4 November 1979

Iran hostage crisis: A group of Iranian college students overruns the U.S. embassy in Tehran and takes 90 hostages.

The Iran hostage crisis, also known as the American hostage crisis, was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran that lasted for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981. It began when a group of Iranian militants, primarily students, stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and took 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage.

The crisis had its roots in the complex and contentious history of U.S.-Iran relations. One major factor was the U.S. government’s support for Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the monarch of Iran, who was seen by many Iranians as a puppet of the United States and a symbol of oppression. The Shah’s regime was marked by widespread corruption, human rights abuses, and a lack of political freedoms, which fueled popular discontent in Iran.

Following the success of the Iranian Revolution in early 1979, which led to the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of an Islamic Republic, anti-American sentiment in Iran intensified. The U.S. government granted asylum to the Shah for medical treatment, which further infuriated Iranians. The embassy takeover was framed as a protest against the United States’ interference in Iranian affairs and its perceived role in propping up the deposed Shah.

The 52 hostages were held in captivity for more than a year, and negotiations to secure their release were protracted and complicated. The crisis strained U.S.-Iran relations and had significant domestic and international ramifications. The United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and attempted a military rescue mission in April 1980, which ended in failure and the loss of American lives.

The crisis finally ended on January 20, 1981, coinciding with the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan. The hostages were released as part of an agreement known as the Algiers Accords, which involved the unfreezing of Iranian assets and a commitment by the United States not to interfere in Iranian affairs. The timing of the hostages’ release led to allegations that the Reagan campaign had made a secret deal with Iran to delay their release until after the 1980 U.S. presidential election, though these allegations were never conclusively proven.

The Iran hostage crisis had a profound impact on U.S.-Iran relations, contributing to the deep-seated mistrust between the two nations that persists to this day. It remains a significant historical event in both American and Iranian history and is often cited in discussions of international diplomacy, hostage situations, and the consequences of foreign policy decisions