It is vitally important that we begin to look at the big picture in Iraq, and take into account all the events which have led up to the events of today. Forgetting to see it is easy to do because there is so much to learn and so many places you can start talking about it. Should we start with Mesopotamia? The Crusades? The Ottoman Empire? World War I? WWII? For the purposes of our discussion, lets start where I tuned in: the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-80.
Why here? What do events in another country from 26 years ago have to do with Iraq? In 1979, a revolution in Iran led by religious conservatives (Iran is a Shi'a majority country) toppled the ruling government led by CIA puppet Shah Reza Pahlavi. Respected Shi'a cleric and author Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni was voted the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A group of students stormed the American Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979 and took most of the embassy staff and military contingent hostage. Several escaped due to help from Canada, and on January 20, 1980, President Jimmy Carter authorized Operation Eagle Claw, a mission that sent US troops into Iran on a rescue mission. The mission was aborted because of sandstorms which caused one of the helicopters to crash in the Iranian desert.
Saddam and Khomeni knew each other quite well. Khomeni had lived in exile in Iraq from 1964 until 1978, when Saddam had him expelled. Khomeni did not appreciate Saddam's efforts at secularization, and Hussein did not like the radicalizing influence of the Ayatollah on the Shi'a Muslims in Iraq. Saddam Hussein formally became President of Iraq on July 16, 1979. Iraq invaded Iran on September 22, 1980, wich was the beginning of a war that would last for eight years. Due in part to his mishandling of the Iran situation, Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in November 1980.
The majority of the American hostages in Iran were held until January 20, 1981, hours after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as President. Special Envoy Former President Jimmy Carter met the remaining hostages in West Germany after they were freed. The Iran Hostage Crisis was a watershed event in American history that for me marks the beginning of our current involvment in the events of the region. The question is: What did America learn from it?