:

This has united our people. Our opponents do not dare act against us. We can put the constitution to the people's vote without difficulty, and carry out presidential and parliamentary elections. [57]

Theocratic Islamists, as well as leftist political groups like the socialist People's Mujahedin of Iran, [58] supported the taking of hostages as a counterattack against "American imperialism." According to scholar Daniel Pipes, writing in 1980, the Marxist-leaning leftists and the Islamists shared a common antipathy toward market-based reforms under the late Shah, and both subsumed individualism, including the unique identity of women, under conservative, though contrasting, visions of collectivism. Accordingly, both groups favored the Soviet Union over the United States in the early months of the Iranian Revolution. [59] The Soviets, and possibly their allies Cuba, Libya, and East Germany, were suspected of providing indirect assistance to the participants in the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The PLO under Yasser Arafat provided personnel, intelligence liaisons, funding, and training for Khomeini's forces before and after the revolution, and was suspected of playing a role in the embassy crisis. [60] Fidel Castro reportedly praised Khomeini as a revolutionary anti-imperialist who could find common cause between revolutionary socialists and anti-American Islamists. Both expressed disdain for modern capitalism and a preference for authoritarian collectivism. [61] Cuba and its socialist ally Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, would later form ALBA in alliance with the Islamic Republic as a counter to neoliberal American influence.

Revolutionary teams displayed secret documents purportedly taken from the embassy, sometimes painstakingly reconstructed after shredding, [62] to buttress their claim that the U.S. was trying to destabilize the new regime.

By embracing the hostage-taking under the slogan "America can't do a thing," Khomeini rallied support and deflected criticism of his controversial theocratic constitution, [63] which was scheduled for a referendum vote in less than one month. [64] The referendum was successful, and after the vote, both leftists and theocrats continued to use allegations of pro-Americanism to suppress their opponents: relatively moderate political forces that included the Iranian Freedom Movement, the National Front, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, [65] and later President Abolhassan Banisadr. In particular, carefully selected diplomatic dispatches and reports discovered at the embassy and released by the hostage-takers led to the disempowerment and resignation of moderate figures [66] such as Bazargan. The failed rescue attempt and the political danger of any move seen as accommodating America delayed a negotiated release of the hostages. After the crisis ended, leftists and theocrats turned on each other, with the stronger theocratic group annihilating the left.

Supporters of the takeover claimed that in 1953, the American Embassy had acted as a "den of spies" from which the coup was organized. Documents were later found in the embassy suggesting that some staff members had been working with the Central Intelligence Agency. Later, the CIA confirmed its role and that of MI6 in Operation Ajax. [67] After the Shah entered the United States, Ayatollah Khomeini called for street demonstrations. [68]

Revolutionary teams displayed secret documents purportedly taken from the embassy, sometimes painstakingly reconstructed after shredding, [62] to buttress their claim that "the Great Satan" (the U.S.) was trying to destabilize the new regime and that Iranian moderates were in league with the U.S. The documents – including telegrams, correspondence, and reports from the U.S. State Department and CIA – were published in a series of books called Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den (Persian: اسناد لانه جاسوسی امریكا ‎). [69] According to a 1997 Federation of American Scientists bulletin, by 1995, 77 volumes of Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den had been published. [70] Many of these volumes are now available online. [71]

Hostage conditions Edit

The hostage-takers, declaring their solidarity with other "oppressed minorities" and "the special place of women in Islam," released one woman and two African Americans on November 19. [72] Before release, these hostages were required by their captors to hold a press conference in which Kathy Gross and William Quarles praised the revolution's aims, [73] but four further women and six African-Americans were released the following day. [72] The only African-American hostage not released that month was Charles A. Jones, Jr. [74] One more hostage, a white man named Richard Queen, was released in July 1980 after he became seriously ill with what was later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. The remaining 52 hostages were held until January 1981, up to 444 days of captivity.

The hostages were initially held at the embassy, but after the takers took the cue from the failed rescue mission, the detainees were scattered around Iran in order to make a single rescue attempt impossible. Three high-level officials – Bruce Laingen, Victor L. Tomseth, and Mike Howland – were at the Foreign Ministry at the time of the takeover. They stayed there for some months, sleeping in the ministry's formal dining room and washing their socks and underwear in the bathroom. At first, they were treated as diplomats, but after the provisional government fell, their treatment deteriorated. By March, the doors to their living space were kept "chained and padlocked." [75]

By midsummer 1980, the Iranians had moved the hostages to prisons in Tehran [76] to prevent escapes or rescue attempts and to improve the logistics of guard shifts and food delivery. [77] The final holding area, from November 1980 until their release, was the Teymur Bakhtiar mansion in Tehran, where the hostages were finally given tubs, showers, and hot and cold running water. [78] Several foreign diplomats and ambassadors – including former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor – visited the hostages over the course of the crisis and relayed information back to the U.S. government, including dispatches from Laingen.

