“I don’t have any doubt that was the main factor in my defeat,” Carter told reporters 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 re-elected.”

Carter said one proposed option was a military strike on Iran, but he chose to stick with negotiations to prevent bloodshed and bring the hostages home safely.

“My main advisers insisted that I should attack Iran,” he said. “I could have destroyed Iran with my weaponry. 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.”