Iran Seizes American Hostages
Carter hoped that Camp David Accords would usher in a new era of cooperation in the Middle East. Yet events in Iran showed that troubles in the region were far from over. Since the 1950s, the United States had supported the rule of the Shah, or emperor of Iran. In the 1970s, however, opposition to the Shah began to grow within Iran.
The Iranian Revolution which toppled the Shah and brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979, had a strong anti-American component. The United States had supported Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iran’s Shah, to secure a firm ally against communism in the region. However, the Shah’s rule grew more oppressive after 1953, when the CIA had helped him control a challenge to his power. Resentment over political interference and foreign involvement in Iran’s oil industry boiled over when the deposed Shah entered the US for medical treatment. Facing a rebellion at home and dying of cancer, the Shah fled from Iran in January 1979. Fundamentalists Islamic clerics, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini took power. Carter allowed the Shah to enter the US to seek medical treatment. Enraged Iranian radical students invaded the US Embassy and took 66 American hostages, 52 of whom were held for 444 days. The Khomeini government then took control of both the embassy and the hostages to defy the United States.