Geneva Convention on prisoners of war treatment.
Jan. 12 – Iranian military forces seized two U.S. Navy vessels and held them on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. Nine men and one woman were aboard the small riverine boats. The Pentagon received assurances from Iran that the crew and vessels would be returned promptly.
Jan. 13 – U.S. sailors detained by Iran were safely released to the U.S. Navy after an overnight flurry of diplomatic efforts. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke at least five times about the incident.
Jan. 17 – The United States imposed new sanctions on 11 individuals and entities for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program. The new measures followed a December report by U.N. experts that concluded that an Iranian test launch in October violated sanctions banning Iran from test firing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Feb. 28 - The HMAS Darwin, an Australian warship, interdicted an unflagged fishing vessel more than 170 miles off the coast of Oman. The crew “searched the vessel and discovered 1989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes,” the CMF reported. A CMF taskforce initially said that the fishing vessel was headed toward Somalia, but the U.S. Navy later assessed that the weapons originated from Iran and destined for Yemen.
Mar. 8 – The IRGC test fired Shahab-1, Shahab-2, as well as Ghadr-H and Ghadr-F ballistic missiles as part of a large-scale military drill. The launches, publicized widely by Iranian media outlets, were intended to display Iran’s “deterrence power” and “full readiness to confront all kinds of threats against the Revolution, establishment and territorial integrity,” according to the IRGC.
Mar. 20 - The FS Provence, a French destroyer, interdicted a dhow in the northern Indian Ocean. The dhow was carrying “several hundred AK47 assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank weapons,” according to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a U.S.-led coalition of 34 nations that operates in the Rea Sea, Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Oman. The taskforce initially said that the weapons were destined for Somalia, but the U.S. Navy later assessed that the weapons originated from Iran and were destined for Yemen.
Mar. 28 - The USS Sirocco interdicted a dhow in the Arabian Sea headed for Yemen. The vessel was carrying “1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers and 21 .50 caliber machine guns,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement. The weapons were taken into U.S. custody, while the crew were permitted to depart. The U.S. Navy said that the weapons “originated in Iran” and were “likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen.”
Aug. 23 – Four Iranian small boats harassed the USS Nitze, a guided missile destroyer, in the Strait of Hormuz. The boats, approached the Nitze at a high speed, in an unsafe and unprofessional manner, according to a U.S. defense official, prompting the Nitze to fire ten flares and sound its whistle several times. The Iranian boats ignored the warnings and attempts at radio communication. They finally stopped within 300 yards of the ship.
Aug. 24 – Three IRGC boats crisscrossed the USS Tempest’s bow and “created a possible collision hazard” in the Northern Persian Gulf. Later, an Iranian patrol vessel approached the Tempest head-on despite multiple warnings. The USS Squall eventually resorted to firingwarning shots.
Later that day, an Iranian Nassar-class boat made a runagainst the USS Stout, a guided missile destroyer. The Stout changed course to avoid the Iranian vessel and used unspecified devices to discourage it from approaching again. “These are incidents that carry a risk of escalation and we don’t desire any kind of escalation,” Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook toldreporters. “At this point, it's not clear what the intentions of the Iranian ships were, but the behavior is not acceptable, given that this U.S. ship was in international waters,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Aug. 29 – Iran deployed a Russian-supplied S-300 SAM defense system at its Fordow nuclear facility. “Our main priority is to protect Iran’s nuclear facilities under any circumstances,” said Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili.
Sep. 1 – Iran unveiled new radar technology, the Nazir and Bina systems, increasing its missile defense capabilities.
Jan. 9 – The USS Mahan, a destroyer, fired warning shots and used radio calls, flares, bells, and whistles to signal five Iranian ships to stay away. The ships came within 900 yards of three U.S. vessels that were entering the Strait of Hormuz, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis. They eventually left the area after a U.S. helicopter also dropped smoke grenades.
Mar. 9 – The IRGC announced that they had successful tested a Hormuz 2 ballistic missile the previous week. It was reportedly capable of hitting floating targets within a 186-mile range.
Apr. 18 – Iran revealed its new Sayyad 3 air defense missile for the first time during nationwide Army Day parades.
Apr. 22 – The IRGC equipped its Navy with new Nasir cruise missiles supposedly capable of precise navigation and equipped to resist signal jamming.
Jun. 18 – Iran launched missiles at ISIS targets in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria in following terrorist attacks targeting Tehran earlier that month. The missiles used in the strikes were Zolfaqar and Qiam class missiles.
