The western media described the Iranian Hostage Crisis and an “entanglement of vengeance and mutual incomprehension.” After the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was admitted to the United States for a rigorous cancer treatment. Iran subsequently demanded his extradition to Iran to stand for crimes committed during his reign. More specifically, Pahlavi was accused of using his secret police to commit crimes against Iranian citizens.
Western Intervention in Iran
The original source of tension between Iran and the United States came decades before, when British and American corporations were controlling the majority of the country’s oil reserves. In 1951, Iranian prime minister Muhammad Mossadegh announced his plan to nationalize the country’s oil reserved. Responding to this, the CIA and British intelligence agencies devised a plan to overthrow Mossadegh and replace him with a Prime Minister whop they hoped would be more receptive to western influence in the Middle East.
After Mossadegh was overthrown, his reign was replaced with a new government run by the Pahlavi family. Reza Shah Pahlavi was notoriously anti-communist, secular and pro-West. IN exchange for significant currency in foreign aid, Pahlavi retuned 80% of Iran’s oil reserves to America and the British.
By the 1970s, Iranian citizens were unhappy with the rule of the Shah. They turned to the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a cleric who promised an Islamist movement that would break from the past and look towards a better future for the Iranian people. In 1979, under the guidance of Khomeini,
On November 4th, 1979, a group of students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took more than 60 Americans hostage. The immediate decision for this move was punishment to Jimmy Carter for allowing The Shah to receive cancer treatment in the United States. In addition, taking of the hostages allowed the student revolutionaries to step aside from Iran’s past and declare discontent America’s longstanding interferences in Iran.
Rescuing the Hostages
President Jimmy Carter ordered rescue missions using US warships. Dubbed Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt failed to rescue the hostages resulting in the deaths of eight American servicemen and one Iranian civilian. In 1980, six American diplomats were rescued in a joint American-Canadian mission. Shortly after Reagan was elected in 1980, the remaining diplomats were released, ending the Iran hostage crisis.