Iran Hostage Anniversary
This photo provided by Gilead Sciences shows Truvada. Federal drug regulators on Tuesday affirmed landmark study results showing that a popular HIV-fighting pill can also help healthy people avoid contracting the virus that causes AIDS in the first place. While the pill appears safe and effective for prevention, scientists stressed that it only works when taken on a daily basis. The Food and Drug Administration will hold a meeting Thursday to discuss whether Truvada should be approved for people who are at risks of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse. The agency's positive review posted Tuesday suggests the daily pill will become the first drug approved to prevent HIV infection in high-risk patients. (AP Photo/Gilead Sciences)
But it was the newly inaugurated President Reagan who made the announcement that afternoon - that the 52 American hostages had been released from Tehran and were coming home. Here's a recap of the hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980 that dominated U.S. headlines and captured popular interest:
In early 1979, conditions in Iran had started to deteriorate. Various factions were fighting to oust the Shah of Iran from power.
On Jan. 16, the shah, Muhammad Reza Pahlevi, whose regime had the support of the United States, announced that he was taking a short vacation. A new government had been formed to replace Pahlevi's military administration. The main opposition force, headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini, however, refused to join or cooperate with the new government.
Pahlevi then fled into exile, but was denied admission into the United States and temporarily settled in Egypt.
Weeks later revolutionaries loyal to Khomeini seized 70 employees at the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held them hostage for several hours to protest American involvement with the shah's regime.
As conditions in the Iranian capital grew more chaotic, the U.S. government evacuated families of embassy personnel. Other Americans still in the country were urged to leave Iran immediately.
On Oct. 22, 1979, the shah was allowed to enter the United States for gall bladder surgery, prompting a new round of protest in Iran.
On Nov. 4, 1979, thousands of students, demanding the return of the shah, overran the U.S. embassy and took about 90 people captive. Later, some were freed, including women, non-Americans and blacks.
As diplomatic efforts to free the hostages began, President Carter halted oil imports from Iran and froze Iranian assets in the United States, prompting yet another Iranian outburst of protest against America.
As negotiations continued into December, Penelope Laingen, wife of hostage Bruce Laingen, charge d'affaires of the embassy, tied a yellow ribbon around a tree at her home in Maryland, and a nationwide movement began. Millions of Americans also tied the yellow symbols of freedom around trees in their yards. (They stayed up until the hostages came home more than a year later.)
A frustrated President Carter severed diplomatic relations with Iran and imposed a complete economic embargo with Iran in April 1980.
On April 24, Operation Eagle Claw, a top-secret mission to free the hostages, ended in disaster. At the outset of the operation, a helicopter developed engine trouble in a staging area of the Iranian desert. Eight Americans were killed as two planes collided during the subsequent withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Even the death of the shah in July di not persuade the ayatollah and students to free the hostages.
Iraq invaded Iran in Sept. 22, 1980, and a full-scale war ensued between the two nations, causing further problems with negotiations on the hostages.
The hostage crisis played a major role in the presidential campaign of 1980. President Carter was preoccupied with the situation and perhaps did not pay enough attention to his re-election campaign, opting instead for a Rose Garden strategy.
His opponent, Ronald Reagan, however, had created a network of informants within the government to give him advance warning of any changes in the hostage situation. Some accused him of exploiting the hostage crisis in his campaign.
As widely expected, Mr. Reagan beat Mr. Carter in the presidential election on Nov. 4, 1980.
Perhaps fearing the new incoming administration, Iran then began new negotiations to free the hostages. Iranians originally asked for $24 billion in return for the captives, but eventually lowered their demands.
On Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1981, Iran agreed to accept $8 billion in frozen assets and a promise by the United States to lift trade sanctions in exchange for the release of the hostages.
After 444 days in captivity, the 52 hostages flew out of Tehran to the Wiesbaden Air Force Base in West Germany. The announcement was made minutes after President Reagan was sworn in.
And on Jan. 21, 1981 former President Carter, who had hoped to greet the hostages as his last official act, flew to West Germany as President Reagan's emissary to greet them.
The yellow ribbons came down.
By Alexandra Cosgrove © MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved