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US Embassy Attacked in Iraq by Iranian Trained Guards: Shades of Hostage Crisis of 1979

Updated on January 4, 2020
emge profile image

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters


Iran and the USA have had a tortuous relationship. Right up to 1978, Iran was ruled by the Shah Reza Pahlevi. Under him, Iran was a close ally of America. It was the pivot around which American policy moved in the Middle East. Iran was a member of the various military pacts floated by General Eisenhower to contain Russia. The Shah also was enamored of the American way of life and wished to impose the same in Iran. Unfortunately for him, Iran was a conservative Shia Muslim country and the people harbored a deep resentment against the USA. In the minds of the people, the Shah and the United States of America was the 'Great Satan'

The Iranian people resented the fact that the US and British intelligence agencies orchestrate a coup to oust Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq. The secular leader had sought to nationalize Iran's oil industry.

On 16 January 1978 following months of demonstrations and strikes against his rule by secular and religious opponents the Shah fled Iran

Two weeks later, Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile. and following a referendum, the Islamic Republic of Iran was proclaimed on 1 April.

Hostage Crisis

The Americans lost face in Iran mainly because they supported a tyrant and what the people felt was a un-Islamic leader. In retaliation, the US embassy in Tehran was seized by protesters in November 1979 and American hostages were held inside for 444 days. The present attack on the embassy has shades of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran nearly three decades back.

Present Attack -Genesis.

Iraq was governed by a Sunni leader. He was Saddam Hussein who for all practical purposes was a dictator but had shades of secularism. He was the only Mulsim leader who supported India on Kashmir. He also kept radical Muslim outfits like Al Qaeda in check and hanged scores of their fighters.

In a grave misjudgment, President Bush launched an invasion of Iraq that resulted in the overthrow of Saddam and led to his hanging. This decision must rank as the first nail in the American coffin for world dominance. It completely destabilized Iraq and the net result is a Shia dominated government that has close ties to Iran. America maintains an embassy and troops but the clout is clearly with Shia dominated allies of Iran. The result of American misadventure can be seen that not one American can walk the streets of Baghdad alone and unescorted.

Present Crisis.

The fuse was being lit with the Iranians sending in troops and a General to coordinate opposition to the USA. Iraq was thus becoming a playground for a proxy war between Iran and America. The Americans have to thank Bush for it. Iranian backed militia have once again proved that Iran will not deviate from its path of being the dominant power in Iraq and the Middle East. It also shows belligerence and a daredevil attitude towards the United States. The American embassy in Baghdad is located in the green zone which is a heavily fortified area. This area is out of bounds to all except authorized personnel. Despite this, a horde of Iranian backed demonstrators surrounded the embassy. More important they breached the Green Zone. Chanting slogans they surrounded the embassy in the face of an ineffectual police response. They pressed on despite many of their kin being shot dead by Iraqi security forces. The US had to respond and The New York Times has reported that the demonstrators have now withdrawn after a show of force by the US Air Force.

American response

The siege of the American embassy in Baghdad is a watershed in Middle East politics. President Trump seems to be reacting to the politics of Obama and Bush that has tied one hand of America behind its back. The Americans have responded by sending hundreds of troops to the region. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who a few months back had stated that all options were on the table against Iran has delayed his trip to Ukraine and other Central Asian republics given the tense situation in Iraq. The fact is the option has been discussed but nothing concrete has been done. The one option that can have a deterrent effect-the military option is like lighting a tinder box that could well blow America away as both China and Russia are with the Tehran regime. USA Today has reported that Defence Secretary Mark Esper has said that 750 US troops are being moved to the region. Hundreds of paratroopers are getting ready to fly to the Middle East in C-17 planes. As a soldier, this is too puny a force to affect the region. The numbers are likely to be raised to 3500- one division The basic Principle of War of concentration of force and superiority in numbers is not followed.

The demonstrators outside the embassy have started to disperse. This was after at least two dozen Iran-backed fighters were killed by US airstrikes. It appears the leaders of the militia ordered the fighters to leave the area to avoid more casualties.

Their leaders declared victory as they had made a point in the operation to expel US troops from Iraq.

