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Iran Primer: Timeline of Military and Security Events


02 Nov 2010 18:301 Comment
  • 1979
  • May 5 The Revolutionary Guards were established by decree of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • Aug. 10 Iran canceled a $9 billion arms deal with the United States made during the shah's reign.
  • Aug. 18 Khomeini appointed himself commander-in-chief and ordered a general mobilization against Iran's Kurdish nationalists. Fighting in northern Kurdistan continued until the fall of Kurdish strongholds on September 3.
  • 1980
  • Feb. 19 Ayatollah Khomeini appointed President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr commander-in-chief of the military. Bani-Sadr was deposed on June 10, 1981.
  • Sept. 22 Iraqi troops invaded Iran, following weeks of clashes between their Iraqi forces along the border. Baghdad's conditions for peace included Iranian recognition of Iraqi claims to the entire Shatt al-Arab waterway and disputed territory, and the return of three Persian Gulf islands occupied by Iran in 1971. Iraq quickly penetrated deep into Iranian territory. Oil installations were targeted by both nations, leading to a suspension in oil shipments. PLO chairman Yasir Arafat began the first mediation effort on September 25, which was followed by a similar attempt by an Islamic Conference Organization delegation.
  • Sept. 28 The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling on both nations to cease hostilities.
  • Oct. 1 Iran said it would do its part to keep the Strait of Hormuz open to oil-tanker traffic in spite of regional hostility. Heavy bombardment was reported on cities in both nations, while fighting on the ground centered around the oil-rich southern cities of Khorramshahr and Abadan.
  • Nov. 12 Kuwait charged Iran with an attack on its border post with Iraq. A second attack was reported on November 16.
  • Dec. 5 As heavy fighting continued in Khuzistan, Iran hit the Iraqi oil terminal at Faw and Iraq struck an Iranian oil pipeline at Bandar Abbas. On December 16, OPEC appealed to the two nations to end the war.
  • 1981
  • Jan. 14 United Nations envoy Olof Palme began another round of peace talks to end the war, but he reported on January 18 that neither side would back down from their hard-line positions.
  • Jan. 28 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein told the Islamic Conference Organization summit in Saudi Arabia that he was prepared to return captured Iranian territory in exchange for recovery of territorial and offshore rights usurped by Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini said troops would fight until final victory.
  • Feb. 3 Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati announced that Iran's preconditions for peace were, "withdrawal of Iraqi troops from all Iranian territory and compensation for damage inflicted." He added that Iran was not ready for diplomatic relations with the United States.
  • Sept. 27-29 Iran claimed to have driven Iraq back across the Karun River from Abadan to Ahvaz on the southern front, capturing 3,000 Iraqi troops. The breaking of the Iraqi siege of Abadan was considered a turning point in the war.
  • Oct. 3 The Supreme Defense Council was formed to coordinate the war effort, supervise a military reorganization, and begin an intense period of training.
  • Dec. 2 Iran denied purchasing arms from Israel.
  • 1982
  • Jan. 22 Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said, "Iran does not want to attack the small countries of the Persian Gulf and does not want to interfere in their internal affairs." The next day, Bahrain's prime minister accused Iran of instigating Shiite communities throughout the Persian Gulf to overthrow their governments.
  • March 1 Following weeks of heavy fighting around Susangerd, Shush and Bostan, Special U.N. Envoy Palme announced failure to mediate a truce between Iran and Iraq. Jordanian volunteers left to join Iraqi troops.
  • March 9 Ayatollah Khomeini announced that President Saddam Hussein was "past salvation and we will not retreat even one step."
  • May 24 Iran recaptured the City of Khorramshahr, an oil-rich area in southern Iran, taken by Iraq during its initial attacks in 1980.
  • June 12 Iran dispatched a contingent of 1,000 Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon after Israel's invasion. Iranian forces supported the formation of Hezbollah, a Shiite militia, but never directly confronted Israel.
  • July 19 American University of Beirut President David Dodge was taken hostage. He spent the next year in Iran, before being released after Syrian intervention.
  • June 20 President Hussein announced that Iraq had begun to pull out of Iran. He announced completion of its withdrawal on June 29, which Iran said was "a lie."
  • July 12 Iran rejected a U.N. ceasefire resolution. Iraq reported an Iranian attack that same day near the southern oil port of Basra.
  • Oct. 4 The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted for an end to the Iran-Iraq War and a withdrawal of all forces from occupied territory. Tehran rejected the move, while Baghdad said it would accept a ceasefire.
  • 1983
  • April Washington suspected Iran was indirectly involved in a suicide bombing which killed 63 people at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. The Reagan administration blamed Hezbollah for the attack, which U.S. officials believed was being funded by Iran and Syria.
  • Aug. 23 Reacting to internal squabbling, Ayatollah Khomeini urged unity between the military and the Revolutionary Guards
  • Sept. 17 President Hussein said Baghdad wanted peace with Tehran based on mutual non-interference. The next day Iran repeated threats to block oil exports if its shipments were disrupted.
  • Oct. 23 A suicide bomber attacked the barracks of U.S. Marine peacekeepers in Beirut, killing 241 Marines, the largest loss of U.S. military life in a single incident since Iwo Jima in World War II. The United States suspected Iran-backed Hezbollah.
