By Jason Meizels
WASHINGTON D.C. (UN Press Corps) - On November 4, 1979, Iranian revolutionaries took 90 hostages — 66 Americans — at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. President Carter’s War Room navigated high-stakes negotiations and political maneuvering when faced with the crisis, as members of the President’s security team weighed diplomatic and military responses.
The committee was formed in the wake of November 4, 1979, the day the U.S. Embassy was stormed. This crisis is the culmination of years of tension between the U.S. and Iran. Political and ideological differences have bitterly divided the two nations to a breaking point. In 1951, Iran’s new Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq called for the nationalization of the oil industry, jeopardizing U.S. security because the Soviet Union could reasonably have gained access to Iran’s oil deposits as a result of Mossadeq’s legislation. The C.I.A. and British intelligence organized a coup, replacing Mossadeq with a leader more amenable to Western interests, but one that was also very unpopular within Iran for his despotic tendencies: the Shah. While this transition of leadership was a boon to the United States’ economy and security during the Cold War, the Shah’s attempts to Westernize Iran by introducing secularism destabilized the region and led to an uprising by the religious faction. The Shah was forced out of Iran and fled to Egypt. Later diagnosed with cancer, President Carter, under pressure, allowed the Shah to come to America for treatment, which angered many Iranians, leading to November’s volatile events.
The goal of the War Room is to return the hostages safely while maintaining the security and international stature of the United States. Security and intelligence personnel devised a plan to reclaim some of the hostages from the Canadian Embassy. This operation failed because overlapping directives and operatives made Iran aware of the United States’ effort and the intelligence leaked. Iran is furious at this attempt to free the hostages. In light of this disastrous miscalculation by the Carter administration, top U.S. officials must calculate their next moves carefully, because they are of paramount national and international importance.
“Although our lack of intelligence doomed this plan to extract the hostages, we are currently working to remedy our information deficit by increasing intelligence gathering initiatives,” remarked Ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan.
Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, asserts that “tensions have risen too high for diplomacy to be successful. [Iran] isn’t willing to listen to reason. Military intervention is the only way this gets solved.”
Sullivan provides an opposing perspective, commenting, “Diplomacy is the only solution in dire circumstances.”
One thing is certain: on the global stage, the fate of not just the Carter administration but that of the nation depends on the decisions made by this committee in the coming hours.