[BOOKS] ✭ Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam By Mark Bowden – Saudionline.co.uk

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam summary Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam, series Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam, book Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam, pdf Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam, Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam 61e6e32fa0 From The Best Selling Author Of Black Hawk Down Comes A Riveting, Definitive Chronicle Of The Iran Hostage Crisis, America S First Battle With Militant Islam On November A Group Of Radical Islamist Students, Inspired By The Revolutionary Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Stormed The US Embassy In Tehran They Took Fifty Two Americans Hostage, And Kept Nearly All Of Them Hostage For DaysIn Guests Of The Ayatollah, Mark Bowden Tells This Sweeping Story Through The Eyes Of The Hostages, The Soldiers In A New Special Forces Unit Sent To Free Them, Their Radical, Na Ve Captors, And The Diplomats Working To End The Crisis Bowden Takes Us Inside The Hostages Cells And Inside The Oval Office For Meetings With President Carter And His Exhausted Team We Travel To International Capitals Where Shadowy Figures Held Clandestine Negotiations, And To The Deserts Of Iran, Where A Courageous, Desperate Attempt To Rescue The Hostages Exploded Into Tragic Failure Bowden Dedicated Five Years To This Research, Including Numerous Trips To Iran And Countless Interviews With Those Involved On Both Sides Guests Of The Ayatollah Is A Detailed, Brilliantly Re Created, And Suspenseful Account Of A Crisis That Gripped And Ultimately Changed The World


10 thoughts on “Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam

  1. says:

    While I preferred David Harris s handling of the political maneuverings in his book The Crisis, Bowden does a much better job here of blending previously published captivity narratives and his interviews to give a sense of what the hostages experiences were like While it s successful in being highly readable and in conveying a lot of information, I did have some problems with the tone of the book.Bowden heavily criticizes the pro hostage taker rhetoric of some American lefties at the time, in particular clergy members who visited the hostages in Tehran, and I agree that their insensitivity and irresponsibility are shocking He points at numerous examples throughout of how not only the students but their sympathizers repeatedly attempted to minimize the shittiness of the hostage taking, when any reasonable, ethical person must admit that being held captive for 444 days is an incredibly shitty thing that cannot be justified or excused.Unfortunately, I think Bowden got too sucked into taking sides, and the result is a bias and lack of objectivity that I felt undermined the book There were many places where he seemed to be trying extra hard to make the Iranians look bad, when objective language would have gotten his points across effectively For example, an incident that occurred during the disastrous US rescue attempt is described in language that is, simply put, jacked up The elite Delta Force is shocked when they encounter a bus full of Iranian civilians traveling through the nighttime desert where the Americans are staging to refuel their helicopters The passengers were all instructed in Farsi to remain silent, without effect Most of the passengers were women, all of them wearing chadors and wailing eerily in their distress Sergeant Eric Haney had trouble silencing one of the few young men among them, who insisted on loudly whispering to the others despite even their apparent desire for him to shut up Haney put the muzzle of his automatic rifle under the man s nose and repeated, in Farsi, for him to be silent But soon the offender was whispering again, so Haney roughly put the muzzle of his weapon in his ear and dragged him away from the group Fearing he was being taken off to be shot, the young man began crying and begging, holding both hands up beseechingly Haney sat him down on the road a good distance from the others and left him there, whimpering and praying p 443 To me, what is striking about this scene is that it is so much like the encounters between the Iranian students and American diplomats that have been recounted in the book to this point, only the roles and nationalities have been reversed Their solution is that the bus passengers be forcibly flown out of Iran in a C 130, to be returned home after the mission But rather than acknowledging the irony or locating any empathy, Bowden describes the Iranian hostages in condescending and dehumanizing terms the women are wailing eerily, the man who believes he will be shot is crying and begging, whimpering and praying In a similar scene, that of the harrowing mock execution of American captives, a hostage does not cry or whimper but shouts Oh my God and No No No These seem to me to be pretty much the same reaction to very similar situations, and for me the point was that oh man, it really sucks when you think someone is about to shoot you, whether you come from America or Iran.I don t think showing some empathy for Iranians condones the students actions at all, and throughout the book I think Bowden s writing gave support for the view of Americans as arrogant and spoiled bearers of a double standard, which could have been avoided and if it had been, his book would have been better The hostages experiences speak for themselves I am a super lefty and I totally get why Iranians might have gotten irate with the US we DID organize a coup against their democratically elected prime minister, and we WERE involved in running their country in a sucky way, and our culture DID threaten these students Islamic beliefs I strongly believe you can understand other people s perspectives while still clearly seeing their actions as wrong This is part of what makes me not a fundamentalist, and it s why I can t trust things that remind me at all of propaganda, as this book did at times.Still, it s not a bad book and I feel I have a much better picture now of the hostages experiences I do think Bowden was basically trying to be fair he does explain the Iranians grievances and repeatedly notes how little effort was made to do this by the American media at the time but I felt he was worried that he needed to make his allegiance to the Americans clear and that his efforts sort of weakened the book An American audience is naturally going to side with the hostages, though I m not sure taking sides in a historical incident does any of us much good in the end.


