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1938: Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.

When oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938, the U.S. founds the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco). By 1980, Saudi Arabia has gained full control over the company.


August 15-19, 1953: A U.S.-backed coup removes Iranian prime minister Mossadeq from power.

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, British and American intelligence groups worry that Mossadeq's nationalist aspirations will lead to an eventual communist takeover. To avoid this, U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower approves a joint British-American operation to overthrow Mossadeq. After the first day it appears the coup has failed, and the Shah flees to Baghdad. Widespread rioting ensues, flamed by the CIA and British intelligence services, and Mossadeq is defeated. Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlevi returns to power, and Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi, the leader of military coup, becomes prime minister.

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July 26, 1956: Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal.

Most likely in response to the U.S. decision to revoke its foreign aid pledge to help build the Aswan High Dam project, Nasser decides to nationalize the Suez Canal. Its toll revenues provide a significant source of needed income. This angers Britain and France, the former owners of the canal.

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July 15, 1958: Lebanon's Christian and Muslim factions engage in civil war.

With Egypt and Syria's pan-Arab movement stirring up sentiments among Lebanon's religious groups, Lebanon's fragile coalition government weakens. The Lebanese army's loyalty to President Kamil Shamun wavers. With the outbreak of civil war between Christians and Muslims, Shamun calls on the U.S. to send troops to secure peace. The U.S., wanting to avoid another coup (as had just occurred in Iraq), sends 5,000 Marines to Lebanon.

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October 3, 1965: A second wave of Middle Eastern immigration to the United States begins with the passage of new immigration laws.

The Immigration Act of 1965 abolishes the quota system established in 1921 that restricted admission to the U.S. according to a person's national origins. Prior to 1961, strong preference had been shown for people from Western hemisphere countries, while those from Eastern countries were given far fewer visas. In the late 1970s, with people fleeing political crises in Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, immigration from Middle Eastern countries to the U.S. will again rise dramatically.

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1972: Saudi Arabia negotiates for control of 25 percent of the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco).

Until the early '70s, Aramco is owned by California Arabian Standard Oil Company (Casoc), Texaco, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (later renamed Exxon), and Socony-Vacuum (now Mobil Oil Company). In 1968 the Saudi minister of petroleum and mineral resources had publicly broached the idea of Saudi participation in Aramco, and after long negotiations, it is agreed that the Saudi government will buy 25 percent of the company. Over the next 16 years, Aramco will be converted to a totally Saudi-owned company called Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco).


November 1973: Saudi Arabia leads an oil boycott against the U.S. and other Western countries.

A supporter of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War against Israel, Saudi Arabia still harbors resentment when the Yom Kippur War (October War) erupts. In retaliation for U.S. support of Israel, Saudi Arabia participates in a 1973 Arab oil boycott of the U.S. and other Western nations. The price of oil quadruples, dramatically increasing Saudi Arabia's wealth and political influence.

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September 17, 1978: Israel and Egypt negotiate peace accords at Camp David.

Just five years after the Yom Kippur War, U.S. president Jimmy Carter hosts Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat at Camp David. This historic meeting will result in the first peace accord to be signed by Israel and one of its Arab neighbors. Several months of more detailed negotiations lead to the signing of a peace treaty on March 26, 1979, in Washington, D.C. Under the treaty's terms, control of the Sinai returns to Egypt, while Israel retains the Gaza Strip. In exchange for the Sinai's return, Egypt recognizes Israel and establishes full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Furthermore, Egypt guarantees that most of its forces will stay more than 50 kilometers from the Israeli border. The treaty also allows Egyptian and Israeli citizens to travel between the two countries. Most Arab nations boycott Egypt as a result of the treaty; Oman is the one exception. Less than three years after the treaty is signed, Islamic extremists assassinate Sadat.

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January 16, 1979: Iranian Revolution: The Shah is overthrown.

During the late 1970s, dissent and demonstrations protesting the dictatorship of the Shah increase in Iran. The writings of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, Shii Muslim Supreme Leader, begin to circulate widely. Throughout the final months of the 1978, demonstrators seize government buildings, shut down businesses with massive strikes, and assassinate government officials. On January 16, 1979, the Shah flees Iran; Khomeini returns on February 1. Less than a month later, on February 12, the prime minister flees as well.

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November 4, 1979: Ninety people, including 63 Americans, are taken hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran by Iranian students.