Jul. 18 – Iranian parliament passed a bill introduced to “fight American adventurous and terrorist actions in the region” which expanded funding for the Quds force and missile programs by 1,000 billion tomans ($600 million).
Jul. 22 – Iran began mass production of the new Sayyad-3 missile, used in missile shield systems. The missile reportedly has a range of 120 kilometers and can achieve an altitude of 27 kilometers, and is designed to target incoming aircraft and missiles.
Jul. 27 – Iran announced that it had successfully launched a Simorgh SLV (space-launch vehicle). The Simorgh was claimed to be Iran’s most advanced satellite-carrying rocket yet produced.
Jul. 31 – Iran claimed that U.S. naval forces including the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier had acted provocatively and unprofessionally by flying a helicopter close to IRGC ships. Iranian General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri issued a warning to U.S. naval forces not to continue the alleged provocation.
Aug. 13 – Iranian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to increase spending on ballistic missile development and foreign operations of the IRGC. At the session, 240 out of 247 legislators voted to allocate some $260 million to the missile program, $300 million to the IRGC Qods Force and $240 million to other military and intelligence-related projects. The move came as a reaction to new U.S. sanctions.Sept. 14 – The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 11 individuals and entities for supporting the IRGC ballistic missile program, transporting IRGC-operated militias, and engaging in cyber attacks.
Sept. 23 – Iran test launched the Khorramshahr ballistic missile. The missile, with a range of approximately 2000 km, was likely modeled on the Hwasong-10, which North Korea previously transferred to Iran.
Oct. 13 – The U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions on the IRGC for its support for terrorism, and on three IRGC affiliates for proliferation violations. The move designated the IRGC under the Terrorism Authority, but stopped short of labeling the IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Nov. 21 – President Rouhani declared victory over ISIS in Iraq and Syria following the capture of Abu Kamal in Syria and Rawa in Iraq, the last significant sized town under ISIS control in each country.
Dec. 2 – Israeli planes flying from Lebanon reportedly bombed an Iranian military base 13km south of Damascus at al-Kiswa. The Syrian government deployed its air-defense system and claimed to have shot down two Israeli surface-to-surface missiles during the attack.
Dec. 14 – The United States presented evidence for the first time of Iranian support for Houthi militants in Yemen, in violation of UN resolutions. The evidence included a drone, an anti-tank weapon, and a short-range ballistic missile, all of which the United States claimed to be Iranian-made and supplied.
Feb. 10 – Israel shot down an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory. The incident kicked off a series of Israeli airstrikes and Syrian surface-to-air engagement that resulted in an Israeli F-16 being shot down in northern Israel.
April 9-10 – Israel reportedly hit the T-4 airfield and command center near Palmyra with missiles in an overnight strike. Seven Iranian military advisors were reportedly killed. “Israel’s crime… will not go unanswered,” warned Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy advisor to the supreme leader.April 29 - May 1 – Israel allegedly struck two Iran-linked military bases in Syria, killing at least 26 people, including 11 Iranian fighters. “We don’t comment on foreign reports and we have no information at this time,” said Israel’s military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. The strikes reportedly hit a weapons depot for surface-to-surface missiles in northern Syria, destroying 200 missiles. The second target was the Neirab military base southeast of Aleppo. “Well will respond to any aggression on Iran at the right time and place,” said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.
May 8 – Israel reportedly struck Iranian military facilities south of Damascus, killing 15 people, eight of whom were Iranian, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
May 10 – The Israeli military claimed to have struck 70 Iranian targets inside Syria in its largest air operation of the Syrian Civil War, after Iran’s Qods Force launched 20 rockets at the Israeli Golan Heights. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed Israeli fire on targets in Baath, Syria triggered the engagement.
May 15 – The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four individuals and one bank for moving millions of dollars on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to the Lebanese militia and political movement Hezbollah.
May 22 – The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against five Iranian IRGC members for providing technical ballistic missile assistance to Houthi forces in Yemen.
Sept. 22 – Gunmen attacked a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz. The attackers killed at least 29 people and wounded 70, including IRGC soldiers and civilians. Arab separatists claimed responsibility. Iranian leaders blamed the United States’ regional allies for plotting the attack.
Nov. 13 – Ambassador-at-Large Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, said that Tehran provides nearly one billion dollars a year to terrorist groups including Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, and various groups in Iraq and Syria. “We will continue to ratchet up the pressure until Iran comes to its senses, joins the community of civilized nations, and ends its support for murder and mayhem across the globe,” Sales told an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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.
