4, 1979, Iranian militants took over the American embassy in . The
Americans inside the embassy when the takeover occurred were held hostage for
444 days. The drawn-out crisis made President Jimmy Carter look weak, and he
lost the next presidential election to Ronald Reagan. Iran
A dozen or so Americans managed to exit the embassy during the siege. Most were captured and brought back, but six ended up on the run. Eventually, they were sheltered by Canadian diplomats in their homes for weeks of boredom from nothing to do and terror at the risk of being discovered.
Antonio Mendez and others at the CIA created an outlandish scheme to explain why the six were in
and as cover to get them out.
Even in the midst of a military crisis, Iran
rolls on, and Hollywood Hollywood execs are crazy enough
to visit war-torn countries seeking places to film. Using a script for a
science fiction movie project that had fallen through a few months earlier, the
CIA created the elusion of a production company scouting locations in . Iran
The logistics of such an operation seem overwhelming. The book is thorough without bogging down. Without getting lost, I understood the incredible amount of coordination and attention to detail that was required. One of the parts that struck me had to do with acquiring Canadian passports. The six Americans were to pose as Canadians, and Mendez expected getting permission from
to create fake Canadian passports to be a major obstacle. Instead, on arriving
in the office of a Canadian official, he and a colleague were astonished to
discover that the Canadians had already done the background work necessary to
make that happen. Canada
Some of the information in Argo is recently declassified. The text is not always politically correct – one of the Americans in hiding is described as having “a small-town librarian’s wholesomeness,” for example – but this is a nonfiction book that reads like fiction. The movie version is playing in theaters now. It is an excellent movie, but it has been a bit “Hollywooded” up. If you enjoyed the movie and want to learn more about what really happened, check out the book. I recommend Argo for anyone with an interest in the
Middle East, American history,
and spy thrillers. This is the real thing.