Iranian propaganda stated that the hostages were "guests" and were treated with respect. Asgharzadeh, the student leader, described the original plan as a nonviolent and symbolic action in which the "gentle and respectful treatment" of the hostages would dramatize to the world the offended sovereignty and dignity of Iran. [79] In America, an Iranian chargé d'affaires, Ali Agha, stormed out of a meeting with an American official, exclaiming: "We are not mistreating the hostages. They are being very well taken care of in Tehran. They are our guests." [80]

The actual treatment was far different. The hostages described beatings, [81] theft, [82] and fear of bodily harm. Two of them, William Belk and Kathryn Koob, recalled being paraded blindfolded before an angry, chanting crowd outside the embassy. [83] Others reported having their hands bound "day and night" for days [84] or even weeks, [85] long periods of solitary confinement, [86] and months of being forbidden to speak to one another [87] or to stand, walk, or leave their space unless they were going to the bathroom. [88] All of the hostages "were threatened repeatedly with execution, and took it seriously." [89] The hostage-takers played Russian roulette with their victims. [90]

One, Michael Metrinko, was kept in solitary confinement for months. On two occasions, when he expressed his opinion of Ayatollah Khomeini, he was punished severely. The first time, he was kept in handcuffs for two weeks, [91] and the second time, he was beaten and kept alone in a freezing cell for two weeks. [92]

Another hostage, U.S. Army medic Donald Hohman, went on a hunger strike for several weeks, [93] and two hostages attempted suicide. Steve Lauterbach broke a water glass and slashed his wrists after being locked in a dark basement room with his hands tightly bound. He was found by guards and rushed to the hospital. [94] Jerry Miele, a CIA communication technician, smashed his head into the corner of a door, knocking himself unconscious and cutting a deep gash. "Naturally withdrawn" and looking "ill, old, tired, and vulnerable," Miele had become the butt of his guards' jokes, and they had rigged up a mock electric chair to emphasize the fate that awaited him. His fellow hostages applied first aid and raised the alarm, and he was taken to a hospital after a long delay created by the guards. [95]

Other hostages described threats to boil their feet in oil (Alan B. Golacinski), [96] cut their eyes out (Rick Kupke), [97] or kidnap and kill a disabled son in America and "start sending pieces of him to your wife" (David Roeder). [98]

Four hostages tried to escape, [99] and all were punished with stretches of solitary confinement when their attempts were discovered.

Queen, the hostage sent home because of his multiple sclerosis, first developed dizziness and numbness in his left arm six months before his release. [100] His symptoms were misdiagnosed by the Iranians at first as a reaction to drafts of cold air. When warmer confinement did not help, he was told that it was "nothing" and that the symptoms would soon disappear. [101] Over the months, the numbness spread to his right side, and the dizziness worsened until he "was literally flat on his back, unable to move without growing dizzy and throwing up." [102]

The cruelty of the Iranian prison guards became "a form of slow torture." [103] The guards often withheld mail – telling one hostage, Charles W. Scott, "I don't see anything for you, Mr. Scott. Are you sure your wife has not found another man?" [104] – and the hostages' possessions went missing. [105]

As the hostages were taken to the aircraft that would fly them out of Tehran, they were led through a gauntlet of students forming parallel lines and shouting, "Marg bar Amrika" ("death to America"). [106] When the pilot announced that they were out of Iran, the "freed hostages went wild with happiness. Shouting, cheering, crying, clapping, falling into one another's arms." [107]

Impact in the United States Edit

In the United States, the hostage crisis created "a surge of patriotism" and left "the American people more united than they have been on any issue in two decades." [108] The hostage-taking was seen "not just as a diplomatic affront," but as a "declaration of war on diplomacy itself." [109] Television news gave daily updates. [110] In January 1980, the CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite began ending each show by saying how many days the hostages had been captive. [111] President Carter applied economic and diplomatic pressure: Oil imports from Iran were ended on November 12, 1979, and with Executive Order 12170, around US$8 billion of Iranian assets in the United States were frozen by the Office of Foreign Assets Control on November 14.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas in 1979, high school students made cards that were delivered to the hostages. [5] Community groups across the country did the same, resulting in bales of Christmas cards. The National Christmas Tree was left dark except for the top star.

At the time, two Trenton, N.J., newspapers – The Trenton Times and the Trentonian and perhaps others around the country – printed full-page color American flags in their newspapers for readers to cut out and place in the front windows of their homes as support for the hostages until they were brought home safely.

A severe backlash against Iranians in the United States developed. One Iranian American later complained, "I had to hide my Iranian identity not to get beaten up, even at university." [112]

According to Bowden, a pattern emerged in President Carter's attempts to negotiate the hostages' release: "Carter would latch on to a deal proffered by a top Iranian official and grant minor but humiliating concessions, only to have it scotched at the last minute by Khomeini." [113]

Canadian rescue of hostages Edit

On the day the hostages were seized, six American diplomats evaded capture and remained in hiding at the home of the Canadian diplomat John Sheardown, under the protection of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor. In late 1979, the government of Prime Minister Joe Clark secretly issued an Order in Council [114] allowing Canadian passports to be issued to some American citizens so that they could escape. In cooperation with the CIA, which used the cover story of a film project, two CIA agents and the six American diplomats boarded a Swissair flight to Zurich, Switzerland, on January 28, 1980. Their rescue from Iran, known as the Canadian caper, [115] [116] [117] was fictionalized in the 1981 film Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper and the 2012 film Argo.

Negotiations for release Edit

Rescue attempts Edit

First rescue attempt Edit

Cyrus Vance, the United States Secretary of State, had argued against the push by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor, for a military solution to the crisis. [118] Vance, struggling with gout, went to Florida on Thursday, April 10, 1980, for a long weekend. [118] On Friday Brzezinski held a newly scheduled meeting of the National Security Council where the president authorized Operation Eagle Claw, a military expedition into Tehran to rescue the hostages. [118] Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher, who attended the meeting in Vance's place, did not inform Vance. [118] Furious, Vance handed in his resignation on principle, calling Brzezinski "evil." [118]

Late in the afternoon of April 24, 1980, eight RH‑53D helicopters flew from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to a remote road serving as an airstrip in the Great Salt Desert of Eastern Iran, near Tabas. They encountered severe dust storms that disabled two of the helicopters, which were traveling in complete radio silence. Early the next morning, the remaining six helicopters met up with several waiting Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft at a landing site and refueling area designated "Desert One".

