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The Hostage Rescue Attempt In Iran, April 24-25, 1980



The following is an account dome by a student documenting through oral history, the events surrounding the Hostage Crises and Iranian Relations

Here is a link to the original location of this article:

The Rise and Fall of American-Iranian Relations: A Personal Account

By Samuel J. Moon
Interviewee: Mr. Henry Precht
Instructor: Mr. Glenn Whitman
St. Andrews Episcopal School
AP United States History
February 7, 2000
Table of Contents

I.Statement of Purpose

II. Biography of Mr. Henry Precht

III. The Iranian Hostage Crisis: Causes and Consequences

IV. Interview with Mr. Henry Precht

V. Interview analysis

VI. Bibliography
The purpose of this oral history project is to provide a deeper understanding of history by examining the experiences of an individual. Oral history is a way of making history more approachable. Because it is being viewed from a personal perspective, the document is colored with emotion and humor. This paper will provide a brief description of the Iran Hostage Crisis and then an interview with Mr. Henry Precht who was involved in the events. His unique perspective allows the reader a more thorough understanding of the crisis and why it occurred.


Mr. Henry Precht was born in Savannah Georgia in 1932 and grew up in the South. He is a Protestant by religion and is married with two children. He graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Being half German, a quarter English, and a quarter Welsh, he says that he was “always interested in international affairs.” He began his career working for the Navy and then briefly in the Labor Department.

In 1961 he became a member of the United States State Department. This took him to work at the American Embassies in Rome, Italy and Cairo, Egypt before he returned to work at the State Department in Washington DC. In Washington, Mr. Precht worked on Middle-Eastern affairs. In 1970, he went to work abroad again, this time in Mauritius, where he stayed for two years. In 1972 he moved to Iran where he lived for four years. He was the officer in charge of political-military affairs at the American Embassy in Tehran, the largest American Embassy in the world at that time with more than 1400 American employees.

In 1976 he returned to the United States and had a couple of jobs connected to military matters that were indirectly related with Iran. In June of 1978 he took over the Iran Desk at the State Department as the Director of Iranian Affairs. This was just at the time of the Iranian revolution. The American Embassy in Tehran was undergoing great upheaval as over ninety-five percent of the 1400 American employees returned to the United States for security reasons. Mr. Henry Precht coordinated this mass departure and recruited a team of around sixty “adventurous young men and women” (444 Days) to replace them.

During the Iran Hostage Crisis, which occurred between November 1979 and January 1981, Mr. Precht worked directly with President Carter during his term in office and was a chief advisor to the crisis team. When the crisis was concluded, Mr. Precht flew to greet the hostages in Wiesbaden, West Germany along with former President Carter and many other members of the State Department.

He is now retired and lives at home with his wife, Mrs. Marion Precht, in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Iranian Hostage Crisis: Causes and Consequences

During the 1960s and 1970s, tension between Iran and America was high. On November 4, 1979 this tension exploded into what became known as the Iran Hostage Crisis. 52 American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran and held captive for 444 days. Diplomatic errors on the part of both Iran and the United States created a rift between the two countries that has lasted more than twenty years.

Iran, known as Persia until 1935, is situated in the southeast part of the Middle East region, with the Caspian Sea to the North and the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman on the South. It borders Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to the North, Turkey and Iraq to the West, and Afghanistan and Pakistan on the East. Persia was a “crossroads of early civilization in the Middle East,” (Lawson 27) and had the Islamic faith imposed upon it by the Arab traders in the region. Persia was eventually ruled by a series of kings called Shahs from Tehran, the capital, who upheld the Shiite sect of the Muslim faith.

In 1908 oil was discovered in Persia and for the first time, industrialized Western nations such as Britain and the United States began to take an interest in the region.
There was a large influx of foreigners, particularly the British and the Russians who were interested mainly in political and economic affairs. The Americans in Persia were principally Christian missionaries, who established many schools “in which several thousand [Iranian] students were eventually enrolled... The Persian people resented this [British and Russian] dominance and resulting interference in their affairs, and came to look kindly on the apparently unselfish Americans” (Lawson 29).

After becoming independent in 1935, the Shah became increasingly harsh and found himself politically more closely allied to Germany’s dictator, Adolf Hitler, than to America. As a result, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union invaded Iran during World War II and established a new Shah, 22-year old Mohammed Reza Pahlavi whom they would be able to greatly influence. By the 1950’s America needed an ally in the Middle East close to the Soviet Union as the Cold War was beginning to ‘heat up’. Iran seemed an excellent option as the Shah was definitely in favor of American interests and Iran bordered the Soviet Union on both sides of the Caspian Sea. In an effort to uphold American influence in Iran, the CIA became deeply involved in an attempt to overthrow the Iranian prime minister, a nationalist and isolationist, called Mohammed Mossadegh. In 1953 they carried out ‘Operation Ajax’ by hiring many Iranians to stir up the people against him. They succeeded in forcing the prime minister from power, but the Iranian people were unsettled as hundreds had been killed in the process and their popular leader was gone. When the word began to leak out that America was involved in this violence, “there was for the first time a strong current of anti-Americanism abroad in the land” (Lawson 32). America had betrayed the trust that Iran had given her and had become involved in manipulating the political system in Iran.

At the same time the Shah’s personal friendship with America grew. He visited America a total of ten times and was visited several times himself, once by Vice-President Richard M. Nixon during Eisenhower’s presidency and a number of times by Vice-President Lyndon Johnson during Kennedy’s presidency. When the Shah passed a new law in 1964 granting American troops full diplomatic status, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the Iranian people were irate. Particularly outspoken was a Muslim leader called the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (see left) who said the agreement “reduced the Iranian people to a lower level than that of an American dog.” He blamed the leaders of Iran for “selling their country and roundly condemned them as traitors” (Bill 160). Usually the Shah would have ruthlessly put down a usurper such as this with his secret police called SAVAK, but, since the Ayatollah was a religious leader, he could not risk imprisoning him, so, he had him exiled to France. However Khomeini continued to influence the anti-Shah demonstrations from Paris, France.

Iranian-American relations deteriorated dramatically as a result of SAVAK’s increasing brutality. In 1976 Jimmy Carter was elected president. He attempted to help relations with the Shah by proposing to sell some new military equipment to Iran. Iran was at the time the biggest importer of American arms. The Shah went to America to discuss the proposal. The public outcry in Iran was massive and as a result huge demonstrations erupted. In the riots against the Shahs rule throughout Iran between 1978 and 1979, “an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 persons were killed and another 45,000 to 50,000 injured during the fourteen-month revolutionary upheaval” (Bill 236). On December 10, 1978 The Washington Post printed the following: “Tehran looked like a city expecting a siege. Opposition organizers claim that 1.5 million people - a third of Tehran - will march Sunday in a mammoth anti-Shah demonstration” (Randal A1). This marked a crescendo in the anti-Shah demonstrations that would eventually tear the Shah from power just over a month later, on January 17, 1979, when he would leave Iran forever. He spent the next few years moving from country to country asking for political asylum.

The Ayatollah quickly returned to Iran and on his arrival was greeted with great passion and in triumph. A student activist at the time, Farideh Mashinie, recalled, “the moment his plane landed and Imam Khomeini came down the steps, that very moment was the most beautiful moment of my life” (444 Days). Khomeini, with the country behind him, began to establish a radical Islamic government and appointed Mehdi Bazargan the provisional President of Iran. At the time the United States Embassy in Iran was the biggest US embassy worldwide with over 1400 American staff. This number decreased sharply with the departure of hundreds of American employees in response to the Ayatollah’s intensely nationalistic policy and the violent attacks by thousands of student activists in the next few months, until only about fifteen or sixteen were left.

The entire embassy, ambassador and all, were gone and were replaced by a small group of sixty adventurous Americans, headed by Chargé d’Affaires, Bruce Laingen. His mission was to somehow improve American-Iranian relations. Laingen and Henry Precht, Director of Iranian Affairs at the State Department, more or less ‘ran the show’ as the rest of the state department was occupied with other crises. By the summer of 1979, Laingen was able to state “We seemed to be having some success” (444 Days) and despite regular protests, the embassy was holding social events such as dinners and dances to which some Iranian officials were invited: Iranian-American relations were improving greatly. However, the Shah, who had been “moving from country to country searching for a safe haven” (444 Days), asked to be able to enter the United States for medical treatment as he was dying of cancer. Jimmy Carter considered this and held many conferences with his advisors. He finally decided to let the Shah into America, although there was a good chance that the Shah’s entrance to America would see a renewal of the violent demonstrations at the United States’ Embassy in Iran. Henry Precht, said, “As so many weak leaders do when they are confronted with conflicting choices, they select both of them. He [Carter] decided to keep the Embassy open and let the Shah in at the same time: A fatal mistake” (444 Days).

There were a few days of quiet in Iran, with little or no demonstrations, but a group of students were secretly planning a sit-in of the United States Embassy, which they carried out on November 4, 1979. Planned as merely a demonstration, the sit-in became a siege and within a few hours the sixty-six American diplomats inside the embassy were taken hostage. The embassy was totally unprepared for an attack and “a very large quantity of classified information fell into the hands of the student militants” (Sick, All Fall Down 190) which, much to their disappointment, did not supply the Iranian students with any definite conformation of their belief that America had been running Iranian politics through the Shah. However, they broadcasted as much information as they could to try to convince the world that the Americans were spies.

