Iran Hostage Crisis

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Iran Hostage Crisis

After the Iranian hostage crisis (1979–1981), the walls of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran were covered in mostly anti-American murals.

On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 American hostages. The immediate cause of this action was President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow Iran’s deposed Shah, a pro-Western leader who had been expelled from his country some months before, to come to the United States for cancer treatment. However, the hostage-taking was about more than the Shah’s medical care: it was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and an end to American interference in its affairs. It was also a way to raise the international profile of the revolution’s leader, the anti-American minister Ayatollah Khomeini. A government led by a religious leader is called a theocracy.

The students set their hostages free on January 21, 1981, 444 days after the crisis began and just hours after President Ronald Reagan delivered his inaugural address. Many historians believe that hostage crisis cost Jimmy Carter a second term as president.

Camp David Accords

Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat, American President Jimmy Carter, and Israeli Prime

Minister Menachem Begin celebrate the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords.

The Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on 17 September 1978, following twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David in Maryland, the U.S. President’s vacation resort. The two framework peace agreements were signed at the White House, and were witnessed by United States President Jimmy Carter. The second of these frameworks (A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel) led directly to the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Due to the agreement, Sadat and Begin received the shared 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.

The embrace by an Arab leader (Anwar) of a Jewish leader (Begin) upset many Arabs around the world. In 1981, just 3 short years after Sadat sought peace with Israel, he was violently assassinated by Arab militants while viewing a parade in Cairo, Egypt. The parade celebrated Operation Badr (1973), during which the Egyptian Army had crossed the Suez Canal and taken back Sinai Peninsula from Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War.

Operation Desert Storm

United States Air Force F-15s and F-16s fly over burning Kuwaiti oil fields set fire by

order of Saddam Hussein to Iraqi troops retreating from American forces.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion and occupation of neighboring Kuwait in early August 1990. Alarmed by these actions, fellow Arab powers such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt called on the United States and other Western nations to intervene. Hussein defied United Nations Security Council demands to withdraw from Kuwait by mid-January 1991, and the Persian Gulf War began with a massive U.S.-led air offensive known as Operation Desert Storm. After 42 days of relentless attacks by the allied coalition in the air and on the ground, U.S. President George H.W. Bush declared a cease-fire on February 28; by that time, most Iraqi forces in Kuwait had either surrendered or fled. Though the Persian Gulf War was initially considered a huge success for the international coalition, simmering conflict in the troubled region led to a second Gulf War–known as the Iraq War–that began in 2003.

September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Often referred to as 9/11, the attacks resulted in extensive death and destruction, triggering major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defining the presidency of George W. Bush. Over 3,000 people were killed during the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters.

September 11, 2001 (continued)

(Left) Osama bin Laden, leader of the Islamic terrorist organization al-Qeada, claimed responsibility for the attacks. (Right) President Baraka Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden to the American nation.

Operation Enduring Freedom, the American-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based there, began on October 7. Within two months, U.S. forces had effectively removed the Taliban from operational power, but the war continued, as U.S. and coalition forces attempted to defeat a Taliban insurgency campaign based in neighboring Pakistan. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, remained at large until May 2, 2011, when he was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. forces at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In June 2011, President Barack Obama announced the beginning of large-scale troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, with a final withdrawal of U.S. forces tentatively scheduled for 2015.

Do you think these pictures would make people more or less sympathetic to the idea of a protected Jewish homeland? Why?

Zionism, the Holocaust, and the Birth of Israel

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Jews began to slowly migrate back to Israel because of persecution in various European countries. This movement was called Zionism. In the 1930s and 1940s as the Nazis rose in power, persecution of Jews in Germany and other parts of Europe increased. For safety many Jews fled to Palestine (Israel). This flood of Jewish immigrants upset and worried Palestinian Arabs living in the region.

After World War II, the world learned about the Holocaust in which Hitler and the Nazis murdered over 6 million Jews. After this tragedy, the Zionist (Jews) increased their demands for a Jewish homeland. In 1947, the United Nations called for Palestine (Israel) to be partitioned (divided) in to a Jewish state and Arab state. The Israelis agreed, but the Palestinians did not want this. On May 14, 1948, Jews declared their independence and the nation of Israel was born. The next day, Arab nations attacked. Israel fought off the attack and in 1949, eventually won the war. Many Palestinians fled to areas like the West Bank and Jordan and became refugees. Israel was now a country, but the Arab nations refused to recognize it as an independent state.

Our world depends on oil, so who controls this dependency?


The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was formed at the Baghdad Conference in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to serve as a platform for oil producers to achieve their economic objectives.

OPEC and Gas Prices around the World

The single largest body impacting the world's oil supplies is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a group of 13 countries: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Together, these 13 nations are responsible for 40 percent of the world's oil production and hold the majority of the world's oil reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. OPEC’s objective is to coordinate and unify petroleum policies among the member countries to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers, an efficient economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations and a fair return on capital (money) to those investing in the industry.