  2. says:

    I d been meaning to read this for quite some time, and I m glad I finally did The specifics of the Iran hostage crisis were always obscure to me, and I ve read only fragmentary accounts by various participants, mainly by members of the Delta Force element The added perspective of the hostages and their centrality to the story is what makes this book such a gem.The Iran hostage crisis is little remembered today, but when it is, it is unfortunately presented in a way that that reeks of partisan politics It the subject of little public debate, except silly, contrived liberal vs conservative arguments that just distort things like they always do.Flag waving, catchphrase spouting, chronic labelist conservatives use the crisis merely to attack Carter and accuse him of making America weak, impotent, and apologetic They claim that if Reagan wa sin office, the hostages would have been rescued sooner and Iran would somehow have been too scared of the big bad U.S of A to be as aggressive and bellicose as they are today That is sheer speculation.For one, the decision to abort the rescue operation was not Carter s Carter approved the operation, and when it went sour as a result of a tragic accident that was in no way influenced by Carter , the ground commander, Beckwith not Carter aborted the mission Carter was not involved in the decision to abort, and it was probably the right call, anyway And, as Bowden notes, the mission s chances of success under any circumstances would have been iffy at best.There s also the myth that the Iranians finally released the hostages because they were scared of big, bad Ronald Reagan and his tougher national security policies and promises to make America great and strong Again, wrong The Iranians released the hostages after Reagan got elected because they wanted to discredit Carter, not because of anything Reagan said, did, or would have said or done If the Iranians were so scared of Reagan ,why did their Hezbollah proxies attack Americans in Lebanon And while Reagan blasted Carter for doing nothing , neither did Reagan propose what should have been done instead.Speaking of American ignorance, allow me to recall an episode from the book When a reporter asked an American citizen what should eb done about the crisis, the citizen replied, Force should be used When the reporter asked But what if responding militarily would mean that the hostages would be harmed , the American, with extensive knowledge and experience of hostage rescues rolls eyes replied, No , then we shouldn t use force I don t want them to be harmed Now for some liberal myths about the crisis many of them claim that the revolution was a legitimate response to the CIA sponsored coup of 1953 that deposed the democratic Mossadegh and put the Shah in power Thus, they claim that the US got itself into this mess by deposing a democracy and installing a dictatorship There s some flaws in this theory, mainly since Mossadegh was anything but a democratic politician, and was hardly missed when he was deposed.Bowden covers this in detail as he explores the reactions of the US public and media to the crisis While their protests were justified, none of the American public demonstrated much wisdom or tact in how to handle it better than Carter Some US protestors shouted Nagasaki, Hiroshima, why not Iran Amazing.The pious second guessers of the News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington boldly concluded that, It may be too early to make a judgment, but first impressions are that the US badly bungled the rescue mission Further, although Carter certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt at this point, it apperas he failed miserably in judgement and leadership The Phoenix Gazette accused Carter of undermining the rescue operation by trying to manage it himself from Wahsington instead of leaving it to the professionals in the field.The Balti Evening Sun laughably offered the ridiculous opinion that authorizing the operation had been wrong because there was a chance it might not succeed any possibility of failure should ahve ruled it out Hmmm, aren t all operations like that by nature Some Iranian protesters were similarly naive, as Bowden shows Some of them thought that World War II had resulted because Hitler was determined to prevent America from seizing the oil supply of Peru One of the students told an American hostage, the CIA station chief that America had been Iran s enemy for four hundred years When the station chief told the apparently well educated student that America had been around for only some two hundred years, the Iranian simply dismissed it with a wave of his hand.Thankfully, Bowden s book presents a balanced, panoramic study of the crisis He details the experiences of both the hostages and their captors, of the media s coverage, and the friction between the revolution s radical and moderate elements For example, Bowden shows that the moderates were sidelined as the ayatollah s backed the students that took over the embassy While Americans today, with their disdain for intellectualism, their inability to grasp complexity, their obvious lack of nuance, and their unfortunate and eager tendency to lump all Muslim revolutionaries together and label all of them radicals or terrorists , Bowden shows that this was clearly not the case.The ostensible trigger for the crisis was the decision by the US to admit the shah to this country for treatment of the cancer that would eventually kill him However, that decision was sold to President Carter by