The Long Ordeal of the Hostages

How vengeance and mutual incomprehension entangled two nations

The mob of surly shouters that formed outside the high walls of the U.S. embassy in Tehran that morning of Sunday, Nov. 4, 1979, did not seem at first to be unusually menacing. The Iranians chanted "Death to America," but demonstrations had periodically rumbled around the embassy before in the ten months since Shah Reza Pahlavi had been forced out of Iran by the Muslim revolution. In February, Marxist guerrillas had seized the embassy and held it for nearly two hours. That time, forces loyal to...

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