Timeline of the Iran hostage crisis

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The Iran hostage crisis ran from 4 November 1979, with the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran and the taking of hostages there, to 20 January 1981, with the release of the remaining hostages. It involved Iran hostage crisis negotiations in 1979-81 between the US Government of Jimmy Carter and the Iranian Government to end the crisis, as well as (according to a variety of Iranian and other sources) negotiations between the Iranian Government and representatives of Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign. The 52 American hostages, seized from the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979, were finally released on 20 January 1981, minutes after Reagan's inauguration.


  • 4 November 1979, Tehran: Iran hostage crisis begins with takeover of US Embassy in Tehran.
  • 19-20 November 1979, Tehran: 13 hostages released
  • 5 January 1980, New York: Charles Cogan meets with Cyrus Hashemi and Jamshid Hashemi in New York. The Hashemis promised to provide back channels to top Iranian officials, but asked for financial support for Ahmad Madani's presidential campaign, which they received.[1]
  • 25 January 1980, Iran: Iranian presidential election, 1980 (won by Abulhassan Banisadr)
  • 28 January 1980, Tehran: 6 US diplomats who had evaded capture were extracted from Tehran in the "Canadian Caper", later fictionalised in the 2012 film Argo
  • early 1980, Paris: Early negotiations between Iranian Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh and Carter aide Hamilton Jordan in Paris led to "a complex multi-stepped plan",[2] and on 19 February 1980 American Vice President Walter Mondale told an interviewer that "the crisis was nearing an end." The plan fell apart however after Ayatollah Khomeini gave a speech praising the embassy occupation as "a crushing blow to the world-devouring USA" and announced the fate of the hostages would be decided by the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, which had yet to be seated or even elected.[3]
  • March 1980, Washington, D.C.: Jamshid Hashemi, is visited by William Casey at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, who asks that a meeting be arranged with "someone in Iran who had authority to deal on the hostages".[4]
  • 21 March 1980, US: Jamshid Hashemi and his brother Cyrus Hashemi meet at the latter's home.[5]
  • 24 March 1980, Iran: Operation Eagle Claw, a failed rescue attempt
  • April 1980, New York: Donald Gregg, a National Security Council aide with connections to George Herbert Walker Bush, meets Cyrus Hashemi in New York's Shazam restaurant, near Hashemi's bank.[6] Former Iranian President Bani-Sadr said in his 1991 book My Turn to Speak that he had "proof of contacts between Khomeini and the supporters of Ronald Reagan as early as the spring of 1980.... Rafsanjani, Beheshti, and Ahmed Khomeini [the Ayatollah's son] played key roles."[7]
  • April 1980: Carter complains to Israeli PM Begin about a first shipment by Israel of spare parts (300 F-4 tyres) to Iran.[8]
  • 29 May 1980, Tehran: First meeting of the new Iranian parliament following the 1980 legislative elections.
  • 11 July 1980: Richard Queen, a hostage who was seriously ill, released.
  • 11 July 1980: 600 officers arrested over involvement in the planned Nojeh Coup
  • 27 July 1980: Death of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
  • Last week of July 1980, Madrid: At a meeting in Madrid arranged by the Hashemi brothers that includes Robert Gray, a man identified as Donald Gregg, and Mahdi Karrubi, William Casey says that if Iran could assure that American hostages were well treated until their release and were released as a "gift" to the new administration, "the Republicans would be most grateful and 'would give Iran its strength back.'"[9] Karrubi says he has "no authority to make such a commitment."
  • 12 August 1980, Tehran: Mohammad-Ali Rajai appointed Iranian Prime Minister.
  • About 12 August 1980: Karrubi meets again with Casey, saying Khomeini has agreed to the proposal. Casey agrees the next day, naming Cyrus Hashemi as middleman to handle the arms transactions. More meetings are set for October. Cyrus Hashemi purchases a Greek ship and commences arms deliveries valued at $150 million from the Israeli port of Eilat to Bandar Abbas. According to CIA sources, Hashemi receives a $7 million commission. Casey is said to use an aide named Tom Carter in the negotiations.[10]
  • 18 August 1980, Tehran: Iranian foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh tells Iran's parliament that "another point to consider is this fact. We know that the Republican Party of the United States in order to win the presidential election is working hard to delay the solution of the hostages crisis until after the U.S. election."[11] Ghotbzadeh also made this point to Agence France Presse on 6 September.[11][12]
  • 22 September 1980, Iran: Iraqi invasion of Iran.
  • Late September 1980, US: An expatriate Iranian arms dealer named Hushang Lavi claims he met with Richard V. Allen, the Reagan campaign's national security expert, Robert "Bud" McFarlane, and Lawrence Silberman, and discussed the possible exchange of F-4 parts for American hostages, but Lavi says they asserted they "were already in touch with the Iranians themselves". (Silberman, Allen, and McFarlane deny they met with Lavi, but reporter Robert Parry obtained a copy of Lavi's 1980 calendar after Lavi's death, which corroborated the Iranian's account.)[13]
  • 18 October 1980, US: John Norman Maclean told a State Department official that Bush was flying to Paris for hostage negotiations. Maclean had been given the information by a Republican source, but never published the claim due to Republican denials.[14][15][16]
  • 15-20 October 1980, Paris: Meetings are held in Paris between emissaries of the Reagan/Bush campaign, with Mr. William Casey as "key participant", and "high-level Iranian and Israeli representatives".[17]
  • 21 October 1980, Iran: Iran, for reasons not explained, abruptly shifts its position in secret negotiations with the Carter administration and disclaims "further interest in receiving military equipment",[18]
  • 21-23 October 1980, Iran: Israel secretly ships F-4 fighter-aircraft tires to Iran, in violation of the U.S. arms embargo, and Iran disperses the hostages to different locations.[19] The shipment was arranged by Alexandre de Marenches.[20]
  • 2 November 1980, Tehran: the Iranian parliament finally sets forth formal conditions for the hostages' release, and eight days later Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher arrived in Algiers with the first U.S. reply setting off a slow motion diplomatic shuffle between Washington, Algiers and Tehran.[21]
  • 4 November 1980, US: United States presidential election, 1980 (won by Ronald Reagan)
  • 19 January 1981, Algiers: The "Algiers Accords" are agreed.[22]
  • 20 January 1981, Tehran: Hostages are formally released into United States custody after spending 444 days in captivity. The release takes place just minutes after the First inauguration of Ronald Reagan.


