President Carter, US foreign policy and the Iranian Hostage Crisis, 1979-1981

Apinyavesporn, Suteera. (2003). President Carter, US foreign policy and the Iranian Hostage Crisis, 1979-1981 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Apinyavesporn, Suteera.
Thesis Title President Carter, US foreign policy and the Iranian Hostage Crisis, 1979-1981
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2003
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Bell, Roger
Stuart-Fox, Martin
Total pages 313
Collection year 2003
Language eng
Subjects L
430104 History - North American
780199 Other
Formatted abstract
This thesis re-evaluates President Carter's handling of the hostage crisis from an historical perspective, arguing that his efforts and policies to secure the early release of the hostages were ineffective from the start due to many problems beyond his control. It also aims to demonstrate that President Carter and the hostages were the victims of unfortunate circumstances that prevented the President bringing the hostages home until the Iranian Islamic fundamentalists, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, were ready to free them.

The thesis begins with an analysis of problems in United States-Iran relations from 1953 when the antagonism of many Iranians towards the United States intensified. It then examines the origin of the hostage crisis to verify its causes and to assess whether or not it could have been prevented. The thesis analyzes the policies and strategies President Carter employed, including economic and diplomatic pressure, the search for negotiation channels, and the rescue mission. It attempts to evaluate whether or not these policies were suitable and why they failed to obtain the hostages' early release. The thesis finally discusses the final agreement and consequences of the crisis, both for President Carter and for the wider role of the United States in world affairs.

Based on available historical and archival records, the thesis reaches the conclusion that no matter how hard President Carter tried to obtain the hostages' early release, he could not have been successful. His attempts and policies were impeded by conditions he was not in a position to change or solve. The major obstructions derived from past United States foreign policy towards Iran, and Iranian internal political conditions.

The roots of Carter's failure He in the 1950s and 1960s when the United States intervened deeply in Iran. Preoccupied with its campaign against Soviet expansion, the Eisenhower administration decided to restore the Shah to the Peacock Throne and overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh in a coup in 1953. This incident had a great impact upon the Iranians and aroused their nationalism which strengthened as time passed. Unconditional American support of the Shah for almost three decades produced hostility and distrust among most Iranians towards the United States. When the Shah was toppled from power in early 1979, and later admitted into the United States, this further provoked Iranian hatred and distrust of the United States, Iranian Shia radical clergy, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, endorsed the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran and the capture of its personnel as hostages. The hard-line mullahs grasped the opportunity to use the hostages to eliminate United States influence from their country, terminate their relationship with the United States, and prevent any American counter-revolutionary coup. They also used the hostages to accelerate the solidification of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Islamic ideology. To ensure their goals were achieved, religious leaders placed Islamic clergy in key positions to manage the nation's affairs, as they did not trust the western educated and trained secular moderates. This produced an internal Iranian political struggle between the conservative clergy and the moderates which blocked President Carter's efforts of secure release of the hostages. The religious extremists did not concern themselves about the pressures exerted by the Carter administration or the opinions of the international community. Instead, they focused on settling Iran's internal political disputes and domestic affairs, and used the hostage crisis as an anti-American tool to do this.

The Iranian fundamentalists finally offered acceptable conditions to release the hostages in September 1980 when it became obvious the Islamic Republic of Iran was secure and its ideology firmly established. By then the clergy were completely in control of the positions necessary for managing the nation's affairs. Moreover, by then Iran needed money that the Carter administration had frozen to purchase weapons to fight Iraq. The success of the negotiation confirmed that the hostages' release was determined by the Iranian conservative clergy, not Iranian moderates or the Americans. The hostages were freed on January 20,1981 after 444 days in captivity.
Keyword Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Iran Hostage Crisis, 1979-1981.
United States -- Foreign relations -- 1977-1981.
United States -- Politics and government -- 1977-1981.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
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Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 18:10:02 EST