Nov. 24 – Iran and the P5+1 reached an interim agreement that would significantly constrain Tehran’s nuclear program for six months in exchange for modest sanctions relief. Iran pledged to neutralize its stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium, halt enrichment above five percent and stop installing centrifuges. Tehran also committed to halt construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor.
June 14 – Rouhani announced that Iran was prepared to fight ISIS in Iraq, if the Iraqi government asked for its help. Rouhani went on to open the door to future cooperation with the United States on the issue.
July 3-19 – The P5+1 began marathon talks on July 3, less than three weeks form the due date for a deal. After about a week and half of discussions, some foreign ministers, including Kerry, Zarif and Hague, went to Vienna to check on progress of the talks. On June 19, the two sides announced that the will extend the talks through November 24, eactly one year since the interim agreement was brokered. Iran agreed to take further steps to decrease its 20 percent enriched uranium stockpile. In return, the P5+1 nations agreed to repatriate $2.8 billion in frozen funds back to Iran.
July 22 – Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian is detained in Iran.
Nov. 9-11 – Kerry, Zarif, and Ashton met for two days of trilateral talks in Oman, followed by a day of meetings between Iran and the full P5+1. The removal of sanctions and levels of uranium enrichment were among the issues on the table, but officials did not report any significant progress from this round of discussions.
Nov. 19-21 – The final round of talks began in Vienna. On November 19, Zarif and Ashton held a meeting, and the U.S. and Iranian teams held bilateral talks. Kerry arrived in Vienna on November 20 after meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in London and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris. Kerry, Ashton, and Zarif held another round of discussions on November 21, but Zarif noted that he had received "no remarkable proposals to take to Tehran" after the meeting.
March 26-April 2 – Iran and the P5+1 met in Lausanne, Switzerland in the final days before the deadline for a political framework. Kerry and Zarif held bilateral discussions, and negotiators from Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany joined the talks on March 28.
June 30 – Negotiators announced talks would be extended until July 7. Zarif returned to Vienna, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Kerry in Vienna.
September 17 – After weeks of heated debate, the U.S. Congress failed to pass a resolution of disapproval to block the deal.
Early January – Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al Nimr, a prominent Shiite leader who supported anti-government demonstrations, along with 46 others for alleged terror-related offenses. The move prompted protests or condemnation from Shiites in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, and Yemen. In Iran, protestors burned part of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and stormed the compound. Demonstrators tried to attack the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Bahrain, and Djibouti severed diplomatic ties with Iran, and the UAE downgraded its relations with the Islamic Republic.
Jan. 12-13 – Ten U.S. sailors and their two vessels were detained by the IRGC Navy on Jan. 12 as they mistakenly passed through Iranian waters near Farsi Island. The sailors were brought to an Iranian base on the island and released the next day after a telephone call between U.S. Sectary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and a flurry of diplomacy.
Jan. 16 – Iran and the P5+1 marked the nuclear deal's Implementation Day after the IAEA's director general confirmed that Iran has taken the necessary steps to start implementation of the nuclear deal. The United States, European Union, and United Nations lifted or suspended certain sanctions. Iran also regained access to the international financial system, repatriated billions of dollars in frozen assets abroad, and returned to the oil market.
The same day, the U.S. State Department confirmed the release of four Iranian-Americans as part of a prisoner swap with Iran. They were Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. A fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, was also released separately. In exchange, the United States offered clemency to seven Iranians, six of whom had dual citizenship.
Jan. 22-23 – Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran. During the visit, Iranian and Chinese officials signed 17 agreements in energy, industry, transportation, technology, and other fields.
Jan. 25-29 – In his first trip to Europe, President Rouhani traveled to France, Italy, and the Vatican. He signed a series of trade deals with French and Italian companies.
March 24 – The United States indicted seven Iranians for their involvement in “a coordinated cyber assault” against the United States. On the same day, the Treasury Department issued new sanctions against organizations related to Iran’s missile program and those with connections to Mahan Air, an Iranian airline designated as a supporter of terrorism.
April 20 – On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a judgement that held Iran financially responsible for terrorist attacks dating back to the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut. It cleared the way for families affected by attacks to collect nearly $2 billion in funds tied to Iran’s central bank.
June 15 – President Rouhani announced that Iran had filed a lawsuit against the United States in the International Court of Justice regarding the U.S. seizure of frozen Iranian funds.
Aug. 1 – Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei questioned the economic benefits of the JCPOA for the people of Iran and cited it as evidence that it was useless to negotiate with Washington. He also rejected the notion of negotiating with the United States on any regional issues.
Aug. 16-22 – Iranian officials confirmed that Russia was using a base inside Iran to launch air strikes in Syria. After significant backlash, Iran announced on August 22 that Russia was no longer using the base.
Aug. 26 – Following the temporary use of an Iranian air base by Russia, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani reiterated that Tehran’s strategic partnership with Moscow had not ended.
Also on that day, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif requested that the U.S. Department of the Treasury produce a letter assuring foreign banks and institutions that they could do more businesses with Iran. Previously, Iranian officials had also requested that Washington encourage foreign institutions to work with Iran.
Sept. 22 – In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, President Hassan Rouhani called on "certain countries in the region" to stop "bombarding their neighbors and put an end to their support for Takfiri terrorist groups." He singled out Saudi Arabia for the “spread of hate ideology and trampling upon the rights of neighbors,” referring to its involvement in Yemen. Rouhani also criticized the United States for not fully adhering to its obligations under the nuclear deal.
Nov. 8 – Iran announced that it was prepared to sign a deal with the French company Total SA to develop an Iranian offshore gas field. The deal, reportedly worth $6 billion, involved Total and the China National Petroleum Corp, which would work with the state-owned Petropars to develop the field.
Iran of test launching a medium-range ballistic missile. The Trump administration said the launch was in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.
April 4 – Boeing announced a $3 billion Memorandum of Agreement with Iran Aseman Airlines to buy 30 Boeing 737 MAX planes. The deal included an option the company to purchase an additional 30 planes. Deliveries were scheduled to begin in 2022.
June 5 – On June 5, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move. They accused Qatar of destabilizing the region by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al Qaeda, Iranian-backed groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and Houthi rebels in Yemen. Yemen, the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government also cut ties with the small Gulf nation. Only two Gulf Cooperation Council states, Kuwait and Oman, did not cut ties. Kuwait offered to mediate.
