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1 - Blindsided: Confronting the Revolution and the Hostage Crisis, 1977–1981

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 August 2021

Malcolm Byrne
Affiliation:
National Security Archive/George Washington University
Kian Byrne
Affiliation:
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC
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Summary

Despite promises to the contrary, Jimmy Carter largely continues the same policy toward Iran and the authoritarian Shah as in years past. However, with the outbreak of large protests just weeks after his visit to Tehran at the end of 1977, US policymakers find themselves poorly informed and positioned to react to the changing situation in Iran. The documents in this chapter map the process of Washington’s initial misjudgment of the near future for its ally through the slow realization that the Shah is not going to see out the year, let alone the decade. In his place rises a new force, utterly unfamiliar to the White House, and led by an enigmatic figure, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose fiery rhetoric and anachronistic beliefs leave Carter and his advisors scrambling for a response. After the US agrees to take in the ailing Shah for medical treatment, students acting in Khomeini’s name storm the US Embassy in Tehran and forever alter the world's perception of the nascent Islamic Republic. The chapter ends by documenting the scramble in the White House to free the American hostages and Carter handing over the presidency to Ronald Reagan as the hostages finally return home.

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Worlds Apart
A Documentary History of US–Iranian Relations, 1978–2018
, pp. 1 - 61
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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