At this point, a third helicopter was found to be unserviceable, bringing the total below the six deemed vital for the mission. The commander of the operation, Col. Charles Alvin Beckwith, recommended that the mission be aborted, and his recommendation was approved by President Carter. As the helicopters repositioned themselves for refueling, one ran into a C‑130 tanker aircraft and crashed, killing eight U.S. servicemen and injuring several more. [119]

In May 1980, the Joint Chiefs of Staff commissioned a Special Operations review group of six senior military officers, led by Adm. James L. Holloway III, to thoroughly examine all aspects of the rescue attempt. The group identified 23 issues that were significant in the failure of the mission, 11 of which it deemed major. The overriding issue was operational security – that is, keeping the mission secret so that the arrival of the rescue team at the embassy would be a complete surprise. This severed the usual relationship between pilots and weather forecasters the pilots were not informed about the local dust storms. Another security requirement was that the helicopter pilots come from the same unit. The unit picked for the mission was a U.S. Navy mine-laying unit flying CH-53D Sea Stallions these helicopters were considered the best suited for the mission because of their long range, large capacity, and compatibility with shipboard operations.

Two hours into the flight, the crew of helicopter No. 6 saw a warning light indicating that a main rotor might be cracked. They landed in the desert, confirmed visually that a crack had started to develop, and stopped flying in accordance with normal operating procedure. Helicopter No. 8 landed to pick up the crew of No. 6, and abandoned No. 6 in the desert without destroying it. The report by Holloway's group pointed out that a cracked helicopter blade could have been used to continue the mission and that its likelihood of catastrophic failure would have been low for many hours, especially at lower flying speeds. [120] The report found that the pilot of No. 6 would have continued the mission if instructed to do so.

When the helicopters encountered two dust storms along the way to the refueling point, the second more severe than the first, the pilot of No. 5 turned back because the mine-laying helicopters were not equipped with terrain-following radar. The report found that the pilot could have continued to the refueling point if he had been told that better weather awaited him there, but because of the command for radio silence, he did not ask about the conditions ahead. The report also concluded that "there were ways to pass the information" between the refueling station and the helicopter force "that would have small likelihood of compromising the mission" – in other words, that the ban on communication had not been necessary at this stage. [121]

Helicopter No. 2 experienced a partial hydraulic system failure but was able to fly on for four hours to the refueling location. There, an inspection showed that a hydraulic fluid leak had damaged a pump and that the helicopter could not be flown safely, nor repaired in time to continue the mission. Six helicopters was thought to be the absolute minimum required for the rescue mission, so with the force reduced to five, the local commander radioed his intention to abort. This request was passed through military channels to President Carter, who agreed. [122]

After the mission and its failure were made known publicly, Khomeini credited divine intervention on behalf of Islam, and his prestige skyrocketed in Iran. [123] Iranian officials who favored release of the hostages, such as President Bani Sadr, were weakened. In America, President Carter's political popularity and prospects for being re-elected in 1980 were further damaged after a television address on April 25 in which he explained the rescue operation and accepted responsibility for its failure.

Planned second attempt Edit

A second rescue attempt, planned but never carried out, would have used highly modified YMC-130H Hercules aircraft. [124] Three aircraft, outfitted with rocket thrusters to allow an extremely short landing and takeoff in the Shahid Shiroudi football stadium near the embassy, were modified under a rushed, top-secret program known as Operation Credible Sport. [125] One crashed during a demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base on October 29, 1980, when its braking rockets were fired too soon. The misfire caused a hard touchdown that tore off the starboard wing and started a fire, but all on board survived. After Carter lost the presidential election in November, the project was abandoned. [126]

The failed rescue attempt led to the creation of the 160th SOAR, a helicopter aviation Special Operations group.


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The hostages flew out of Tehran on an Algerian airliner, ending their 444-day ordeal. The next day, at Reagan’s behest, Carter flew to West Germany to greet them on their way home.

The bargain called for the United States to free nearly $3 billion in Iranian assets and to promise $5 billion more in aid. (A federal judge subsequently ruled that no damages could be awarded to the hostages, considering the agreement the United States had made when they were freed.)

Since 2001, the complex has served as a museum to the revolution.

SOURCE: “HOSTAGE: A CHRONICLE OF THE 444 DAYS IN IRAN,” BY SHELDON ENGELMAYER (1981)

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Operation Eagle Claw was a disaster for President Carter and merely added to the rising perception of his administration's inability to deal with the prevailing crisis. Additionally, America's European allies expressed shock that the mission had taken place without any consultation.

In Tehran, the mission's failure was greeted by jubilant scenes. Thousands of Iranian people hit the streets in celebration, and the bodies of the American soldiers were displayed in front of jubilant crowds. Intelligence documents were also uncovered in the wreckage and were flaunted by Iranian officials in front of the TV cameras.

Operation Eagle Claw, which was condemned by the Iranian Foreign Minister as "an act of war," all but doomed attempts to bring about a diplomatic solution to the hostage crisis. Domestically, Carter was engaged in a fight for re-election, and his rival Ronald Reagan used the crisis to his advantage, portraying Carter as unable to bring about a solution. The hostages were released after 444 days in captivity, on the day of Reagan's Presidential inauguration, January 20, 1981.