Nov. 29 – Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, unveiled what he called new evidence of Iranian weapons proliferation. He delivered a briefing in front of a display of missiles, rockets, drones and other equipment that were allegedly transferred to the Houthis in Yemen or the Taliban in Afghanistan. “The new weapons we are disclosing today illustrate the scale of Iran’s destructive role across the region. The same kind of rockets here today could tomorrow land in a public market in Kabul or an international airport,” said Hook.
Dec. 1 – The United States condemned Iran’s test of a medium range ballistic missile reportedly capable of striking parts of Europe and anywhere in the Middle East. “This test violates U.N. Security Council resolution 2231 that bans Iran from undertaking ‘any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology,’” claimed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Making a mockery of the UNSC won't obscure failure to fulfill obligations & to hold US to account over non-compliance. Esp when even US admits that UNSCR2231 does NOT prohibit Iran's deterrent capabilities. Rather than undermining 2231, better to work towards its adherence by all,” replied Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Resolution 2231 only “calls upon” Iran to not test missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Jan. 29 – U.S. Intelligence agencies released their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment and discussed Iran during a Senate hearing. “We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” said the report. “Iran almost certainly will continue to develop and maintain terrorist capabilities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries,” it added.
President Trump rejected the intelligence agencies’ assessment. “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” he tweeted.
Feb. 2 – Iran unveiled a new surface-to-surface cruise missile during celebrations leading up to the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. State television claimed that the new Hoveizeh missile had a range of 810 miles. On February 7, IRGC Commander Mohammed Ali Jafari unveiled the Dezful short-range ballistic missile, with a reported range of 621 miles. Jafari also announced the establishment of an underground facility in Iran for mass-producing precision missiles. On February 11, President Hassan Rouhani addressed the nation. “We have not –and will not- ask for permission from anybody for improving our defensive power. We will continue this path and I say this clearly to the people of Iran that Iran’s military power in the past 40 years, especially in the recent 5 years has amazed the entire world,” he said.
Feb. 4 – President Donald 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.
Feb. 14 – A suicide bombing in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan killed 27 IRGC soldiers. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States and Israel for the attack.
March 5 – The U.S. State Department and Treasury sanctioned Harakat al Nujaba (HAN), an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, and its leader, Akram Abbas al Kabi. The State Department designated them as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. “These designations demonstrate the United States’ unwavering commitment to isolate and deny funding to the Iranian regime’s terrorist proxies,” said the State Department.
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.”
May 2 – An Iranian tanker, the Happiness I, broke down in the Red Sea. Iran said that the vessel, which was carrying more than one million barrels of oil, malfunctioned when water leaked into the engine room. None of the crew were injured. The tanker was forced to dock in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. No country claimed responsibility.
May 5 – National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” He said the move was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” but did not specify further. The White House did not specify what Iranian activities it was responding to, but they were widely reported by the media to be related to intelligence citing U.S. interests in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Persian Gulf. The carrier strike group, however, was part of regularly scheduled deployment.
May 9 – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan reportedly presented an updated plan for 120,000 U.S. troops to be deployed to the region in the event of an Iranian attack on U.S. forces or sprint towards attaining a nuclear weapon, according to The New York Times. On May 14, President Trump said the report was “fake news.” But he said that if the United States were to implement such a plan, “we’d send a hell of a lot more” troops. U.S. officials told NBC News that Shanahan had presented a range of options to Trump’s national security team.
May 10 – The Pentagon announced that additional forces would join the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group in the Persian Gulf—the USS Arlington (capable of supporting amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions) and a Patriot missile defense battery.
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.
May 13-14 - On May 13, President Trump warned that Iran “will suffer greatly” if it attacks U.S. interests in the Gulf. “We will see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it’ll be a big mistake,” he told the press. Supreme Leader Khamenei retorted that his country was not interested in a military conflict, but would “resist” the United States.
May 15 – The United States ordered the immediate departure of all non-emergency U.S. government employees from Iraq, citing security concerns. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is responsible for U.S. military forces in the Middle East, contradicted a comment made a day earlier by Major General Chris Ghika, the British deputy commander of anti-ISIS coalition forces, that Iran-backed militias in Iraq did not pose an increased threat to coalition personnel. “Recent comments from OIR's Deputy Commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region,” the CENTCOM statement said.
The New York Times reported that photographs of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf were the cause of the White House’s increased warnings about the threat from Iran. The concern was that the IRGC would fire them at U.S. naval vessels or disrupt commercial shipping. Intelligence also suggested American troops in Iraq could be targeted by militias with ties to Tehran.
