As one sits back and watches the news it is hard to miss the fact that there are a few events which seems to be the past repeating on it. The United States has been placing themselves in the mists of the politics of the Middle East for the better part of the last 100 years. In fact, the United States had helped the Shah government take control of Iran in 1953 and was their strongest ally until the Shah were forced to leave Iran in January of 1979 with the country declaring themselves as an Islamic Republic by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. All ties had been cute with the United States and Israel was declared an illegitimate country (Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs , n.d.).
November 4th, 1979
This day stands out for President Jimmy Carter as the day that changed his entire presidential career. The United States had been focusing their efforts into helping the Iran government since 1953 with their strong support of the Shah government led by Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The students of the country had become enraged with the government and its connection to the United States and wished for the United States presence to leave the country. So on November 4th, 1979 the Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran taking approximately seventy Americans captive (The Hostage Crisis in Iran , n.d.). This group of terrorist held these men and women for approximately 444 days. The fifty-two of the captives had been held from November 4th, 1979 to January 20th, 1981.
At ten o’clock in the morning on November 4th, 1979 students in Tehran, Iran gathered and stormed the United States embassy. As these students stormed the walls the American marines initiated a lockdown on the complex and the stuff started to destroy all of the documents housed in the complex. Unfortunately as they were destroying the documents the incinerator stopped working so they needed to shred the papers (The Iran Hostage Crisis, n.d. ). The men were able to hold back the irate students for only a few hours before they all were slowly captured.
As these men and women had been collected from each room they were informed that the United States government needed to return the Shah to Iran to answer for his crimes against the people of the country. This would seem to be a simple request. The United States government and President Carter felt that these demands where not acceptable and the students could not be negotiated with.
Operation Eagle Claw
Throughout the early stages of this crisis President Carter had been working on creating a politically acceptable means to gain the return of the United States citizens being held captive. He wished to place embargos on Iran as well as block the country from any and all importation and exportation of goods. These ideas had been struck down by the State Department because of the impact these actions would have on the United States allies. The President was quickly losing popularity and was being forced into a situation he really did not want as the days of captivity continued.
The citizens of the United States were watching the issues unfold on the six o’clock news through the country. They started to wonder if the President was ever going to step in and save the hostages. The government continued to work out plans and created an attack strategy they named Operation Eagle Claw.
This mission was doomed from the being. The State Department had chosen to keep any and all information on the mission departmentalized and secretive. The plan was simple “from the Persian Gulf penetrate to the capital of Iran through a variety of air and ground means; secure the hostages; and exit Iran through another variety of air means” (Operation Eagle Claw: The Iran Hostage Rescue Mission, n.d.). The simplicity of the plan ended with the fact that they were going to rescuing the hostages. The men of Delta Force did not just need one miracle but seven miracles to go with each of the stages of this mission.
The mistakes of the mission started with what equipment was chosen to be used. The military chose to use RH-53Ds because they would “look right” on the USS Kitty Hawk. These helicopters did have a bad operational readiness rating and were not able to refuel in the air(Operation Eagle Claw: The Iran Hostage Rescue Mission, n.d.). This issue meant that there needed to be other accommodation made such as using carry fuel bladders for refueling which could have been avoided if they choice a better means of transportation.
Another major mistake which was made was the men chosen to fly the helicopters. The men were Marine pilots who were not trained as special operations personnel. This meant they were not used to long distance flying over land with the use of night vision goggles or flying in the sand storm conditions of the desert(Operation Eagle Claw: The Iran Hostage Rescue Mission, n.d.). By the end of the training session there were issues relating to refueling and lack of cooperation between the different segments of the rescue team which could have been avoided if proper equipment and a dress rehearsal was put into play.
Eagle Claw started at seven p.m. on April 24th, 1980. The mission started to fail less than two hours in when Bluebeard 6 was forced to land due to a light warning. The light had indicated that a main rotor blade had sparked. Bluebeard 8 followed the downed helicopter and brought them back to Desert One. Other issues which occurred during this mission included what was known as “haboob” or “fine dust particles which obscured vision” (Operation Eagle Claw: The Iran Hostage Rescue Mission, n.d.). The pilots did not know how to deal with this phenomenon since they had never been briefed on the possibility of it happening. At this point Bluebeard 5 had to turn back due to electrical issues.
The mission was down to five helicopters which meant they were not going to be able to finish the mission since six were needed. After the mission was aborted, Bluebeard 3 hovered into Republic 4 which meant that eight men got killed between both aircraft.
This attempt to save the American citizens taken hostage in Iran was not the most shining moment in the history of the United States. The issues which brought the relationship of the United States and Iran to this point were not just a simple foreign affair issue that could be covered up. The Iranian students were angry over what there government had been doing to the people of the country. They felt that the United States had been encouraging the Shah to treat the people of the country horribly in order to provide United States and their allies with the oil needed to “survive”. President Carter had lost the 1979 election to President Ronald Reagan due to the bad choices he had made in this crisis.
The choices made by President Carter and the Carter administration not only lead to a breakdown in political relations between the United States and Iran, this breakdown in relations between the countries and the unchecked revolution lead to the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and has led to some of the national security issues that focus around the middle east.
"Operation Eagle Claw: The Iran Hostage Rescue Mission." Air and Space Power Journal. http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/apjinternational/apj-s/2006/3tri06/kampseng.html (accessed August 12, 2012).
"The Hostage Crisis in Iran." Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/documents/hostages.phtml (accessed August 12, 2012).
"The Iran Hostage Crisis." umbc.edu. www.umbc.edu/che/tahlessons/pdf/The_Iran_Hostage_Crisis(PrinterFriendly).pdf (accessed August 12, 2012).
"Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs." Brown University. http://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/timeline-iran (accessed August 12, 2012).