The hostages were moved around and separated. They spent many of the 444 days that they were held hostage in the embassy compound and in an Iranian jail. Some of them were tortured and threatened in an attempt to get information and thirteen Americans, mostly women and blacks, were allowed to return to the United States. The conditions in which the hostages were kept were miserable. The provisional government and President Bazargan strongly opposed the students’ actions, but Khomeini approved, and as a result of popular support being undoubtedly in his favor, the provisional government fell within a week. Now Khomeini had total control of Iran and the hostages. In response, Carter froze Iran’s multi-billion dollar assets in America, further damaging relations. However, he stated in a press conference, “I am not going to take any military action that would cause bloodshed... We’re going to be very moderate, very cautious...” (444 Days). And that seemed to be his policy for the first few months.

Negotiations went slowly through Christmas of 1979, when an invitation came for three priests to come to Iran to be with the hostages over Christmas Day. The invitation was quickly accepted and this was the first direct communication between the hostages and the world outside Iran during which some of the hostages were given news of their families. Another communication between the hostages and their families was made when the mother of one of the hostages managed to reach Tehran and had a brief interview with her son. Kevin Hermening remembers, “one noon hour they walked into my room and told me I was going to see my mom... it was very surreal” (444 Days). His mother, Barbara Timm, despite her jubilation at seeing her son said, “I was very, very frightened... It was probably the worst time I’ve had in my whole life” (444 Days).

At this point, Carter decided that negotiations were not going successfully and that a military rescue mission was necessary. Dr. Brzezinski, United States National Security Advisor, had been pushing for military action since November 20th 1979. “The decision to proceed with the operation was taken by President Carter on April 11, and it was scheduled to occur on the Iranian weekend evening of Thursday, April 24 [1980]” (Sick “Military Options and Constraints” 154). The mission was carefully planned: six aircraft and eight helicopters were to fly from the USS Nimitz in the Arabian Sea, and land on an airfield in Southern Iran. From there the helicopters would fly into a stadium adjacent to the United States Embassy compound and troops would force an entry into the embassy, rescue the hostages and return to the USS Nimitz. Unfortunately, two of the helicopters were lost due to technical failures in the first leg of the mission. This left the bare minimum of helicopters needed to rescue all the hostages. When a terrible accident resulted in the destruction of another helicopter and a cargo plane and the death of eight officers, Carter aborted the mission. However, he “behaved with great dignity. He made no excuses, sought no scapegoats, and accepted absolute personal responsibility” (Gordon). In his Report To Congress on the Failed Hostage Rescue Mission, Carter said, “The mission on which they embarked was a humanitarian mission. It was not directed against Iran. It was not directed against the people of Iran. It caused no Iranian casualties” (Hofstadter 580-1). However, this speech did little to convince the Iranian government of any form of trust between the two countries and the negotiations were slowed further.

The main reasons that the release of the hostages was delayed so long were, first, the Ayatollah’s personal hatred of President Carter (which the rescue attempt certainly did not improve). A second reason for the delay was that Iraq began “a full scale military invasion in September 1980” (Sick “Military Options and Constraints” 149). This gave the Ayatollah less time for negotiations with America.

Finally, Carter’s downfall was complete. The failure of the hostage crisis to this point increased his general unpopularity and he lost the election of 1980 to Ronald Reagan. The negotiations began to speed up in the period after the election and as Reagan’s’ inauguration neared, so did a conclusion to the crisis. The final agreement was that the US had to “lift the US economic sanctions against [Iran] as well as to return $12 billion in Iranian assets frozen in US banks [in return for the hostages]” (Lawson 39). However, the Ayatollah set the release date for January 20 1981, the day of Reagan’s’ inauguration. As soon as Reagan was sworn in, the hostages were set free and flew to Wiesbaden, West Germany, and then home to America. “The delayed departure deprived Jimmy Carter of the satisfaction of bringing the Crisis to a close ‘on his watch’. But it was announced that the ex-president was flying to West Germany Wednesday to greet the hostages” (Detroit Free Press A1). Delaying the hostage release was the Ayatollah’s final humiliation of President Carter.

In the next few years, relations between the US and Islamic countries throughout the Middle East suffered. The revolution in Iran was spreading with the help of Ayatollah Khomeini to surrounding countries such as Syria and Lebanon.
The Ayatollah and his government were satisfied with the result of the Hostage Crisis, as Iranian politics were no longer dominated by America, as they had been since the Mossadegh incident in 1953. His regime in Iran had received international attention and there was no loss of pride on the Iranian side. As a result of this success another hostage situation arose in the Iran-Contra Affair of 1987, which brought about a huge embrolio of foreign policy violations.

The problem in the Iran Hostage Crisis was that neither Iran nor America really understood the other country. America saw the Shah as representing Iran while actually the Iranian people were protesting both the Shah’s rule and the American dominance in Iranian politics. The Iranian people saw the Shah as a representative of America, cruel and brutally oppressive; and that is the tragedy of American-Iranian relations.

Interview Transcription
Interviewee: Mr. Henry Precht
Interviewer: Samuel Moon
Date: Dec 26, 1999
Location: Mr. Precht’s temporary residence; Barons Court,
London, England

Samuel Moon: How did you become a member of the State Department?

Henry Precht: I was always interested in international affairs: I was in the Navy and worked briefly in the Labor Department. I took the examination in 1961: written exam, oral exam, health exam, passed it and went first to Rome, then to Egypt, then back to Washington, working on Arab-Israeli affairs. Then after Mauritius, two years there, I spent four years in Iran. I was the officer in charge of political-military affairs.

SM: What was the relationship between Americans and Iranians while you were there?

HP: At the time that I served there, 1972 to ‘76, there were very close relations between the two countries. That is between the Shah and his government, and the government of the United States. I can’t say that there were particularly close relations between the two peoples, although there were numerous business connections. The Shah and OPEC raised the price of oil. That gave him a lot of money to spend, which he spent on arms and development projects and a variety of things, which brought in American businesses.

SM: How did the Shahs regime come to be? The people didn’t like him at all...

HP: The Iranians suffer from a case of arrested political development. They had had a constitutional revolution in which the Shah of the time, that is 1903, had a constitution imposed on him by merchants, intellectuals and religious leaders. Then the British and the Russians interfered and blocked that development. After World War I and the Russians had faded from the picture, the British manipulated the political system and put an army officer, Reza Khan, on the throne as the Shah in 1925. He became the head of the new dynasty. In 1941, he was too friendly with the Germans and as the War [W.W.II] had broken out in Europe, the British deposed him and put his young son who was about then about 21 years old on the throne. He was quite a weak figure at the time. Later on he had trouble with the more independent minded government, led by Prime Minister Mossadegh, who wanted to nationalize the oil industry. The American CIA together with the British succeeded in deposing Mossadegh through control of Iranian crowds and brought the Shah, who had fled briefly into exile, back and put him on the throne. Then through the CIA and other agencies helped to keep him on the throne by developing a security apparatus in Iran.

SM: So the Mossadegh affair was really what began the negative relations between Iran and America?

HP: I think that is correct; until that time the Americans enjoyed relaxed policy in Iran because they hadn’t been involved as the British and the Russians had in manipulating Iranian politics. After 1953 though, we were blamed for preventing the full development of Iranian politics.

SM: You were Director of Iranian Affairs; you weren’t actually living in Iran at the time of the Hostage Crisis...

HP: Yeah, after I lived in Iran, working at the Embassy from ‘72 to ‘76, I returned to Washington. I had a couple of jobs, only indirectly related to Iran, mainly with military matters. In June of ‘78 I took over the Iran Desk at the State Department. The revolution, we didn’t call it that then, was in progress and people were worried by the troubles the Shah was experiencing with street riots and things got worse. I was one of those who believed the Shah’s days were numbered, I came to that view earlier than most people, and I suffered because that wasn’t American Government policy.

SM: What was your impression of the American Iranian relationship at that time?

HP: When I first arrived in Iran, I was struck by the lack of any political freedom at all. I wondered how a country that was developing in a modern sense, that is they had professional people, they had an economy that manifested itself with western involvement, a traditional economy. I wondered how the new engineers, the doctors, the accountants, how they could function without any political life at all. They couldn’t stretch themselves at all. We came to the conclusion that it was a country that was ‘making it’ for the first time. A country in which people suddenly had money; they could educate their children, they could buy a car, and they preferred that to having
political rights.

SM: So they felt secure in their political regime at the time and didn’t want to change that...

HP: They didn’t want to run the risk of disrupting life when the Shah had such an iron control.

SM: Was it hard being an American in Iran then?

HP: No, people were not unfriendly to us, although while I was there for four years, six Americans were assassinated. My daughter was driving with some friends at the embassy and the car behind them was shot up. An Iranian employee was killed, so from then on we drove around in bulletproof vans and we followed very strict security procedures, but we didn’t have difficult encounters with Iranians in the bazaars and that sort of thing.

SM: So the general feel was fairly neutral?

HP: It was fairly neutral, but I wouldn’t say it was a friendly country. I lived in Egypt when our relations were terrible, that is with Nasser, but I had many more friends in Egypt than I did in Iran.

SM: You were returning from Iran when the hostages were taken on November 4th 1979. Where were you when you heard the news?

HP: I had gone to Iran for two weeks, as country director, to see how it had changed since I had lived there two years earlier. When I left Iran, I believe it was on a Wednesday; I came to London to visit my daughter who was in school. Then I went back home to call the State Department because I was uneasy about the way things had seemed to be developing. The State Department said everything seems to be under control, there had been a threat of a demonstration at the embassy, but it had passed. So on Friday I went up to see my son at his school in New York State, and then when I was driving back on Sunday, I turned on the radio at noon and I heard that the embassy had been seized, and I knew we were in big trouble.

