On Jan. 20, 1981, 52 American diplomats, intelligence officers and Marines were finally released after being held hostage for nearly 15 months at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Americans saw it as the end of a long national nightmare. Iranians saw it as a successful phase in what the Pentagon would come to call the Long War.
We were wrong; they were right.
On the face of it, the Iranians achieved what they wanted. President Jimmy Carter had labored with key advisers through the last night of his presidency, desperately trying to bring about the hostages’ release before Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th president. The Iranians, though, were determined to humiliate our 39th president and were not about to free the captives on Carter’s watch.