A firsthand account of the 1979 hostage crisis

In a shocking incident, five American hostages were taken by the Revolutionary Guard as they stood outside the American embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979. They were released four days later. The Associated Press provides a quick history of the episode in his 45-year-old profile of the rogue revolutionary movement, “The Ayatollah who may have brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.”

November 5, 1979: Five American diplomats — the following men—are kidnapped as they stand outside the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Dec. 10, 1979: They’re released, four days later, in exchange for 444 prisoners being held by the United States in Iran.

Oct. 23, 1984: In an interview with the BBC, Ayatollah Khomeini called his predecessor’s pre-Nov. 4 policy a “miscalculation.” Khomeini says he should have warned the West against following the extreme policies taken in the face of the hostage crisis.

Jan. 28, 1979: In his first public speech after becoming the supreme leader, Khomeini tells U.S. and British diplomats to leave Iran. The following day, the Iranians seize the United States Embassy in Tehran.

May 1, 1978: The United States declares that the revolution against the Shah is constitutional and not a coup. A new Iranian Parliament is held.

May 21, 1979: The Shah flees Iran with 492 of his supporters, who surrender to Soviet-backed Afghan guerrilla groups that have seized the kingdom’s capital. Another 700 Iranian dissidents flee to Iraq.

Oct. 8, 1979: Khomeini and other senior Iranian leaders greet a brief meeting between the Shah and former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Mossadegh as a victory.

Oct. 18, 1979: The Iranian shah is thrown into Evin Prison, a sprawling compound of cells and dungeons on the outskirts of Tehran.

May 19, 1980: An estimated 100,000 protesters pour into the streets of Iran, chanting “Death to the United States!”

Oct. 8, 1980: Tens of thousands of protesters storm the United States Embassy, taking more than 60 hostages.

November 10, 1980: In a decisive speech, Khomeini tells the thousands of demonstrators: “In order to save our children’s future, either you return the hostages or you die.” Nearly 20,000 Iranians and Iraqis take part in a mass pilgrimage to Khomeini’s mausoleum.

Jan. 17, 1981: Khomeini tells the University of Oxford audience that the hostages will be released within six weeks as long as the United States withdraws its ambassador from Iran. A joint statement from 20 countries called for an unconditional withdrawal of U.S. embassy personnel within 48 hours.

March 31, 1985: A land yacht is discovered carrying weapons and $400 million in cash to Iranian military leaders. Khomeini claims the weaponry has been pledged as a contribution to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

August 22, 1986: The Reagan administration announces its support for France and Great Britain in negotiations with Iran to negotiate the release of the hostages. Twenty hostages are released five days later. The negotiations continue until July 1987.

September 19, 1987: The hostages are released as part of a general prisoner swap and the head of the armed forces, Bijan Rafie, is transferred to Iraq. An Iranian official says it was the Shah’s decision not to involve Iran in the hostage-rescue operation.

December 1988: Khomeini tells the CBS program “60 Minutes” that his government had been coordinating for four months with the U.S. on the hostage deal.

Oct. 8, 1988: In a 48-hour hostage raid, hundreds of supporters of Khomeini storm the U.S. Embassy again. The rest of the hostages are released nine days later.

September 8, 1989: The hostage crisis: Khomeini tells a local television station that he has freed all the Americans except four CIA agents. A few days later, two senior U.S. officials say they have found out four were still alive.

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