SM: So what was your reaction to the news... did you do anything?

HP: [smiles] I just continued driving to Washington, and when I got there I went immediately to the State Department, where people were gathering and trying to figure out what to do.

SM: One of the reasons the hostages were taken was because the Shah had been allowed back into America, which had sort of enraged the people...

HP: There was, ever since the Mossadegh incident, in which the Shah had fled the country and been brought back by the Americans, there was a fear that, once the revolution had succeeded, the Americans would try to undo that by putting the Shah back on the throne. So when he was brought to the United States many people thought: Ah, this is the first step in that direction. However, when I arrived in Iran in the middle of October, we went to see the Prime Minister and asked if they would protect the embassy. They said they would do their best to protect us, and there was no problem for two weeks. But then these students thought that perhaps they could force the hand of the embassy by seizing the compound.

SM: And you were actually in Iran during those two weeks...

HP: Right. I went to see many leading politicians, including religious leaders. None of them, none of them, complained to me of the Shah being in the United States.

SM: After the Shah had been admitted, is there any way a violent retaliation could have been avoided, do you think?

HP: Umm, I think, my feeling was that if we defended the Shah, we were putting ourselves in jeopardy in Iran. We couldn’t do both things. I think we were asking for trouble when we did that. Could we have avoided it? If we had reduced the staff or closed the embassy we would have avoided it. Otherwise we were always going to be at risk.

SM: How did Jimmy Carter handle the crisis?

HP: At the beginning?

SM: Yeah...

HP: At the beginning one didn’t know what to do... There were two options I think. One was to try to force the Iranians to release the Americans by either threatening them: giving them a certain time period and then saying, if you don’t do it by then, bingo you’re going to be hit. Or by negotiating with them. Dr. Brzezinski argued for the use of threats and force. I argued against it. I knew most of the people who were hostages. I had recruited them to go to Tehran; I couldn’t put their lives at risk. We didn’t know where they were. We didn’t have any way of knowing if we could successfully rescue them. That was extremely doubtful. I thought, this is an Iranian problem; we have to let the Iranians find the solution in their own way.

Carter had the intense pressure of the American public opinion: he had to be shown doing something. So he appointed a special envoy to go to Iran and give a letter to Khomeini to demand that the hostages be released. I didn’t think that was going to pay off, I thought the Iranians would reject that kind of pressure, and I was right.

SM: How is it that you had lived there and were also the head of the department, yet he disagreed with you that much?

HP: Because he was responding to political pressure in the United States. When the public was outraged, the press was outraged; he had to be shown to be active. My preference would have been to say, OK, tell the Iranians were going to give you a certain amount of time. You work it out, then we can... You find a way. Your own, your own way. He had to be shown to be doing something so he sent this plane, Air Force One, with his special envoy; I was on board the plane. We took off on Monday, late in the day without Iranian permission to come. When we were over the Atlantic we heard that the evening news was announcing that we were on the way. The Iranians then said that we couldn’t land in Air Force One. We stopped in Spain and then we went to Athens to pick up a small plane, they didn’t want a big plane. Then they said you can’t come in any kind of American Government plane, you have to come in a commercial plane. We switched. We went to Istanbul to get a commercial plane. At that point Khomeini said no Americans could come at all.

SM: So the envoy never actually made it.

HP: No. We parked in Istanbul. We tried to telephone Tehran, but putting the Turkish telephone system together with the Iranian system, at that time, took hours to make the simplest call.

SM: Ayatollah Khomeini was the religious leader, and after the revolution and the preliminary government, became the leader of the regime. Why was he so hard to deal with, so hard to negotiate with?

HP: I think you’re talking about his personality... he had been opposed to the Shah since 1963, when he led demonstrations against the Shah. Actually it was against the Shah accepting an American requirement that our military advisors be tried in American not Iranian courts. Khomeini said if an Iranian kills an American he will be tried, but American kills an Iranian he will not be tried. He led these demonstrations but was suppressed by the Shah’s tanks. Khomeini was arrested and sent into exile, and there he brooded until he returned in 1979. He was a man who had an intense vision of what Iran should be like, but knew very little of the outside world, knew very little of negotiations. He objected (we are told now) to the seizure of the embassy because this was done independently of his decision. But then when he saw that the seizure was supported by many religious people, hard-line religious people, and also by many people in the street, he couldn’t go against them, and so he took this tough line.

SM: So did he feel that the hostages were an asset?

HP: I don’t think so, initially, but I think... The crisis was, in part, a result of inexperience and ignorance on both sides: the American side and the Iranian side. No one knew how to end this thing. He [Khomeini], dealing in very simple terms that no one talks to the Americans, made it impossible for us to negotiate with them, to have any kind of exchanges with them. Very soon the government that we had been dealing with, of Dr. Bazargan, resigned. Then there was no one, the new government that came in we didn’t know at all. Ghotbzadeh and Bani-Sadr. There was no one for us to talk to. Then a crucial thing happened. The embassy had not been able to destroy files. Until that time there had been simply an outrageous seizure of the embassy: no one could approve of that. But then when the files began to be published, they could portray our embassy as a ‘Nest of Spies’, as they called it, that we were there for espionage and to fight the revolution. So in Iranian eyes at least, this seizure had some justification. Further on, a couple of weeks into the crisis, there was a... Iran had huge sums, hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions of dollars, stashed in American banks since the days of the Shah. We thought that they were going to withdraw this money: take it out of our banks. If they did that, then our companies who had claims against them would have had no basis for a settlement of those claims. So, in order to preserve some leverage for our companies, we froze the money. That gave the Iranians [chuckle] yet another argument against us: that we were attacking them by taking their money. So, simply, in the beginning it had this snowballing effect.

SM: So it was a back and forth, give and take...

HP: Right.

SM: And that’s why it ran on so long, because it was 444 days from start to finish.

HP: Right. But once you got over this initial period, then we continued to hope that something, something would turn up and resolve our problem. Nothing turned up, so we did what governments do, we went to the World Court, we went to the Security Council, and we got legal action taken against Iran. But these revolutionaries couldn’t care less about the World Court or the UN; they were outside the system entirely. Quite frankly it made no impression on them at all. One aspect where we failed is that we couldn’t get the support of our allies or anybody else for a complete embargo on Iran. None of the Europeans would cooperate with us on that, and the Russians were intensely suspicious of us, as they thought that we were simply using this hostage crisis as an excuse for re-entering Iran and re-establishing ourselves on their border. So no one would collaborate with us, at this stage, in isolating Iran through sanctions.

SM: Why was that?

HP: I think they were looking for their own economic advantage. They probably didn’t think it would work; you know: the British, the French the Germans had considerable stakes. If we had refused to buy Iranian oil it would have sent the price of oil up; we would have disrupted their economy. So they wouldn’t go along with that. The Russians didn’t want to do us any favors, as it was the cold war. They later invaded Afghanistan [laughs] because they thought we were threatening them there... No country really would join with us fully in trying to isolate and pressure Iran.

SM: And then Jimmy Carter tried to do a forceful recovery of the hostages, a rescue mission...

HP: Before that, before that beginning in January of ‘79, we got in contact, almost accidentally, with a French lawyer and an Argentinean lawyer who had contacts in Tehran. The French lawyer had worked with Iranians before. He was a radical type. He was in contact with the Iranian Prime Minister, Ghotbzadeh, and using them as an intermediary in highly secret negotiations, we tried to create a scenario in which there would be an exchange of actions, a group would be appointed to go to Iran to investigate America-Iranian relations, various statements would be made. It was all a sort of play, written out, and approved by the Iranian side, we thought. It was all staged so that... this whole deal was secretly agreed to, we thought, by March, and supposed to be keyed by, we make a statement, they make a statement, the hostages would move out of the embassy to depart. All that failed. It all collapsed. We tried to revive the negotiations but it didn’t work: Khomeini wasn’t on board. The senior religious people would not play ball; the whole thing failed. We had no other recourse. None of the Europeans had any ideas. Carter decided... he yielded to the pressure of Dr. Brzezinski of trying a rescue mission. We had been opposed to that, we in the State Department, because we didn’t think it would work. So Carter... First he expelled the Iranians who still had an embassy open, and imposed sanctions. And then, I forget the precise date, the rescue mission was launched.

SM: How come it was handled so badly? Eight Americans died and several planes were lost.

HP: Those were accidents... when you do something in secret, that means you fence off people who know something. For example, they landed on this airfield in the desert, right next to a highway. The people who planned this were experts in landing in deserts perhaps [chuckles], but didn’t know that in Iran, in the hot weather, people travel at night, through the desert. So, what happened was, you know, inevitably, a bus came by when they had landed, spotted them. But there were also the sandstorms... Iran is a huge country: big as the United States East of the Mississippi. It’s a lot of distance to cover. Tehran is a huge city. We were only somewhat sure of where the hostages were being kept. There were so many imponderables, I think, that there was a very slim possibility that it could have succeeded without even greater loss of life than took place.

SM: Did you know about the mission before it...?

HP: No. No, we were not consulted at the State Department. As a matter of fact, the night, in Washington time, when it failed, I was called by my boss who said, “Henry,” about 4 AM or something like that, “Henry, you know that thing we thought, we feared they were going to try?” I said, “Yes, I can imagine.” [He said] “They did try it, it failed, come down to the State Department.” So, we had to go and pick up the pieces from there.

SM: Do you think the mission would have been more successful if people who had know Iran, lived in Iran and
people like yourself had been involved?