Tehran 1979
Tehran 1979

Last word

The incident leaves a bad taste in the mouth. One is reminded of the humiliation of the USA almost three decades back. The demonstrators have left but the embassy will bear the scars of this invasion for a long time to come. There is some truth that the Americans lack the political will to take down their enemies. An example is Pakistan. This nation is responsible for the deaths of almost 2500 US military personnel in Afghanistan and yet the Americans are still mollycoddling the regime. They have been allowed to go nuclear and nothing much is done about the Pak army support to Al Qaeda. Similarly in Iraq removing Saddam was a terrible blunder. I wonder why at that time Iran was not sorted out in place of Iraq. We can see these blunders in hindsight and realize that if kings, soldiers, and military leaders did not make blunders then the great empires would not have faded away. Probably America also is reaching that stage


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    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      16 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Pamela for commenting. Yours is a reasonable argument but the situation looks bleak with Iran talking of "vengeance."

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      16 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Ruby for commenting. I agree Trump may not be the best thing for America. The US forgot that my enemy's enemy is my friend and Saddam was the enemy of Iran.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      16 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I really appreciate your comments on the war. I agree, Bush made a grave mistake when he invaded Iraq and killed Saddam. When are we going to learn to keep our noses out of other countries business? Trump is treading on dangerous water. My opinion, he cares nothing about America. Greed rules the day with him. Thank you for your well informed piece

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      16 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This situation is surely difficult and I don't think the Americans want another war. Iran is surely a bad actor and guilty of a list of transgressions.

      I might agree with you about Bush but Saddam was an awful leader. He even gased the Kurds.

      We have so much division in our country at this time. The left are pushing for a socialist government.

      I have seen Iran recently do some horrible things, and the fact that the kept people from the embassy for 444 days in 1979 is awful. President Carter was a very weak leader at that time. Iran has often kidnapped and kept people in a prisoner type of environment many times including people from the UK. I do not have a solution to the current problems, and you certainly can't change the past. Your article gives us much to think about during this new crisis.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      16 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you bro for an interesting comment

    • manatita44 profile image


      16 months ago from london

      Yes, self-interest is common to all, unfortunately. My Hub today should have been The Spirit of Sacrifice, in which I intended to say, not separation, but oneness, is what we need. Expansion is life, narrowness is death. Still, I wrote more poetry instead. Sorry, Bro. Keep praying. Jai Ram!!

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      16 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you dear Manatita, thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I also want peace but China is the big Q mark

    • manatita44 profile image


      16 months ago from london

      I can always rely on you for recent info, Bro. That much I didn't know. Yes, it seems that China and Russia are emerging powers, which would be useful, if it can help the cause of Peace in the region. We all want Peace.

      Finally, sometimes leaders, against their better Judgements, sometimes follow those with self-interests, pointing out ideas which will benefit them but, may not always help the common man.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      16 months ago from Singapore

      Neil Rose, Thank you for your comment

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      16 months ago from England

      Thanks for showing a different side to the conflicts. I believe that the US and Allies should just keep out of Middle east problems, but that is my opinion. Interesting.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      16 months ago from Singapore

      Marie Flint, I agree entirely with your comment. It's a sad state at the moment but as the fairy in the pandora box when all evil, came out I am sure mankind will rise up to the challenge.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh emge 

      16 months ago from Singapore

      Hi John, Thanks a lot for sparing time and commenting. The bane of America after WWII is mediocre leadership and not knowing what to do when.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 

      16 months ago from Jacksonville, FL USA

      My goodness! I do appreciate a perspective outside the American media.

      I served as transcriptionist-editor to a young Iranian woman pursuing a career in dentistry and recall her stories of bias toward women. My first relationship in college, too, was with a male engineering student from Iran. So, I have a smitten of acquaintance with non-military Iranians.

      It seems the world would be better off without many of our leaders. And, as a doctor from India once told me, "The religions are more alike than they are different."

      The young people are beginning to reject hate and war. Two or three generations from now, there will be a major difference in how the military, if any, functions.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      16 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing this MG. It is a worrying situation. I do remember the 1979 attack on the US Embassy in Iran but couldn’t remember the details. We have to see what eventuates with the current situation.


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