As President, Reagan characterized Khomeini's Iran as a terrorist state bent on damaging the interests of the American people. Iran was a backer of Hezbollah, an Islamist organization originating in Lebanon, and had strong ties to other extremist Shi'ite groups, such as Islamic Jihad. Between them, these organizations carried out a number of terrorist attacks against U.S. targets in Lebanon and across the Middle East during the mid-1980s.

Reagan also supplied military aid to Iraq, which was at war with Iran between 1980–1988. Further down the line, this contributed to an array of problems for subsequent U.S. administrations, including the 1991 Gulf War the enforcement of sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime and ultimately, the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.


Key moments in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis at US Embassy

Here are key moments in the 1979 Iranian takeover and subsequent 444-day hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Day 1, Nov. 4, 1979 - Iranian protesters seize the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 98 people hostage. They demand the United States return the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who is in a New York hospital. The U.S. refuses. Khomeini called the takeover “a revolution bigger than the first revolution” that had toppled Iran’s monarchy that February.

Day 2, Nov. 5 - Other followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader, seize the British Embassy in Tehran, claiming Britain is America’s “evil” ally. But they give it up hours later.

Day 3, Nov. 6 - Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and his Cabinet resign.

Day 5, Nov. 8 - Militants at the U.S. Embassy claim documents found in the embassy prove the American diplomatic personnel were part of an “espionage unit.”

Day 9, Nov. 12 - President Jimmy Carter orders a halt to oil imports from Iran, which provided nearly 4% of daily U.S. consumption.

Day 10, Nov. 13 - The Iranian government calls for a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss its complaints against the United States.

Day 11, Nov. 14 - All Iranian assets in the United States are frozen on Carter’s orders.

Day 12, Nov. 15 - The embassy militants release one hostage, an Italian cook.

Day 14, Nov. 17 - Khomeini orders the militants to release all women and black hostages if they are absolved of espionage.

Day 15, Nov. 18 - The militants announce they will free 13 hostages - eight black men and five women.

Day 16, Nov. 19 - Three of the hostages - two black Marines and a female secretary - are released.

Day 17, Nov. 20 - Ten more American hostages are freed.

Day 19, Nov. 22 - Five non-American hostages are freed from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Day 25, Nov. 28 - Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, considered a moderate on the hostage issue after having said he didn’t believe they should be held indefinitely, is replaced as foreign minister by Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who advocates releasing the Americans only after the shah is returned.

Day 29, Dec. 2 - The shah leaves New York for a military hospital near San Antonio, Texas.

Day 30, Dec. 3 - Iranians vote overwhelmingly in favor of a new Islamic constitution giving Khomeini supreme power.

Day 31, Dec. 4 - The U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to urge Iran to free the American hostages.

Day 34, Dec. 7 - In Paris, the shah’s 34-year-old nephew, Shahriar Mustapha Chafik, is shot and killed on the street.

Day 39, Dec. 12 - The U.S. State Department orders the expulsion of 183 Iranian diplomats.

Day 42, Dec. 15 - The shah flies to “temporary” exile in Panama. The International Court at The Hague orders Iran to free all the hostages.

Day 58, Dec. 31 - By a vote of 11-0, with four abstentions, the U.N. Security Council approves a resolution giving Iran until Jan. 7 to release the hostages or face possible sanctions. The hostages aren’t released.

Day 71, Jan. 13, 1980 - Ten of 15 Security Council members vote in favor of economic sanctions against Iran but the Soviet Union, as a permanent member, vetoes the resolution. The United States decides on sanctions of its own.

Day 72, Jan. 14 - Iran’s Revolutionary Council orders all U.S. news correspondents to leave Iran because of what it calls their “biased reporting.”

Day 83, Jan. 25 - Presidential election day in Iran. U.S. officials express hope the election will change the tone of the hostage crisis. Bani-Sadr ends up winning.

Day 87, Jan. 29 - It is disclosed that six Americans, who escaped capture when the U.S. Embassy was seized Nov. 4, had slipped out of Iran with help of the Canadian Embassy, which issued them false identities. Decades later, the U.S. acknowledged the CIA’s role in their escape, which was the subject of the 2012 film “Argo.”

Day 140, March 22 - Khomeini says Carter confidentially writes to him promising to recognize Islamic Revolution in a public speech.

Day 141, March 23 - The shah leaves Panama for Egypt, ending a 100-day residence on a resort island.

Day 142, March 24 - Looking haggard, the shah arrives in Egypt where he began his exile in January 1979 and is greeted by President Anwar Sadat, who says he can stay permanently. The shah enters a Cairo hospital.

Day 146, March 28 - The shah undergoes surgery for the removal of his spleen.

Day 156, April 7 - Khomeini rules the hostages must remain in the hands of the militants. In response, the United States breaks diplomatic relations with Iran, expelling 35 diplomats remaining in the country and imposing a series of economic sanctions. Iran’s army is put on alert after forces of neighboring Iraq attack an Iranian border post and nearby oil facilities. Iran orders its diplomats home from Iraq.

Day 158, April 8 - An angered Khomeini calls the United States “bloodthirsty” but tells his people the U.S. break in relations and other actions are a “good omen” because they mean the U.S. has lost all hope of controlling Iran. Bani-Sadr says, however, “I tell the nation, it is a war.”

Day 158, April 9 - As Washington hints of a possible naval blockade of Iran, the militants say they will burn the U.S. Embassy and kill the hostages if the United States tries “even the smallest” military move against Iran.

