Our Man in Tehran: The Truth Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home

Our Man in Tehran: The Truth Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home

4.7 4
by Robert Wright
     
 

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For the true story behind Argo, read Our Man in Tehran

The world watched with fear in November 1979, when Iranian students infiltrated and occupied the American embassy in Tehran. The Americans were caught entirely by surprise, and what began as a swift and seemingly short-lived takeover evolved into a crisis that would see fifty four embassy

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Overview

For the true story behind Argo, read Our Man in Tehran

The world watched with fear in November 1979, when Iranian students infiltrated and occupied the American embassy in Tehran. The Americans were caught entirely by surprise, and what began as a swift and seemingly short-lived takeover evolved into a crisis that would see fifty four embassy personnel held hostage, most for 444 days. As Tehran exploded in a fury of revolution, six American diplomats secretly escaped. For three months, Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran—along with his wife and embassy staffers—concealed the Americans in their homes, always with the prospect that the revolutionary government of Ayatollah Khomeini would exact deadly consequences. The United States found itself handcuffed by a fractured, fundamentalist government it could not understand and had completely underestimated. With limited intelligence resources available on the ground and anti-American sentiment growing, President Carter turned to Taylor to work with the CIA in developing their exfiltration plans. Until now, the true story behind Taylor’s involvement in the escape of the six diplomats and the Eagle Claw commando raid has remained classified.

In Our Man in Tehran, Robert Wright takes us back to a major historical flashpoint and unfolds a story of cloak-and-dagger intrigue that brings a new understanding of the strained relationship between the Unites States and Iran. With the world once again focused on these two countries, this book is the stuff of John le Carré and Daniel Silva made real.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Much of Iran's relationship with the West--and their mutual antipathy--stems from the muddled events of a single day: November 4, 1979, when Iranian militants overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran, launching a 444-day-long hostage drama. What's often forgotten is that six Americans evaded their would-be captors and were protected and eventually extracted from Iran by Canadian diplomats. In this fascinating account of spycraft and compassion, Wright (Three Nights in Havana) puts newly unclassified documents to excellent use in recounting how Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor hid the Americans who had slipped out a side door and gathered intelligence for the U.S. government. Wright sketches the historic grievances that lay at the heart of the embassy takeover and dispels lingering myths--among them, that the occupiers were "idealistic student amateurs"--crafting an absorbing story of genuine heroism and suspense. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“A riveting read of intrigue that twists the alliances of nations and with results that still impact the modern world, Our Man in Tehran is an excellent look at the intriguing history that doesn’t get enough attention.” —The Midwest Book Review

"Historian Robert Wright has written a tight summary of the Iran hostage crisis.” —Dallas Morning News

"Illuminating…[Wright] has stepped into the breach in retelling a much-told story, but with convolutions not previously exposed." —Americandiplomacy.org

“In this fascinating account of spycraft and compassion…Wright sketches the historic grievances that lay at the heart of the embassy takeover and dispels lingering myths…crafting an absorbing story of genuine heroism and suspense.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“When narrative nonfiction reads like the plot of an espionage movie, readers can’t help but be drawn in and held fast, as is the case here. This title will appeal to those interested in American history and international affairs, as well as to the reader who enjoys a high-risk spy yarn. Especially timely during current world tensions between nations whose mutual hostilities could yield an outcome similar to the true tale told here.”—Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Wright crafts an informative narrative of Taylor’s formal protests of the egregious violation of international diplomacy that the embassy invasion represented and his surreptitious succor to the Americans.”—Booklist

“[A] thrilling account of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis that focuses on the little-known role of Canadian diplomats in protecting Americans . . . A well-constructed history of a remarkable story, the repercussions of which are still felt today.” —Kirkus Reviews

“As the current nuclear crisis deepens, policy makers as well as students of history will find much to reflect on here—how 1953 led to 1979, and how both condition what may happen in 2011 . . . Detailed and riveting.” —Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq, and US envoy to Afghanistan
 
“Wright offers new information on nearly every page, including the first credible explanation of how the failed hostage rescue might have succeeded. This is no dry history: despite knowing the ending, it was hard to stop reading.” —Mark Lijek, American embassy escapee during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis
 