HP: I don’t think it could have succeeded because, you know, it required landing in a football stadium next to the embassy, and then going over the embassy walls and shooting down the people who were holding the hostages, finding them all on this huge compound. Then the three others away in the Foreign Ministry, getting them out too, coming back to the football stadium, taking off in helicopters, getting back to the base... I think there was slim, slim chance that it could have succeeded, no matter what experts you could have supplied.

SM: So it was more just another ploy of Carter’s to be doing something?

HP: I think it was a reflection of deep frustration he had. Now you have to remember that at this time he was being pressed by senator Kennedy, for the nomination, that is Presidential elections were coming up in November and the Primaries were being held and Kennedy was mounting a serious attack on his competency. The longer the hostage crisis went on, the worse shape he was going to be in for re-election. So those calculations, I hate to say it, I think they entered into his thinking.

SM: How was it finally solved?

HP: I think... time. [chuckles] Time wore down the Iranians. But, more crucially, Khomeini, back when our secret negotiations failed, he took himself out of the picture. He said the Iranian people are going to have to decide through their elected representative, which meant we had to wait until they elected their first parliament in the fall. So we had to wait until that stage. More importantly, a crucial thing happened: Iraq attacked Iran in September [1980]. Iran had weakened itself. By now every other [European] country, except the Russians had joined an economic embargo. Their military was decimated because arms dealers leaving and they were not able to get equipment... They were probably at a weaker stage than they might be... ever. Iran is a much larger country than Iraq, but Iraq was on very bad terms with Iran, had been for years, and [Iran] had accepted an agreement in 1975 that they had considered to be unfair. So they attacked in September and had success initially. I think the Iranians then knew that they had to get this hostage thing out of the way so that they could deal with Iraq without that impediment.

SM: It was slowing them down...

HP: Right. Getting rid of that thing. But there was another factor. One is that they hated Carter, they hated him for having been a friend of the Shah, they hated him for the rescue mission and they didn’t want to do anything to help him. So they refused to bring the thing to an end. The other thing is that they wanted their money back. They had these inflated ideas of how to get this. It entered into a large and difficult negotiation.

SM: So it was Ayatollah Khomeinis hatred of Carter that...

HP: There was that, but I think also the people around him were probably... not the best thing, but certainly he hated Carter. It was a personal animosity.

SM: Could Carter have expected to conclude the hostage crisis “on his watch”?

HP: Well he did conclude it by about 15 minutes. But I think, looking back, it would have been very difficult to do. I think the deal of the frozen assets was about as good a deal as the Americans could have gotten because this money was put into escrow [a suspense account] and the claim was going to be settled by an independent tribunal. That was a very good deal for us. It’s worked out very well, it’s still working. But, I think with the bitterness towards him, he wasn’t going to get any glory. If the Iranians had known, if they had had any world sense, they would have known that dealing with Carter was far preferable [chuckles] than dealing with Reagan. I think they did realize that, they wanted to punish Carter but they didn’t want to bother with Reagan, so they got rid of the problem before Reagan came in.

SM: The hostages actually left just an hour after Reagan was inaugurated...

HP: I think it was just about a few minutes after. Carter was on the way to the swearing in of Reagan at the Capitol.

SM: So Carter, in the eye of the American people at least, hadn’t finished it... The hostages were the main aspect, as far as the American people were concerned, and they didn’t leave until Carter was gone...

HP: I think they gave Carter credit for having gotten them out without loss of life, but there was no great respect for Carter. Immediately after the inauguration of Reagan, he let Carter use Air Force One to fly to Germany to greet the returning hostages. I was on that plane with a number of other people who had worked under Carter. I talked to Carter on the plane... I mean you can’t realize the feeling of great relief we all had. There was no bitterness of anybody, it was just simply relief that the hostages were free and that they had not been harmed.

SM: So despite his loss in the election Carter wasn’t too ‘down’?

HP: No, I don’t think... he probably was down; it had been a humiliating defeat. But I was called into his cabin on this plane, Air Force One, to talk to him about the individual hostages that he would meet and tell him something about each one. I warned him that he would very likely encounter intense resentment from them for having admitted the Shah and put them in danger, which resulted in their captivity. His attitude was, well, you have to live with it.

SM: He has to face up to it...

HP: He has to face up to it. I mean he did it very manly. I think, I mean I’ve heard from the hostages, that when they had gotten the story of what happened during their absence, they were very supportive and warmly greeted Secretary Vance who had resigned after the rescue mission, because they agreed with me that it could have been fatal for any of them. They were polite to Carter, there was no rudeness, no hostility expressed openly...

SM: They were probably just relieved...

HP: They were so thankful to be out... I must say that they were also not very friendly towards me, some of them, because they blamed me for...

SM: ...getting them into it...

HP: For getting them into that fix.

SM: Did things get cleared up later?

HP: Ohh, I think I’ve talked to many of them and I think there’s no hostility... I mean: twenty years, a lot has washed away...

SM: Were any of them good friends before hand?

HP: Oh yes. And they remain good friends. I didn’t know Bruce Laingen before he went out, but he has become a very good friend. Mike Metrinko, Victor Tomseth numbers of them. Most of these people, I had arranged for them to serve in Tehran.

SM: So...

HP: ...I mean, we remain friends. Some of them wondered why did you do this, why did you do that, you know, that kind of thing. Once I had explained my position they seemed to accept it...

SM: But they knew that your ideas had been to try and help them?

HP: Some of them probably still hate me but you know that’s part of life...

SM: What was the state of American-Iranian relations after the crisis in comparison to those before?

HP: Well, before they were very tenuous. We were trying, from the period between February, when the revolution succeeded, and November when the hostages were seized, we were trying to build a new relationship. We tried to convince the Iranians that we didn’t want to dominate them, that we didn’t want any special position; we just wanted an ordinary, normal relationship. And when I went to Iran, at that time no member of the embassy could meet with a religious leader, they refused to. I told Mr. Yazdi, the Prime Minister, that we weren’t going to make the same mistake as we had under the Shah, when we refused to talk to the opposition. I said we want to talk to everyone, we want to talk to religious minorities, Jews, Bah’ais, everyone, the opposition... He said what about the religious leaders? I said they wouldn’t talk to me. He said, I’ll fix it up, so I talked to Beheshti, I spoke to Montezeri, both Ayatollahs. That was our feeling: that we were going to deal with Iran like a normal country, not like somebody who was our client. But the Iranians could not get out of their minds that we had once dominated them and, being a superpower, would try to dominate them again.

SM: So the American people had seen Iran as the Shah, and the Iranians had seen America as being represented by the Shah. He was the real stumbling block...

HP: They viewed their leader as an American puppet. As I said, first we thought of Iran only in terms of the Shah: what the Shah wanted was what Iran wanted. Then, after the Shah was gone, we thought of Iran in terms of Khomeini: what Khomeini wanted was what Iran wanted. The latter was closer to the truth.

SM: ...the people were mostly behind him. And after the entire crisis was over, you dealt with everybody.

HP: That’s right, during that interim period. Then came the hostage crisis when things were frozen. Then afterwards I was gone [chuckles] from foreign affairs, but afterwards I think there was this huge barrier between us: Americans feeling badly wronged and then there was Reagan’s arms for hostages deal led by the Israelis...

SM: The Iran-Contra affair.

HP: Right. That was a terrible mistake. But over time that has faded, maybe not so much in the United States where there’s still lingering hostility, but in Iran now... I think the Iranians, now, are quite positive about the United States, except the political leadership...

SM: So if Americans interfered at all now...

HP: If we tried again, we’d be back down the same road...

SM: But other than that, commercially...

HP: No, we don’t trade with Iran. We don’t and we have various laws that we don’t want other countries to trade with Iran. We accuse Iran now of trying to develop nuclear weapons, of supporting terrorism, and opposing the Arab-Israel peace process. And they accuse us of trying to dominate them and holding their assets. But basically things have begun to mellow a bit and, I think, over time things will continue to...

SM: Do you think some of the accusations are just a political thing?

HP: Sure, there’s political mileage to be made on both sides. I mean conservative clerics want to use the United States as a way of defeating their more liberal opponents in Iran. In this country, opponents of Iran want to use any softness on Iran as a way of getting at the administration.

SM: How long do you think it will be before the situation between America and Iran will be totally cleared up... commerce will begin again?

HP: Uhh, well, we are now into an American election year. The Iranians are also having elections in February for their Parliament. The following year I think they are having elections for their President. I think in this period, very little is likely to happen, nobody is particularly going to want to take any risks. A lot will depend on who is elected in America and who is elected in Iran. But I imagine that in two or three years, things will begin to mellow considerably; if not sooner, because there is considerable appetite in Iran for the kind of technology and assistance that American businesses can bring to the country. They need it for the full development of their oil industry. They need it if they are going to modernize their economy.

SM: And America definitely wants the oil.

HP: They want the oil to flow, and who knows what else is going to happen in the Middle East. I mean it’s not a region that is particularly stable. We don’t have a problem at the moment with Iraq but who knows what else could happen, and we need to have... Or in Central Asia, or in South Asia... We need to have some kind of way of talking to Iran and trying to find common ground.

SM: Well I think that’s about it, Thank you very much.

HP: That’s it? Well, you asked good questions...

Analysis: The Importance of Oral History

The Iran Hostage Crisis was, and still is, a very controversial issue. Many errors were made by both Iran and the United States that created tension, not only between the two governments but also within the countries. For those
involved in the decision making, the entire period was extremely strenuous, yet the public was told little of the
personal disagreements within the government, particularly then, during the Cold War. The media focused more on
the event as a whole rather than the people involved.