Day 165, April 16 - A senior U.S. official says Iran has until mid-May to end the deadlock or face possible military pressure.

Day 166, April 17 - President Carter imposes more economic sanctions on Iran, bans travel there by Americans except news correspondents and says military action could be the next step if the hostages are not released.

Day 172, April 23 - Japan and Canada join in economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran. Iran announces new trade accords with the Soviet Union, Romania and East Germany.

Day 174, April 25 - The White House announces a U.S. military force flew to a remote desert in Iran in hopes to carrying out a rescue of the hostages in Tehran but the plan had to be aborted because of the failure of three helicopters. Eight American servicemen are killed in a ground collision of a C-130 and a helicopter as the aircraft were preparing to leave the area.

Day 175, April 26 - Iran announces the hostages are being moved from the U.S. Embassy to other parts of Tehran and to other Iranian cities to foil another U.S. rescue effort. Iranians recover the bodies of the eight Americans killed on the rescue mission.

Day 176, April 27 - Iranians display bodies of eight U.S. servicemen at U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran.

Day 182, May 3 - The U.S. hostages complete a half year in captivity. Iran arranges for the return of the bodies of Americans killed in the aborted rescue mission.

Day 203, May 24 - The International Court of Justice calls for release of the hostages and says Iran should compensate the United States for the seizure. Iran dismisses the ruling.

Day 224, June 14 - Khomeini announces a Cultural Revolution “to finish the enemies of God,” wipe out remnants of Iranian life as it was under the shah and put Islamic clergymen in charge of education.

Day 225, June 15 - Khomeini orders a purge of non-Muslims from Iran’s state-run radio and television.

Day 238, June 28 - The shah is reported in “very serious” condition in a Cairo hospital, suffering from pneumonia which resulted from chemotherapy for his cancer condition.

Day 243, July 3 - The shah again is described as being in serious condition in Cairo. His affliction this time is reported as a typhoidal infection.

Day 245, July 5 - About 2,000 women wearing black mourning dresses demonstrate outside the presidential office to protest new rules requiring government employees to wear traditional Islamic clothing on the job.

Day 250, July 10 - Khomeini orders the release of hostage Richard Queen, a 28-year-old vice consul, who is ill.

Day 258, July 18 - An attempt is made in Paris to assassinate Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last Iranian prime minister under the shah and leader of an anti-Khomeini exile movement. Bakhtiar is unharmed but a French policeman and woman neighbor are killed.

Day 267, July 27 - The shah dies in a Cairo military hospital. Tehran rejoices but U.S. officials express doubt the death will speed the release of the hostages.

Day 269, July 29 - The shah is buried in a Cairo mosque after a state funeral attended by President Sadat and former President Richard Nixon, there in a private capacity.

Day 288, Aug. 17 - Britain temporarily closes its embassy in Tehran “as a precautionary measure” because of tensions over the arrests of Iranian demonstrators in London. Eight of the embassy’s diplomatic personnel leave Iran.

Day 299, Aug. 28 - Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, says its investigations indicate that more than 1,000 people were executed in the first 18 months of the Islamic Revolution.

Day 311, Sept. 9 - Britain closes its embassy in Tehran, fearing retaliation by Iranians who claim Iranians were ill-treated in London.

Day 314, Sept. 12 - Khomeini lists four conditions for the hostages’ release but omits a previous demand for a U.S. apology. The conditions: return of the late shah’s wealth, cancellation of U.S. claims against Iran, unfreezing of Iranian funds in the United States and U.S. guarantees of no interference in Iran. Washington’s immediate reaction is guarded.

Day 321, Sept. 19 - Air and ground battles break out between Iran and Iraq.

Day 324, Sept. 22 - Iraq says the border hostilities have become a “full-scale war.” It launches air attacks on at least seven Iranian air installations, including one in Tehran.

Day 330, Sept. 28 - U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to call for a halt to the fighting between Iraq and Iran.

Day 341, Oct. 9 - Radio Tehran says Iraqi missile attacks kill 180 people and wound 300 others in two Iranian cities — the highest casualty toll so far reported in a single day of the war.

Day 363, Oct. 31 - Radio Tehran says Iran has been victorious in the hostage crisis and a “just method” for freeing the captives has been worked out. A Swedish airliner is reported on standby to fly the Americans from Tehran. The White House continues to caution against over-optimism.

Day 365, Nov. 2 - Parliament votes to free the hostages if the United States meets conditions set by Khomeini and a parliamentary committee: Release of Iranian assets frozen in U.S. banks, return of the late shah’s wealth, withdrawal of lawsuits pending against Iran and a U.S. pledge of non-intervention in Iranian affairs. President Carter says the terms “appear to offer a positive basis” for negotiations.

Day 366, Nov. 3 - With Ayatollah Khomeini’s approval, the militants relinquish “responsibility” for the hostages to the Iranian government. U.S. officials call it a major breakthrough.

Day 367, Nov. 4 - Tens of thousands of Iranians demonstrate outside the U.S. Embassy to mark the first anniversary of its capture. Iran’s Foreign Ministry demands a quick Carter administration response to Iran’s terms for the hostages’ release. Ronald Reagan defeats President Carter in a landslide vote.

Day 373, Nov. 10 - Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher leads a party of Americans to Algiers and delivers the U.S. hostage reply to Algerian envoys who will relay it to Tehran.

Day 414, Dec. 21 - Iran announces the United States must deposit with the Algerians the equivalent of $24 billion in cash and gold representing its estimate of the shah’s wealth and frozen Iranian assets - before the hostages are released. The U.S. calls the demand “unreasonable.”