May 17 – The IRGC deputy for parliamentary affairs warned that U.S. forces in the Gulf are vulnerable. “Even our short-range missiles can easily reach (U.S.) warships in the Persian Gulf,” said Mohammad Saleh Jokar, according to Fars News Agency via Reuters. “America cannot afford the costs of a new war, and the country is in a bad situation in terms of manpower and social conditions.”
A Defense Department official and a congressional official told The New York Times that Iran unloaded missiles from at least two small boats in its territorial waters. The move was seen as a de-escalation in tensions.
May 20 - A Katyusha rocket was fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily fortified area that houses Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies. It fell near the U.S. Embassy but did not harm anyone, according to the Iraqi military. A State Department official warned that the United States would hold Iran responsible for any attacks conducted by proxy militia forces. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
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.
Supreme Leader Khamenei’s website posted a graphic on the website calling the U.S. deployment of forces a “futile uproar.” It melded a photograph of an aircraft carrier and a megaphone together with a crosshair superimposed on top.
May 24 – Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan announced that 1,500 additional troops would be deployed to the Middle East. The Pentagon clarified that, of the 1,500, only 900 additional troops would be sent to the region and 600 personnel manning Patriot missile batteries would have their deployment extended. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wheelbarger emphasized that U.S. policy with respect to Iran had not changed. “As the president and the secretary have been clear, we do not seek conflict with Iran. We do not see these additional capabilities as urging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature,” she said.
Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, said the IRGC was responsible for the attack on tankers earlier in May. He said limpet mines were used but did not specify how they were delivered.
Secretary Pompeo issued an emergency notification of arms sales to Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. “These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. He invoked a seldom used executive authority that would bypass the usual arms review process with Congress. Pompeo said he intended the transfers, worth some $8 billion, to be a “one-time event.”
May 29 – National Security Advisor Bolton told reporters that it was “clear that Iran is behind” the attack on tankers. “There's no doubt in anybody's mind in Washington who's responsible for this,” he added. “Who else would you think is doing it? Someone from Nepal?” Bolton did not provide evidence. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, called the charge “ludicrous.”
In a speech to academics, Supreme Leader Khamenei said Iran would not negotiate on the core values of the Islamic Revolution or give up military capabilities. “The only way for us is to apply our tactics of pressure in face of the pressures that the U.S. applies. Contrary to their propaganda, these tactics are not military--though we might use military means if we find it necessary.”
June 6 – General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad. Afterwards, he told NBC News that threat from Iran and its proxies was “imminent” and had not diminished. “I believe the threat is still very real. They probe for weakness all the time,” he said in an exclusive interview. He told the Associated Press that the U.S. deployment of additional forces may have “caused the Iranians to back up a little bit” but that he was “not sure they are strategically backing down.”
Houthi rebels in Yemen shot down a U.S. MQ-9 drone. The U.S. military concluded that the rebels had received help from Iran to down the drone.
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.”
A CENTCOM spokesman claimed that Iran attempted to shoot down a U.S. surveillance drone to prevent the United States from detecting Iran’s role in the attack.
June 17 - 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 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. “Our air space is our red line and Iran has always responded and will continue to respond strongly to any country that violates our air space,” said Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. The United States acknowledged that the drone was shot down by a surface-to-air missile system. But it said the incident occurred in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. "Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false," said CENTCOM spokesperson Navy Captain Bill Urban. "This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace."
Aug. 6 – Iran presented three new precision-guided missiles —the Yasin, Balaban and a new series of the “Ghaem.” Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami said their development “shows that despite the viciousness and conspiracies of the Great Satan America and its mercenaries, the defence ministry will not hesitate for a moment to defend the Islamic republic and to expand security.” Fars news agency reported that the Yasin, equipped with folding wings, could be fired from manned or unmanned aircraft 30 miles from its target. The Balaban, also with folding wings, was meant to be mounted under aircraft. The latest version of the Ghaem was a heat-seeking missile reportedly capable of hitting with 50 centimeters of its target.
Aug. 22 – Tehran unveiled a long-range, surface-to-air defense system that can target planes up to 190 miles away. Rouhani called negotiations with the U.S. “useless” during the unveiling ceremony. “Now that our enemies do not accept logic, we cannot respond with logic,” he said.
