email@example.com January 7, 2020
In the interest of understanding recent events, we have quickly put together a partial timeline of US-Iran relations, beginning in 1953 through the present. This is a quick, somewhat cursory timeline, but we feel it’s important that a general outline become available as soon as possible.
Many thousands of American families are heavily invested in the situation – according to U.S. Central Command, between 60,000 and 70,000 U.S. troops are currently in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
(Please check back later, as we will likely add additional incidents, links, and information in the coming days.)
* 1800s to 1951: Relations between the US and Iran began in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Initially, while Iran was very wary of British and Russian colonial interests, it viewed the United States as a more trustworthy great power.
During World War II Iran was invaded by Britain and the Soviet Union, both US allies, but relations with the US continued to be positive. This changed in 1953:
* 1953: UK and US orchestrated a coup to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh.
Mossadegh had denied the British further involvement in Iran’s oil industry. Britain then appealed to the US for help, which eventually led the CIA to orchestrate the overthrow of Mossadegh and restore power to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.
The Shah became known for “his autocratic rule, corruption in his government, the unequal distribution of oil wealth, forced Westernization, and the activities of SAVAK (the secret police) in suppressing dissent and opposition to his rule.”
* In 1979 the Shah was overthrown by a popular revolution. He then traveled to the US, which had supported him.
The rebels created a democratic government based on religious principles: The Islamic Republic of Iran. This was a reaction against the authoritarian Shah’s forced westernization and denigration of the traditional religion.
* The new Iranian government begins its support of Palestinian rights against Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Muslim and Christian inhabitants of what had originally been called Palestine.
* Iran also supports Hezbollah, armed resistance groups in Lebanon against Israel’s invasions of Lebanon.
(Israel exploited Americans in its fight against Lebanon.)
Ha’aretz: Iran’s mentoring of Hezbollah’s insurgency of the 1980s and 1990s forced Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon.
* Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in the US – which plays a major role in US Mideast policies – has opposed Iran ever since the new Iranian government was created.
The Oded Yinon plan (“Greater Israel”: The Zionist Plan for the Middle East) provides some information on the Israeli role through the years in destabilizing many countries in the Middle East.
* Since the Shah’s regime had tortured many dissidents, his victims wanted him to return to Iran to face justice, but the US would not extradite him. Iranian militants then seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took hostage more than 50 Americans, demanding the extradition of the shah in return for the hostages’ release. Extradition was refused and the hostages were held for 444 days.
* Washington then froze about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold, and other properties. Most of those were released in 1981 as part of the Reagan release deal.
* Some assets—Iranian officials say $10 billion, but US officials say much less—remain frozen, pending resolution of legal claims arising from the Revolution. The money that the Obama administration returned to Iran as part of the JCPOA agreement was Iran’s own money.
* The next year, in September 1980, Iraq launched a war against Iran that lasted until 1988. The death toll was an estimated 1 million for Iran and 250,000-500,000 for Iraq.
U.S. officials later acknowledged that American arms, technology and intelligence helped Iraq kill Iranians and avert defeat and eventually grow, with much help from the Soviet Union later, into a major regional power.
* The administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous “dual-use” items, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax.
* In 1988 a US Navy ship shot down a commercial Iranian airliner, killing 290 men, women, and children. The Pentagon at first denied it was involved, and then said it was an accident.
* After the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan and attacked the Taliban. Iran assisted the US in this fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with Soleimani playing a major role.
Earlier, the U.S. had supported Islamic forces against the Soviet Union, which the Carter administration had drawn into invading Afghanistan.
* In 2002 Israel began a campaign claiming, falsely, that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.
This campaign has continued and escalated through the years, as documented here.
The invasion was promoted by Israel and its partisans.
* The US, under the influence of the Israel lobby, supports Israeli actions. Over the years, it labels resistance fighters “terrorists” and condemns Iran’s support of Palestinian rights.
* In 2007, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad quoted an old saying of Ayatollah Khomeini calling for ‘this occupation regime over Jerusalem” – meaning Israel – to “vanish from the page of time.” (As Juan Cole explains, many mistranslated his words as “wiped off the face of the map.”)
* Israel and its partisans continue to claim (as they have since 1991) that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. US intelligence find no evidence for the claim.
* In 2015, the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” a detailed, 159-page agreement is reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) aimed at halting Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program.
Nevertheless, Iran signs the agreement, giving up many rights in an attempt to avoid US-Israeli sanctions.
* Both Democrats and Republicans repeat the Israel-promoted false claim that Iran is the top sponsor of “terror.”
Much of the following is excerpted from an Al Jazeera timeline, with a number of additions from diverse other sources (sources are provided in embedded links):
* Trump makes good on an election campaign promise, announcing on May 8, 2018 that the US is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).
Trump’s action is influenced by pro-Israel multi-billionaire campaign donors Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus.
