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The Iranian hostage crisis began in November 1979 during U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s administration. Iranian students supporting fundamentalist Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (who had recently returned to power in Iran) overran the American embassy in Tehran, taking 53 American officials hostage. Lasting throughout the remainder of Carter’s presidency (444 days), all the hostages were finally released just minutes after Ronald Reagan took the presidential oath. Although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had conducted surveillance in Iran since the end of World War II, it failed to predict the crisis even in the face of mounting evidence. To place the crisis in context, this entry briefly explores its origins—as well as key actors and events—within a framework of security and intelligence concerns and issues. Rescue attempts, which ...

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