Day 427, Jan. 3, 1981 - Radio Tehran says it is “totally improbable” the hostages will be freed before Reagan’s inauguration and that even after that the issue “will remain as it is now, at an impasse,” unless the United States meets Iranian demands.

Day 428, Jan. 4 - The Iranian government claims it now has full control of the 52 hostages, who had been under the control of the militants who seized them.

Day 435, Jan. 11 - Iran drops its demand that the United States deposit $24 billion in Algerian banks.

Day 438, Jan. 14 - The Iranian parliament passes a key bill on the hostage question, authorizing third-country arbitration of conflicting U.S.-Iranian financial claims.

Day 440, Jan. 16 - A U.S. Air Force jet flies U.S. and British bankers to Algiers to work out with American negotiators already there the financial arrangements sought by Iran. The United States sends the draft of a proposed agreement to Iran and the White House says if it is accepted the hostages could be free before Carter leaves office.

Day 442, Jan. 18 - Iran announces acceptance of agreement for the release of the hostages. Final details are worked out in Algeria for the transfer of Iranian funds frozen by the United States. Plans are made to fly the hostages to West Germany.

Day 443, Jan. 19 - The release of the hostages is delayed by complications in financial aspects of the U.S.-Iran agreement.

Day 444, Jan. 20 - The financial complications are resolved and the hostages are released as Reagan takes office as president.


Militants Seize US Embassy in Teheran - History

By EDDIE FLEMING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 22, 1981

Here is a chronolopgical account of key developments surrounding the Americans' captivity in Iran.

Day 1, Nov. 4, 1979 &mdash An estimated 300 militant Moslems seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran taking 98 hostages. They demanded the return of deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The U.S. refused.

The embassy staff held out behind the steel doors of the embassy for three hours before being taken hostage. Their pleas for help were ignored by Iranian officials, despite prior assurances from Iran that the embassy would be protected.

Day 2, Nov. 5 &mdash Religious leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini publicly endorsed the takeover of the U.S. Embassy as Moslem militants seized U.S. consulates in two Iranian cities and ransacked the Iran-American Society cultural center in Isfahan.

Khomeini followers also seized the British Embassy in Tehran, claiming Britain is America's "evil" ally. They gave it up hours later.

Day 3, Nov. 6 &mdash Iranian Premier Mehdi Bazargan and his cabinet resigned in an apparent protest of Khomeini's endorsement of the embassy takeover.

Also on Nov. 6, the Moslem militants holding the U.S. Embassy threatened to kill their hostages if the U.S. tried an Entebbe-style rescue, patterned on the successful 1976 Israeli mission to free hostages in Uganda. It was an Iranian threat repeated many times during the Americans' captivity.

Carter convened the National Security Council in Washington to discuss the situation.

And two U.S. government envoys left for Iran in an attempt to mediate the release of the American hostages. Khomeini refused to let them meet with Iranian officials.

Day 5, Nov. 8 &mdash The militants at the U.S. Embassy claimed documents found in the embassy prove the American diplomatic personnel were part of an "espionage unit."

Day 6, Nov. 9 &mdash The United Nations Security Council called on the militants to release the hostages.

American hostages were blindfolded and paraded around the embassy to the jeers of thousands of Iranian demonstrators.

But when Iranian students in the U.S. took to the streets to support the embassy takeover, they were confronted by angry and frustrated Americans.

A wave of patriotism began sweeping the country. "Not since Pearl Harbor," President Carter said, "have we felt such a nationwide surge of determination and mutual purpose."

Day 9, Nov. 12 &mdash President Carter ordered a halt to oil purchases from Iran, beating the Iranian government to the punch. The move turned out to have little effect on U.S. oil supplies, as Iran's oil production fell to a fraction of what it was under the shah.

Day 11, Nov. 14 &mdash Carter froze $8 billion in Iranian assets in U.S. banks, heading off an attempt by Iran to withdraw the money. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance headed off a Security Council debate on Iranian complaints.

Day 12, Nov. 15 &mdash President Carter accused the Iranian government of encouraging "terrorism" by condoning the actions of the militants holding the 63 American hostages.

Also on Day 12, the militants released one hostage, an Italian cook. All non-American embassy employees are eventually released, reducing the hostages to 66.

Day 14, Nov. 17 &mdash Khomeini ordered the militants to release all women and black hostages if they are absolved of "espionage."

Day 16-17, Nov. 19-20 &mdash Thirteen hostages, five women and eight black men, are released in an apparent attempt by the militants to divide U.S. public opinion.

Day 17, Nov. 20 &mdash The Pentagon ordered the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and five other U.S. warships to proceed to the Indian Ocean near Iran.

Day 18, Nov. 21 &mdash Radical Moslems seized Islam's holiest shrine, the Mosque at Mecca. Iranian radio blamed the U.S., inciting angry Moslems in Pakistan to burn the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. Two Marines guarding the embassy were killed.

Day 20, Nov. 23 &mdash President Carter warned Khomeini of "extremely grave" U.S. retaliation if a single U.S. hostage is harmed.

Day 24, Nov. 27 &mdash Moslem militants, fearing a U.S. rescue attempt, said they've mined the US. Embassy.

Day 26, Nov. 29 &mdash The United States asked the International Court of Justice at The Hague for a ruling against Iran.

Day 28, Dec. 1 &mdash The militants holding American hostages in Tehran said one of their hostages, William Daugherty, has confessed to being a CIA agent. They vowed to put him on trial as a spy.

