At the same time that he was devising a response to the Afghanistan incursion, Carter had to confront a much more acute crisis in Iran, where he had brought the greatest disaster of his presidency down upon himself. In November 1977, he welcomed the shah of Iran to the White House, and on New Year’s Eve in Tehran, raising his glass, he toasted the ruler. Though the shah was sustained in power by a vicious secret police force, Carter praised him as a champion of “the cause of human rights” who had earned “the admiration and love” of the Iranian people. Little more than a year later, his subjects, no longer willing to be governed by a monarch imposed on them by the CIA, drove the shah into exile. Critically ill, he sought medical treatment in the United States. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance warned that admitting him could have repercussions in Iran, and Carter hesitated. But under pressure from David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and the head of the National Security Council, Zbigniew Brzezinski, he caved in. Shortly after the deposed shah entered the Mayo Clinic, three thousand Islamic militants stormed the US embassy compound in Tehran and seized more than fifty diplomats and soldiers. They paraded blindfolded US Marine guards, hands tied behind their backs, through the streets of Tehran while mobs chanted, “Death to Carter, Death to the Shah,” as they spat upon the American flag and burned effigies of the president—scenes recorded on camera that Americans found painful to witness.
William E. Leuchtenburg (The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton)