In Memoriam: The People at the Iranian Embassy Crisis – 1979

1. START OF AVIATION CONFLICT The 1979 hostage crisis began when President Jimmy Carter ordered the Pentagon to execute Iranian Air Force Commander Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during an angry response to the Iranian…

In Memoriam: The People at the Iranian Embassy Crisis - 1979

1. START OF AVIATION CONFLICT

The 1979 hostage crisis began when President Jimmy Carter ordered the Pentagon to execute Iranian Air Force Commander Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during an angry response to the Iranian ambassador’s condemnation of the White House for a speech critical of the radical Iranian government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The attack left Rafsanjani seriously wounded and was arguably the first time a U.S. official was assassinated in the line of duty.

2. NEARLY 70 RANTS

While the siege by Islamist militants inside the embassy lasted only months, the affair, dubbed “Vacuum Man,” marked the start of a stand-off between the Obama administration and Iran with Carter threatening the Iranian regime with a ground invasion, Ronald Reagan blaming Carter’s response for the hostage crisis, and the United States contending the hostage-takers were the legitimate rulers of Iran.

3. AFTERWARD CONFLICT

After a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges, an international arms embargo was slapped on Iran, relations deteriorated between Iran and neighboring Afghanistan, and a U.S. and Russian invasion of Afghanistan eventually led to another Iranian hostage crisis. Almost eight years after the U.S. embassy was overrun, in September 1979, Iranian groups seized 52 U.S. hostages in Beirut and held them for 444 days, one month longer than the Tehran hijacking.

4. RED NOTICE AVERTED

Many high-ranking U.S. officials and politicians believed it was in the U.S. national interest to hold the truth of what happened inside the embassy during the hostage crisis back and to include it in the context of the broader Iran-Contra affair, a policy leak that followed the Iranian hostage crisis that resulted in U.S. military involvement in the Nicaraguan contra wars. This led to a rash of events leading to a recommendation for the issuance of “a formal notice” warning the Iranian government that any misdeeds inside its territory would be tantamount to U.S. military interference.

5. U.S. NAVY SUICIDE BOMBER

The CIA, in an effort to plant a rumor of attempts to assassinate Khomeini, planted in the latest edition of a magazine it controlled, a bomb that had a telephone number printed on it in order to fool the intelligence agency into placing it inside the Iranian embassy where it would explode. The bomb was quickly discovered and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander John Roberts shot to death Iranian staff at the U.S. embassy. It was initially reported that the following day the bomb was used to kill the lead Iranian hostage negotiator Hossein Cobavi, but later it was revealed that another hostage was killed earlier.

6. INSURANCE CONTRACT

It was later revealed that the full cost of the damage during the raid and hostage crisis may have exceeded $8 million, and insurance firms were contracted to pay the bill. The Bill Williams Insurance Company paid $40,500 and another insurer paid $270,000. About $5 million was returned in the form of reimbursement from the U.S. government and a $5 million payout came from the European insurance companies.

7. OVARRI FLIGHTS

When the last U.S. Marines were taken hostage in Tehran in March 1981, at least two additional helicopters carrying some of the most feared Iranian revolutionaries were shot down over the Iraqi border by Iraqi pilots. The crisis led to the fourth and fifth largest numbers of American prisoners of war in the Vietnam War. Two Americans, Marine Captain Chester Anthony Johanson and Cpl. Ronald Ham of the 1st battalion, 9th Marines, were reportedly shot down after the government realized the world did not know of the deaths because the helicopters were flying unarmed.

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