Publish Date: Nov. 19, 1979
Cover Story: Blackmailing the U.S.
How TIME Covered the News: Iran’s 1979 revolution toppled the loathed regime of the U.S.-backed Shah, paving the way for a new government that would eventually be monopolized by theocratic forces. Iranians were irate when the deposed Shah found safe haven in the U.S., where he was receiving medical leave. A subsequent protest on a Sunday morning morphed into a historic incident—a group of students in Tehran burst past guarded gates and invaded the U.S. embassy, taking 66 people hostage. The 444-day-long Iran hostage crisis that followed was the first major confrontation between Washington and Iran’s mullahs and its awkward handling sealed, in part, the political legacy of President Jimmy Carter.
“For the Administration—and for President Carter personally—the seizure of the embassy was a nightmare. At its very worst, it could lead to the deaths of the Americans, and endanger the 300 or so other U.S. citizens still in Iran—all of whom were advised by the State Department to leave the country as expeditiously as possible. However the crisis ends, it seems likely to enhance the impression of American helplessness.”
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