“A fascinating peek behind the scenes during one of the most challenging times for U.S. foreign policy, as well as for Iran, as it transformed itself from an ally of the West to its implacable foe. Our Man in Tehran reads like a Cold War thriller, and Wright is scrupulously fair in his portrayal of Iranians and their motives. At a time when Iran and the U.S. appear to be on yet another collision course, this book, apart from being tremendously enjoyable, serves as an invaluable history lesson.” —Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ and The Ayatollahs’ Democracy
 
 “In this highly readable volume, Wright has filled in many gaps and in doing so has made a major contribution to the historical record.” —William J. Daugherty, PhD, Armstrong Atlantic State University, hostage during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis

Library Journal
November 1979: the world is watching as the Shah of Iran is removed from power, replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini. Those old enough to remember can recall the taking of 54 hostages from the American embassy who were then held for 444 days, but few know about six American diplomats who secretly escaped and were kept in safe havens by diplomats and workers from Iran's Canadian embassy. Wright (history, Trent Univ.; Three Nights in Havana) focuses on Ken Taylor, the outwardly unassuming Canadian ambassador in Iran, and unravels in painstaking detail how Taylor, at President Jimmy Carter's behest, became embroiled in top-secret negotiations to bring the escaped hostages home safely. VERDICT When narrative nonfiction reads like the plot of an espionage movie, readers can't help but be drawn in and held fast, as is the case here. This title will appeal to those interested in American history and international affairs, as well as to the reader who enjoys a high-risk spy yarn. Especially timely during current world tensions between nations whose mutual hostilities could yield an outcome similar to the true tale told here. With an extensive bibliography and endnotes.—Krista Bush, West Haven, CT
Kirkus Reviews

Thrilling account of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis that focuses on the little-known role of Canadian diplomats in protecting Americans.

Wright (History/Trent University/Three Nights in Havana, 2008) notes that the crisis, which transfixed the world for 444 days, was quickly forgotten by the same American public infuriated by it. When the Iranian student radicals "freed the American captives, in January 1981, the crisis faded from public view." As a result, the role of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor was relegated to a historical footnote. Wright argues that his actions in sheltering six U.S. diplomats who'd avoided the initial assault on the embassy were selfless and intrepid and set a high standard for diplomatic nobility. One of the narrative's greatest strengths is the author's sense of historical context. He sets the stage for the conflagration by looking back to 1953, when the CIA deposed the elected nationalist Mohammed Mosaddegh in favor of Shah Pahlavi, correctly perceived as in line with U.S. Cold War goals. By the '70s, worldwide revulsion over the shah's police-state tactics provided an opening for his nemesis, the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, whose Islamist followers toppled the regime surprisingly fast. PresidentJimmy Carter's decision to admit the shah for medical care proved the last straw for Khomeini's student followers; Khomeini himself quickly endorsed their seizure of the embassy in order to diminish the power of moderates. This violation of diplomacy's basic principles outraged Taylor, and through a tense series of intrigues, the Canadians wound up sheltering six fugitive American diplomats. Taylor provided much intelligence to the White House and CIA as they planned various responses (including the ill-fated "Eagle Claw" rescue mission), leading to the successful exfiltration of the fugitives, a bright spot in an otherwise disastrous period. Ronald Reagan presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal, in response to which Taylor observed, with typical modesty, "The United States faces the rebuffs of history with patience, determination, and a search for justice."

A well-constructed history of a remarkable story, the repercussions of which are still felt today.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590514139
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
01/11/2011
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
669,257
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 3.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Carter’s reciprocal state visit to Iran occurred over New Year’s Eve 1978, a one-night stop on a nine-day tour of the Middle East. The president’s critics liked to say that he had a knack for bringing trouble down on himself, and on this occasion they were dead right. During a lavish banquet for the president, the shah introduced Carter by speaking of Americans’ “high ideals of right and justice, moral beliefs in human values.” Ignoring his advisers’ suggestion that he respond with understatement, Carter answered with an equally obsequious speech. “Iran, because of the great leadership of the shah,” said Carter, “is an island of stability in one of the more troubled parts of the world. This is a great tribute to you, your majesty, and to your leadership, and to the respect and admiration and love which your people give to you.” Broadcast throughout Iran and around the world, the president’s body language conveyed at least as much as his words. Speaking extemporaneously, his face intensely sincere, one hand in his suit-coat pocket, the president turned and faced the shah directly when he spoke of the love of the Iranian people. Coming from a man renowned for his monotonous speeches and his Southern Baptist reserve, it was unexpected, unscripted, and eartfelt. It was, in short, a bombshell. And in Iran it changed everything.

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