Most Important Presidential Visits

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No. 7 Jimmy Carter - Iran

Dates: December 31, 1977-January 1, 1978 "An island of stability in a turbulent corner of the world." These unfortunately-timed words, which would soon be embedded in the minds of every Iranian, were delivered by President Jimmy Carter in the early days of 1978. Arriving just weeks after demonstrations against Mohammad Reza Shah Palavi turned violent, Carter's visit and subsequent toast of the autocratic Shah came as a betrayal to an Iranian nation that had taken Carter's previously encouraging words on human rights and freedom to heart. By 1978, over 40,000 Americans lived in Iran. Drunk with power and crude oil, The Shah had spent much of the 1970s stockpiling his regime with American-made weapons and development contracts. This required a larger and larger American presence in the country, making Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's alarmist predicitons of American colonialism in Persia seem all the more plausible to the average Iranian. President Carter's toast, coupled with gushing words of praise for the Shah's efforts at moderation and modernity in the region, only fueled the flames of revolution throughout the nation. The following year, nearly a year after President Carter toasted the Shah in Tehran, the Iranian dictator and his family were forced to flee an Iran in revolutionary flux. On November 4, 1978, student radicals - endorsed by the clerical regime now ruling the land - seized the American embassy in Iran, creating the defining foregin policy crisis of the Carter presidency. Then, 444 days later - the very moment Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency from Jimmy Carter in 1981 - all 66 hostages were released. The events would forever haunt Carter's presidential legacy, and as a result, contributed to the horrid relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran today.

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