Facts about the 444-day US embassy siege in Tehran
Between 1979 and 1981, the US state department transferred nearly $1.2bn (£0.86bn) of arms and other military material to the Shah. Iranian students occupied the US embassy on 29 November 1979, the anniversary of the Shah’s overthrow. In January 1980, the Shah fled Iran and the US embassy was evacuated.
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The embassy hostages were released in 1981. Three students were executed, and 15 former hostages were jailed and sentenced to jail.
The 1979-1980 hostage crisis highlighted the US foreign policy divide over the threat of Soviet communism and the postwar status of the US in the Middle East. It also contributed to the period’s fractured relationship between US President Jimmy Carter and Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Iran Hostage Crisis fast facts
1979 • The Iranian students stormed the US embassy, which houses nearly 3,000 diplomatic, political and staff personnel, after a demonstration against the country’s move to convert the republic into a secular state.
1981 • The students’ main demand was to open direct talks with the US government over the Shah’s future.
1986 • Khomeini accused the US government of having supported US embassy employees during the siege. Carter accused Iran of having taken hostages.
1988 • A team of US hostage-takers hijacked TWA flight 847 from Athens, Greece, to Rome. Fourteen people died during the mission.
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1988-1988: Pakistan’s president, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, sided with the Iranians. In 1988, his Saudi and Iranian hosts urged him to open a “dialogue of no return”.
1989 • Following protests, China offered to mediate between the two sides, but then held secret talks between its political and military envoys and the Iranian Foreign Ministry. President Ronald Reagan announced he was ending indirect negotiations with Tehran.
1989-1990: The Iranian Islamic revolution follows the collapse of the Shah’s monarchy.
1996 – Iranian Iranian Airlines Flight 655 is shot down by a US Navy cruiser in international waters near the Strait of Hormuz, killing all 290 passengers and crew members. A US court orders the US to pay Iranian families $1.7bn in compensatory damages, but Iran uses part of the money to buy US-made arms and missiles. In 2000, the US breaks diplomatic relations with Iran.