Day 32, Dec. 5 &mdash The militants holding 53 Americans in Tehran rejected a unanimous U.N. Security Council appeal for the immediate release of the hostages.

Day 37, Dec. 10 &mdash The International Court of Justice heard U.S. complaints against Iran. Iranian leaders boycotted the session.

Day 39, Dec. 12 &mdash The U.S. State Department ordered the expulsion of 183 Iranian diplomats.

Day 40, Dec. 13 &mdash NATO foreign ministers formally denounced Iran's takeover of the U.S. Embassy.

Day 42, Dec. 15 &mdash The shah flew to temporary exile in Panama.

Day 48, Dec. 21 &mdash Carter said the United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to impose economic sanctions against Iran.

Day 52, Dec. 25 &mdash Prayer vigils and candlelight services were held in Washington and throughout the nation as the 53 hostages entered their third month in captivity.

Three U.S. clergymen conducted Christmas services for the hostages.

Day 54, Dec. 27 &mdash Soviet troops poured into neighboring Afghanistan, killed President Hafizullab Amin and installed a puppet ruler.

Day 58, Dec. &mdash The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to free the hostages by Jan. 7 or face possible sanctions.

Day 69, Jan. 11, 1980 &mdash Iran said a U.S. attempt to block Iranian shipping routes would mean war. Iran later threatened to stop all Persian Gulf shipping if the U.S. mines Iran's ports.

Day 71, Jan. 13 &mdash The U.N. Security Council voted 10-2 to impose economic sanctions against Iran for its refusal to release the American hostages. But the measure was vetoed by the Soviet Union.

Day 73, Jan. 15 &mdash Iran, claiming "biased and distorted coverage," ordered all U.S. news correspondents to leave the country by midnight.

Day 74, Jan. 16 &mdash A group of Iranian army officers attempted to overthrow Khomeini, but were caught and later executed.

Day 81, Jan. 23 &mdash The 79-year-old Khomeini was taken to a Tehran hospital after suffering a heart attack.

Day 83, Jan. 25 &mdash Iranians overwhelmingly elected Abolhassan Bani-Sadr as their first president under their new Islamic constitution. Bani-Sadr, a moderate, said he believed the hostage crisis could be resolved quickly.

Day 87, Jan. 29 &mdash It was disclosed that the Canadian Embassy in Tehran spirited six Americans out of Iran, sparking pro-Canadian demonstrations in the US. and screams of protest from Iran.

Day 95, Feb. 6 &mdash Iranian President Bani-Sadr angrily denounced the Moslem militants holding the U.S. hostages as "dictators who have created a government within a government."

Day 96, Feb. 7 &mdash Bani-Sadr formally took over as head of the Revolutionary Council, making him the number two man in authority. He again assailed the embassy militants, calling them "rebels against the government."

Day 100, Feb. 11 &mdash Bani-Sadr was quoted by a French newspaper as saying the Iranian government no longer demanded the return of the shah in exchange for the release of the hostages.

Day 116, Feb. 27 &mdash Ayatollah Beheshti, first secretary of the Revolutionary Council, said Iran's new parliament will not be ready to decide on the hostages before May.

Day 124, March 6 &mdash Islamic militants, under increasing criticism from Bani-Sadr, agreed to turn over their hostages to the Revolutionary Council. The development appeared d to signal a breakthrough.

Day 126, March 8 &mdash In a dispute with the Bani-Sadr government, the militants changed their minds and reused to give u control of the hostages.

Day 131, March 13 &mdash Doctors in Panama said the shah had an enlarged spleen and needed another operation.

Day 141, March 23 &mdash The shah left Panama for Egypt, a move that Iran claimed was made to avoid extradition proceedings. A spokesman for the shah said the move was made for medical reasons. It was later revealed that the shah felt his life was in danger in Panama.

Day 156, April 7 &mdash Carter expelled the remaining Iranian diplomats from the U.S. in retaliation for Iran's refusal to release the American hostages.

Day 159, April 10 &mdash The nine nations of the European Common Market issued a "demand" for Iran to release the American hostages, but stopped short of joining the United States in economic sanctions.

Day 160, April 11 &mdash Militants threatened to kill their American hostages if Iran is attacked by Iraq &mdash a bitter enemy of the U.S. It was a threat that made Carter reassess the rescue option.

Day 166, April 17 &mdash Carter imposed additional economic sanctions against Iran and indicated the next step might be military action.

Day 174, April 25 &mdash An aborted effort to rescue the American hostages ended in tragedy when two US. military aircraft collided at a desert airstrip in Iran and burst into flames, killing eight U.S. servicemen.

Day 175, April 26 &mdash Iranian militants dispersed their hostages to various locations in Tehran, and announced plans to move them to different cities to discourage another U.S. rescue attempt.

Day 177, April 28 &mdash Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance resigned in protest of the U.S. rescue mission. Sen. Edmund Muskie was later picked by Carter to replace Vance.

Day 188, May 9 &mdash Iranians completed their election of a clergy-dominated parliament that Khomeini said would be empowered to decide the fate of the American hostages.

Day 203, May 24 &mdash The International Court of Justice unanimously ordered Iran to release the American hostages. In a split decision, the court ordered Iran to pay damages to the U.S. for the crises.

Day 250, July 10 &mdash Khomeini, on the advice of Iranian doctors, ordered the release of US. State Department official Richard Queen for medical reasons. Doctors at the U.S. Air Force hospital in Wiesbaden later diagnosed Queen's ailment as multiple sclerosis.

