Tony Mendez, the real CIA spy in Argo

BBC World Service

Tony Mendez, the real CIA spy in Argo

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Argo is a major contender for Oscar success

Argo, a film about the audacious rescue of six Americans hiding in Tehran after the storming of the US embassy in November 1979, is the bookies’ favourite for best picture at the Oscars. CIA agent Tony Mendez, played in the film by Ben Affleck, explains how the rescue plan was hatched.

The six Americans in hiding had escaped from the back door of the embassy as Iranian revolutionaries broke their way in, and taken refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. But they were at risk of being discovered, either by Iranian revolutionaries or the international media.

Much of the world’s attention was focused on the several dozen embassy staff held hostage by Iran’s new revolutionary regime. Of the 66 seized, 13 had been released after a fortnight. But US President Jimmy Carter was under pressure to secure the safe return of all the hostages – including those the Iranians were unaware of.

A scene from Argo Argo is a major contender for Oscar success

Tony Mendez had to find a way of smuggling the six out of the country, but first he had to get himself in without giving rise to suspicion. >>

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