It is valuable to have documented the impressions of a person who experienced the event, the negotiations and
the tension first hand. The twenty years that have passed since the hostage crisis have given those involved
enough time to see where things went wrong, but not enough to let them forget. This interview with Mr. Henry
Precht is historically valuable because, although there is a lot of written documentation about the hostage crisis, it
is mostly just analyzing the event rather than the experiences of those involved.

Mr. Precht had had many years experience in the Middle East and particularly in Iran. He lived in Iran for four
years and in Egypt before that. At the time of the crisis he was the senior officer dealing directly with Iran in the
State Department. This experience gave him an edge over most government officials as to life in Iran. He could
see both sides of the revolution in Iran and why the Shah was experiencing problems. He believed that the
Shahs’ “days were numbered” (Moon 12) at an early point. This put him at odds with the people around him
because it differed from United States Government policy. However he was absolutely correct.

He experienced enough of Iran to form a deep impression of Iranian lifestyle and contrast it to the United States.
He said, “I was struck by the lack of any political freedom at all. I wondered how a country that was developing in
a modern sense... could function without any political life at all” (Moon 12). He concluded that “it was a country
that was ‘making it’ for the first time. A country in which people suddenly had money; they could educate their
children, they could buy a car, and they preferred that to having political rights” (Moon 12). His insight into
Iranian life is valuable to this project as there was little information on Iranian lifestyle in my other sources. This is because few Americans were personally involved in the crisis and the few who did document their experiences
analyzed the event as a whole rather than their personal involvement.

The main events of the Hostage Crisis were already documented; so much of the interview merely verified my
research. This helps establish Mr. Precht as a reliable primary source. However, he told the story from beginning
to end and clarified the most important facts, which was very useful. One of the most important points was that
Mr. Precht did not believe that retaliation could have been avoided after the Shah was admitted in October 1979,
unless the embassy in Tehran was closed (Moon 15). Another important point was that Mr. Precht mentioned was
that many of President Carters actions during the hostage crisis were in response to “the intense pressure of the
American public opinion: he had to be shown doing something” (Moon 16). His first action was to send an envoy to
Ayatollah Khomeini to demand the release of the hostages. Mr. Precht said, “I thought the Iranians would reject
that kind of pressure, and I was right” (Moon 16). The envoy was never even allowed across the Iranian border.
Carter made a second decision that was fueled mostly by the desire to be “doing something,” the failed rescue
mission. Very few people were consulted about the mission and, because the few planners had little or no
experience of Iranian culture, they made a mistake.

The people who planned this were experts in landing in deserts perhaps [chuckles], but didn’t know that
in Iran, in the hot weather, people travel at night. So... inevitably, a bus came by where they had landed
and spotted them... There were so many imponderables; I think that there was a very slim possibility that
it could have succeeded without even greater loss of life. (Moon 20-21)

Oral history is a great way to document events in history because personal experiences help define a period just
as precisely as professionally documented historical events do. Mr. Precht's personal experiences in Iran allow
outsiders to see what life was like in the country in a way that has not been previously documented:

My daughter was driving with some friends at the embassy and the car behind them was shot up. An Iranian employee was killed, so from then on we drove around in bulletproof vans and we followed very strict security procedures, but we didn’t have difficult encounters with Iranians in the bazaars and that sort of thing. (Moon 13)

Mr. Precht’s presence on board Air force One when it was on its way to pick up the hostages in Wiesbaden is a
great example of how oral history goes beyond written documentation. He described the “feeling of great relief”
(Moon 28) everyone aboard had. In his conversation with the former President, Mr. Precht warned that he would
“very likely encounter intense resentment” (Moon 28). Carter’s response was “very manly” (Moon 28), according to
Mr. Precht. These observations show that first hand experience of an event can bring much more meaning to it
than a history book.

An important point, which my research had not shown, is that the political and religious leaders had not
complained to Mr. Precht about the United States admitting the Shah in October 1979 (Moon 14-15). This
introduces the possibility that the political and religious leaders were neutral on the subject; they probably knew
that the Shah was in very poor health and wanted to enter the United States only for treatment. As a result, they
were unsure whether they should take action or not. The rest of the Iranian population probably did not know why
the Shah entered the United States. Their reasoning was in all probability as Mr. Precht described.

There was, ever since the Mossadegh incident, in which the Shah had fled the country and had been brought back
by the Americans, there was a fear that, once the revolution had succeeded, the Americans would try to undo that
by putting the Shah back on the throne. So when he was brought to the United States many people thought: Ah,
this is the first step in that direction. (Moon 14)

Why the political and religious leaders went along with it when the student activists took the embassy hostage is
unclear. This would have been a great question to ask Mr. Precht during the interview, but they probably stood by
the students for lack of any alternative action.
The fact that the Iranian leaders appeared to be impartial may have been a deciding factor for President Carter in
leaving the embassy open in Tehran. This broaches one of the most central points of the entire issue: whether the
fundamental error was in letting the Shah in or keeping the embassy open. The fact that Mr. Precht was, 20 years
after the event, still unclear as to which was more a problem shows that, at the time, the question must have been
more confused. This added to Mr. Precht’s description of the rescue attempt exposes the danger of hindsight in
oral history, as it is difficult not to judge earlier events by their outcome. When one knows how a situation will end
up there is always a tendency to emphasize certain points that, in hindsight, were the most important, whereas at
the time the feeling may have been different. This points to the fact that oral history is most effective when it is
supplemented by documented evidence that can clarify confusing statements.

Also, the interview was, at times, a bit confusing because of blurred detail and this took away from the overall
effectiveness of the document slightly. One such case was on the topic of security for Americans in Iran. Mr.
Precht said, “No, the people were not unfriendly to us, although while I was there... six Americans were
assassinated” (Moon 13). However, after the interview Mr. Precht clarified that a small number of militant groups
were responsible for most of the hostilities and the grand majority of the population was much more welcoming.

These aspects of the danger of hindsight and blurring of detail appear to be some of the weaknesses of oral history
that can be illustrated in this project. However, the gains of first-hand experiences in oral history far out weigh the

Oral history is an important way of documenting and analyzing history because it is directly from a primary source and as such enhances the ‘collective memory’ of history. Although the interviewee may not always remember
everything from his or her history, they do remember personal experiences, which can shape a time period just as
effectively as history books written by experienced historians. During the Iran Hostage Crisis, there were not very many people directly involved in such a high up position as Mr. Precht. This documentation of his personal
experiences during that time is a valuable resource about life in Iran, working in the State Department, and the
hostage crisis. Interviews with former hostages, the student leaders of the hostages, and religious leaders in Iran, would be the next people to interview as their experiences would be able to define the event from different
perspectives and therefore improve the collective memory of the period. Without an interview, a project on the Iran Hostage Crisis would be less emotional and probably boring, as it would consist only of facts dredged from history books. An interview brings a history project to life. Personally I found that this project was challenging in its consumption of time and effort. However, it did give me a good understanding of an event that I previously knew nothing about.


Bill, James A., The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988

444 Days. dir. Leslie Woodhead. Videocassette. Antelope in assoc. with The History Channel, BBC, International
Télé Images, 1998.

Gordon, Craig L., “US-Iranian Relations and the Hostage Crisis.” Roots of the Reagan Revolution (1997) Online.
Internet. 4 Feb. 2000. Available:

Mooney, Edward, “Flags of the World.” Fringe Flags on the Web (1998) Online. Internet. 4 Feb. 2000. Available:

Hofstadter, Richard and Beatrice, Great Issues in American History Vol. 3 From Reconstruction to the Present
Day, 1864-1981. “Foreign Policy 1958-1981, Document 12, Jimmy Carter, Report To Congress On The Failed Hostage Rescue Mission To Iran, April 26, 1980,” New York: Vintage Books, 1982

“Hostages Go Free; Reagan Sworn In. Iran Releases All 52 as Tehran Mob Jeers”, Detroit Free Press. 21 Jan. 1981: A1

Lawson, Don, America Held Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and the Iran-Contra Affair. New York: Franklin Watts, 1991

“Maps of the Middle East”, The Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas at Austin (1999)
Online. Internet. 12 Dec. 1999. Available:

McFadden, Robert, Joseph B. Treaster, and Maurice Carroll. No Hiding Place. New York: Times Books, 1981.

Precht, Henry, Personal Interview. 26 Dec. 1999

Randal, Jonathan C. “The Peacock Fades.” Washington Post. 10 Dec 1978: A1

Sick, Gary, All Fall Down: America’s Tragic Encounter With Iran. New York: Random House, Inc. 1985

Sick, Gary, “Military Operations and Constraints.” American Hostages in Iran. Ed. Paul H. Kriesberg. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985. 144-172.

The Following Story was originally located here:


This article is from "The American HEritage" magazine, from an article entitled, "My Brush with History"

http://www.americanheritage.c om/98/may/032b.htm I was eleven, and my family had been living in Iran for
more than three years while my father was attached to the American Embassy in Tehran. In its Middle Eastern
way, both lazy and exuberant,Tehran had been good to me. But that was about to change. In early November
of 1978, after months of escalating tensions, my school became engulfed in an anti-shah demonstration that
broke its bounds and turned into a riot. That afternoon on the soccer field, we dropped to the ground when a
nearby building blew up; a fire set by rioters had ignited the big diesel fuel tank in the basement. Though
shaken, our teachers tried to maintain a normal schedule for the rest of the day, even though we could hear
the crowds growing outside the school compound. At day's end we were told via loudspeaker not to go to our
buses but to return to our homerooms and await instructions. Our room was on the second floor, and my
classmates and I rushed to the window to look over the compound wall to see what was happening.

