Given the history of U.S. interventions and Iran’s experience of the coup, it comes as no surprise that in late 1979, when the Shah was admitted into the United States for medical treatment, Iranians feared a repeat of 1953. Again, the Shah himself was cognizant of the connection, and noted in Answer to History that the embassy in Iran was taken just two weeks after he entered the United States.
It is crucial to our understanding of today’s climate to know the context of those events, although in no way does it excuse the actions of the Iranian students who seized the embassy and its staff. Seen through Iranians’ eyes as an act of independence, the embassy takeover was meant to prevent what they believed was a likely occurrence: a second coup that would again install the Shah. Preeminent historian of modern Iran Ervand Abrahamian aptly posits in his study of the 1953 coup that “much of the public was convinced that the CIA was capable and willing to do so. Thus began the famous 444-day American hostage crisis. Americans who knew little of the events of 1953 were mystified; Iranians were not.”