Early January – Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al Nimr, a prominent Shiite leader who supported anti-government demonstrations, along with 46 others for alleged terror-related offenses. The move prompted protests or condemnation from Shiites in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, and Yemen. In Iran, protestors burned part of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and stormed the compound. Demonstrators tried to attack the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Bahrain, and Djibouti severed diplomatic ties with Iran, and the UAE downgraded its relations with the Islamic Republic.
Jan. 25 – Israel accused Iran at the UN Security Council of controlling 82,000 militants in Syria, including both foreign and Syrian fighters, with the intent of attacking Israel and destabilizing the region. Iran denied the charges and accused Israel of being the main regional source of instability.
Feb. 10 – Israel intercepted an Iranian drone that crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria. Israeli air forces then attacked the T-4 command center the Iranian drone was launched from near Palmyra. One Israeli fighter jet crashed in northern Israel on its way back after coming under Syrian antiaircraft fire. Israel then hit eight Syrian targets and four Iranian positions in Syria.
Feb. 26 – Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution renewing an arms embargo on the Houthis in Yemen and condemning Iranian violations of the previous embargo. A Russian draft resolution to renew the embargo without language against Iranian activities passed the council.
Feb. 27 – Iran signed an agreement to lease the southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar to India for 18 months. India hoped to use the Iranian port as a gateway to Afghan and Central Asian markets that avoided Pakistan and countered China’s own development projects. Prime Minister Modi stated India’s intent to develop Iran’s rail infrastructure linked to the port. The agreement camesless than two weeks after Iran increased its freight discount on oil sales to India to grow its share of the Indian market.
March 3 – Bahrain arrested more than 100 members of a militant network allegedly established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to attack Bahraini government and security targets. Bahrain claimed that nearly 50 members of the network had been trained by Iran in Iraq and Lebanon.
March 15 – U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis accused Iran of using money to influence the upcoming Iraqi elections.
May 1 – A U.S. federal judge from the Southern District of New York ruled Iran was liable for the 9/11 attacks and was required to pay $6 billion to the families of those killed. The judge issued a default judgment, signaling Iran did not contest the case in court.
May 1 – Morocco severed diplomatic ties with Iran over Iranian support for the Polisario Front, which seeks Sahrawi independence in Western Sahara.
May 8 – President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and reimposition of sanctions on Iran. Britain, France and Germany moved to salvage the accord. Iran stated its intent to continue with the deal if its economic benefits could be guaranteed. Both China and Russia stated their intention to observe the JCPOA and continue to trade with Iran. Non-party states with significant trade interests in Iran, such as Turkey and India, stated their intention to observe the JCPOA and respect U.N., not U.S., sanctions.
May 16 – Total signaled its intention to withdraw from the South Pars natural gas field development, a $2 billion project, unless it received a sanctions waiver from the U.S. government. Chinese firms were reportedly ready to replace Total.
May 18 – The European Commission launched a process to activate the Blocking Statute to protect European firms from U.S. sanctions and preserve trade ties with Iran to salvage the JCPOA.
May 23 – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued six conditions that must be met by Europe for Iran to remain in the nuclear deal. He demanded that Europe secure “a resolution against the U.S. violation” of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Khamenei said Europe must promise to stop objecting to its missile testing and actions in the Middle East as well as to stand against U.S. sanctions. He also sought protection for oil sales and financial transactions with Iran. "If the Europeans linger over our demands, Iran has the right to resume its nuclear activities. When we see that the JCPOA was useless, one way forward is to restart those halted activities," Khamenei warned in an address to government officials.
July 5 – Foreign ministers from the remaining signatories to the JCPOA met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna to discuss ways to blunt the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran. It was the first time the ministers had met since President Trump pulled the United States out of the JCPOA on May 8. They failed to reach consensus on the content or timing of economic support to Iran.
July 16 – Iran filed a lawsuit against the United States at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions. Iran alleged that the United States violated a treaty signed in 1955, more than two decades before the Islamic Revolution and the subsequent souring of relations between the two countries.
Aug. 6 – The United States reimposed sanctions banning transactions with Iran in U.S. dollars. It also sanctioned trade in precious metals, aluminum, steel, aircraft, coal, carpets, and food. The European Union enacted a “blocking statute” to protect European firms engaged in business with Iran from U.S. legal action.
Sep. 25 – The remaining signatories of the JCPOA pledged to create a “Special Purpose Vehicle” (SPV) that would enable firms to make payments to Iran. The SPV would bypass U.S. sanctions by not using U.S. dollars.
President Rouhani gave a speech at the United Nations in which he criticized the Trump administration. “The Iranian people have demonstrated their unwavering resilience during the past forty years despite the difficulties and constraints caused by sanctions, and have shown that they can overcome this difficult phase as well,” he said. Rouhani’s address followed one by Trump, in which Trump said, "Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."
Oct. 3 – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the United States to ease sanctions on Iran for humanitarian reasons. The court lacked an enforcement mechanism, so the ruling was largely a symbolic victory for the Islamic Republic. Iran had filed the lawsuit against the United States in July. It alleged that the re-imposition of sanctions violated a treaty signed in 1955, more than two decades before the Islamic Revolution and the subsequent souring of U.S.-Iran relations. Pompeo said Iran was “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes.” He also announced the termination of the 1955 Treaty of Amity.
Nov. 5 – U.S. sanctions prohibiting the purchase of Iranian oil went into effect. The United States granted waivers to eight countries—China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey—allowing them to continue importing Iranian oil at reduced rates.
Nov. 22 – The U.S. ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) alleged that Iran failed to declare all its chemical weapons to the group. “The United States is also concerned that Iran is pursuing Central Nervous System-Acting Chemicals for offensive purposes,” Ambassador Kenneth Ward told participants at an OPCW conference. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed the U.S. claim. “US wants to resort to int'l conventions to make allegations against Iran when it's made a policy of violating them itself. WMD allegations—by a country that supported Iraq’s use of CW against Iran; then invaded Iraq to allegedly rid it of them—is not just obscene, it’s dangerous,” said Zarif.
Jan. 31 – Britain, France, and Germany announced the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for European companies to facilitate trade with Iran. The entity, formally named the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), was designed to facilitate trade with Iran in humanitarian goods that are exempt from U.S. sanctions under the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. INSTEX enabled firms to barter those goods with Iran, thereby avoiding transactions in U.S. dollars.
