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Alternate History

1980: Operation Eagle Claw is Successful

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Iran (orthographic projection)

Location of Iran in green

On November 4th, 1979, 66 Hostages were taken in Iran (13 would be released before the crisis ended). It wasn't until 1980 when Jimmy Carter decided to attempt to use military action to rescue the hostages. Operation Eagle Claw, which began April 24th, 1980 was a failure from the beginning. This article gives an idea of what might have happened if Operation Eagle Claw had succeeded.

Background

In January, 1979 the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, left Iran on vacation never to return. Two weeks later in February, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who left the country in exile in 1964, returned to Iran and turned it into a Islamic Republic that made him Supreme Leader. On October 22, 1979 the United States allowed the exiled Shah to come to the United States for Cancer treatment. This angered many Iranians who wanted the Shah returned to Iran to be tried and executed. On November 4th, 1979 the exiled Shah arrived in New York for cancer treatment. Meanwhile, halfway around the World, Hundreds of Iranian students entered the United States embassy 
Iran hostage crisis flag burning

A photo of Iranians burning an American flag

and began their 444 day occupation of the embassy.

Operation Eagle Claw

After months had passed and the Iranians were showing no signs of releasing the remaining 52 hostages, Carter decided to authorize military action to release the hostages. When Operation Eagle Claw began on April 24th, 1980 Delta Force ran into malfunctions and a sandstorm, Carter aborted the mission. When one of the rescue helicopters crashed into a C-130 transport plane, 8 Americans were killed and one Iranian civilian was killed.
Operation eagle claw

Photo of the crashed C-130 Transport Plane and the Wreckage at Desert One

But what if the Operation had been successful. What if there were fewer casualties. What probably would have happened is that the hostages would have been rescued and maybe a few Iranians would have been killed in the rescue operation. Iran would probably become even more anti-American and American credibility would probably be restored throughout the world. 

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