  1. ^ Jim Drinkard, Associated Press, 24 November 1992, Probe of 1980 GOP Hostage Dealings Reveals Covert CIA Operation
  2. ^ Bowden, Mark, Guests of the Ayatollah: the first battle in America's war with militant Islam, Atlantic Monthly Press, (2006), p. 359-61
  3. ^ Bowden, (2006), pp. 363, 365
  4. ^ Joseph J. Trento, Prelude to Terror: Edwin P. Wilson and the Legacy of America's Private Intelligence Network (Carroll and Graf, 2005), 202–03.
  5. ^ Trento, 203.
  6. ^ Trento, 204.
  7. ^ Trento, 209.
  8. ^ Robert Parry, Secrecy & Privilege, p107
  9. ^ Trento, 205, quoting Gary Sick, October Surprise (1991), 84.
  10. ^ Trento, 205-07.
  11. ^ a b Robert Parry, truthout, 11 March 2013, ‘October Surprise’ and ‘Argo’
  12. ^ Persico, Joseph E. (22 December 1991). "The Case for a Conspiracy". The New York Times. p. 7. 
  13. ^ Trento, 207-08.
  14. ^ DiEugenio on Parry’s New Book
  15. ^ http://consortiumnews.com/2011/09/09/bushs-october-surprise-file-in-dispute/
  16. ^ HOSTF p720
  17. ^ Martin, Harry V. (1995). "Bush Deal With Iranians". Free America (aka The Napa Sentinel). pp. (see also: "Pilot's full account of Bush's Paris flight"). Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  18. ^ "Tehran Militants Said to Hand Over Custory of Captives". New York Times. 1980-11-28. pp. A1. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  19. ^ Sick, Gary (1991-04-15). "The Election Story of the Decade". The New York Times. pp. op–ed. Retrieved 2008-12-23.  (Congressional Record mirrored reprint)
  20. ^ Robert Parry, Secrecy & Privilege, p131
  21. ^ 1980 Year in Review: Iranian Hostage Crisis-http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1980/Iranian-Hostage-Crisis/12311726509558-2/
  22. ^ Algiers Accords