The CIA has underestimated how much Iran leaders would eventually respond to the 1979 hostage crisis, and its lessons



The U.S. was caught off guard during the 1979 hostage crisis, but the signs were clear before the Nov. 4, 1979, takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by radical students, who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days before releasing all hostages but a few diplomats at a festive ceremony in Geneva in 1981. (File photo)

At first glance, the Iran hostage crisis looks like the hostage crisis in Iran. The president who happened to be in power at the time, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, issued a decree banning the worship of Shiite Islam at the University of Tehran, as part of the attempt to impose Islamic law. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) subsequently identified foreign officers who had violated Mosaddeq’s order, and they were arrested and beaten to death at Tehran University. Protesters then seized the Iranian Ministry of Culture, which was to screen Islamic films and TV shows. (File photo)

The previous night, Iranian students marched with the U.S. Embassy flag and chanted “God is great!” and “Death to America!” Students then seized the embassy. Some 444 days later, during a special ceremony in Geneva, all but a few diplomats were released, and Iran released 52 Americans. (File photo)

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