Five years in the works, from the best-selling author of
Black Hawk Down, comes a riveting, definitive chronicle of the Iran hostage
crisis, Americas first battle with militant Islam.
On November 4, 1979, a group of radical Islamist students stormed the U.S.embassy in Tehran. Inspired by the revolutionary Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, they hoped to stage a three-day sit-in protest of the American decision to allow exiled Iranian leader Shah Mohammed Reza to enter the United States for medical treatment. But these modest, peaceful aims were supplanted by something much more severe and dangerous. The students took sixty-six Americans hostage and kept the majority of them for 444 days in a prolonged conflict that riveted the world.
The Iran hostage crisis was a watershed moment in American history. It was Americas first showdown with Islamist fundamentalism, a confrontation that has remained at the forefront of American policy to this day. In Iran, following the ouster of the shah, a provisional government was established, and for a critical moment in the modern ages first Islamist revolution, a more open and democratic society seemed possible. But the religious hardliners on the Revolutionary Council used the hostage crisis as an opportunity to purge moderates from the leadership ranks. They altered the course of the revolution and set Iran on the extreme path it follows to this day.
The Iran hostage crisis was also a dramatic story that captivated the American people. Communities across the country launched yellow ribbon campaigns. ABC began a new late-night television programwhich became Nightlinerecapping the latest events in the crisis and counting up the days of captivity. The hostages families became celebrities, and the never-ending criticism of the governments response crippled Jimmy Carters reelection campaign.
Guests of the Ayatollah tells this sweeping story through the eyes of the people who lived it, on both sides of the crisis. Mark Bowden takes us inside the hostages cells, detailing the Americans terror; confusion, boredom, and ingenuity in the face of absurd interrogations, mock executions and a seemingly endless imprisonment. He recreates the exuberance and naïveté of the Iranian hostage takers. He chronicles the diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages release and offers a remarkable view of President Jimmy Carters Oval Office, where the most powerful man in the world was handcuffed by irrational fanatics halfway around the world. Throughout this all, Bowden weaves the dramatic story of Delta Force, a new Special Forces unit poised for their first mission, Operation Eagle Claw. This was an impossible, courageous, and desperate attempt to snatch the hostages from the embassy in Tehran, which, despite the heroism of Delta Force, exploded into tragic failure in the Iranian desert.
Twenty-six years after the hostage crisis began, Iran, and Americas confrontation with militant Islam, is more relevant than ever before. Guests of the Ayatollah is a remarkably detailed, rigorously researched, brilliantly re-created, suspenseful account of the first battle in this conflict, a crisis that gripped and ultimately changed the world.
(Tehran, November 4, 1979)
The Desert Angel
Before dawn Mohammad Hashemi prepared himself to die. He
washed according to ritual, then knelt in his dormitory room facing southwest
toward Mecca, bent his head to the floor, and prayed the prayer for martyrdom.
After that the stout, bushy-haired young man with the thick beard tucked a
handgun in his belt, pulled on a heavy sweater, and set out through the half
darkness for the secret meeting.
It was, in Iran, the thirteenth day of Aban in the year 1358. The old Zoroastrian calendar had been resurrected a half century earlier by the first self-appointed shah in the Pahlavi line, Reza Khan, in an effort to graft his royal pretensions to the nations ancient traditions. That flirtation with Persias gods and bearded prophets had backfired, sprung up like an uncorked genie in the previous ten months to unseat his son and the whole presumptuous dynasty. Aban is Persias ...
As you would expect from a 700 page book, Guests of the Ayatollah covers the entire crisis in detail, including presidential vacillations (and the behind-the-scenes reasons for the vacillations) the failed rescue attempts, and the politics, but Bowden also gives much space to the hostages themselves, some of whom are fascinating people in their own right. For example, John Limbert, who knew more about Iran's history than most of his captors and spent much of his time translating books from English into Farsi.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1025 words).
Mark Bowden worked as a reporter at The
Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years before
becoming a national correspondent for The Atlantic.
He published his first book, Doctor Dealer, in
1987, but it was not until 1999 and the publication of
Black Hawk Down (a National Book Award Finalist)
that he achieved significant fame as a writer. Guests
of the Ayatollah has become something of a family
affair - while he was busy writing the book, his cousins
David and Arcadia Keane made a
four-hour companion documentary, with a script
written by Bowden's son Aaron, that was first aired in
For his next book he plans to write a ...
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