The students demand the return of the Shah to stand trial for crimes. Though some hostages are released, 52 of the Americans are held for 444 days before their release. In response to this hostage crisis, the U.S. freezes all Iranian assets invested in the U.S.

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October 23, 1983: The U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon is attacked by a suicide bomber.

During the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war, a suicide bomber detonates a truck full of explosives, killing 241 U.S. Marines and wounding more than 100 others. The 241 were part of a contingent of 1,800 Marines sent to Lebanon as part of a multinational force to help separate the warring Lebanese factions. No group claims responsibility for the attack.

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November 1986: The arms-for-hostages deal that comes to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair comes to light.

After a week of denying any covert activities, U.S. president Ronald Reagan publicly confirms that the U.S. secretly sold arms to Iran, using Israel as an intermediary, with the goal of improving relations with Iran. Reagan later admits the arrangement had become a swap -- arms assistance in return for hostages in Lebanon. The American public is outraged by the dealings with a hostile Iran, as well as with Reagan himself, for breaking his campaign promise to never enter into such negotiations. Some of the arms profits are later discovered to have been diverted to illegally aid Nicaraguan Contra rebels, who are locked in combat with the Communist-backed Sandinistas.

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July 3, 1988: A U.S. Navy ship shoots down an Iranian passenger plane carrying 290 people.

The USS Vincennes opens fire on a civilian airbus as it crosses the Gulf on a scheduled flight. The Navy claims that the aircraft was mistaken for a fighter jet. The Iranians regard the shooting down of the plane as a "terrorist" act and seek retribution through the World Court. The U.S. pays $131.8 million in compensation in 1996.


December 14, 1988: The PLO recognizes the State of Israel and calls for negotiations.

The United States had long refused to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it accepted certain conditions: The PLO, headed by Yasser Arafat, must recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce the use of terrorism. By the late 1980s, talk of peace negotiations is in the air. To participate, though, Arafat and the PLO acknowledge that they must satisfy the U.S.'s preconditions, and in December, Arafat promises PLO recognition of Israel and renouncement of terrorism. A U.S.-PLO dialogue begins shortly thereafter; these talks ultimately lead to the 1991 Madrid Conference.


December 21, 1988: Terrorists believed to be sponsored by Libya blow up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

All 270 people onboard Pan Am flight 103 are killed in a bombing believed to be in retaliation for U.S. bombing raids on Tripoli in 1986. The 1986 raids led to the destruction of Libyan president Qaddafi's house and the death of his young daughter. Qaddafi is widely suspected of using Libya's oil funds to support terrorism abroad, including groups as disparate as the Black Panthers in the United States and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland.

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August 1990: King Fahd invites U.S.-led troops to use Saudi Arabia as a base of operations against Iraq.

After Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, King Fahd fears his kingdom will be Saddam's next target, and does not hesitate to host U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

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January 15, 1991-March 3, 1991: A U.S.-led military coalition, with support from key Muslim states, fights to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the United States, the former Soviet Union, Japan, and much of Europe and the Middle East condemn the attack and resolve to drive the invaders out. Of note, Turkey, the sole Muslim member of NATO, allows the U.S. to use its territory as a staging point for strikes on Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. Saudi Arabia does likewise. Some 100,000 Iraqis are killed in the war, with relatively few reported coalition casualties. Though his army is forced to surrender, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein does not relinquish power.

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February 28, 1991: Kuwait is liberated from Iraq by coalition forces led by the U.S.

Coalition ground operations begin and last only three days before occupying Iraqi troops are expelled from Kuwait.

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January 1, 1992: Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt becomes secretary general of the United Nations.

A native of Cairo, Boutros Boutros-Ghali increases the number of UN peacekeeping missions worldwide during his five-year term, sending troops into hotspots like Bosnia, Cambodia, Haiti, Rwanda, and Somalia. The U.S., dissatisfied with his performance, prevents his reelection in 1996.

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February 26, 1993: A van bomb explodes in the garage of the World Trade Center in New York City.

At approximately 12:00 noon, a bomb in a van, planted by terrorists allegedly backed by Osama bin Laden, explodes in the underground garage of the World Trace Center, North Tower. Six people are killed, and more than 1,000 injured. Millions of dollars' worth of damage is sustained. Six Islamic extremist conspirators are convicted of the crime in 1997 and '98, receiving prison sentences of 240 years each.

