“The [Iranian] revolution abruptly changed from a serious problem for the United States to an all-out crisis on November 4, 1979, when young radicals stormed the U.S. embassy –the ‘Den of Spies’– and took hostage the sixty-six Americans still residing there.  The immediate provocation was Carter’s decision to allow the shah into the United States, but the hostage takers also feared a CIA plot to restore him to power, suspicions encouraged by Jackson’s statement and the Algiers meeting.  Some former hostage-takers now admit, moreover, their real purpose was to push the Bazargan government in more radical directions.  They had no idea the takeover would lead to a prolonged crisis; some now concede it to have been a mistake.  Khomeni at first opposed the takeover, but when he recognized its popularity he exploited it to get rid of Bazargan and solidify his own power.”  –George Herring, From Colony to Superpower, p. 850

Discussion Questions

  • How did historic US ties to the Shah of Iran limit its ability to negotiate a solution to the Iranian hostage crisis?
  • Assess President Carter’s failed efforts to end the crisis with Iran in the context of other elements of his foreign policy legacy.