|Jimmy Carter said advisers pressed him to attack Iran. (Phichaiyong Mayerku/ Reuters)|
CHIANG MAI, Thailand - Former president Jimmy Carter said yesterday that he was pressed by his advisers to attack Iran during the hostage crisis there more than 30 years ago but resisted because he feared 20,000 Iranians could have died.
Islamist militants stormed the US Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and seized its occupants. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
Carter acknowledged that his failure to bring the hostages home - including a botched rescue mission in which eight US servicemen died - led to his election defeat. The hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981, just minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president.
“I don’t have any doubt that was the main factor in my defeat,’’ Carter said in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, where he was helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity. “Obviously, if I had rescued the hostages or they had not been taken, I would have been reelected.’’
Carter said one proposed option was a military strike on Iran, but he chose to stick with negotiations to prevent bloodshed.
“I could have destroyed Iran with my weaponry,’’ he said. “But I felt in the process it was likely the hostages’ lives would be lost, and I didn’t want to kill 20,000 Iranians. So I didn’t attack.’’