WASHINGTON (CN) – Thirty-two years after Islamist revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, President Barack Obama has extended a Carter Administration executive order freezing all Iranian government assets held under U.S. jurisdiction.
The seizure of the embassy and 66 hostages began Nov. 4, 1979, when several hundred Iranian students stormed the embassy grounds. It ended 444 days later, after a failed rescue mission, and resulted in a turn over in the American presidency.
The crisis ended with the finalization of the Algiers Accords on Jan. 19, 1981. The hostages were released the next day – twenty minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn into office as Carter’s successor.
The accords created the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal to resolve economic claims between the two nations. Iran deposited a billion dollars in an escrow account controlled by the tribunal to be distributed to American companies with pending claims against Iran, and the U.S. released all of the gold bullion owned by Iran held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to a similar escrow account.
The order has been extended every year since it was first signed, giving the president the discretion to release Iranian assets to satisfy rulings of the tribunal and to ensure Iranian compliance until the two nations establish normal relations.