Feb. 4 – President Trump said that U.S. forces departing Syria would shift to bases in Iraq to “watch” Iran, in an interview with CBS news. Iraqi leaders quickly condemned his remark. “Do not burden Iraq with your own policy priorities,” said Iraqi President Barham Salih. On March 11, President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Iraq for a three-day visit. It was his first official visit to Iran’s western neighbor. Rouhani’s meetings with top political, military, community, and religious leaders clearly signaled that Iran’s relationship with Iraq will remain strong despite U.S. concerns. Rouhani also secured a rare meeting with Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric.
Feb. 13 – A suicide bombing in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan killed 27 IRGC soldiers. President Rouhani blamed the United States and Israel for the attack, but IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani accused neighboring Pakistan of allowing Saudi Arabia to fund the Baluch insurgent group Jaish-e Adl. “I warn you [Pakistan] not to test Iran, and anyone who has tested Iran has received firm response,” Soleimani said. "I tell the Pakistani people that the Saudi cash has influenced Pakistan and they want to destroy Pakistan with such measures." Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have historically had close relations.
Feb. 14 – Vice President Mike Pence demanded that the United States’ European allies leave the JCPOA. "The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world, the peace, security and freedom they deserve," Pence said at an Iran-focused summit in Warsaw. German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the demand.
April 8 – The United States announced the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), effective April 15. The IRGC is Iran’s most powerful military and security organization as well as a key economic player. “This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” said President Donald Trump. He noted that it was the “first time that the United States has ever named part of another government as a FTO.” In response, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council designated U.S. Central Command forces as terrorists and the U.S. as a “sponsor of terrorism.”
April 22 – Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the United States would stop providing sanctions exemptions to eight countries that imported Iranian oil: India, China, Turkey, Italy, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. “We will continue to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until its leaders change their destructive behavior, respect the rights of the Iranian people, and return to the negotiating table,” said Pompeo. He noted that oil sales accounted for up to 40 percent of Iran’s revenue. The Trump administration's stated goal was to bring Iranian exports down to zero.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Tehran. Khan and Iranian President Rouhani announced their countries’ intent to establish a joint border security force in Baluchistan. Insurgencies in Baluchistan, an area that is split between Pakistan and Iran, had long been a source of tension between the two neighboring countries.
May 3 – The United States sanctioned imports of enriched uranium from Iran. JCPOA signatory countries—notably Russia—had imported Iran’s enriched uranium to prevent Tehran’s supply from exceeding the JCPOA’s cap. The U.S. sanctions made it impossible for Iran to remain within JCPOA limits without halting its enrichment. The United States extended sanctions waivers that allowed foreign firms to work on reconfiguring Iranian reactors for civilian use and that allowed countries to provide enriched uranium fuel for civilian reactors in Bushehr and Tehran.
May 8 – President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran was suspending some of its JCPOA commitments. It would no longer send enriched uranium abroad (doing so had already been made difficult by U.S. sanctions), which would cause Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium to exceed the JCPOA limit by early July. Rouhani said that Iran would begin enriching its uranium to higher levels and would restart work on the Arak heavy water plant if other JCPOA signatories did not protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions within 60 days. “We have given deadlines to JCPOA member states several times,” he said. "In simpler language, we felt that there was a need for surgery and the one-year-old painkillers were not enough; today's action is a surgical procedure to save the JCPOA, not to end it.”
May 12 – Four ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were sabotaged, including two Saudi Arabian oil tankers. One was due to take a delivery of Saudi oil to the United States. “Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels,” said Khalid al-Falih, the kingdom’s energy minister. The UAE did not speculate on who might have been responsible, but the alleged attack came as the United States warned that “Iran or its proxies” could target maritime traffic in and around the Persian Gulf. Iran denied any involvement and accused the Trump administration officials of trying to frame it.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels also carried out a drone attack on two Saudi pipeline pump stations, damaging one. Saudi Arabia’s defense minister Khalid bin Salman blamed Iran, “The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias against the two Aramco pumping stations proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran's regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region, and not to protect the people of Yemen as the Houthis falsely claim.”
May 12-18 – Foreign Minister Zarif visited India, Japan, and China to seek economic relief after the United States halted sanctions waivers on Iranian oil imports for those countries. He received only tepid support. “The Chinese side is willing to, together with the Iranian side, eliminate the interference of complex factors to fully implement the JCPOA,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. On May 23, India announced that it had ceased oil imports from Iran.
May 22 – Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of Parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee said that Iran will “under no circumstances” enter a war with the United States. “No group can announce that it has entered a proxy war from Iran’s side,” he said, according to ILNA via the Associated Press.
May 23 - Oman’s Foreign Ministry said it was working to ease tensions between Iran and the United States. It tweeted remarks made by Foreign Minister Alawi in an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Wasat. Alawi warned that war “could harm the entire world if it breaks out.”
May 25 – Foreign Minister Zarif visited Pakistan for the tenth time in his six-year tenure. Relations between Iran and Pakistan, previously marked by tension and mistrust, appeared to be improving. “Pakistan understands our position [vis-à-vis the United States in the Persian Gulf],” Zarif said after his meetings in Islamabad.
May 26 – Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al Hakim said his country would like to help deescalate tensions between Iran and the United States. “We are trying to help and to be mediators,” he said at a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Hakim added that Baghdad does not approve of unilateral steps taken by Washington. Zarif called for a non-aggression pact between Iran and the Arab Gulf states.
May 27 – President Trump offered to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran and identified nuclear weapons as his priority. “It [Iran] has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership,” Trump said. “We aren’t looking for regime change - I just want to make that clear. We are looking for no nuclear weapons.”
June 10 – Foreign Minister Zarif warned that the United States “cannot expect to stay safe” after waging what he called an “economic war” against Iran. “The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping that economic war,” he said during a visit by his German counterpart. “Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it,” he added. The combative language was uncharacteristic of the top diplomat.
June 13 – Two more tankers – one owned by Japan and one owned by Norway – were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. The second ship, the Front Altair, may have been targeted by a torpedo, according to CPC Corp, which chartered the ship. The Front Altair’s crew of 23 were reportedly rescued by the Hyundai Dubai vessel and were transferred to an Iranian navy vessel bound for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Iranian state media claimed that all 44 crew members from both ships were rescued by Iranian teams. The U.S. Navy offered aid in dealing with the two damaged tankers.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed the attacks – and other incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan – on Iran. He said the U.S. judgement was based on intelligence, “weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.” U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) released a video allegedly showing Iranian sailors removing a mine from the Kokura Courageous’ hull. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied Iran’s responsibility and said the timing was beyond “suspicious.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran at the time to deliver a message from President Trump to Supreme Leader Khamenei. “I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future,” Khamenei told Abe.
