341. Message From the Joint Chiefs of Staff Intelligence Directorate (J–2) Snowbird to the Deputy Director for Operations, Near Eastern Affairs, Iran Task Force, Central Intelligence Agency1

J3 0288


  • 60–90 Day Situation Projection


  • A. JCS/Snowbird/J2 Cite 0274
  • B. JCS/Snowbird/J2 NBR 0652

1. (TS) Messages cited above provided JTF assessment of hostage locations based on data datelined as of 18 Jun through 31 July 1980. Recent political events in Iran and CONUS plus renewed reports of the possibility of hostage trials warrant a reexamination of the situation and the dissemination of a 60–90 day events projection. This message provides such an assessment.

2. (S) A major goal of Khomeini is to establish a pure Islamic government devoid of Western influence and at the same time humiliate the United States, obtain U.S. acknowledgement of its “sins” during [Page 902] the regime of the Shah, and punish the U.S. President who protected the Shah (an avowed target of Khomeini’s hate). The protraction of the hostage situation achieves some of these objectives specifically; humiliation of USG, and punishment of the President by theoretically reducing his potential for reelection.

3. (C) Based upon ongoing events in Iran, such as the continuing purge of military and political leaders with Western backgrounds, increasing control by IRP, and selection of IRP Islamic hardliner as Prime Minister it is clear that secular (moderate) influence is declining as the power of the hardliner and clerics rises. These influences are not likely to assist in obtaining a political solution to the hostage situation.

4. (TS) Based upon the foregoing the following projection of events is provided for planning purposes.

(A) No hostages will be released prior to U.S. Presidential elections unless USG meets Iranian demands or another hostage medical problem occurs.

(B) Reporting on possible trials will increase, but actual trials of individuals is unlikely although a “grand jury style” of indictment proceedings is possible.

(C) Tempo of activity will pickup with the approach of U.S. elections, reaching a peak in mid-late October.

(D) If President Carter loses the election, Khomeini thru the Majlis may direct the incremental release of most of the hostages, retaining some number (5–10) as spies and war criminals, hoping to obtain concessions from the new President in January. However, if President Carter were to be reelected it is extremely doubtful that any of the hostages would be released without significant concessions by the USG.

5. (TS) In summary, the current JTF analysis is that no breakthrough is likely prior to the U.S. Presidential elections and knowledge of actual locations will continue to be extremely restricted while extensive deception actions will continue to be employed.3

  1. Source: Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–07–0002, Records of J–3 DDSO, Box 2, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, B270–280 Intelligence Assessment. Top Secret.
  2. Neither found.
  3. According to message 0293, August 14, Vaught agreed with this assessment but estimated a 50 percent likelihood of individual hostage trials and incremental release of hostages before the election. Trials would make the location of some hostages available. He added: “A concerted [less than 1 line not declassified] collection program in Iran remains the ‘sine qua non’ for a successful rescue operation.” (Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–07–0002, Records of J–3 DDSO, Box 2, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, B270–280 Intelligence Assessment)