Sept. 14 –The Abqaiq and Khurais facilities—both run by the state-owned company Saudi Aramco—were struck by projectiles in a pre-dawn attack. Abqaiq, the kingdom’s largest oil processing facility, was considered one of the most important oil infrastructure sites in the world. It had the capacity to process 7 million barrels of oil per day. Khurais, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest oil fields, added an additional 1.5 million barrels per day in production. The attacks suspended production of 5.7 million barrels per day—about 6 percent of global oil supply—according to Saudi Aramco.The United States accused Iran of facilitating the drone attacks. "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 18 – Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry held a press conference to display material evidence allegedly proving Iranian involvement in attacks on two oil facilities. “Despite Iran's best efforts to make it appear so, their collaboration with their proxy in the region to create this false narrative is clear,” said Saudi military spokesman Colonel Turki al Malki. Riyadh concluded that Iran or one of its proxies launched a sophisticated assault involving drones and cruise missiles from a location north of Saudi Arabia. Al Malki said the attacks were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran” but stopped short of explicitly accusing Tehran for the attack. The Saudis said they were still “working to know exactly the launch point.”
Al Malki told reporters that both drones and missiles were launched at Abqaiq and that cruise missiles struck the Khurais facility. Riyadh said eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were used in the attacks, with three missiles falling short of their target. The cruise missiles had a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), according to al Maliki, which meant they could not have been fired from inside Yemen. The Saudi government also presented video footage of a drone striking from the north.
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.”
Oct. 11 – An Iranian tanker, the Sabiti, was reportedly hit by two missiles in the Red Sea. An Iranian lawmaker, Abolfazl Hassan Beigi, blamed Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia for the attack, which left two large holes in the ship’s hull above the waterline. The National Iranian Tanker Company said that some oil spilled into the water.
Nov. 25 - The USS Forrest Sherman interdicted the Al Raheeb, an unflagged wooden dhow crewed by Yemeni nationals in the northern Arabia Sea. The boat was carrying 21 anti-tank missiles, five surface-to-air missiles, components for land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles, thermal optical sights, blasting caps and drone components, according to a Justice Department filing. The missiles were “the most sophisticated weapons seized by the U.S. Navy to date during the Yemen conflict,” U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said on December 5, 2019. The Justice Department later connected the Al Raheeb to the Qods Force. A U.N. panel of experts concluded that the Al Raheeb carried “Iranian” anti-tank missiles.
Dec. 27 - Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia backed by Iran, launched rockets at the K1 military base near Kirkuk, which housed U.S. military service members and Iraqi personnel. The attack killed a U.S. civilian contractor and wounded four U.S. service members and two Iraqis.
Dec. 29 - The United States responded with airstrikes on Kataib Hezbollah positions in western Iraq and eastern Syria. The strikes, which reportedly killed at least 25 militants, targeted weapons depots and command centers that the group had used to attack U.S. forces and allies.
Dec. 31 - Supporters of Kataib Hezbollah stormed the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad to protest the U.S. airstrikes. The gunmen and demonstrators broke into a reception area inside the front gate but did not reach the main embassy buildings. They chanted “Death to America” and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the compound. In a series of tweets, Trump accused Tehran of orchestrating the attack.
Jan. 2 - Secretary Esper warned that the United States “will not accept continued attacks against our personnel & forces in the region.” He said that the United States would take “preemptive action” to defend U.S. interests against Iranian plots. “The game has changed,” Esper told reporters during a briefing.
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.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani as the new commander of the Qods Force. Ghaani had worked closely with Soleimani and had been deputy commander of the Qods Force since 1997.
Jan. 4 - Iranian General Gholamali Abuhamzeh said that the IRGC had identified at least 35 U.S. targets that could be hit in retaliatory strikes. He specifically named U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and the city of Tel Aviv.
Trump warned that the United States had identified 52 targets, including cultural sites, and that Washington would strike if Iran attempted retaliatory attacks on U.S. interests. Trump said that the 52 sites represented the 52 American hostages held by Iranian protestors in the 1979 attack of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
Jan 6 - Hundreds of thousands of Iranians turned out for Soleimani’s funeral in Tehran. Many shouted “Death to America.” Supreme Leader Khamenei wept over the coffin. Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani, warned that Iran would take revenge. The late general’s daughter, Zeinab, lashed out against President Trump. “You crazy Trump, the symbol of ignorance, the slave of Zionists, don’t think that the killing of my father will finish everything,” she told mourners. “The families of the American soldiers in western Asia will spend their days waiting for the death of their children.”
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.
President Trump took to Twitter and implied that the damage to the al Assad and Irbil facilities was not serious. “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning,” he tweeted.
Later in the day, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran’s ultimate goal was to expel U.S. forces from the wider Middle East. “Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region,” he said in a televised speech. As of January 2020, the United States had more than 60,000 troops deployed throughout the wider region, including Afghanistan, which borders Iran.