  • Dec. 3 The U.S. press reported the Reagan administration's policy shift toward Iraq was because of a belief that an Iraqi defeat would hurt U.S. interests.
  • 1984
  • Jan. 23 The Reagan administration put Iran on the State Department list of governments supporting terrorism.
  • Feb. 11 Iraq attacked civilian targets in Dezful, triggering a new phase of the war. Iran responded on Feb. 12 by shelling seven Iraqi cities. After repeated incidents, Iran accepted an Iraqi ceasefire offer on Feb. 18. Both agreed to allow a U.N. mission to assess damage in civilian areas. But in late February, Iran announced new offensives on the northern and southern fronts.
  • March 3 Iran charged Iraq with using chemical weapons, a practice which Iraq continued throughout the war.
  • March Hezbollah abducted American hostages in Beirut, including CIA station chief William Buckley, who died in captivity.
  • May 13 After a run of at least six Iraqi strikes on tankers doing business with Iran, Iran for the first time attacked a Persian Gulf ship, the Kuwaiti Umm Casbah, marking the outbreak of the "tanker war." Parliamentary Speaker Rafsanjani declared on May 15, "Either the Persian Gulf will be safe for all or for no one."
  • July The CIA began giving Iraq intelligence that was reportedly used for subsequent mustard gas attacks against Iranian troops.
  • Sept. 20 Hezbollah was once again suspected of being behind an attack against the new U.S. Embassy in Beirut, which killed 24 people.
  • 1985
  • Feb. 21 The United Nations reported that both Iran and Iraq were violating the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war treatment.
  • March 14 Iraq began a bombing campaign against Iranian cities, particularly targeting Tehran. Iran responded with its own scud missile attacks. The "war of the cities" air strikes continued until 1988.
  • Aug. 14 A shipment of U.S. TOW antitank missiles was shipped to Tehran from Israel as part of the Reagan administration's arms-for-hostage swap. The Reagan administration secretly facilitated the sale of Israeli arms to Iran (which was subject to an arms embargo), in exchange for Iran's help in the release of American hostages in Lebanon.
  • Nov. 22 Another shipment of HAWK antiaircraft missiles was shipped to Tehran from Israel as the second phase of the arms-for-hostage swap. But the deal fell far short of what was promised, and Iran ordered a refund of payment and a resupply.
  • 1986
  • Nov. 3 The Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa exposed the secret arms-for-hostage dealings between Iran, Israel, and the United States.
  • July 20 The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 598, demanding an immediate ceasefire.
  • October During Operation Nimble Archer, the United States attacked Iranian oil platforms in retaliation for an Iranian attack on the U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti tanker, Sea Isle City.
  • 1988
  • June 2 Ayatollah Khomeini named Parliamentary Speaker Rafsanjani acting commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • April The U.S. Department of Commerce reportedly approved the shipment to Iraq of chemicals for agricultural use that were later used to manufacture mustard gas. Four major battles were fought between April and August in which Iraqis used massive amounts of chemical weapons against Iran. By that time, the United States was aiding Saddam Hussein by gathering intelligence and assisting in battle plans.
  • Apr. 14 The frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine. U.S. forces responded with Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, the U. S. Navy's largest engagement of surface warships since World War II. Two Iranian oil platforms, two Iranian ships and six Iranian gunboats were destroyed.
  • Aug. 20 Iran and Iraq accepted U.N. Resolution 598, ending the eight-year war. Iran claimed to suffer over 1 million casualties.
  • 1992
  • March 17 A suicide bombing at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed around 30 and wounded more than 300 individuals. A group called the Islamic Jihad Organization, with alleged links to Iran and Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the attack. Iran and Hezbollah denied involvement.
  • 1994
  • April Iran expelled workers from the Island of Abu Musa. Tehran began to station Revolutionary Guards on the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. The islands had been a source of tension between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since Iran seized them in the early 1970s. Both countries claim rights to the islands.
  • April President Clinton gave what Congress later termed a "green light" for Iran to transfer arms to the Muslim government of Bosnia fighting Serbian forces. The permission came despite a United Nations arms embargo against Iran. In 1996, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Select Subcommittee confirmed the U.S. role in the Iranian arms transfer.
  • July 18 The bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 and wounded 300, was blamed on Iran and Hezbollah. The charges were denied by both parties. In 2006, Argentine prosecutors called for the arrest of former President Rafsanjani.
  • 1996
  • April 6 Belgian customs officials seized a large mortar from an Iranian shipment of pickles destined for Munich, Germany. Belgian officials speculated the military equipment was meant for attacks targeting Israeli interests in Europe.
  • June Iran was suspected of masterminding the June 25 bombing of Khobar Towers, a U.S. Air Force housing complex in Saudi Arabia. Iran denied the allegations.
  • 1997
  • April 10 A German court ruled that the Iranian government was behind the murders of four Kurdish dissidents in Berlin in 1992. Iran denied the allegations.
  • 1998
  • Aug. 8 Nine diplomats were killed by the Taliban militia during an attack on the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e Sharif. At the time, more than 70,000 Iranian troops were deployed along the Afghan border. U.N. mediation defused the situation. Iran and the Taliban held talks in February 1999, but relations did not improve.