Day 267, July 27 &mdash The shah died in Cairo. U.S. officials expressed doubt that his death would lead to a speedy release of the hostages.

Day 269, July 29 &mdash After a state funeral shunned by most world leaders, the shah was buried in a Cairo mosque.

Day 314, Sept. 12 &mdash Khomeini listed his conditions for release of the U.S. hostages. Missing from his list was an earlier demand that the United States apologize for supporting the shah.

Hopes soared when Iranian leaders begin sending signals that the U.S. had already met most of the conditions.

Day 316, Sept. 14 &mdash The Iranian Parliament voted to open debate on the fate of the American hostages.

Day 319, Sept. 17 &mdash Iraq abrogated its 1975 border treaty with Iran, as border skirmishes between the two nations heated up.

Day 324, Sept. 22 &mdash Iraq and Iran border hostilities became a full-scale war, as Iraqi troops invaded Iran along a 300-mile front.

Day 350, Oct. 18 &mdash Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Rajai, in New York seeking U.N. condemnation of Iraq, told reporters he believed the U.S. has "in practice" apologized for its support of the shah and that a decision on the hostages "is not far away."

Day 365, Nov. 2 &mdash Iran's Parliament spent four hours in secret debate on the 52 American hostages. An attempt by hardliners to link the hostage issue to the Iran-Iraq war threatened to complicate the issue.

Day 366, Nov. 3 &mdash Militants who have held U.S. hostages for the past year announced that they will hand over the Americans to the Iranian government and will join fighting against Iraq.

Day 367, Nov. 4 &mdash The 53 American hostages, including a free-lance journalist arrested by Iranian revolutionary guards, began their second year in captivity as Americans went to the polls to elect a president.

Day 368, Nov. 5 &mdash Iran rejected the United State's first response to its conditions for release of the hostages, saying "some provisions (of the U.S. reply) are contrary to the resolution approved by the Majlis (Parliament.)"

Day 372, Nov. 9 &mdash A spokesman for Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Rajai revealed that the government had not taken control of the American hostages.

Day 376, Nov. 13 &mdash Iranian diplomats said their government was beginning a detailed study of a U.S. response to conditions for release of the hostages, but they said 'the document does not seem to be very positive."

Day 382, Nov. 19 &mdash The U.S. has agreed in principle to Iran's four conditions for releasing the hostages, but until Washington implements them, the hostages will not be freed, the leader of the Iranian Parliament said. Secretary of State Edmund Muskie later confirmed that the conditions had been accepted in principle.

Day 401, Dec. 8 &mdash Iran said the United States' latest response to the Iranian conditions for the release of the hostages was "much clearer" and "much closer to a solution" than previous answers.

Day 404, Dec. 11 &mdash A top Iranian official said his country will not accept a U.S. proposal to allow U.S. courts to decide whether the late shah's wealth belongs to Iran or the shah's heirs &mdash the main stumbling block to release of the hostages.

Day 410, Dec. 17 &mdash Anti-clergy rioters tore up pictures of Khomeini and clashed with members of the Revolutionary Guards. Signs of instability in the Iranian government caused U.S. officials to fear that hostage talks could be delayed.

Day 414, Dec. 21 &mdash Iran demanded that the U.S. government deposit $24 billion in Algeria's central bank in exchange for release of the hostages, a demand U.S. officials called "unreasonable" and "a ransom demand."

Day 421, Dec. 28 &mdash Iranian mobs marched through the streets demanding that the Iranian government set a deadline for the U.S. to meet its demands.

Day 424, Dec. 31 &mdash Iran's main hostage negotiator said his government would accept a U.S. counterproposal to assure the return of Iran's wealth if it was acceptable to Algeria.

Day 431, Jan. 7 &mdash A top Iranian official said Iran has generally accepted the latest still-secret proposals for resolving the 14-month old hostage crisis. But U.S. officials said important issues remained to be resolved.

Day 432, Jan. 8 &mdash American negotiators gave Algeria another urgent message for Iran in a dramatic bid by the Carter administration to buy freedom for the hostages before Carter's term ended.

Day 435, Jan. 11 &mdash Iran dropped its demand that the U.S. deposit $24 billion in Algeria's central bank, and instead asked for international guarantees that the shah's wealth would be returned. This was a major turning point in the standoff.

Day 436, Jan. 12 &mdash The Iranian Parliament met in secret session. to consider proposals to end the Americans' 14-month captivity.

Day 438, Jan. 14 &mdash Iran's parliament cleared a major hurdle in negotiations to free the hostages by accepting a plan for arbitration by a third party over its claim to the late shah's wealth. An Iranian hostage negotiator said the parliament wanted to end the matter "within the next two or three days."

Day 442, Jan. 18 &mdash Iran's top negotiator told an Iranian newspaper that an agreement had been reached to release the hostages, but State Department officials in Washington said they were awaiting official word from Algeria.

Day 443, Jan. 19 &mdash Legal documents ending the 14. months of captivity were signed by Iranian officials, paving the way for the 52 American hostages to leave Tehran.

Day 444, Jan. 20 &mdash America's 52 hostages walked a gauntlet of hostile Iranians, boarded two Algerian passenger jets, and left Tehran about 30 minutes after Ronald Reagan became the 40th president of the United States.

Twelve hours later, after stops in Athens and Algiers, they were welcomed by thousands of Americans at Rhein-Main Air Base. greeted with cheers and a chorus of "God Bless America."

The hostages and those greeting them had tears in their eyes, as the 14-month ordeal finally came to an end.


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