When OPEC wants to raise the price of crude oil, it simply reduces production. This causes gasoline prices to jump because of the short supply, but also because of the possibility of future reductions. When oil production dips, gas companies get nervous. The mere threat of oil reductions can raise gas prices.

What is the building in the background? Why are these Israeli soldiers taking a picture here?

What is the object in the background and why do think these people are so happy?

The Israeli-Arab Six Day War (1967)

"Brothers, it is our duty to prepare for the final battle in Palestine."

– Egyptian President Nasser, Palestine Day, 1967

The Six-Day War took place in June 1967. In the weeks leading up to the Six Day War, Arab leaders repeatedly threatened Israel with annihilation. Together with Egypt's ejection of United Nations forces, the closing of the Straits of Tiran, and the massing of troops on Israel's northern and southern borders, the fiery rhetoric created a state of existential fear in Israel. The war was mainly against Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Israel believed that it was only a matter of time before the three Arab states coordinated a massive attack on Israel.

"Our aim is the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel."

– President Nasser of Egypt, November 18, 1965

Rather than wait to be attacked, the Israelis launched a hugely successful military campaign against its perceived enemies. The air forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq were all but destroyed on June 5th. By June 7th, many Egyptian tanks had been destroyed in the Sinai Desert and Israeli forces reached the Suez Canal. On the same day, the whole of the West Bank of the Jordan River had been cleared of Jordanian forces. The Golan Heights were captured from Syria and Israeli forces moved 30 miles into Syria itself.

After the war, Israel was now in control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza and Sinai Peninsula from the Egyptians.

The United States was held partially responsible by the Arab nations because of their military assistance to Israel. This increased hatred of the United States by many Muslims nations.


Yassir Arafat led the P.L.O. from 1969 to 2004.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) had an originally-stated goal as the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle, while seeking to destroy the existence of Israel in the Middle East. After taking control of the P.L.O. in 1969, Yasser Arafat and the P.L.O. launched bloody attacks on Israel. To the Israelis, Yasser Arafat gained a reputation as a ruthless terrorist. To the Palestinian people his acts of terror against Israel were a sign of freeing Palestine (Israel) and bringing it under the control of Palestinian Authority.

The Palestine Authority, under Mahmoud Abbas, is now the governing body in the area known as the West Bank. It once controlled the Gaza, but was expelled by the more extremist group called Hamas. The goal is to form a country uniting Gaza and the West Bank. Clashes concerning Jewish building in the West Bank and control over East Jerusalem have caused many bloody clashes between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

1972 Munich Olympics Massacre

“When I was a kid my father used to say ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.’ Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were 11 hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.”

- JimMcKay

For millions of people who recall the slaughter unleashed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, those words are made permanent in the mind. They were spoken by ABC’s Jim Mckay—the man behind the famous “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” introduction to the network’s long-running show, Wide World of Sports—when he learned that Israeli athletes and coaches taken hostage by terrorists from the group Black September had been murdered.

Overview of the Munich Massacre

The XXth (20th) Olympic Games were held in Munich, Germany in 1972. Tensions were high at these Olympics, because they were the first Olympic Games held in Germany since the Nazis hosted the Games in 1936. The Israeli athletes and their trainers were especially nervous; many had family members who had been murdered during the Holocaust or were themselves Holocaust survivors.

Historical Importance of the Munich Massacre

The Munich Massacre was a terrorist attack during the 1972 Olympic Games. Eight Palestinian terrorists killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team and then took nine others hostage. The situation was ended by a huge gunfight that left five of the terrorists and all of the nine hostages dead. Following the massacre, the Israeli government organized a retaliation against Black September (an off shoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization or P.L.O.), called Operation Wrath of God.

The terrorists were part of a group known as Black September, in return for the release of the hostages, they demanded that Israel release over 230 Arab prisoners being held in Israeli jails and two German terrorists. The goal also was to bring attention to the plight of Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Yom Kippur War (1973)

On October 6, 1973, hoping to win back territory lost to Israel during the third Arab-Israeli war, in 1967, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a coordinated attack against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Taking the Israeli Defense Forces by surprise, Egyptian troops swept deep into the Sinai Peninsula, while Syria struggled to throw occupying Israeli troops out of the Golan Heights. Israel counter attacked and recaptured the Golan Heights. A cease-fire went into effect on October 25, 1973


Israel’s stunning victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 left the Jewish nation in control of territory four times its previous size. Egypt lost the 23,500-square-mile Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Syria lost the strategic Golan Heights. When Anwar el-Sadat (1918-81) became president of Egypt in 1970, he found himself leader of an economically troubled nation that could ill afford to continue its endless crusade against Israel. He wanted to make peace and thereby achieve stability and recovery of the Sinai, but after Israel’s 1967 victory it was unlikely that Israel’s peace terms would be favorable to Egypt. So Sadat conceived of a daring plan to attack Israel again, which, even if unsuccessful, might convince the Israelis that peace with Egypt was necessary.