As far as we could tell, it was chaos. Everyone was waving a sign and yelling angrily. A few people lay
scattered on the street and sidewalks; we couldn't tell if they were hurt or dead. Finally we saw tanks
approaching the crowd, apparently to contain the riot or cut off escape. At the age of eleven one doesn't think
of danger, only adventure, and we crowded around the open window—an eager audience to the unfolding

As the tanks moved closer, an Iranian friend of mine, Neda, started to pray. This scared me. Did she know
something we didn't? We all knew her father had something to do with SAVAK, the Iranian secret police, and
we waited nervously for something to happen. We heard the low-flying helicopters before we saw them, and
although we suspected that the yellowish gray smoke billowing in their wake was not a good thing, we had no
idea it was tear gas until we were overcome. We could barely see or speak as we stumbled downstairs into the
courtyard. Outside we managed to find a few adults, who hurried us back inside to wash out our eyes. That
just made the stinging worse.

Finally my bus number was called. Our principal boarded after us and ordered all foreign-looking students to
lie on the floor with our coats over our heads until we passed through the worst of the rioting. Ours was
aninternational school, but there were enough Iranian students sitting up so as not to raise suspicion. With our
bus driver yelling at each roadblock, we managed to make it to the northern
suburbs where most of us lived. Rather than snow days we began to have riot days, and we spent the next two
weeks at home while unruly mobs surrounded our school. This was fine with us, and we arranged "curfew
sleepovers" to lleviate the boredom. During one such sleepover I learned to belly-dance (sort of). At another,
in an apartment on the main north-south road through Tehran, we watched from a window at two in the
morning as hundreds of the shah's troops rumbled ominously past.

It happened two more times; we would go to school only to be sent home to wait another two weeks. Each time
we returned to class more friends had left. First the Iranian students fled, then the students from other Middle
Eastern nations, finally the Western Europeans. The last to be pulled out of school were the American, British,
and Norwegian students.

Neda was one of the first to go, and she vanished without a trace. I walked over to her house one day during
our enforced holiday to find it empty.

The neighbors would tell me nothing. Every evening I'd go up to the roof with my father to watch the riots,
which grew bigger and bigger, defying the curfew. He would radio the embassy, letting them know what was
going on in our neighborhood.

Some nights the military shot up huge flares, like fireworks, to aid in their work; other nights the demonstrators
set large buildings on fire. Every night was quite a show, and given that I was stuck at home, it was the most
interesting thing I saw all day.

One day my mother sent me to the corner store for eggs. Anti-American rhetoric was getting worse and worse,
but my mother thought that since we had lived here for almost four years, everyone knew us and we would be
safe. She was wrong. I had my first lesson in mob psychology that day, when my neighborhood friends threw
stones at me on my way home from the store. Although none of them hit me, the message was clear: We were
no longer welcome in this country. I did not go out alone again.

Soon afterward an embassy official telephoned our house. Because of the increasing death threats against
Americans, and in anticipation of a demonstration to mark Ashura, one of the most holy days of Shiite Islam, all
nonessential personnel were being evacuated in forty-eight hours. We could pack two suitcases each. If the
situation improved, we would be able to return, maybe before Christmas. My father would stay behind, but not
in the house. My sister, then five, screamed that she did not want to go, this was home, she would stay.
I—amazed and thrilled, truth be told, at the turn our previously peaceful life had taken—began packing.

I don't remember what I took with me; it was nothing special. Later, when we knew we would not be able to
return, I remembered vividly what I had left behind: my stuffed animal collection, jewelry box, photo albums,
books, drawings, records—in short, my life.

The next afternoon, a crisp, clear winter's day, all the evacuees met at the embassy; the cars and vans in its
motor pool had been bulletproofed four years earlier after a few terrorist attacks on Americans. We milled
about nervously, waiting for word on what would happen next. One family had brought their myna bird, hoping
to take it with them. Finally our convoy, with a Marine guard escort, set off for Mehrabad Airport.

The streets were absolutely still because everyone was already at the airport. I was not prepared for the crush
of desperate humanity trying to get a seat on any of the planes out. Most of the commercial flights into Tehran
had long since been canceled; Pan Am had been chartered to work the evacuation. Planes staffed by
volunteer crews were landing, boarding, and taking off every hour. Sadly, while other nations were doing what
they could for their citizens, there were not many choices. Iranians who wanted to leave had to
persuade their countrymen to let them out and a foreign government to let them in. Desperation mounted, and
I saw rolls of rials change hands a number of times. Some families had camped out at the airport for days,
putting their names on every list for a flight out.

Rumors were flying about Khomeini's imminent return. I found out later many of the evacuation flights did not
have proper clearance, and everyone feared trouble. On the plane I found three or four classmates, which was
not surprising since the entire expatriate population was trying to leave.

Everyone was quiet as we took off. Soon the magnitude of what had happened started to sink in, and the
adults talked about whether they would ever be back and what they had left behind. In many cases whole
households had been sacrificed for the chance to leave before the anti-American sentiment burst into
violence. When we left Iranian airspace and began flying over Turkey, the adults cheered, after which
everyone perked up. I left my seat to play cards with my friends. We all congratulated one another on being
part of something so exciting and wondered if anyone outside Iran would believe us.

Barely aware of the commotion the revolution had caused in the rest of the world, we were surprised when a
flight attendant asked us if the rumors were true, if the shah was on the plane. We laughed and said that if he
were, everyone would know it. She explained that there had been talk that he would try to leave the country in
disguise. Hearing that, we jumped up and set about looking for him. Since his picture had been everywhere in
Tehran—in shops, in homes, even inside the cover of our school notebooks—we figured we had as good a
chance as any to discover him.

We debarked in London expecting to stay with friends for only a few days. But following an initially peaceful
demonstration, order in Iran swiftly and completely broke down. Although not politically sophisticated,
understood momentum, and on some level I knew that the momentum was not in our favor. We waited in
London for two weeks with growing uneasiness and then, relinquishing all hope of returning to Iran, flew to my
grandmother's house in Indiana.

Three weeks after we left, the shah fled and Khomeini returned triumphant. Iran became an Islamic republic.
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran deteriorated, then disintegrated. My father stayed until
June of 1979, avoiding being taken hostage by a few months.

Some days a slant of light, a languid camel at the zoo, or a mercantile transaction of exuberant proportions
reminds me that politics can become very personal.

—AMY RUKEA STEMPEL, a freelance writer, lives in Arlington, Virginia.


Case Studies in Economic Sanctions and Terrorism
Case 79-1

US v. Iran

(1979–81: Hostages)

© Peterson Institute for International Economics. All rights reserved.

Chronology of Key Events

16 January 1979 Shah Reza Mohammad Pahlavi flees Iran for Egypt; Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini, religious leader, announces from exile in Paris
he will appoint provisional government to rule Iran. (Congressional
Research Service [CRS] 1981, 12)

1 February 1979 Khomeini returns to Tehran; on 11 February, Prime Minister
Shahpour Bakhtiar is succeeded by Mehdi Bazargan, Khomeini
supporter. (CRS 1981, 12, 14–15)

14 February 1979 US embassy in Tehran is attacked, overrun; about 100 hostages are
taken but released few hours later when Khomeini supporters
disperse militants. (Rubin 1980, 369)

9 March 1979 Middle East Economic Digest reports large US oil companies, with
US government support, have agreed to boycott Iranian oil on world
market. (CRS 1981, 19)

22 October 1979 Shah arrives unannounced in New York City for medical treatment.
On 3 November, Iranian Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yazdi formally
protests US decision to admit shah. (CRS 1981, 34–35)

4 November 1979 Demonstrators overrun US embassy in Tehran, taking
approximately 100 hostages, about 60 of whom are Americans.
Demonstrators demand that US extradite shah. (CRS 1981, 35)

5 November 1979 Iran abrogates 1959 Cooperation Treaty with US, 1921 Friendship
Treaty with USSR. Khomeini condones embassy takeover. (CRS 1981, 36)

6 November 1979 President Jimmy Carter sends Ramsey Clark, former attorney
general, William Miller, Senate Intelligence Committee staff chief,
to Iran to negotiate hostage release; Khomeini refuses to meet them.
(CRS 1981, 36)

8 November 1979 US halts shipment of military spare parts to Iran. (CRS 1981, 38)

10 November 1979 Carter orders 50,000 Iranian students in US to report to immigration
office with view to deporting those in violation of their visas. On 27
December 1979, US appeals court allows deportation of Iranian
students found in violation. (CRS 1981, 38, 71)

12 November 1979 Invoking section 232 of Trade Expansion Act of 1962, and finding
national emergency, Carter embargoes oil imports from Iran. Iran
responds with oil export embargo against US. (CRS 1981, 38)

13 November 1979 US House of Representatives votes 379 to 0 to prohibit foreign aid,
military assistance to Iran. (CRS 1981, 38)

14 November 1979 Invoking International Emergency Economic Powers Act, Carter
freezes Iranian deposits in US banks and foreign subsidiaries,
following announcement indicating that Iran might withdraw those
assets. Tehran press announces closing of Iranian airspace,
territorial waters to US aircraft, shipping. (CRS 1981, 39)

18 November 1979 Iran releases black and most women hostages. (CRS 1981, 40)

23 November 1979 Foreign Minister Abol Hassan Bani Sadr repudiates Iran's foreign
debt. Iran estimates it at $15 billion, Washington Post at “closer to
$7 billion.” (CRS 1981, 42)