Feb. 9 - The USS Normandy interdicted the Al Qanas 1, an unflagged dhow in the Arabian Sea manned by Yemeni nationals. The vessel was carrying 150 anti-tank missiles, three surface-to-air missiles, night vision scopes and drone components, the Justice Department reported. U.S. naval personnel interrogated the dhow’s crew before handing them over to the Yemeni Coast Guard. The weapons were “destined for the Houthi rebels,” according to the Pentagon. “There’s not a plausible explanation for how these weapons got on the dhow without the sanction of the Iranian government,” said Captain Bill Urban, the CENTCOM spokesperson. The Justice Department later connected the Al Qanas 1 to the Qods Force. A U.N. panel of experts also concluded that the anti-tank missiles were most likely "manufactured in the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Feb. 11 - The Pentagon acknowledged that 109 U.S. troops suffered brain injuries during the Iranian attack on two Iraqi bases in January.
March 11 - Some 30 Katyusha rockets were launched at Camp Taji base near Baghdad. More than a dozen landed on the base, wounding 14 and killing two U.S. and one British service members. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iran-backed militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, Kataib Sayyed al Shuhada and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba lauded the operation.
March 13 - At approximately 1:30 a.m., U.S. forces struck Kataib Hezbollah sites in retaliation for the attack on Camp Taji. “These strikes targeted five weapon storage facilities to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks against Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces,” the Pentagon said. The targets were concentrated in central Iraq, according to local sources.
April 1 - In a tweet, President Donald Trump warned that Iran would pay a “very heavy price” if it or one of its proxies attacked U.S. troops or assets in Iraq. He cited a possible “sneak attack” but did not provide further details.
April - Iran’s foreign ministry warned that U.S. Patriot battery deployments to Iraq constituted “warmongering” that could lead to “instability and disaster.”
April 4 - The IRGC deployed Fajr-5 missile batteries on Qeshm Island in the Strait of Hormuz. The rockets could hit targets up to 45 miles away. Mobile anti-ship missile launchers were also installed on the island.
April 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 IRGC speedboats repeatedly approached six U.S. military vessels at close range and at high speeds, the Pentagon said. The U.S. warships were conducting joint training operations with U.S. Army helicopters in international waters. On April 22, President Trump said that he had instructed the Navy to “destroy” Iranian gunboats if they harassed U.S. ships.
May 9 – A cyberattack hit computers that regulate maritime traffic at Shahid Rajaee port on Iran's southern coast in the Persian Gulf. The disruption created a traffic jam of ships that waited days to dock. Iran acknowledged that it had been hit by a foreign hack. Israel was reportedly behind the cyberattack, although it did not claim responsibility, according to The Washington Post.
May 11 - An Iranian warship mistakenly fired a missile at another Iranian naval vessel, killing at least 19 sailors and wounding 15 others. The accident took place during a military training exercise near the port of Jask in the Gulf of Oman.
June 28 - The U.S. Navy and partner forces interdicted a boat off the coast of Yemen. The vessel was carrying “200 RPGs, more than 1,700 AK rifles, 21 surface-to-air and land-attack missiles, several anti-tank missiles, and other advanced weapons and missiles,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on July 8, 2020. “Iran is not abiding by the U.N. arms embargo restrictions that are due to expire in less than four months now.”
July 2 - A mysterious explosion extensively damaged Iran’s main nuclear enrichment site at Natanz. The blast damaged a factory producing advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges that enrich uranium faster than the IR-1 models allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal. Enriched uranium can be used to produce energy or fuel a bomb. The damage set back the enrichment program by months, Iran conceded.
July 28 - During a military wargame, Iran ran a mock attack on a fake U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz. The exercise – dubbed Great Prophet 14 – involved the IRGC’s air force and navy, but Iran’s conventional navy, which operates mainly in the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea, did not participate. U.S. Central Command condemned the wargame as “irresponsible and reckless.”
Aug. 14 - A U.S. proposal that would prevent all U.N. members from selling conventional arms to Iran failed at the Security Council. The vote — two in favor (the United States and the Dominican Republic), two opposed (Russia and China), and 11 abstentions — was a blow to the Trump administration.
Aug. 17 - Iran offered bounties to Taliban fighters to target U.S. forces and coalition troops in Afghanistan, CNN reported. Iran was linked to at least six attacks in 2019 by the Haqqani network, including one on Bagram Air Base outside Kabul. Iran denied the reports as U.S. propaganda.
Sept. 10-12 - Iran tested cruise missiles and drones during an annual three-day wargame to test military capabilities at sea, both offensively and defensively. The Zolfaghar-99 exercise, named after Imam Ali’s sword, was held on and around three key waterways — the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman and the northern Indian Ocean, an area totaling 772,200 square miles. It mobilized Iran’s conventional navy, army and air force participated, although the IRGC did not participate.