  • 2001
  • April Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a security agreement with particular emphasis on the fight against drug smuggling and terrorism.
  • October 2 Russia signed a military accord with Tehran, six years after it halted arms sales to Iran under U.S. pressure. The agreement included the sale of jets, missiles and other weapons.
  • October 8 Supreme Leader Khamenei condemned U.S. strikes on Afghanistan. At the same time, Iran agreed to perform search-and-rescue missions for U.S. pilots who crashed on Iranian soil during the war.
  • 2002
  • January Israel seized the Karina A, a ship carrying 50 tons of arms which Israeli officials claimed were supplied by Iran for the Palestinian authority.
  • 2005
  • June Former Revolutionary Guards commander and presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei said Iran played a more significant part in the overthrow of the Taliban than given credit for by the United States. Washington consistently denied that Iranians made meaningful contributions.
  • June 16 Iran and Syria signed an agreement for military cooperation against what they called the "common threats" presented by Israel and the United States. In a joint press conference, the defense ministers from the two countries said their talks had been aimed at consolidating their defense efforts and strengthening mutual support.
  • June 6 Iran was given observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security organization including China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It applied for full membership on March 24, 2008. But its admission was blocked because of ongoing sanctions levied by the United Nations.
  • 2007
  • February Iran denied accusations by the United States that it was stirring violence in the Iraq.
  • May 28 Iran and the United States held the first official high-level talks in 27 years. The meeting, which took place in Baghdad, came after Iraq hosted a security conference attended by regional states and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The talks were on Iraq's security and were followed by two more rounds in July and November. The United States urged Tehran to stop supporting Shiite militias in Iraq. The talks ultimately did not lead anywhere and stopped after three meetings.
  • Sept. 6 NATO forces in Afghanistan intercepted a large Iranian shipment of arms destined for the Taliban. The shipment included armor-piercing bombs. Washington said that the shipment's large quantity was a sign that Iranian officials were at least aware of the shipment, even if not directly involved. Tehran denied the charges.
  • October U.S. military commander Gen. David Petraeus claimed Iran was triggering violence in Iraq. Petraeus also accused Iran's ambassador to Iraq of being a member of the elite Qods Force, a wing of the Revolutionary Guards responsible for foreign operations.
  • 2008
  • April The United States accused Iran of continuing its alleged support of Taliban insurgents.
  • July 9 Iran test-fired a new version of the Shahab-3 long-range missile with a range of 1,240 miles, which Iran said was capable of hitting targets in Israel.
  • 2009
  • Feb. 2 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the launch of Iran's first domestically produced satellite, Omid, prompting fears in the West that it would enable Iran to launch long-range ballistic missiles.
  • May 1 The State Department designated Iran as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism." Tehran countered that the United States could not accuse others of terrorism after its actions at Iraq's Abu Graib prison and Guantanamo Bay.
  • May 20 Iran successfully tested the Sejjil-2 ballistic missile which has a range between 1,200 and 1,500 miles. The Obama administration said the missile was "a significant step," and indicated that Tehran was enhancing its weapons delivery capability.
  • Sept. 22 Iran held a military parade showing off its Shahab-3 and Sejjil ballistic missiles and, for the first time, the Russian-built Tor-M1 air defense system. The medium-range ballistic missiles both have a range that can reach Israel.
  • Sept. 27-28 Iran carried out a series of missile tests as part of a military exercise called Operation Great Prophet IV. Short-range missiles included the Shahab-1, Shahab-2, Fateh-110 and Tondar-69.
  • December Gen. Petraeus accused Iran of backing Shiite militants in Iraq and giving a "modest level" of support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • 2010
  • March Iran and Qatar signed a security agreement, underlying the need for security cooperation and a fight against terrorism.
  • August Iran successfully test-fired a new generation of the Fateh-110, a medium-range ballistic missile with a 155-mile range.

Semira Nikou is a research assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace. This article is presented by Tehran Bureau, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as part of the Iran project at iranprimer.usip.org.

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1 Comment

Very selective, Western-oriented timeline.

For instance, the actual catalyst for the introduction of Iranian military personnel into Lebanon in 1982 was the kidnapping of Iranian diplomats in Beirut.

Missing also is the role of the IRGC Quds force in brokering a peace between the Iraqi government and Shia militias, which was more crucial to Iraqi stability than the US military's so-called surge.

There were no Russian jet combat aircraft sold or delivered to Iran in 2001.

There is no mention of Iranian involvement in the successful AShM strike against the INS Hanit during the 33-Day War in 2006.

Significant IRIAF successes against numerous Iraqi targets during the war are not listed.

etc. etc. Not an impressive timeline, in my opinion.

Pirouz / November 3, 2010 4:25 AM