A Palestinian window of opportunity? The PLO, the US and the Iranian hostage crisis

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Jensehaugen, Jørgen (2019) A Palestinian window of opportunity? The PLO, the US and the Iranian hostage crisis, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. DOI: 10.1080/13530194.2019.1661646.

​When the US embassy in Teheran was stormed in 1979, and the embassy personnel taken hostage, the PLO saw an opportunity to engage with the United States. Since the early 1970s the PLO had tried to open a political channel with the USA. While several backchannels had been attempted none resulted in direct political talks between the US and the PLO. The US was bound by a secret agreement with Israel, as part of Sinai II, having promised not to negotiate with the PLO. When the US hostages were taken in 1979, the PLO attempted to use their contacts in the new Iranian regime to negotiate on behalf of the US. While this channel did not result in a major breakthrough in the hostage negotiations, it is a case which illustrates a paradox in US Middle East policy: The US was unwilling to negotiate with the Palestinians when it was their conflict that was at stake, but once US lives were in the balance, the US administration was more than willing to open a direct channel to the PLO. Arafat, for his part, was equally willing to step up, hoping to make political gains further down the line.

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Authors

Jørgen Jensehaugen

Jørgen Jensehaugen

Senior Researcher