Oct. 18 - The global ban on the sale of conventional arms to Iran expired and opened the way for Tehran to import weapons, including warplanes, helicopter gunships, missiles, tanks, artillery, and other weapon systems. The ban was imposed in 2010 by U.N. Resolution 1929. The embargo was lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal as one of the incentives for Tehran to limit its nuclear program. The provision also allowed Iran to export its domestically produced arms for the first time in a decade.
Nov. 27 - Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, widely believed to be the pioneer behind Iran’s nuclear weapons program, was assassinated in a roadside attack about 40 miles east of Tehran. Iran blamed Israel and vowed retaliation. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out new diplomacy with the United States in a statement read by his representative at the scientist’s funeral on November 30.
Early February - Iran and North Korea resumed cooperation on long-range missile development, including on a space launch vehicle, according to a U.N. panel that was monitoring sanction on North Korea. The experts, citing U.N. member state, said that North Korea transferred critical parts to Iran as recently as 2020.
Feb. 14 - Iran's army said that it had tested a short-range “smart” missile with a range of 300 km (186 miles). Gen. Kioumars Heidari claimed that the missile could work under all weather conditions.
Feb. 25 - The United States conducted airstrikes in eastern Syria against Iran-backed militias in the first military action by the Biden administration. The Pentagon said that warplanes struck “several facilities” used by Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada, two Iraqi Shiite militias trained, armed and funded by Iran. The facilities were located near the Abu Kamal border crossing on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq. The exact death toll was unclear; Kataib Hezbollah claimed that one of its fighters was killed, while a Britain-based monitor claimed that at least 22 militants had been killed. On March 1, the Pentagon said that one fighter was killed and two others were injured.
Feb. 26 – The Israeli-owned Helios Ray cargo ship, which flies a Bahamian flag, was damaged by two limpet mines in the Gulf of Oman. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the attack but did not provide specifics. “Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel, I am determined to halt it. We are hitting it in the entire region,” he said on March 1. Tehran denied responsibility. Israel is “playing the victim to distract attention away from all its destabilizing acts and malign practices across the region,” Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council on March 9.
March 10 – An Iranian container ship, the Shahr-e Kord, was hit by an explosive object in international waters – about 50 miles off the Israeli coast and reportedly heading for the Syrian port of Latakia – in the eastern Mediterranean. It caused a small fire but no casualties. Iran blamed Israel for the attack because of the geographical location and the way the ship was targeted. The shipping company claimed that the Shahr-e Kord was bound for Europe.
March 25 – The LORI, an Israeli-owned cargo ship that flies a Liberian flag, was struck by a missile in the Arabian Sea. The damage was minimal, and the LORI continued to its final destination in India. A senior Israeli defense official claimed that the IRGC had fired the missile.
April 6 – An Iranian ship, the Saviz, was damaged by a mine planted on its hull in the Red Sea near Djibouti. The vessel had been floating off the coast of Yemen for several years. Iran claimed that the ship was involved in anti-piracy operation. But the Saviz was an armory ship used as a covert “forward base” by the Revolutionary Guards near the strategic Bab el Mandab straits, the U.S. Naval Institute reported in October 2020. Israel reportedly conducted the attack in retaliation for previous Iranian strikes, according to The New York Times.
April 11 - An explosion at Natanz hit the power supply for centrifuges and caused damage that could take up to nine months to fully repair, The New York Times reported. It was the second major attack to sabotage operations at Natanz in less than a year. In July 2020, an explosion caused significant damage to a centrifuge factory. Foreign Minister Zarif blamed Israel and vowed revenge. “We will not fall into their trap,” he told a state television. “We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks.”
April 13 – The Hyperion Ray, an Israeli-owned cargo ship that flew the Bahamian flag, was struck by a missile or an unmanned drone near the Fujairah port in the United Arab Emirates. There were no casualties, and the ship continued on its route. The ship was attacked two days after Israel allegedly sabotaged the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had vowed “revenge” on Israel.
May 6 to 7 - The USS Monterey interdicted an unflagged dhow in the northern Arabian Sea with a large cache of illicit weapons, including dozens of Russian anti-tank missiles, thousands of Chinese-made assault rifles, and hundreds of machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Navy photos showed the weaponry laid out on the deck of the Monterey. The source and destination of the weapons were “under investigation,” U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain said in a statement. U.S. naval and coast guard personnel removed the cargo from the dhow and questioned the crew before releasing them.
