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Iranian Hostage Crisis

Beginning in late 1979, Iranian radicals held 53 Americans hostage for a grueling 444 days. Americans hungry for news of the hostages watched television reports and taped statements from the captives, and their safety and return became a national focus. The inability of the administration of U.S. president Jimmy Carter to quickly master the crisis is often cited for Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election.

The crisis developed in the midst of Iran's Islamic revolution, after the U.S.-supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled the country in January 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, living in exile in Paris, returned to Tehran in February, and anti-American sentiment reached a fever pitch. The hostage crisis began soon after the United States permitted the Shah to enter the country for cancer treatment in October 1979.

On November 4, a crowd of about 500 radical ...

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