his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, who in turn was sold on it by Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller As the years roll on, it s interesting how many disastrous US foreign policy decisions come back to Kissinger.Further, the CIA was no better then at understanding and predicting events in the Islamic world than they are now Shortly before the crisis erupted, the agency reported that the religious radicals would soon be relegated to the background there, so the US could deal with an emerging secular state with confidence In reality, the country degenerated into a hurricane of religious nuttiness that soon swept aside all of the secular leaders Quite literally, no one at all was really in charge of anything in Iran, and that s the reason the crisis dragged on for over a year.This brings us to the role of President Carter Nearly everyone felt at the time that he was too weak and vacillating to resolve the crisis Not so he tirelessly attempted to find a way to deal with the situation, but every attempt failed when the connection at the Iranian end fell apart No one could have done much , which is why presidential candidate Ronald Reagan continually criticized Carter, but never offered a word of explanation about what he would do.The failed rescue attempt was blamed on Carter, too, but as Bowden makes clear, it had little chance of succeeding, mostly because the equipment available at the time was inadequate, and the situation was impossible Even if Delta Force had made it to Tehran, it s likely that most or all of the hostages and rescuers would have died in the operation Carter and the troops deserve credit for daring the attempt, even in the face of near certain failure.Bowden takes us inside the U.S embassy just as the takeover was about to be launched In short order, we meet an incredible cast of real life characters, from street savvy embassy staffers like Michael Metrinko to clueless government officials and over confident radicals As the hostage crisis unfolds, we can see how the self righteous joy over the initial takeover quickly degenerated into a sad drama of suspicion, prejudice and incompetence that dragged on for 444 days much longer than anyone really wanted, including the hostage takers themselves.To make matters even worse, the very same radicals who launched this tragic episode are now largely in control of the Iranian government Many Americans are still clueless about the events that got us to this place It s a bad dream that just won t go awayBoth Iran and the U.S get their fair share of criticism in this exhaustively researched book If you re looking for an us vs them, good guys vs bad guys treatment, don t look here Bowden properly points out our massive intelligence failures before, during AND after the initial embassy seizure Even the aborted rescue mission seems rooted in a fantasy cloud of wishful thinking For their part, the Islamic radicals come across as typical true believers who never let the facts get in the way of the truth Like the Taliban, the ultimate legacy of the hostage takers was to establish a dysfunctional, paranoid regime that poisons the soul of Islam and breeds violence throughout the Middle East Lord save us all.In this book, Bowden provides the intense, all inclusive details from start to finish of the 444 day Iranian Hostage Crisis The reader is taken inside the holding cell of each hostage and witnesses in vivid detail the daily routines, abuse, and emotions each hostage endured during their stay I quickly became a fan of certain hostages such as diplomat Michael Metrinko, who so adamantly despised his captivity and insulted his captors for which he suffered solitary confinement and severe beatings up to the 444th day While Bowden shares the heroic stories of the hostages, he doesn t disregard certain hostages who fellow captives felt were cowards and swine.Bowden has become widely acclaimed for his ability to investigate the subject of each book and then transpose his research into dramatic details for readers, and Guests of the Ayatollah is no exception to his method Where Guests of the Ayatollah differs from other Bowden books is in its significant focus on the Iranian and American political environments during the hostage crisis Bowden provides an in depth summary of the Carter administrations options and its secretive negotiations with what still existed of the volatile Iranian government Rather than provide his opinion on the performance of the Carter administration, Bowden does a fine job of avoiding personal bias, and allows the reader to reach an informed conclusion in regard to the politics surrounding the Hostage Crisis.Some reviewers seem to feel that Bowden provides justification for the actions of the hostage takers I don t believe this is accurate given that Bowden spends very little time examining the Shah s government other then to acknowledge America s continued support for the Pahlavi government up to the revolution I found that on the controversial issues Bowden provides the facts and allows the reader draw his her own conclusions However, Bowden offers one prevailing conclusion that the Iranian Hostage Crisis established the power of the mullahocrasy in Iran, which runs the government to this day The epilogue goes on to examine whether or not the hostage crisis benefited Iran, and concludes the establishment of the mullahocracy has done harm to the country.In all, Bowden has written an impressive account of the crisis and adequately explores the reactions of the US media and public to it.