June 15 – President Rouhani reiterated his warning that Iran will “terminate the implementation of some of its obligations” under the JCPOA unless other signatories show “positive signals.” Iran “cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally,” he told Chinese, Russian and other Asian leaders at Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
June 17 – An AEOI spokesman announced that Iran would surpass the JCPOA’s low-enriched uranium stockpile limit on June 27. Behrouz Kamalvandi accused European countries of “killing time” rather than moving to ensure Iran would derive significant economic benefits from the nuclear deal. “If this condition continues, there will be no deal” anymore, he warned. President Donald Trump said in an interview that he would “certainly” go to war with Iran “over nuclear weapons.”
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) released high-resolution photos allegedly showing an IRGC boat removing an unexploded mine from the Kokuka Courageous. Additional photos showed a magnetic device that the mine was attached to and damage to the tanker’s hull.
Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan authorized the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East. “The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” he said. Shanahan reiterated that the United States was not seeking a conflict with Iran and that the action was solely “defensive.”
June 19 – The U.S. Navy presented limpet mine fragments that allegedly linked Iran to the attack on the Kokuka Courageous. “The limpet mine that was used in the attack is distinguishable and also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades,” said Sean Kido, commanding officer of an explosive ordnance dive and salvage task group in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).
June 20 – Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed it downed an RQ-4 Global Hawk after it violated Iranian airspace. The United States confirmed that the drone was shot down but claimed that it was flying over international waters.
June 21 – President Trump ordered a retaliatory strike on Iranian radar and missile batteries, but called off the attack at the last minute. "Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down," according to a senior administrative official. Trump confirmed that he had aborted the operation. He said that the strike, which was estimated to kill 150 Iranians, would have been disproportionate to the downing of the unmanned drone.
Tehran claimed that it had refrained from shooting down a U.S. military aircraft with 35 people on board. “With the U.S. drone in the region there was also an American P-8 plane with 35 people on board. This plane also entered our airspace and we could have shot it down, but we did not,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC aerospace division.
June 21 – Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov announced that Russia would help Iran export oil if the European Union’s INSTEX trade mechanism failed to launch. INSTEX had failed to gain traction since its announcement in Jan. 2019 because European businesses feared using it would cost them access to the U.S. market.
June 22 – The Department of Homeland Security said that it had observed a rising number of malicious cyber activities directed at U.S. government agencies by Iranian state actors and proxies. “What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you’ve lost your whole network,” Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher C. Krebs said in a statement.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. Cyber Command launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on June 21. The cyber attack disabled IRGC computer systems that controlled rocket and missile launchers, according to three officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Iran executed Jalal Hajizavar, a former defense ministry employee, on charges of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency. Iranian state media reported that Hajizavar had “openly confessed” to the espionage charges after spying equipment and documents were found in his home. On June 18, the United States, however, denied Iran’s claims that it had dismantled a spying network.
June 24 – The United States imposed sanctions on Supreme Leader Khamenei and members of his office. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that the new sanctions meant “closing the door of diplomacy” between the United States and Iran. Presidents Trump and Rouhani traded insults; Rouhani said that the White House was “afflicted by mental retardation,” and Trump threatened “obliteration” in response to future Iranian attacks on “anything American.”
July 1 – Iran breached the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal by exceeding limits on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Tehran is only allowed to store 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium under the deal, negotiated by six major world powers. It is supposed to sell or exchange any surplus. "We told the Europeans that if more practical, mature and complete measures were taken, Iran's reduction (to its) commitments could be reversed. Otherwise, we will continue," said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
July 2 – The foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Britain said they were “extremely concerned” by Iran’s decision to breach the 2015 nuclear deal. “We regret this decision by Iran, which calls into question an essential instrument of nuclear non-proliferation,” they said in a joint statement with the EU High Representative to Iran.
July 3 – President Hassan Rouhani threatened to increase Iran’s enriched uranium levels to “any amount we want” if European countries do not find a way to sidestep U.S. sanctions by July 7. “Our level of enrichment will no longer be 3.67. We will put this commitment aside by whatever amount we feel like, by whatever amount is our necessity, our need. We will take this above 3.67,” said Rouhani on July 3.
July 8 – Iran began enriching uranium past the 3.67 percent mark specified by the 2015 nuclear agreement. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced that it was enriching uranium at 4.5 percent. The IAEA confirmed the breach after an inspection. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi warned that Iran’s next step will be “harder, more steadfast and somehow stunning” if European countries do not find a way to bypass U.S. sanctions.
July 14 – President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was ready to hold discussions with the United States if the Trump administration agreed to end crippling sanctions and return to the 2015 nuclear deal. “We have always believed in talks ... if they lift sanctions, end the imposed economic pressure and return to the deal, we are ready to hold talks with America today, right now and anywhere,” said Rouhani on state television.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to reject Rouhani’s offer. “President Trump will obviously make the final decision. But this is a path that the previous administration had gone down and it led to the (Iran nuclear deal) which this administration, President Trump and I both believe was a disaster,” he said.
July 15 – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the door was “wide open” to negotiations if the Trump administration lifted economic sanctions against Tehran. He claimed Iran favored diplomacy and did not want to go to war with the United States. "I do not believe that President Trump wants war. But I believe that people are around him who wouldn't mind," Zarif said. "But I don't think they'll succeed because at the end of the day, I think prudence will prevail. People know that Iran is a big, proud country. And we will not take a military attack lightly."
The United Nations expressed concern that the United States was restricting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to only three locations during his visit to New York City. Government officials said that Zarif could only travel between the United Nations, the Iranian U.N. mission, the Iranian U.N. ambassador’s residence. Zarif’s restrictions were “fully consistent” with 1947 U.N. “headquarters agreement” according to U.S. officials.
July 16 – President Trump reassured that the United States was not seeking to topple the Iranian regime. “We’ll be good to them, we’ll work with them. We’ll help them in any way we can, but they can’t have a nuclear weapon. We’re not looking, by the way, for regime change,” Trump told reporters. He added that a lot of progress had been made in negotiations with Tehran.
July 18 – President Trump said that the U.S. downed an Iranian drone when it came within 1,000 yards of the USS Boxer in the Persian Gulf. The drone was brought down using electronic jamming after ignoring “multiple calls to stand down." "This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interest and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce,” Trump stated.