When the fourth Arab-Israeli war began on October 6, 1973, many of Israel’s soldiers were away from their posts observing Yom Kippur (or Day of Atonement), and the Arab armies made impressive advances with their up-to-date Soviet weaponry. Iraqi forces soon joined the war, and Syria received support from Jordan. After several days, Israel was fully mobilized, and the Israel Defense Forces began beating back the Arab gains at a heavy cost to soldiers and equipment.

After the War

Although Egypt had again suffered military defeat at the hands of its Jewish neighbor, the initial Egyptian successes greatly enhanced Sadat’s prestige in the Middle East and gave him an opportunity to seek peace. In 1974, the first of two Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreements providing for the return of portions of the Sinai to Egypt were signed, and in 1979 Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (1913-92) signed the first peace agreement between Israel and one of its Arab neighbors. In 1982, Israel fulfilled the 1979 peace treaty by returning the last segment of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

The Assassination of Anwar Sadat

Arab militants open fire on President Sadat while he was viewing a military parade in Cairo.

On 6 October 1981, a victory parade was held in Cairo to commemorate the eighth anniversary of Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal. As Egyptian Air Force Mirage jets flew overhead, distracting the crowd, Egyptian Army soldiers and troop trucks towing artillery paraded by. One truck contained the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. As it passed the tribune, Islambouli forced the driver at gunpoint to stop. From there, the assassins dismounted and Islambouli approached Sadat with three hand grenades concealed under his helmet. Sadat stood to receive his salute (Anwar's nephew Talaat El Sadat later said, "The president thought the killers were part of the show when they approached the stands firing, so he stood saluting them"), whereupon Islambouli threw all his grenades at Sadat, only one of which exploded (but fell short), and additional assassins rose from the truck, indiscriminately firing AK-47 assault rifles into the stands until they ran out of ammunition and then attempted to flee.

Anwar Sadat attempted to bring peace between his Arab nation and the nation of Israel. This assassination was likely done because of Sadat’s signing of a 1978 peace treaty with Israel. His death is a symbol of the ongoing conflict that continues to plague the Middle East between those of Jewish and Islamic faith.

Iran and Iraq War


(Left): Soldiers prepare for a gas attack. (Right): Iraqi soldiers pose for a picture in front of a bullet-ridden portrait of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

The prolonged war between these neighboring Middle Eastern countries resulted in at least half a million casualties and several billion dollars’ worth of damages, but no real gains by other side. Started by Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein in September 1980, the war was marked by indiscriminate ballistic-missile attacks, extensive use of chemical weapons and gas attacks on third-country oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Although Iraq was forced on the strategic defensive, Iran was unable to rebuild effective armored formations for its air force and could not enter Iraq’s borders deeply enough to achieve decisive results. The end came in July 1988 with the acceptance UN Resolution 598. The war ended in a stalemate.

The conflict in the Middle East caused gas prices around the world to go up. Wanting to put an end to this, there are many rumors that the United States became secretly involved in order to end the crisis. This included supplying U.S.-made weapons to Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army. Two years later, many of these same weapons would be used against the U.S. during the Persian Gulf War.


(Left): A pair of anti-American militants in Iraq. (Right): Map of ISIS-held territory in Iraq is marked in red.


  • Started as an al Qaeda splinter group.

  • Also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

  • The aim of ISIS is to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and in Syria.

  • ISIS is known for killing dozens of people at a time and carrying out public executions, crucifixions and other acts. It has taken over large swaths of northern and western Iraq.

  • The group currently controls hundreds of square miles. It ignores international borders and has a presence from Syria's Mediterranean coast to south of Baghdad. It rules by Sharia law.

  • ISIS's initial strategy for revenue was through extortion and robbery. Recently, al-Baghdadi's strategy shifted to generating resources through large-scale attacks aimed at capturing and holding territory.

  • Unable to serve under the new Iraq government after Saddam Hussein's military was disbanded, former Iraqi soldiers became ISIS fighters, according to Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges.


  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Very little is known about al-Baghdadi, but a biography posted on jihadist websites in 2013 said he earned a doctorate in Islamic studies from a university in Baghdad.

  • He formed the militant group in Salaheddin and Diyala provinces north of the Iraqi capital before joining al Qaeda in Iraq.

  • Al-Baghdadi was detained for four years in Camp Bucca, which was a U.S.-run prison in southern Iraq. He was released in 2009.

  • After ISIS declared the creation of the so-called "Islamic State," he began using the name Al-Khalifah Ibrahim, and now goes by that name with his followers.

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