  3. says:

    Lengthy account of the Iran Hostage Crisis, which lasted 444 days, or what felt like the amount of time taken to read this book.It s a very detailed account of the crisis and that s the only problem i had with the book, too much information, a bit leaner and it would be a much gripping read.If you re looking to know everything about the Iran Hostage Crisis then this is definitely the book to read but you may feel like a hostage too.


  4. says:

    Even prior to Argo s popularity, I always found myself incredibly interested in the Iranian Revolution This is for two primary reasons 1 it was a revolution in which the outcome wasn t preordained or even mass imagined Indeed, it was described by both its actors and American observers as unthinkable The revolutionaries themselves were not a monolithic group it was a surprising assembly leftest students, religious madrassa students, secular intellectuals, and fundamentalist islamists intent upon seeing Ayatollah Khomeini s world vision realized in Iran What these groups shared was a deep hatred for the American supported Shah and the decades of torture, corruption, and cruelty to which he and his secret police, the SAVAK, subjected the Iranian people to which brings me to my second reason 2 Despite Iran s current backwards mullah dominated government, and the direction in which the revolution eventually went, I find myself empathizing with the sentiments of Iranians of THAT time tired of the Shah, resentful of the CIA orchestrated coup that brought him to power OVER the democratically elected leader at the time, suspicious of further American meddling in their domestic choices Granted, the world was different then Kermit Rooselvelt designed the coup to keep Soviet expansion in check The Shah promised America stability and easy access to his country s oil It was a complicated, interesting Iran, and Bowden s fine book captures one of the key events the US Embassy takeover by a group of students inspired by and loyal to Khomeini All of that said, many of those involved in the embassy takeover were thugs, and the arrogance and criminality of that act was indicative of the ideology which would come today to be known as Islamism or Islamofascism These students claimed allegiance to the Ayatollah Khomeini and ascribe to a world view which is Manichean black and white, good and evil , and thus desirous of bulldozing the very complexity with which the revolution burgeoned These students and their leaders claim to know the will of God, to believe that modern politics and foreign policy should be dictated by holy books that are centuries old, and that the takeover of the American Embassy was necessary because despite all evidence to the contrary they were SURE that it was a den of spies These views are illustrative of a desire to return to an imagined idyllic and simple past where choice was circumscribed by God s constant involvement in mankind s affairs Very few of us live in or desire a reality like that, despite its obvious offers of peace of mind and simplicity The hostage crisis was, in some ways, the first conflict of these ideologies ironically, as Bowden points out, while the takeover was a REJECTION of diplomacy as a manner of politic, it was ended solely through diplomacy An important lesson indeed As Bowden points out, however, the conflict didn t HAVE to end that way, as many Americans and Iranians pushed for very different conclusions Bowden shares amazing anecdotes about the relationship between the hostages and their captors while keeping an eye on the impossibly patient political machinations of the Carter administration in attempting, but repeatedly failing to get the hostages released Granted, he had few good choices, and all of them were likely to make life for the hostages worse It is a delicious irony that Saddam Hussein s surprise bombing and invasion of Iran led to the hostages being released Iran released the hostages so that America would honor Iran s previous arms purchases and unfreeze Iranian investments in America which she needed to defend herself against Iraq This book is tremendous, and Bowden s tone and selection of detail suggest that he, too, views these events as endlessly fascinating, enormously complex, and still influential.