July 19 – Tehran denied that the U.S. had downed one of its drones and said it would release images disproving the American claim. “All Iranian drones that are in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one which the U.S. mentioned, after carrying out scheduled identification and control missions, have returned to their bases,”said Iran’s top military spokesman Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekari. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi also refuted the U.S. statement in a tweet.
The Pentagon announced a “multinational maritime effort” called Operation Sentinel “to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region.” The campaign would provide coordinated escorts for the flagged vessels of participating nations. U.S. Central Command also approved the deployment of 500 troops to Saudi Arabia as “an additional deterrent” to Iran. Riyadh accepted the basing agreement that placed U.S. combat troops in Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a decade.
July 22 – Iran claimed it uncovered a CIA spy ring and detained 17 citizens on charges of espionage. Iranian intelligence officials said the U.S. spies worked in sensitive military and nuclear facilities around the country. "Individuals who consciously and deliberately betrayed the country and refused to compensate for the losses have been handed over to the judiciary system. Others, who honestly cooperated with the security system and their remorsefulness have been proved, have been managed with intelligence direction against Americans," said Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged caution in trusting the Iranian reports. “The Iranian regime has a long history of lying ... I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about actions that they’ve taken,” he said. President Trump later categorically denied Tehran’s claims in a tweet.
July 25 – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would go to Iran for talks on regional security if invited. He added that he would welcome the opportunity “to speak directly to the Iranian people.” Three days later, Pompeo said Tehran had not accepted his offer.
July 31 – The U.S. Treasury sanctioned Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif for acting on behalf of Supreme Leader Khamenei. “Iran’s Foreign Ministry is not merely the diplomatic arm of the Islamic Republic but also a means of advancing many of the Supreme Leader’s destabilizing policies,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Foreign Minister Zarif is a key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies throughout the region and around the world. The designation of Javad Zarif today reflects this reality.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the designation “childish.” In a defiant tweet, Zarif said, “Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.”
The U.S. State Department renewed five sanctions waivers permitting foreign firms to work on Iran’s civil nuclear program without penalties. The waivers, which were renewed for an additional 90 days, specifically permitted European, Russian, and Chinese companies to continue civil nuclear projects at Iranian nuclear facilities.
Aug. 5 – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he was given an invitation to the White House by Senator Rand Paul. “During my trip to New York, I was told I would be sanctioned within two weeks unless I accept their invitation, which I rejected,” he claimed. Zarif added that the U.S. sanctions against him represented a “failure” in diplomacy.
Aug. 6 – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the United States must lift all sanctions before negotiations could begin. “Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” he warned.
Aug. 11 – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged haj pilgrims to protest a U.S. plan to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “The trick called ‘Deal of the Century’, which is being pushed by an oppressive America and its traitorous companions, is a crime against human society, and not just the Palestinian people,” he told Iranian pilgrims at a rally.
Aug. 15 – Gibraltar released the Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker impounded by Britain since July 4, despite a U.S. bid to prolong the detention. The United States applied to seize the Iranian tanker, but a Gibraltar court denied the request. Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the United States could file a new appeal, but ordered the tanker’s immediate release after the Iranian government provided documentation that the ship would not deliver oil to Syria.
Aug. 18 – The Adrian Darya 1, renamed from the Grace 1 and re-flagged from Panama Iran, left Gibraltar for Kalamata, Greece after being detained by Britain for over a month. On August 16, the United States issued a warrant to seize the tanker and its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil. But the Gibraltar government said it could not comply with the request because U.S. sanctions against Iran did not apply in the European Union.
Aug. 26 – French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters after the G7 summit that he hoped to arrange a meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “in the coming weeks.” Trump said there was a “really good chance” for a potential meeting with Rouhani.
Rouhani initially signaled his openness to negotiations. “If I knew that going to a meeting and visiting a person would help my country’s development and resolve the problems of the people, I would not miss it,” he said in a televised speech.
Aug. 27 – In a televised speech, Rouhani said that Iran is ready to hold talks. “But first the U.S. should act by lifting all illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran.” He called on Washington to demonstrate good faith ahead of potential negotiations. “Washington has the key for positive change ... So take the first step ... Without this step, this lock will not be unlocked.” He also warned that Iran could continue to curb its compliance with the JCPOA if its economic interests are not guaranteed. Rouhani, like many other Iranian officials, reiterated that Iran would never seek nuclear weapons because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa (religious decree) in the 2003 banning them.
Sept. 4 – Trump told reporters that “anything is possible” when asked about a meeting with Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly opening. “We’re going to see what happens. They want to talk. They want to make a deal,” he said. “I very much appreciate President Macron’s involvement but we’re not dealing through President Macron, we’re dealing with people directly.”
U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook announced a reward of up to $15 million for any person who provides information that could disrupt the financial operations of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Qods Force. “Today’s announcement is historic. It’s the first time that the United States has offered a reward for information that disrupts a government entity’s financial operations,” said Hook. He also outlined Treasury designations of more than 25 entities and individuals and 11 vessels involved in what he described as an IRGC “oil-for-terror network” that illicitly shipped oil to Syria and elsewhere. In a tweet, Zarif called the reward offer “outright blackmail.”
Rouhani announced Iran’s third step in rolling back its commitments to the JCPOA in a speech late at night on state television. “The Atomic Energy Organization [of Iran] is ordered to immediately start whatever is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place regarding research and development,” he said.
Sept. 8 – Two diplomatic sources told Reuters that the IAEA found uranium traces at a site that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu alleged was a “secret atomic warehouse.” The uranium was not highly enriched but called Tehran’s transparency into question. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton demanded a report as soon as possible.
Sept. 9 – Prime Minister Netanyahu alleged that Iran conducted experiments relating to nuclear weapons development at a site near the city of Abadeh. “When Iran realized that we uncovered the site, here’s what they did,” he said in televised remarks, showing a photograph of the site from a month later. “They destroyed the site. They just wiped it out.”
On Twitter, Foreign Minister Zarif accused Netanyahu of lying and posted a picture of a newspaper story discussing Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal in Dimona.
Sept. 14 – The United States accused Iran of facilitating drone attacks on two major Saudi oil facilities. "Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He added that Tehran had “pretended to engage in diplomacy” with the United States.
Iran denied any responsibility for the attacks. On September 15, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said blaming Iran would not end the regional conflict. "Having failed at max pressure, Sec Pompeo is turning to max deceit,” Zarif tweeted.
