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A Tale of Two Countries — and One Bizarre Hostage Situation

If you think your relationships are complex, consider the convoluted ties among Ghana, Guinea, and the United States in the mid-1960s. The friendship between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, and Guinea’s first President, Ahmed Sékou Touré, proved problematic for the United States, and even led to the first U.S. diplomatic hostage situation, years before Iran. […]

Freeing American Hostages in the First Gulf War

Shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard forces took hundreds of Americans and people of other nationalities hostage in Iraq and Kuwait. The intent was to use them as bargaining chips and forestall any military action against Iraq in retaliation for its invasion of Kuwait. With hundreds […]

The Iran Hostage Crisis — “I had very little faith in my government protecting me”

On November 4, 1979, some 3000 radical Iranian students protested at the U.S. embassy. The embassy had been taken over earlier in the year but the problem was resolved quickly leading most to believe this situation would be similar. People were angry over President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow the Shah of Iran, who had […]

Top Ten Things You Learn From a Hostage Situation

Sometimes it just ain’t easy working for the State Department. If you go through the lengthy history of the Foreign Service in the second half of the 20th Century, there are a surprising number of diplomats who have been held hostage. And while the situations and political context are very different, certain things do stand out. […]

The Dramatic Hostage Crisis and Daring Rescue at the Japanese Embassy in Peru

It sounds like something out of a novel:  a group of rebels, helped by an American, seize an embassy in a South American country and hold dozens of people hostage for more than four months. Indeed, the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis inspired the 2001 best-selling novel Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, winner of the PEN/Faulkner […]

The Iran Hostage Crisis– Part II

In these excerpts, Bruce Laingen, then Charge d’Affaires of U.S. Embassy Tehran and one of the “super Satans” kept hostage at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, discusses his concerns about a possible “apology” by the U.S. government to the regime, the confusion engendered by changes in the Iranian government, the Argo episode (and how the Ministry knew of […]