  5. says:

    I was a Senior at Spring Hill College and working for the CBS affiliate in Mobile, Alabama when this occurred I was undergoing a transformation in my politics also at this time Having met and listened to Ronald Reagan for over 3 hours in September of 1976, I fell in love with both the man and his ideas I became a Reagan Democrat turned Republican, and never turned toward the left again I voted for the former President in the 1976 Republican primary rather than Gerald Ford I proudly cast my vote for Reagan again in 1980, mainly because of this hostage situation and the feckless handling of this situation by the Carter Administration My schoolmates and station friends were constantly discussing the hostage situation among ourselves Uncle Walter words were repeated ad nauseam as I recalled I wasn t surprised than the hostages were freed as Reagan took his Presidential Oath of office Leaders of nations understood that a new sheriff was in D.C and were afraid as they should ve been We cheered in the studio as the News Bulletin aired When I first read this book a couple of years ago, I was horrified by actions of the hostage takers It is still horrific to read, but this time I was also repulsed by their actions I was very surprised by how ineffectual Carter was there is never guarantees that military action will succeed or be doomed to fail Everything must be on the table and everything must be tried to save American lives i.e Benghazi in 2012 Carter was involved with the decision making than I believe he should of been, but Mark Bowden gives readers much details of the Washington front than the network news departments did in 1979 1980 And I found that fascinating Bpwden retells stories of bravery, endurance, and resistance from the survivors There s even a traitor in their midst Though quite long, Guests of the Ayatollah The Iran Hostage Crisis The First Battle in America s War with Militant Islam reads like fiction mostly Some parts do read like dry toilet papered textbooks, but these parts are few and far between in Bowden s prose.


  6. says:

    Great book about the Iranian Hostage crisis Being born in the late 1970s, I do not remember this on TV obviously But some of the action was rivetingat times it felt like a novel I really liked the parts where Bowden takes the reader inside the Carter Administration For those of you who criticize his handling of the situation, how would YOU have handled it It was an impossible situation Also, similar to The Looming Tower , by Lawrence Wright, the book helps us answer the question, Why do they hate us so much And in Iran s case, I kind of agree with their views not to the point of taking hostagesbut the U.S did treat Iran like crap Another tidbit from the book that I enjoyed was the revelation that one of the hostage takers did not know that Japan had started WWII with the U.S She thought we dropped the atomic bomb for no reason UNBELIEVABLE


  7. says:

    Excellent book A very dark period we could all stand to learn from.


  8. says:

    Nothing to criticize here Bowden s take is engaging and top notch.From the early takeover in February and the complete lack of defense of the embassy to the escape attempts by the hostages and the outlandish mindset of many Iranians this book brims with insight and enlightenment.Also, Bowden does a solid job of depicting how one can quickly become compromising with ones captors.


