8 Handshakes That Changed History

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Jimmy Carter - Shah of Iran


December 31, 1977

After their first meeting in Washington, D.C. on November 15th, 1977, President Carter and the then embattled Shah of Iran, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, were reunited in Tehran on New Year's Eve. Seven days earlier the shah had announced the implementation of special tribunals to those detained on charges of corruption. The move was seen as a key concession to opponents who demanded the right to a people's court. At their November 15th meeting, Carter had declared the shah as "an island of stability". These words would come back to haunt Carter when Pahlavi was overthrown by Islamic Fundamentalists in early 1979 and Iran was taken over by the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Pahlavi came back to the U.S. for cancer treatment in October, provoking radical Iranian students to charge and take over the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. Sixty-six Americans were taken hostage, and the ensuing 444-day period of crisis lowered the public's confidence in Carter's administration and contributed to his eventual loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

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