Sept. 15 – President Trump walked back previous offers to negotiate with Tehran without preconditions. He blamed the “Fake News” for the reports, which he called “incorrect."
Sept. 17 – Iran’s supreme leader ruled out the possibility of bilateral talks with Washington. His remarks came one day after President Donald Trump blamed Iran for an attack on Saudi oil facilities that cut production in half. Tehran denied involvement. In remarks to seminary students, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seemed to rule out a potential meeting between President Rouhani and President Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later in September. “The policy of maximum pressure on the Iranian nation is of little importance, and all the officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe that there will be no negotiations at any level with the United States,” said Khamenei.
Sept. 18 – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities an “act of war.” He denied claims that the attacks originated in Yemen. "As for how we know, the equipment used is unknown to be in the Houthi arsenal. These line attack cruise missiles we have never seen there and we think we’ve seen most everything,” Pompeo said. President Trump said the United States would “substantially increase sanctions” against Tehran within the next 48 hours.
Sept. 19 — Iranian Foreign Minister warned that Tehran could respond to a U.S. or Saudi military strike with “all-out war.” He questioned Saudi resolve and told CNN that the kingdom was prepared to fight "to the last American soldier." Zarif said Tehran hoped to avoid conflict but added, “We won't blink to defend our territory.”
Sept. 20 —President Trump announced sanctions on Iran’s central bank. “We’ve never done it at this level,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “It’s too bad what’s happening with Iran. It’s going to hell.” Trump added, “They are broke and they could solve the problem very easily. All they have to do is stop with the terror.” Trump had directed the Treasury to increase sanctions on Iran following the September 14 drone and cruise missile strike on Saudi oil facilities, which Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran denied involvement. “Attacking other nations and disrupting the global economy has a price. The regime in Tehran must be held accountable through diplomatic isolation and economic pressure,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The United States also sanctioned the National Development Fund of Iran and Etemad Tejarate Pars Co., which allegedly conceals financial transfers for military purchases. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the measures would cut off Tehran’s last remaining source of funds.
Sept. 25 – The IAEA found that Iran had breached the JCPOA again by using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium. The U.N. watchdog “verified that all of the (centrifuge) cascades already installed in R&D lines 2 and 3 ... were accumulating, or had been prepared to accumulate, enriched uranium,” according to a new report. The JCPOA only allowed Iran to use some 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to enrich uranium. Advanced centrifuges were supposed to only be used in small numbers for research purposes.
The United States announced sanctions on five Chinese companies and six Chinese nationals accused of importing oil from Iran. The United States designated the China Concord Petroleum Co. Ltd., and two units of a major Chinese shipping company, Cosco Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Co. Ltd. and Cosco Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman and Ship Management Co. Ltd. Washington also sanctioned the companies’ top executives. “We are telling China, and all nations: know that we will sanction every violation,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a speech at the United Against Nuclear Iran Summit.
Oct. 5 - Iran released Jolie King, a British-Australian dual citizen, and her Australian boyfriend, Mark Firkin after three months of detention. In June 2019, the two travel bloggers were detained during a cross-continent trek from Perth, Australia to London. The couple was arrested for flying a drone near Tehran without a permit, according to a prominent Iranian journalist. Iran dropped all charges against the travel bloggers following “very sensitive negotiations” with the Australian government.
Nov. 4 – Iran began operating 30 new IR-6 centrifuges, doubling its number of the advanced machines. The chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran was operating a total of 60 of the centrifuges, which are some 10 times more efficient than the IR-1s allowed under the JCPOA. The announcement coincided with the 40th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by students.
Salehi said that Iran went from producing about 450 grams (1 pound) of low-enriched uranium a day to 5 kilograms (11 pounds). He said Iran’s stockpile had grown beyond 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds). The JCPOA had limited Iran’s stockpile to 300 kilograms (661 pounds).
Nov. 4 – The United States marked 40 years since the seizure of its embassy in Tehran by announcing new sanctions on Iran. The Treasury Department blacklisted nine members of the supreme leader’s inner circle. “The designation seeks to block funds from flowing to a shadow network of Khamenei’s military and foreign affairs advisors who have for decades oppressed the Iranian people, supported terrorism, and advanced destabilizing policies around the world,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Nov. 5 – President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would start injecting gas into 1,044 centrifuges at Fordo. The heavily fortified facility, built inside a mountain, was intended to be a research facility under the JCPOA, not an active site. The IR-1 centrifuges at Fordo had been spinning but were not enriching uranium. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Iran would begin enriching uranium to five percent at Fordo. Iran injected uranium gas into the centrifuges at Fordo on November 7. Secretary of State Pompeo accused Tehran of extorting the international community into accepting its nuclear program and behavior in the region
Nov. 6 – Iran reportedly held International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector and confiscated her travel documents while she was at the Natanz nuclear facility. The 2015 nuclear deal allowed for periodic IAEA inspections to ensure Iran was adhering to regulations. The IAEA’s Board of Governors convened an emergency meeting on November 7 to discuss the matters.
Nov. 11 – In its quarterly report, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said that Iran had violated the 2015 nuclear deal by increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium. The IAEA also reported that its inspectors had found traces of uranium “at a location in Iran not declared to the agency.”
France, Germany, Britain, and the European Union issued a joint statement saying they were “extremely concerned” by Iran’s latest moves. “Iran’s action is inconsistent with the JCPOA’s clear provisions on Fordow and has potentially severe proliferation implications,” the statement said. “We affirm our readiness to consider all mechanisms in the JCPOA, including the dispute resolution mechanism, to resolve the issues related to Iran’s implementation of its JCPOA commitments.”
Nov. 12 - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the European Union’s warning to Tehran over advancements of its nuclear program and accused the Europeans of failing to fulfill their commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Nov. 16 – Iran informed the IAEA that its stock of heavy water exceeded the 130 metric ton limit under the JCPOA. On the following day, the watchdog confirmed that the Heavy Water Production Plant was active and that Iran had 131.5 metric tons of heavy water. Heavy water is often used as a moderator to slow down reactions in nuclear reactors.
Nov. 18 – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would cancel sanctions waivers for projects at Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant effective December 15. “The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero ... There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site,” Pompeo said. The waivers had allowed foreign firms to work on Iran’s civil nuclear program without penalties.
Nov. 22 - The U.S. Treasury sanctioned Iran’s communications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, for his role in internet censorship. Washington blamed Jahromi’s ministry for blocking internet access in the country for several days in November during widespread protests sparked by a sudden fuel price hike.