Adelson once said he regretted that he had served in the US army instead of in the Israeli military.
* In response, Iran calls this “unacceptable” and says it will bypass Washington and negotiate with the deal’s other remaining signatories: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.
* May 21 Trump administration makes 12 demands, which Iran rejects.
* US on August 7 reimposes the first round of sanctions on Iran, originally lifted as part of the nuclear deal. They prohibit trade with a number of business sectors – from aviation and carpets to pistachios and gold.
* On November 5, the US announces a new round of sanctions, this time specifically targeting the key oil and banking sectors.
* In March the US Treasury Department, under Israel partisan Steven Mnuchin, blacklisted 25 Iranian businesses and individuals.
[The individual under Mnuchin in charge of US actions regarding Iran is an Israeli citizen.]
* On April 2, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said: “I can announce today, based on declassified US military reports, that Iran is responsible for the deaths of 608 American service members. This accounts for 17 percent of all deaths of US personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.”
Navy Commander Sean Robertson followed up with an email to media outlets pushing that same line. When author Gareth Porter asked Robertson for further clarification of the origins of that figure, however, Robertson “acknowledged that the Pentagon doesn’t have any study, documentation, or data to provide journalists that would support such a figure.”
* On April 8, Trump announces he is designating a powerful arm of the Iranian military, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization.
It is the first time Washington has formally labelled another country’s military a “terrorist group.” The designation imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on the IRGC that will go into effect on April 15.
* Responding to the move, Iran immediately declares the US a “state sponsor of terrorism” and calls Washington’s forces in the region “terrorist groups.”
* On May 5, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton announces the US is sending an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings”.
* On May 8, Iransays it is preparing to increase enriched uranium and heavy water production as part of its decision to stop certain commitments made under the nuclear deal. (Iran continues to emphasize that it is NOT developing nuclear weapons, which are banned by a religious edict from its Supreme Leader.)
* Trump announces new measures against Iran’s steel and mining sectors.
* On May 12, the United Arab Emirates says four commercial ships off the coast of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs, “were subjected to sabotage operations”.
The UAE did not name a suspect and there were no claims of responsibility. Unnamed US officials identified Iran as a prime suspect. But the officials offered no proof to back the claim.
Iranian officials expressed concern, saying the alleged attacks could have been carried out by third parties to stir up conflict between Washington and Tehran during the heightened tensions.
The US’s “maximum pressure” campaign had triggered an economic crisis in Iran.
* Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are locked in a long-running war with a Saudi-UAE-led military coalition, launch drone attacks on Saudi Arabia on May 14, striking a major oil pipeline and taking it out of service.
* Two days later, Riyadh, a key US ally, blames Iran for the attack.
* The US and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of arming the Houthis.
* Tehran denies the claim.
* On May 19, a rocket lands near the US embassy in Baghdad. No one is harmed.
It is not clear who is behind the attack, but Trump tweets: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif responds by tweeting that Trump had been “goaded” into “genocidal taunts”.
* After meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who offers to broker dialogue between Washington and Tehran, Trump says on May 27 the US is “not looking for regime change” in Iran.
* On June 12, Abe arrives in Tehran in a bid to mediate between the US and Iran.
* Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refuses to meet with him, saying: “I don’t consider Trump as a person worthy of exchanging messages with. I have no response for him and will not answer him.”
* On June 13, with Abe still in Iran, a Japanese and a Norwegian tanker come under “attack” in the Gulf of Oman, according to the Norwegian maritime authority and the Japanese shipowner.
Iran speaks initially of “accidents” and says it rescued 44 crew. Zarif calls tanker “attacks” during Abe’s visit “suspicious”.
* On June 17, the Pentagon authorizes the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East.
* On the same date, Iran says it is 10 days away from surpassing the limits set by the nuclear deal on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
* Iran says it can reverse the move if the deal’s European signatories step in and make an effort to circumvent US sanctions.
* On June 20, Iranian forces shoot down a US military drone.
Both countries confirm the incident but offer diverging accounts about the location of the aircraft.
The US says it was flying above international waters, while Iran says the drone was flying in Iranian airspace.
* On June 21, Trump says he called off a military strike on Iran the night before, which was intended as retaliation against Tehran for the downing of the unmanned US drone.
Trump says he did so 10 minutes before the planned attack because of potential casualties, saying it was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone”.
Trump says a US strike could have killed 150 people, and signals he is open to talks with Tehran.
* On June 22, Iran says it is ready to respond firmly to any US threat against it.
“We will not allow any violation against Iran’s borders. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America,” Abbas Mousavi, foreign ministry spokesman, says.
* On the same day, Iran orders the execution of a “defence ministry contractor” convicted of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency,
* The US vows to impose fresh sanctions, adding that military action was still “on the table.”
