Today in Middle Eastern history: the Iran Hostage Crisis ends (1981)

On this date in 1981 the Iranian government finally released the last 52 of the original 66 hostages taken when Iranian students/paramilitaries seized the US embassy in Tehran in November 1979. The Carter administration, when it wasn’t busy planning botched rescue operations, spent most of the 444 days those hostages were held captive trying to negotiate their release, but complications arose over and over again. The biggest complication by far was that Ayatollah Khomeini saw that embracing the embassy seizure made for good domestic politics. Which, in the immediate post-revolution atmosphere, was important, because it wasn’t a given that Khomeini’s Islamic Republic would be the ultimate outcome. The crisis was extraordinarily damaging to President Carter, who was running a tight race for reelection against Ronald Reagan. Who, of course, spent the summer of 1980 insisting that he would never “pay ransom for people that had been kidnapped by barbarians” (this was a principle in which he obviously believed very deeply).

Source: Today in Middle Eastern history: the Iran Hostage Crisis ends (1981)


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