The Iranian hostage crisis began 4 November 1979 under the administration of United States President Jimmy Carter when Islamic militants entered the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 66 Americans hostage. The Iranian hostage crisis was the culmination of the disintegration of relations between the United States and Iran prompted by U.S. support for Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi, after he was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini at the start of the Iranian Revolution. The hostages were held for a total of 444 days and released 20 January 1981, minutes after the inauguration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
History has recorded the presidency of Jimmy Carter as one of the worst in the United States because of his failed attempts to end the Iranian hostage crisis. Shortly after the hostages were taken, Carter attempted to pursue every alternative to negotiate the release of the hostages, including diplomacy, political pressure and economic sanctions.
Carter and his administration built a campaign to persuade the international community to put pressure on Iran. Many governments supported the United States. Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), considered a terrorist group by the United States at the time, was able to negotiate a release of 13 of the hostages at the request of John Shaheen, a friend of Ronald Reagan and William Casey, who was Reagan’s campaign manager.
In addition to freezing the assets of Iran held in American banks, President Carter ordered a number of economic sanctions against Iran in order to end the Iranian hostage crisis. Carter issued Proclamation 4702, which halted the importation of Iranian oil into the United States. Executive Order 12205 instituted an embargo on exports leaving the United States and heading for Iran. Carter’s final economic sanction against Iran was Executive Order 12211, which created a ban on all Iranian imports and prohibited American citizens from traveling to Iran or conducting business there.
After the hostages had been held captive for five months, Carter authorized a military mission to rescue the American hostages. The mission began with a meeting between six military transport planes and nine helicopters in a desert southeast of Tehran. The mission was reduced to five helicopters because of mechanical trouble and one of the last helicopters crashed into one of the transport planes after departing from a refueling stop. Eight soldiers died and four suffered injuries, prompting Carter to abort the mission. After the failed mission, the Carter administration continued to negotiate without any success, until the hostages were eventually released in January 1981.