* On June 25, Trump signs an order targeting Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and associates with additional financial sanctions
“Sanctions imposed through the executive order … will deny the supreme leader and the supreme leader’s office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support,” the US president says.
* Responding to the announcement, Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, tweets that hawkish politicians close to Trump were thirsty for war rather than diplomacy.
Rouhani dismisses the sanctions as “outrageous and idiotic”, adding that Tehran’s “strategic patience” should not be mistaken for fear.
* On June 29, the US Air Forces Central Command says in a statement that F-22 Raptor stealth fighters are being deployed in the region “to defend American forces and interests”.
* On July 1, Iran exceeds the limit on the amount of enriched uranium in its stockpile set out in the nuclear deal.
Zarif says the accumulation of more enriched uranium than permitted under the deal is not a violation of the pact.
* On July 4, British Royal Marines, police and customs agents in Gibraltar seize a supertanker accused of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.
The Grace 1 vessel was boarded on Thursday when it slowed down in a designated area used by shipping agencies to ferry goods to ships in the UK territory along Spain’s southern coast.
* On July 8, Iran passes the uranium enrichment cap set in the nuclear deal, the second time in a week that it makes good on a promise to reduce compliance with the accord.
* On July 12, police in Gilbraltar arrest the captain and chief officer of an Iranian tanker that was seized by British forces the previous week.
* On July 19, the IRGC says its forces have seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Stena Impero tanker “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules”, the force says in its official website.
* On August 1, the US imposes sanctions on Zarif for acting on behalf of Ali Khamenei.
“Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in a statement.
* Zarif brushes off the move on Twitter, saying it indicates Washington saw him as a “threat”.
“It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interest outside of Iran,” he says.
* On August 23, Rouhani inducts a locally built air-defence system into the country’s missile defense network at an unveiling ceremony in Tehran.
Iran began production after the purchase of Russia’s S-300 system was suspended in 2010 due to international sanctions that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Speaking at the ceremony, Rouhani says the mobile surface-to-air system was “better than S-300 and close to
“Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues,” Zarif says. “Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying.”
On the same day, Iran says it has sold 2.1m barrels of crude oil on board the tanker that was seized in Gibraltar the previous month, adding that the vessel’s new owner will decide on its next destination.
* On August 30, the UN says Iran is still exceeding limitations set by its nuclear deal with world powers, increasing its stock of enriched uranium and refining it to a greater purity than allowed in the agreement.
The quarterly report from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency confirms Iran is progressively backing out of the pact in retaliation for the US’s withdrawal from the accord and the subsequent renewal of sanctions that have hit Iranian oil sales.
The measures imposed by the US Department of the Treasury target the Iran Space Agency, Iran Space Research Center and the Astronautics Research Institute.
* On September 4, the US turns up the economic pressure on Iran, blacklisting an oil shipping network that Washington alleges is directed by the IRGC.
The blacklisted group of firms, ships and individuals stands accused by the US Treasury of breaching sanctions by supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
* The Trump administration, meanwhile, says it will not accommodate a proposal by France to throw a financial lifeline to Tehran.
* The US offers several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria, the State Department confirms.
The Financial Times reports on September 5 that Brian Hook, the State Department point man on Iran, [who spoke at the 2019 AIPAC conference and the American Jewish Committee conference] has sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered “good news” of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as Grace 1, to a country where it could be seized. (Captain Kumar rejected the offer.)
* On September 7, Iran starts injecting gas into advanced centrifuges to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium and warns time is running out for the nuclear deal’s other signatories to save the landmark pact.
Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi says Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation has started up advanced centrifuges at the enrichment facility in Natanz, the third step by Tehran in scaling back its commitments under the crumbling pact following Washington’s withdrawal.
* Trump on September 10 announces via Twitter that he has fired Bolton, his national security adviser, saying he has “strongly disagreed” with many of his hawkish positions.
Bolton’s sacking is reportedly linked to a fundamental disagreement over the possible easing of US sanctions on Iran.
* On September 14, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim responsibility for drone attacks on two major Saudi Aramco oil facilities: Abqaiq – the world’s largest oil processing plant – and the Khurais oilfield, in eastern Saudi Arabia. The pre-dawn strikes knock out more than half of crude output from the world’s top exporter.
* Pompeo swiftly blames Iran, saying it “has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.
* Iran dismisses the “meaningless” US allegations, saying they were meant to justify actions against the country.
* Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, Trump on September 24 lashes out at Iran and calls countries around the world to tighten the economic noose around it.
“One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran,” he says.
* In October Trump called the Iraq war “the single worst mistake this country has ever made” and said: “These wars, they never end. And we have to bring our great soldiers back from the never-ending wars.”
* The US on November 4 imposed new sanctions on the inner circle of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including one of his sons.
The US Treasury said that the nine people sanctioned included Khamenei’s chief of staff, the head of the judiciary and senior military figures. It said it also blacklisted Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff.
* Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the sanctions “a sign of the desperation and inability of this regime in benefiting from a diplomatic and logical approach” to important international issues, according to the official IRNA news agency.
* Iran on November 6, began the process of injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at the underground Fordow facility.
* A US-led naval coalition officially launched operations in Bahrain on November 7 to protect shipping in the troubled waters of the Gulf, following a string of attacks that Washington and its allies blamed on Iran.
* Iran, which denied any responsibility for the mystery attacks, put forward its own proposals for boosting Gulf security that pointedly excluded outside powers.
* Iran’s state news agency IRNA says air defence forces shot down an “unknown” drone on November 8.
* The United States Central Command released a statement later that Friday saying that the downed drone was not one of theirs, and that all military drones were accounted for.
* Unrest in Iran erupted on November 15 after the government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300 percent.
Iranian forces reportedly kill several hundred protestors. Iran denies this.
* The US on November 22 imposed sanctions on Iran’s communications minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi for his role in “widespread censorship”.
* Addressing thousands of demonstrators in the capital, General Hossein Salami on November 25 accused the US, the United Kingdom, Iraq and Saudi Arabia of stoking unrest in the country.
* The official news agency IRNA reported on November 27 that Iranian security agents arrested at least eight people linked to the CIA during deadly unrest over petrol price increases.
* The Pentagon on December 4 denied a report that the US was weighing sending up to 14,000 more troops to the Middle East to confront a perceived threat from Iran.
* A US Navy warship seized advanced missile parts on December 4 believed to be linked to Iran from a boat it had stopped in the Arabian Sea.
* In a rare act of cooperation, Iran and the US on December 7 exchanged prisoners.
Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born US citizen held in Iran since 2016, was exchanged for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist detained in the US.
* On December 11, the US Treasury imposed new sanctions on Iran’s biggest airline and its shipping industry, accusing them of transporting lethal aid to Yemen.
* On December 19, the US announced that it would restrict visas for Iranian officials for their alleged roles in suppressing peaceful protests and imposed sanctions on two Iranian judges.
The sanctions imposed by the Treasury froze any assets the two judges have in the US, and barred US citizens from dealing with them.
* On December 27, a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk killed a US contractor and wounded several US service members and Iraqi personnel.
In its statement confirming the attack, the US-led coalition against ISIL (the ISIS group) did not specify who might be responsible, but US officials later blamed Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia, for the attack.
* Two days later – on December 29 – the US military carried out “defensive strikes” on sites in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataib Hezbollah that Washington said were in retaliation for the killing of the US contractor.
* Iraqi security and militia sources said at least 25 fighters were killed and 55 others wounded following the air attacks in Iraq on Sunday.
* Iran strongly condemned the attacks, with a government spokesman saying: “America has shown its firm support for terrorism and its neglect for the independence and sovereignty of countries and it must accept consequences for its illegal act.”
* On December 31, enraged members and supporters of pro-Iranian paramilitary groups in Iraq broke into the heavily fortified US embassy compound in Baghdad, smashing a main door and setting parts of its perimeter on fire.
* On January 2, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said there were “some indications” that Iran or groups it supports “may be planning additional attacks” on US interests in the Middle East.
* on January 3, in a predawn air raid in at Iraq’s Baghdad airport, the US struck and killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or PMF.
According to Iraq’s prime minister, Soleimani had arrived to ease tensions in the region, after Trump had asked the prime minister to help mediate.
Trump notified Israel ahead of time, but did not notify the US Congress. … Israeli security officials had recommended the assassination of Suleimani last year.
Former top US intelligence officials point out that Israel is the country that most benefits from hostilities between Iran and the US. Others, also, feel Israel was connected to why Trump, who had a few months ago opposed Mideast wars, authorized the assassination.
Pompeo said Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack on Americans, but did not supply the evidence for this.
* The Iraqi prime minister and parliament condemn the attack and demand the US forces leave Iraq.
Trump threatens major sanctions against Iraq if that occurs. (Previous US sanctions against Iraq had cost the lives of a million Iraqis, half of them children.)
* On January 5th, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared that the assassination of Soleimani was a “turning point in the history of the region,” and that the US would receive a “just punishment” for the crime. He specified that the target would not be American citizens, but the military.
Iran threatens retaliation. Soleimani had been widely respected throughout Iran; a million mourners turn out. Analysts around the world are concerned that this escalation will result in major violence.
President Trump tweets that if Iran harms any Americans, he will attack Iranian cultural sites.
While Secretary of State Pompeo had claimed the action would make Americans “safer,” on January 4th the government issued a security alert.
On January 8 more than a dozen missiles hit two US bases in Iraq.
This reportedly marks the first time that today’s Iranian government has directly struck U.S. military or other state targets and acknowledged doing so.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of U.N. Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.”