Nov. 27 - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that Paris would consider activating the dispute mechanism of the 2015 nuclear deal, which could eventually trigger U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic. “Every two months, there is another dent (in the deal by Iran) to the point where today we ask ourselves, and I’m saying this very clearly, about the implementation of the dispute resolution mechanism that exists in the deal,” he said.
Dec. 3 - Rafael Mariano Grossi, the incoming chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said the agency was still awaiting an explanation from Tehran after detecting uranium at an undeclared site. Israel and the United States had urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate a “secret atomic warehouse,” which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed during his 2018 U.N. address. “The process continues,” Grossi said. “We have so far not received an entirely satisfactory reply from them, but the exchanges continue.”
Dec. 4 - President Rouhani said that Iran was still open to nuclear negotiations with the United States. He stipulated that Washington must first remove all sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic. “If America lifts the sanctions, we are ready to talk and negotiate, even at the level of heads of the 5+1 countries (major powers that were party to the 2015 nuclear deal),” Rouhani said.
Dec. 6 - European countries condemned Iran’s violations of the 2015 nuclear deal but said the JCPOA was “still alive.” During the nuclear discussions, Tehran told European powers that it would continue to breach the deal until it served Iran’s interests. Iran had breached the JCPOA at least four times since July.
Dec. 8 - Xiyue Wang, a U.S. citizen detained in Iran since August 2019, was released in exchange for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian national held in an Atlanta prison for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions. Wang, a Princeton University graduate student, was arrested while conducting research in Iran on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty for his doctoral dissertation. President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif thanked the Swiss for their help in arranging the trade.
Dec. 19 - President Rouhani said that Iran would begin to test a new type of advanced centrifuge. Use of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium would be a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal. Tehran had already breached the agreement five times since July 1. “We have had great achievements and today, Iranian new IR-6 centrifuges are working and models IR-9 are currently being tested.”
Dec. 20 — President Rouhani met with Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo to discuss deepening economic ties and tensions over the 2015 nuclear deal. Rouhani reportedly asked Abe to help maintain the 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from in May 2018. Rouhani said that a sustainable deal could be secured through “the logic of negotiation and a win-win prospect.” Abe expressed concern over rising tensions in the Middle East and urged Iran to comply with the nuclear deal. He also urged Tehran to comply with investigations by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
Jan. 3 - President Trump ordered an airstrike on a convoy of Iranian and Iraqi military leaders leaving Baghdad airport. The drone attack, launched on January 3 (January 2 U.S. time), killed seven people including General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC's elite Qods Force, and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a Kataib Hezbollah leader. Muhandis was also the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella group of militias formed to fight ISIS. Many PMF militias have received arms, training and funding from Iran.
Jan. 5 - Iran announced that it would no longer abide by restrictions on uranium enrichment imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal. “The Islamic Republic of Iran, in the fifth step in reducing its commitments, discards the last key component of its operational limitations in the JCPOA, which is the limit on the number of centrifuges,” the government said. Tehran emphasized that all its actions were reversible and that it would return to the deal if sanctions would be lifted and its interests could be guaranteed. Iran said it would continue to cooperate with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
Jan. 8 - Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Soleimani. No U.S. or Iraqi personnel were harmed, according to initial reports. Iran was quick to claim responsibility for the attack on U.S. forces. But its foreign minister also emphasized that Tehran did not seek war.
Jan. 10 - President Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions “against any individual or entity operating in the construction, manufacturing, textiles, or mining sectors of the Iranian economy.” Mining and metals have historically been one of the regime's largest non-oil sources of export revenue, some 10 percent. The U.S. Treasury also blacklisted eight senior Iranian officials, including the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani.
Jan. 14 - Britain, France and Germany triggered the dispute resolution mechanism under the 2015 nuclear deal. It was the strongest action taken by European powers to enforce the agreement. If Iran does not return to compliance, the process could result in the reimposition of U.N. sanctions and ensure that an arms embargo does not expire in October 2020. On the following day, President Rouhani responded defiantly. “In recent days I... made it clear to two European leaders that what we have done is reversible for one, and that everything we do regarding the nuclear issue is under the supervision of the IAEA,” Rouhani said. “If you take the wrong step, it will be to your detriment. Pick the right path. The right path is to return to the nuclear deal.”
Jan. 16 - President Rouhani announced that Iran had begun enriching more uranium than before the 2015 nuclear deal. He did not detail how much more uranium was being enriched. Rouhani added that the country’s nuclear program was better off today than before the deal.
Jan. 17 - The United States blacklisted a Revolutionary Guards commander for his involvement in the crackdown on demonstrators in November 2019. Brigadier General Hassan Shahvarpour “oversaw the massacre of 148 helpless Iranians in the Mahshahr region,” U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told reporters. Hook said information about Shahvarpour and other regime officials came from some 88,000 tips received by the State Department from Iranians.
Jan. 23 - The U.S. Treasury Department designated four companies accused of purchasing Iranian oil and petrochemical products in violation of U.S. sanctions. Two companies based in Hong Kong, one company based in Shanghai and another company based in Dubai allegedly helped Iran’s state-owned oil company export millions of dollars’ worth of petroleum products. The United States also sanctioned Ali Bayandrian, who is linked to Hong Kong-based Triliance Petroleum, and Zhiqing Wang, who has ties to Shandong Oiwangwa.
Jan. 25 - Ali Asghar Zarean, an aide to Iran’s nuclear chief, said the country had accumulated 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, far more than the 202.8-kilogram limit under the JCPOA. The announcement suggested Tehran had significantly ramped up enrichment since November, when the IAEA said the stockpile was 372.3 kilograms.
Jan. 30 - The United States announced sanctions on the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and its chief, Ali Akbar Salehi. The AEIO “has played a big role in Iran breaching its key nuclear commitments [under the 2015 nuclear deal],” Hook said. “It has exceeded the limits on its uranium stockpile and enrichment levels. The head of AEOI personally inaugurated the installation of new advanced centrifuges to expand its uranium enrichment capacity.”
The United States also renewed sanctions waivers on Iran’s nuclear projects for 60 days. The waivers allowed Russian, Chinese and European companies to continue work on the Arak heavy-water research reactor, the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Tehran Research Reactor and several other joint initiatives.
Feb. 3 - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran would bar U.N. inspectors from nuclear facilities if the country were faced with “a new situation.” The warning came during a visit with the Josep Borrell, the new E.U. foreign affairs chief.