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March 1993: President Clinton establishes the cooperative U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission.

The U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission aims to encourage and oversee cooperative scientific, agricultural, and environmental research and projects. The 1990s sees a number of cooperative efforts between the U.S. and Israel, in areas including food industry regulation, cosmetics production standards, intellectual property rights, and information technology.

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June 26, 1993: The U.S. bombs Baghdad, Iraq.

The U.S. bombs Iraqi intelligence headquarters after a report that the Iraqis have planned to assassinate former president George Bush on his trip to Kuwait in April 1993.

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August 20, 1993: Israel and the PLO sign the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Accords).

The agreement reached in Oslo outlines an Israeli redeployment from parts of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and the establishment of a provisional Palestinian self-rule government. The two sides agree to recognize one another publicly. The U.S. hosts a ceremony at which the Declaration of Principles, also called the Oslo Accords, is signed on September 13.

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1995: The U.S. imposes oil and trade sanctions against Iran.

The U.S. imposes oil and trade sanctions on Iran for allegedly sponsoring terrorism, seeking to acquire nuclear arms, and promoting hostility to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Iran denies the charges.

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June 22, 1995: Oman and the U.S. each pledge $3 million to build a Middle East Desalination Research Center in Oman.

The shortage of fresh water is a growing problem for Oman and other Gulf states. Many states get fresh water by desalination, the process of purifying salt water. Oman, which has built dams to collect rainwater that runs down mountains, continues to look for other ways to collect more fresh water.

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April-September 1996: The U.S. Congress passes the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

These laws allow secret evidence to be used against immigrants and foreign visitors for purposes of deportation. The law has been implemented almost exclusively against Arabs and Arab Americans.

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August 7, 1998: U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are bombed simultaneously.

Four men are tried on charges related to the simultaneous bombings in Africa, which killed 224 people and wounded thousands. Charges include conspiring in the bombing and other acts of terrorism as part of Osama bin Laden's international organization, al-Qaeda. All four are convicted in May 2001 and sentenced to life in prison without parole on October 18, 2001.

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September 1998: Iranians stand to honor the U.S. national anthem when it is played at the wrestling world championships in Iran.

A U.S. wrestler wins first place in the World Championships held in Iran. When the U.S. national anthem is played, Iranians present at the event stand in respect for the first time in nearly 20 years.

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July 28, 2000: The leader of Afghanistan's Taliban regime bans the growing of opium poppy.

Before the beginning of the November planting season, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, bans poppy growing in Afghanistan. He augments the ban with a religious edict declaring the crop to be contrary to the tenets of Islam. According to the United Nations, in 2000 Afghanistan produced nearly 4,000 tons of opium, about 75 percent of the world's supply.

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October 12, 2000: The USS Cole is attacked in a Yemeni harbor.

Seventeen American sailors are killed in an explosion on the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer docked in the Yemeni port of Aden. The Cole was moored for refueling when a rubber boat blew up alongside it. It is the deadliest attack on the U.S. military since the 1996 bombing of a U.S. Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed 19.

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September 11, 2001: Two commercial airliners strike the World Trade Center complex in New York City, and one strikes the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Believed to have been on course for the U.S. Capitol, a fourth jet crashes into an open field in western Pennsylvania. About 3,000 people die in the events, which result in the complete destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and severe damage to the Pentagon building. The U.S. labels the incidents terrorist actions and suspects Muslim extremists are responsible. The U.S. launches attacks in Afghanistan, eventually ousting the ruling Muslim fundamentalist regime known as the Taliban. The Taliban and its leader, Mullah Omar, are thought to sponsor the terrorist network al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

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December 7, 2001: Afghan opposition forces conquer Kandahar, effectively ending Taliban authority.

In previous weeks, the first major incursion of U.S. ground troops had landed near Kandahar, the last major city under Taliban control, to support Afghans fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. A series of U.S. air strikes opens the way for the anti-Taliban forces to take control of the city.

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May 29, 2002: Libya offers $2.7 billion to compensate the families of the 270 killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103.

The offer comes with conditions: Forty percent is to be paid when United Nations sanctions are lifted from Libya; another 40 percent is to be paid when U.S. sanctions are lifted; and the remaining 20 percent is to be paid when Libya is taken off the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism. Libya's government quickly denies having made the offer, saying it might have come from an unauthorized source. Some of the victims' families say they would refuse it even if it were official.

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