4 December 1979 UN Security Council resolution calls for release of hostages,
peaceful settlement of US-Iranian differences, participation by
Secretary General Kurt Waldheim in resolving dispute. (CRS 1981, 50)

15 December 1979 International Court of Justice orders release of hostages, restoration
of US property. (CRS 1981, 61)

26 December 1979 USSR occupies Afghanistan. (New York Times, 27 December 1979, 1)

29 December 1979 US proposes in UN Security Council that Secretary General
Waldheim return to Tehran for another attempt at mediation; US
also proposes economic sanctions if agreement cannot be reached
within one to two weeks. (CRS 1981, 73)

12 January 1980 Half an hour before a scheduled UN vote on sanctions, Iran submits
written three-part proposal for releasing hostages. Vote is postponed
to clarify details of proposal, which seems to involve UN
investigation into “crimes” of the shah, UN endorsement of Iran’s
extradition request to Panama, return of shah’s assets to Iran. (CRS 83) 3

13 January 1980 Iran fails to clarify its proposal; USSR vetoes US proposal for
economic sanctions. US reiterates its determination to apply
unilateral economic sanctions, seek allied support. (CRS 1981, 84)
29 January 1980 Six Americans are smuggled out of Iran by Canadian embassy
officials. (Rubin 375)

7 February 1980 US State Department announces that additional economic sanctions
will be held in abeyance while diplomatic negotiations at UN
continue. (CRS 1981, 101)

7 April 1980 Carter escalates program of economic sanctions. He breaks
diplomatic relations with Iran; imposes export embargo (excluding
food, medicine); orders inventory of $8 billion in frozen assets and
inventory of US financial claims against Iran to be paid out of those
assets; cancels all Iranian entry visas; closes Iranian embassy in
Washington, five Iranian consulates; orders departure of all 35
remaining diplomats, 209 military students. Carter threatens to take “other actions” if hostages are not released promptly. (CRS 1981, 148)

17 April 1980 Carter announces further economic measures. He prohibits all
financial transactions between US citizens and those of Iran;
imposes import embargo; bans travel to Iran except for journalists;
releases, for US purchase, impounded military equipment intended
for use in Iran; asks Congress to pass legislation to permit use of
frozen assets for claims, reparations. (CRS 1981, 158)
25–27 April 1980 Carter launches unsuccessful military attempt to rescue hostages;
Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance resigns; shah dies in Egypt. (CRS
1981, 168, 250)

22 September 1980 Iran-Iraq border dispute intensifies into full-scale war. (CRS 1981, 301)2–

20 November 1980 Iranian parliament (Majlis) issues conditions for release of hostages:
US to pledge not to interfere in Iranian affairs in future; US to
release frozen assets; US to lift economic sanctions; US to return
shah's wealth to Iran. Carter responds that the conditions “appear to
offer a positive basis” for resolution of crisis.

On 10 November
secret negotiations, led by Deputy Secretary of State Warren
Christopher, commence in Algeria.

On 20 November, Secretary of
State Edmund S. Muskie says US has accepted conditions “in
principle.” (CRS 1981, 367, 391)

29 November 1980 Militants at US embassy in Tehran transfer responsibility for
hostages to government. (CRS 1981, 398–99)

19 January 1981 Algeria announces commitments agreed to by US, Iran pertaining to
release of hostages: declaration of noninterference in Iran by US;
establishment of escrow account in Bank of England for transfer of
frozen assets; agreement for settlement of claims; revocation of
sanctions; release of hostages; blocking of transfer of shah's wealth,
giving government of Iran access to US courts to sue for its return;
prohibition on prosecution by hostages or their families of claims
against Iran for seizure of embassy. (New York Times, 20 January
1981, 1; Carswell 1981–82, 254)

20 January 1981 Ronald Reagan is inaugurated as president; hostages are released in
exchange for partial transfer of Iranian assets; on 18 February 1981,
Reagan administration decides not to renounce accords. (Malawer
1981–82, 485)

2 July 1981 US Supreme Court in Dames & Moore v. Regan (453 US 654, 1981)
upholds accords by denying right of US firm to make claims against
Iranian assets except in context of arbitration agreement. (Malawer
1981–82, 477)

18 August 1981 US transfers Iranian funds to escrow account in The Hague, as
authorized by accords. (Malawer 1981–82, 485)
April 1983 “Business contacts and commercial agreements between the United
States and Iran, interrupted four years ago when Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini came to power, are slowly, haltingly resuming.”
(Washington Post, 10 April 1983, F1)
Goals of Sender Country

14 November 1979
“Although it was not universally understood, from the beginning the blocking had a dual purpose,
the release of the hostages and the protection of the property claims of US individuals and
corporations against Iran. The President’s report to the Congress on [this day] explicitly stated
those objectives.” (Carswell 1981–82, 249)

28 November 1979
President Carter: “For the last 24 days our nation’s concern has been focused on our fellow
Americans being held hostage in Iran. We have welcomed some of them home to their families and
their friends. But we will not rest nor deviate from our efforts until all have been freed from their
imprisonment and their abuse. We hold the Government of Iran fully responsible for the well-being
and the safe return of every single person.” (Alexander and Nanes 1980, 481)

22 January 1980
Carter says US is ready to help Iran meet Soviet threat from Afghanistan, establish new
relationship following release of hostages. (CRS 1981, 90)
5 April 1980
White House press secretary Jody Powell states president's intent of applying political and
economic sanctions if hostages are not transferred to government custody. (CRS 1981, 146)

20 October 1980
Carter says that if Iran will free hostages, the US will release frozen assets, lift economic sanctions,
seek normal relations with Iran. (CRS 1981, 347)
Response of Target Country

5 November 1979
Khomeini, speaking immediately after embassy takeover: “...if they do not give up the criminals
[the shah and Shahpour Bakhtiar, former prime minister, exiled in France]...then we shall do
whatever is necessary....” (CRS 1981, 36)

28 December 1979
Iranian Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotzbadeh warns that increasing US economic pressure will
result in quick trial of hostages. On 14 January 1980, Ghotzbadeh says Iran could hold hostages
“more or less forever.” (CRS 1981, 72, 84)

11 January 1980
Iranian Oil Minister Ali Akbar Moinfar says Iran will cut oil shipments to any nation supporting
economic sanctions against Iran. He says Iran ships 1 million barrels per day to Western Europe,
Japan. (CRS 1981, 82, 86)

15 February 1980
Director of Iran's central bank says US must release $6 billion in assets frozen by Carter in
November 1979 before hostages will be freed. (CRS 1981, 106)

4 April 1980
Conservative clerical forces in Iran oppose any concessions to US, threaten total oil embargo-with
help of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq-against Western Europe, US if sanctions are imposed.
(CRS 1981, 146)

8 April 1980
Iranian leaders almost welcome imposition of general economic sanctions, generally agreeing they
will help rid Iran of American influence. Khomeini says sanctions are “good omen” because they
signal US recognition of permanent loss of influence in Iran; students at embassy are pleased
because sanctions will stop diplomatic efforts to have hostages released; Bani Sadr (now president)
says Iran can handle effects of sanctions, says they allow Iran to “break free” of US; Revolutionary
Council also “welcomes” action. Iran threatens again to halt oil shipments to any other nation
supporting sanctions. (CRS 1981, 149)

19 April 1980
Iran imposes oil embargo against Portugal. (CRS 1981, 160)

24 April 1980
Foreign Minister Ghotzbadeh says it is regrettable” that Europe has joined US sanctions but that
Iran will never surrender to “force” and “pressure.” (CRS 1981, 164)
13-14 June 1980
Bani Sadr says economic situation is worsening, and inflation, economic blockade, in conjunction
with people's fears, could create “sick economy.” Ghotzbadeh claims sanctions are not affecting
Iran. (CRS 1981, 207, 208)

3 August 1980
Bani Sadr says that US economic sanctions have increased cost of Iran’s imports by 20 percent to
25 percent, that Iran needs spare parts denied by sanctions, concedes that sanctions are hurting Iran.
(CRS 1981, 256)

1 September 1980
Ettelaat (newspaper in Iran) says Majlis should take up hostage question as soon as possible
because economic sanctions are causing “severe pressure” on Iran. (CRS 1981, 280)

2 September 1980
Iranian Oil Minister Moinfar says sanctions have failed, attributes drop in oil production to
deliberate decision to conserve resources rather than lack of spare parts or foreign technicians.
(CRS 1981, 281)

7 October 1980
Mansur Farhang, former Iranian representative to UN, currently aide to Bani Sadr, says it no longer
is in Iran's interest to hold hostages. (CRS 1981, 327)
13 October 1980
New Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Rajai states it is in Iran's interest to solve hostage
crisis but that US, for political reasons of its own, does not want it resolved. (CRS 1981, 336)

Attitude of Other Countries

On 4 December 1979, President José Lopez Portillo says US decision to freeze assets is “hasty,”
causes international monetary problem. (CRS 1981, 51)

On 14 December 1979, limits purchases of Iranian oil to 602,000 barrels per day, level prior to
hostage takeover. Foreign Minister Saburo Okita says Japan has been forced to buy Iranian oil on
spot market because of cutbacks in shipments by major US companies. (CRS 1981, 61)

On 18 January 1980, Japan announces willingness to cooperate with sanctions with exception of
Japanese-Iranian petrochemical project at Bandar Khomeini. (CRS 1981, 87)

On 22 April 1980, Japan says it will go along with sanctions supported by EC; Japanese cabinet
announces sanctions will become effective 2 June 1980. (CRS 1981, 87, 115)