Rouhani added that Iran was willing to negotiate with European powers. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is still ready for interaction and cooperation with the European Union for resolving issues and, whenever the opposite side completely upholds their commitments, Iran will return to its commitments,” he said.
Feb. 4 - The European Union said that it would avoid sending a dispute over the 2015 nuclear deal to the U.N. Security Council. “We are in agreement not to go directly to a strict time limit which would oblige (us) to go to the Security Council,” said E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell during a two-day trip to Tehran. After Britain, France and Germany triggered the deal’s dispute mechanism, the parties technically had a 15-day period to resolve issues with Iran.
Feb. 20 - U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook announced sanctions on five key members of Iran’s Guardian Council, an unelected panel of twelve Islamic jurists and scholars. The council disqualified more than 9,000 out of the some 14,000 candidates who registered to run in parliamentary elections, scheduled for February 21. Hook dismissed the poll as “political theater” because “the real election took place in secret long before any ballots were cast.”
Feb. 25 - The U.S. State Department announced sanctions on 13 foreign companies and individuals for supporting Iran's missile program. The entities were based in China, Iraq, Russia, and Turkey. The State Department said that the action was based on a periodic review required under the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. “The imposition of sanctions against these foreign entities is consistent with our efforts to use all available measures to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities,” the State Department said in a statement.
Mar. 3 - The IAEA released a pair of reports that lambasted Iran for violations of the JCPOA. In the first report, the U.N. nuclear watchdog found Iran had tripled its stockpile of low enriched uranium since its last quarterly report. The larger stockpile could shorten Iran’s breakout time – the time it would take to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. But the IAEA did not find evidence that Iran was taking steps toward producing a weapon. In the second report, the IAEA condemned Iran’s refusal to grant inspectors access to three sites of interest. The report said that it found evidence from early July 2019 that was consistent with efforts “to sanitize part of the location” to obscure nuclear material.
Mar. 17 - The State Department designated nine companies in South Africa, Hong Kong and China, as well as three Iranian nationals, for “the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petrochemical products from Iran” in violation of U.S. sanctions. The Department of Commerce separately designated 18 corporations and six individuals— including five Iranian nuclear scientists — for assisting with Iran’s nuclear program, Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear and missile programs, and Russian military modernization efforts.
Mar. 25 - Iran and seven other countries urged U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to call for the immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed mainly by the United States and the European Union. In a joint letter, the foreign ministers of China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela said fighting the COVID-19 pandemic was “hard – if not impossible” under the limitations imposed by sanctions. They urged the U.N. chief to "reject the politicization of such a pandemic" and immediately call for the removal of the "illegal, coercive measures of economic pressure."
Mar. 26 - The United States sanctioned 20 individuals and companies for funneling money to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and transferring lethal aid to Iraqi militias backed by Iran. “Iran employs a web of front companies to fund terrorist groups across the region, siphoning resources away from the Iranian people and prioritizing terrorist proxies over the basic needs of its people,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
Apr. 15 - The United States accused Iranian military vessels of conducting “dangerous and harassing” maneuvers close to U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf. A group of 11 speedboats belonging to the IRGC repeatedly approached six U.S. military vessels at close range and at high speeds, coming within 10 yards of one ship, the Pentagon said. The U.S. warships were conducting joint training operations with U.S. Army helicopters in international waters. The United States issued several warnings, including bridge-to-bridge radio communications, blasts from the ships’ horns, and soundwaves from long-range acoustic devices. The Iranian vessels left after an hour.
Apr. 20 - Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus. The high-level meeting was Zarif’s first trip abroad in nearly two months and his first to Syria since April 2019. Assad expressed his “condolences” over the thousands of Iranians killed by the virus. Both Iran and Syria condemned the U.S. for not lifting its sanctions during a global pandemic.
May 19 - The U.S. Treasury sanctioned a China-based company for providing services to Mahan Air, an Iranian airline blacklisted in 2011 for supporting the elite Qods Force. Mahan Air has transported fighters, weapons, equipment and funds to support the Syrian regime and Iranian proxies across the Middle East, including Hezbollah. Shanghai Saint Logistics Limited was the seventh company sanctioned for acting as a general sales agent for Mahan Air.
May 20 - The United States sanctioned nine Iranian officials, including the interior minister, and three entities for human rights abuses. The new measures “send a message of support to the Iranian people that we will continue to support their demands for transparent and accountable governance and speak out for those who are being silenced by this regime,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The State Department imposed visa restrictions and the Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions.
May 27 - The Trump Administration announced that it would end waivers – or exemptions from U.S. sanctions – allowing British, Chinese and Russian companies to work at three Iranian nuclear sites. The work focused on ways to contain or limit Iran’s ability to use its nuclear program to build a bomb. The foreign projects were part of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Foreign companies involved were given 60 days to wind down activities on three projects—or face U.S. sanctions.
June 2 - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that Sirous Asgari, a scientist who had been imprisoned in the United States, was on a plane back to Iran. “Congratulations to his wife and his esteemed family,” he wrote on Instagram. Dr. Asgari was indicted in 2016 on charges of stealing trade secrets related to research he had done at Case Western Reserve University in 2012 and 2013. The scientist, an engineer who specializes in metals and materials, had been working on a project for the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research to create anti-corrosive stainless steel.
June 4 - Iran released Michael White, an American who had been detained for nearly two years. The U.S. Navy veteran was arrested on unspecified charges in July 2018 while visiting his girlfriend in Iran. In March 2019, White was sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the supreme leader and 10 years for posting a private photograph on social media. In March 2020, White – an immunocompromised cancer patient – was released from prison on medical furlough and transferred to a hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. As White was released, the United States freed an Iranian doctor, Majid Taheri, who was charged with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Prosecutors said he tried to export a filter to Iran that could be used for chemical and biological warfare. But Taheri, who also holds U.S. citizenship, claimed it was for vaccine research. He arrived in Iran on June 8.
June 8 - The United States expanded sanctions on Iran’s shipping industry. The Treasury Department blacklisted Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and its Shanghai-based subsidiary, E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd, along with more than 100 ships and tankers. “IRISL has repeatedly transported items related to Iran’s ballistic missile and military programs and is also a longstanding carrier of other proliferation-sensitive items,” including items that can be used in Iran’s nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Garrett Nada, Cameron Glenn, Daniel Schnur, Eli Pollock, Alex Yacoubian and John Caves also contributed to this timeline.