May 7 - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decried Israel as a “despotic regime” and praised the “recent uprising of [Palestinian] youth in defending” al Aqsa mosque. “Israel is not a country, rather it is a terrorist camp against the Palestinian nation and other Muslim nations,” he said in a speech. A Palestinian Islamic Jihad official claimed that his group had purchased their rockets “with Iranian money” and had been trained to fire them by Iranian military advisors. “I am proud to say that the rockets that are used to pound Tel Aviv have an Iranian signature on them,” Ramez al Halabi told an Iraqi TV channel.
May 10 – 20: Iranian leaders offered unequivocal support after Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets at Israeli cities, and Israel responded with airstrikes on May 10. Khamenei called on Palestinians to “confront the enemy” and “stand strong” against Israel. “One can only talk with the language of strength with these criminals,” he said in a video message on May 11. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif released a video in Arabic on May 11 condemning Israel as “racist” and calling for a “popular referendum” to determine the future of the Holy Land.
On May 20, Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire that went into effect the next morning. On May 21, Khamenei congratulated the Palestinians on their “victory” over Israel. “Greetings to the heroic, resistant Gaza. Greetings to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all jihadi and political groups in Palestine,” he wrote. “The savage, wolf-like enemy has realized correctly that it is powerless when facing the unified uprising of Palestine.”
June 27 – The United States conducted airstrikes against three targets operated by two Iraqi militias—Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada—that are trained, armed, funded and sometimes directed by Iran. F-15 and F-16 fighters targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq. The U.S. strikes were in response to a string of at least six drone attacks attributed to Iraqi militias from April to June 2021.
July 3 – The CSAV Tyndall, a formerly Israeli-owned cargo ship that flew the Liberian flag, was struck by either a missile or an unmanned drone in the Indian Ocean while sailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to the United Arab Emirates. There were no casualties, but the ship suffered minor damage. Israeli security officials believed that Iran was responsible for the attack, Haaretz reported. The ship had previously been owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer but was sold months ago, the Times of Israel reported. The vessel's owner at the time of the attack was Polar 5 LTD, a London-based shipping company.
July 15 – Facebook took down nearly 200 fake accounts used by Iranian hackers to target U.S., British and European military and defense personnel. The hackers, known as Tortoiseshell, sought to infect victims’ computers with malware and steal their login information. The malware used by the hackers was developed by Mahak Rayan Afraz (MRA), “an [information technology] company in Tehran with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” according to Facebook’s cybersecurity team.
The hackers, known as Tortoiseshell, posed as recruiters for the defense and aerospace industries, as well as employees in the hospitality industry, medicine, journalism, NGOs and civilian airliners. They reached out to their targets online to "build trust and trick them into clicking on malicious links," Facebook said in a statement. The hackers also ran several fake job recruiting websites, including one that mimicked the U.S. Department of Labor's job website, to steal their victims' login credentials. "This activity had the hallmarks of a well-resourced and persistent operation, while relying on relatively strong operational security measures to hide who’s behind it," the statement said.
July 26 – The Revolutionary Guards researched how to hack water filtration and ballast systems to sink cargo ships, Sky News reported. "These pumps are used to bring water into the tanks through centrifuges and in order to operate correctly, the task must be completed with precision," one report read. "Any problems could result in the sinking of the ship." The documents "seem to indicate how cyber capabilities can be put to use in the maritime conflict between Israel and Iran," Haaretz reported.
July 29 – The Mercer Street—an oil tanker owned by a Japanese company that flew the Liberian flag but was managed by Zodiac Maritime, which is headed by an Israeli shipping magnate—was attacked off the coast of Oman. Israeli officials told The New York Times that multiple Iranian drones were involved in the attack. Two crew members, one British national and one Romanian national, were reportedly killed. “Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that are hurting us all,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted. On August 1, U.S., British and Israeli officials charged that Iran was behind the attack.
Iran denied involvement while Iranian state media reported that the attack on the tanker was in response to an alleged Israeli attack on al Dabaa airport in Syria. Al Alam News Network cited “informed sources in the region,” but did not specify who attacked the Mercer Street.
Aug 6 - U.S. Central Command released the findings of its investigation into the Mercer Street drone attack and published photos of debris recovered from the tanker. Forensic analysis confirmed that the drone components were identical to Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and that it was loaded with explosives.
The following individuals have contributed to updates to this timeline: Garrett Nada, Eli Pollock, Cameron Glenn, Daniel Schnur, Evan W. Burt, John Caves, Alex Yacoubian and Andrew Hanna.