30 December 1979: Tehran Radio reports Austrian ambassador to Iran as saying his country will
not cooperate with US economic sanctions against Iran. (CRS 1981, 74)

Soviet Union
9 January 1980: Tass says USSR “will not allow the US to impose a decision to apply economic
sanctions against Iran.” (CRS 1981, 81)

On 22 April 1980, USSR signs new trade agreement with Iran that, according to Iranian finance
minister, is expected to offset US sanctions. (CRS 1981, 163)


On 15 January 1980, in response to US request, Australia reviews trade relations with Iran. (CRS
1981, 85)

On 19 February 1980, Australia sells 450,000 tons of wheat to Iran for delivery in March, July
1980. (CRS 1981, 108)

On 21 April 1980, Australia bans all trade with Iran except for food, medicine. (CRS 1981, 162)
On 20 May 1980, Australia cancels all contracts, including those signed before 4 November 1979.
(CRS 1981, 189)

30 January 1980: Tehran Radio announces China has agreed to maintain normal economic,
commercial relations with Iran, to not cooperate with economic sanctions. (CRS 1981, 96)

On 6 May 1980, Poland signs trade protocol with Iran. (CRS 1981, 176)

European Community, Other West European Countries
On 17 January 1980, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt announces German support for sanctions against
Iran. (CRS 1981, 87)

On 17 April 1980, Portugal bans all trade with Iran-first US ally to do so. (CRS 1981, 158)

On 22 April 1980, EC foreign ministers agree to reduce diplomatic representation in Iran, suspend
arms sale, require visas for Iranian travel in Europe, discourage purchase of Iranian oil at prices
above OPEC standard of $32.50 per bbl. (Iran is asking $35.50 per bbl). Export embargo is
threatened if “decisive progress” is not made by 17 May. (CRS 1981, 163)

Sweden says it will not impose sanctions. Denmark, Britain, Norway recall ambassadors from Iran.
(CRS 1981, 163)
On 28 April 1980, following US military rescue attempt, EC heads of state reaffirm solidarity with
US, commitment to sanctions. (CRS 1981, 170)

On 13 May 1980, UK House of Commons passes enabling legislation for economic sanctions;
Danish Parliament votes to apply sanctions. (CRS 1981, 183)

On 18 May 1980, EC issues communiqué stating that, on 22 May 1980, all contracts concluded
with Iran since 4 November 1979 will be suspended. (CRS 1981, 187)

On 19 May 1980, UK decides against retroactive action on contracts concluded since 4 November
1979; instead it bans all new contracts after 22 May 1980. Other EC countries express dismay at
UK's action. (CRS 1981, 188)

On 21 May 1980, West German, French, Italian cabinets approve, take necessary legal steps for
implementation of EC sanctions. (CRS 1981, 190)

On 23 May 1980, Canada bans exports to Iran, discourages citizens from travel there. (CRS 1981,

Legal Notes
US International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, Sec. 203(a)(1)
“At the times and to the extent specified in section 202, the President may, under such regulations
as he may prescribe by means of instructions, licenses, or otherwise-
(A) investigate, regulate, or prohibit-
(i) any transactions in foreign exchange
(ii) transfers of credit or payments between, by, through, or to any banking institution to the extent
that such transfers or payments involve any interest of any foreign country or a national thereof
(iii) the importing or exporting of currency or securities; and
(B) investigate, regulate, direct and compel, nullify, void, prevent or prohibit, any acquisition,
holding, withholding, use, transfer, withdrawal, transportation, importation or exportation of, or
dealing in, or exercising any right, power, or privilege with respect to, or transactions involving,
any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest; by any person, or
with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Economic Impact
Observed Economic Statistics
Iran: Trade with United States and OECD countries, 1978–81 (millions of dollars)
Exports Imports
Total Total
1978 2,880 18,636 3,684 15,432
1979 2,784 15,084 1,020 5,885
1980 336 10,560 24 7,716
1981 63 6,996 300 8,088

Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Statistics on Foreign Trade—Monthly
Bulletin, various issues.
Iran: Assets subject to US freeze and their disposition (billions of dollars)
Sources: Carswell (1981–82, 256); Malawer (1981–82, 479).
Assets held outside US
Of which: 5.6
Claims representing Western loans to Iran 3.7
Escrow account for unresolved claims (nonsyndicated loans of US banks,
about $130 million of contested interest)
Cash returned to Iran 0.5
Assets in US
Of which 6.4
Holding in nonblank US companies, on deposit in US commercial banks 3.6
Deposits with NY Federal Reserve Bank, returned to Iran 2.4
On deposits at US Treasury against orders for US defense equipment 0.4
Total 12.0
Calculated economic impact (annual cost to target country)
Reduction of Iranian imports from US during 1980–81 by annual
average of $858 million from 1979 level; welfare loss calculated at 30
percent of face value of trade.
$257 million
Reduction in Iranian exports to OECD area during 1980–81 by annual
average of $6.3 billion from 1979 level; welfare loss calculates at 30
percent of face value of trade.
1,892 million
Estimated annual loss resulted from freeze of about $12 billion of Iranian
assets, at 10 percent of face value.
1,200 million
Total $3,349 million
Relative magnitudes
Gross indictors of Iranian economy
Iranian GNP (1979) $87.4 billion
Iranian population (1979) 37.0 million
Annual effect of sanctions related to gross indicators
Percentage of GNP 3.8
Per capita $90.51
Iranian trade with US as percentage of total trade
Exports (1979) 14
Imports (1979) 12
Ratio of US GNP (1979: $2,418 billion) to Iranian GNP 28
Robert A. Carswell
“Assessing the effect of the trade sanctions is difficult, particularly since the results of economic
mismanagement in Iran can easily be confused with problems arising from externally caused
shortages...even though the sanctions largely prevented direct resupply of these critical areas
(many units of the armed forces and key installations in the gas and oil sector), Iran apparently was
able, by paying exorbitant prices through middlemen, to meet its most critical needs.... Hence, the
best that can be said now is that the sanctions undoubtedly caused Iran difficulties but probably not
insuperable ones.” (Carswell 1981–82, 254)
“In sum, the financial sanctions employed against Iran over the hostage issue were effective
because of special circumstances that differentiated the situation sharply from other cases where
economic sanctions had historically been attempted. And the freeze of Iranian assets not only
created negotiating complications but involved both short and long-term costs that cannot yet be
fully assessed, as well as risks of a major change in banking practice that could seriously affect the
status of the dollar as the world’s principal reserve currency. Finally, it must again be emphasized
that the degree of leverage the sanctions exerted...depended on a high degree of cooperation by
other countries.” (Carswell 1981–82, 264)

The Economist
“The Europeans, for example, imposed sanctions on Iran mainly to show their solidarity with the
United States, rather than in the hope that they would help free the hostages.” (Economist,2
October 1982, 102)
Authors’ Summary

Overall Assessment
 Policy result, scaled from 1 (failed) to 4 (success) 4
 Sanctions contribution, scaled from 1 (negative) to 4 (significant) 3
 Success score (policy result times sanctions contribution) scaled from
1 (outright failure) to 16 (significant success)
Political and Economic Variables
 Companion policies: J (covert), Q (quasi-military), R (regular military) Q
 International cooperation with sender, scaled from 1 (none) to 4
 International assistance to target: A (if present) --
 Cooperating international organizations EC,UN
 Sanction period (years) 2
 Economic health and political stability of target, scaled from 1
(distressed) to 3 (strong) 1
 Presanction relations between sender and target, scaled from 1
(antagonistic) to 3 (cordial) 3
 Regime type of target, scaled from 1 (authoritarian) to 3 (democratic) 2
 Type of sanction: X (export), M (import), F (financial) X,M,F
 Cost to sender, scaled from 1 (net gain) to 4 (major loss) 3

The US objective in this case was specific: the safe return of the hostages. Progress toward this
objective was painstakingly slow, yet the desired result was achieved, although at very high
economic and political cost. Sanctions, in particular the financial controls, made a modest
contribution to the outcome by increasing the cost of traded goods in the Iranian economy and,
more importantly, by freezing a substantial share of Iran's financial reserves held in US banks.

Alexander, Yonan, and Allan Nanes, eds. 1980. The United States and Iran: A Documentary
History. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America.

Carswell, Robert. 1981–82. Economic Sanctions and the Iran Experience. Foreign Affairs 60
(winter): 247–65.

CRS (Congressional Research Service). 1981.The Iran Hostage Crisis: A Chronology of Daily
Developments. Prepared for House Committee on Foreign Affairs. 97th Congress, 1st
session, March. Washington: Library of Congress.
Malawer, Stuart S. 1981–82. Rewarding Terrorism:

The US-Iranian Hostage Accords.
International Security Review 6 (winter): 477–96.
Rubin, Barry. 1980. Paved with Good Intentions. New York: Oxford University Press.


This is a crude map if Tehran, with the Embassy located near the center of the map.

This was an exciting time, historically. What many forget, is that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, also. This invasion happened about 1 month after the embassy was attacked. It created much confusion, for many years the Soviet Union claimed one of their goals was to have a warm water port that they had access to all year round, and due to geography, there is no warm water port that exits to a major body of water. Many felt that the invasion of Afghanistan was a prelude to two things: Either a buildup of forces for an eventual attack on the Persian Gulf oil fields, or, an attempt to later invade southern Iran or Pakistan in an effort to finally get that warm water port. This next page is photos of the Russian ships that we encountered in the Arabian Sea. Click on this map for the next page.