  9. says:

    This is a fascinating, gripping non fiction account of the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979 1981 I bought this book after seeing Argo This book is definitely not an account of the true Argo story in fact, the six workers who were the subject of that film are mentioned only very briefly in this book as in, maybe ten sentences This book gives a brief background of the events leading up to the overthrow of the shah and the Iranian Revolution in the late 70s Prior to reading this book, I only knew that there had been a revolution and that it had involved a retreat to a fundamentalist Islamist state That was the extent of my knowledge of the revolution I knew nothing about the crisis itself Guests of the Ayatollah starts with a concise history of shah s rule, the revolution, and America s involvement in putting the shah into power There is definitely in depth reading available on the subject, but the details provided in the book gave me enough background to sufficiently understand the political climate at the time of the takeover The book weaves the story of the takeover with the ongoing political change in Iran, the stories of the hostages experiences in captivity, the failed rescue attempt by a U.S special forces outfit, and the Carter Administration s response to the crisis The book jumps around among these different topics, but it s in chronological order, is easy to follow, and is very engrossing The only real issue I had was keeping track of the various hostages The author doesn t provide accounts of all 52 hostages who spent the entire 444 days in captivity But he follows enough people, who for the most part all seemed to have similar diplomatic roles, that I did get their jobs titles responsibilities confused It turns out that this doesn t matter much you become acquainted with the hostages throughout the book as they endure their captivity, and the author re references some of their background details Some other reviews of this book have complained that the descriptions about the hostages daily life got tired and tedious I did not find that to be the case I found that reading about how they developed communications systems when they couldn t talk, interacted with the guards, and got on each others nerves was extremely interesting Different people responded differently to the captivity, and the ways some of them tried to torment their guards were actually pretty amusing The inside account of the Carter Administration s approach to the crisis was also very interesting I walked away from this book feeling as though Carter made decisions based on what would preserve lives, and not what was politically advantageous One final note I recommend buying this book on an e reader if possible I ordered the paperback version, and it s pretty hefty So I returned it and bought the e book The Kindle version was properly formatted and contained all the same pictures as the paperback version There aren t many photos in this book If you are looking for pictures of all the hostages, you won t find that here.


  10. says:

    I love history I love politics I love current events There were two seminal events that influenced that love The Iranian hostage crisis was one of those two events During those 444 days I was glued to the TV watching every unfolding moment that related to the attempts to resolve the crisis and the upcoming 1980 election Lately, I ve been reminded that I view those incidents through the lens of a pre teen and wanted to delve into a study to understand the context On November 4, 1979, five college students that included Mahmoud Ahmadinejad planned and executed the siege of the US Embassy in Tehran citing US crimes in admitting the Shah into the US for medical treatment Bowden, also author of Black Hawk Down provides excellent context on the US Iranian relations twenty five years prior to this incident, the factions competing for power within Iran at the time, details on the behind the scenes negotiations to release the hostages, mecahanisms the hostages employed to survive the ordeal, the role the press played, how American citizens developed ways individually and collectively to support the hostages, how this incident changed the trajectory of Iranian history, and how Iranians today view those 444 days Some of the things I learned 1 Some of the students attended Berkeley at a time that student demonstrations were impacting the view Americans held on the Vietnam War Returning home these students employed many of the same strategies, assuming American citizens would have a similar response once they learned the truth about American involvement in Iran Due to this misguided assumption the students allowed incredible access to the hostages by media and clergy 2 Even today we hear about Iranian misinterpretation of historical facts i.e Holocaust It was amazing to see just how many other areas of history are skewed 3 I was suprised to learn how many marines were on site and not allowed to defend the embassy.4 Even though there is blatant bias discussed n a moment on Bowden s part, I felt like I had a much better understanding of the severe missteps by Carter administration in the months leading up to November, the missteps in the decision making process during the crisis, and why the Shah s medical treatment in the US was such an issue I m not so sure I have a better understanding of the missteps in the rescue attempt, as Bowden seems to go against every other historian s view on this point.5 How the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the war with Iraq influenced the negotiations and release of the hostages.Bowden s overt bias kept me from rating this a 5 star book Actually I d rather the bias be this evident because it is then easy to separate fact from opinion however, I still cannot bring myself to give a wok on history 5 stars when the author tries to push an agenda.


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