From the best-selling author of Black Hawk Down, comes a riveting, definitive chronicle of the Iran hostage crisis, America’s first battle with militant Islam.
On November 4, 1979, a group of radical Islamist students stormed the U.S.
embassy in Tehran
. Inspired by the revolutionary Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, they hoped to stage a three-day sit-in protest of the American decision to allow exiled Iranian leader Shah Mohammed Reza to enter the United States
for medical treatment. But these modest, peaceful aims were supplanted by something much more severe and dangerous. The students took sixty-six Americans hostage and kept the majority of them for 444 days in a prolonged conflict that riveted the world.
hostage crisis was a watershed moment in American history. It was America
’s first showdown with Islamist fundamentalism, a confrontation that hass remained at the forefront of American policy to this day. In Iran
, following the ouster of the shah, a provisional government was established, and for a critical moment in the modern age’s first Islamist revolution, a more open and democratic society seemed possible. But the religious hardliners on the Revolutionary Council used the hostage crisis as an opportunity to purge moderates from the leadership ranks. They altered the course of the revolution and set Iran
on the extreme path it follows to this day.
hostage crisis was also a dramatic story that captivated the American people. Communities across the country launched yellow ribbon campaigns. ABC began a new late-night television programwhich became Nightline
recapping the latest events int the crisis and counting up the days of captivity. The hostages’ families became celebrities, and the never-ending criticism of the government’s response crippled Jimmy Carter’s reelection campaign.Guests of the Ayatollah
tells this sweeping story through the eyes of the people who lived it, on both sides of the crisis. Mark Bowden takes us inside the hsotages’ cells, detailing the Americans’ terror; confusion, boredom, and ingenuity in the face of absurd interrogations, mock executions and a seemingly endless imprisonment. He recreates the exuberance and naïveté of the Iranian hostage takers. He chronicles the diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release and offers a remarkable view of President Jimmy Carter’s Oval Office, where the most powerful man in the world was handcuffed by irrational fanatics halfway around the world. Throughout this all, Bowden weaves the dramatic story of Delta Force, a new Special Forces unit poised for their first mission, Operation Eagle Claw. This was an impossible, courageous, and desperate attempt to snatch the hostages from the embassy in Tehran
, which, despite the heroism of Delta Force, exploded into tragic failure in the Iranian desert.From Guests of the Ayatollah:
“When we face plots, our young people cannot wait around. Our young people must foil these plots. . . . We are facing underground treason, treason devised in these very embassies, mainly by the Great Satan, America. . . . They must be put in their place and return this criminal [the Shah] to us as soon as possible. If they do not, we shall do what is necessary.” Ayatollah Khomeini, endorsing the takeover
“That very first night, they came for me and pulled me ot my feet, ripped the blindfold from my face, spat in my face twice, and sneered at me, ‘You’re Colonel Scott, CIA.’ I said, ‘Naw, that’s a bunch of crap. I’m Colonel Scott, U.S. Army. I was here to help your people and your military.’ And the blindfold was replaced and I was taken out for what wound up being about three and a half weeks of very severe interrogation.” Colonel Charles Scott (Ret.), former hostage
“It’s very difficult to compare the suffering that the Iranian nation felt during fifty years of foreign domination. . . with the sufferings, or the pain, that [the hostages] may have faced during these days.” Nilufar Ebekar, aka “Tehran Mary,” spokeswoman for the hostage takers
The only difference between this [the rescue mission] and the Alamo
is that Davy Crockett didn’t have to fight his way in.” Captain Wade Ishimoto, Delta Force assistant intelligence officer
“My political future might well be determined by irrational people on the other side of the world over whom I had no control.” President Jimmy Carter