Iran-U.S. Relations: A Timeline to Where We Are Now

***Everything in this post is fact. All events will be linked with verifiable sources. This post does not reflect my opinion on the situation or Trump’s choices, rather it gives readers information for them to create their own opinion. If you believe something is wrong on this timeline, or something important is missing, feel free to comment below what you think needs to be added with a link to verification and I will consider adding it onto the post.***

Based on recent events, I think it’s important for people to know how the United States, Iran and at some points Iraq, got to this point. I urge you to read the entire timeline to stay up to date on what’s going on and also follow foreign media outlets. Hopefully, it will help you form a better opinion of the situation. I’ve traced the United States tension with Iran back to 1953.

1953: The incident of the Coup

Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq was a go-getter and popular among the people of Iran. They had voted for him in their new democracy and he was fighting for what they wanted. The main action he did, which is what led to the coup, is nationalizing the Iranian oil industry.

Great Britain didn’t like this as they had always controlled Iran’s oil so they went to the United States for help in overthrowing him, which they agreed to do in secret. Once they removed Mossadeq from power, the power was given back to the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. This was when the first seed of resentment was planted against the United States. It wouldn’t be until 2000 when the United States would formally apologize for their involvement in the coup, and said that it caused political development in Iran to take a step back.

1950s, 60s and 70s – Nuclear Situations

After the coup happened, for the next couple of years, everything was mostly calm. Which is when nuclear deals began to come into play.

In 1957, the U.S. and Iran signed an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, which meant that nuclear technology and education would be shared with states around the world. Around 10 years later, the U.S. would provide Iran with weapons that have to do with nuclear technology. In 1968, Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which said that if they didn’t acquire nuclear weapons, they could have a civil nuclear program.

In the background, resentment for the Shah and the U.S. is mounting and will burst within the next few years.

1979-1981- A Hostage Crisis

A revolution is happening in Iran, with the U.S.-backed Shah being overthrown and Iranians believing that the U.S. is in cahoots to try and help take over their government again. In response to this, Iranian students storm the U.S. Embassy and take more than 60 Americans hostage.

They set free people they consider already under the oppression of America, such as woman and African-Americans. The hostages were released after 444 days in captivity. Although never murdered or seriously injured, the were forced to wear dirty clothes sometimes and were not permuted to speak or read.

1980s- War and Terrorism

The Iran-Iraq war starts with both countries going head-to-head trying to win the Middle East. Even chemical weapons are used. At this point, the U.S. and Iran are no longer working together at all, thanks to strong sanctions against Iran and the hostage situation. Plus, we have a new President, Reagan, and he’s backing Iraq.

It’s around this time that the U.S. lists Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism. However, at the same time, Reagan sells weapons to Iran, supposedly in order to help the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon. This is known as the Iran-Contra affair.

1988 – U.S. Navy shoots down passenger plane, killing 290 innocent civilians

At the same time, however, the United States Navy makes a vital error when in a skirmish with Iranian Ships in the Persian Gulf, by shooting down a passenger plane carrying many pilgrims on their way to Mecca. All 290 people, 66 of whom were children, onboard perished and the Navy says they thought the plane was an F-14 fighter jet.

Once shot down, the U.S. Navy continues on, not going to check the wreckage or look for survivors. The U.S. eventually gives a payout to Iran for the accident but to this day, the U.S. has never formally apologized for killing the innocent passengers. This fueled the fire that was already burning against the U.S. and many Iranians believed it hadn’t been an accident.

2000s – Nuclear situations and national sanctions

After 9/11, the U.S. and Iran actually want to work together again against a common enemy: The Taliban. But then George W. Bush makes a speech saying that Iran is part of the “axis of evil” with Iraq and North Korea.

The U.S. then accuses Tehran of having secret nuclear weapons but they deny this accusation. When Obama takes office in 2009, he says he would be willing to work with Iran but they would have to prove their not trying to make a nuclear bomb. Then there’s a stall in conflict until 2012.

2012/2013 and on – Sanctions and a Phone Call

Obama santioncs banks unless they significantly reduce their imort of Iraniana oil whcih causes oil prices to drip and the Iranian economy to take a downfall.

Then Obama speaks to the newly elected Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani about improving relations. Six powers (U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia) come to an agreement shortly after that where Iran agrees to curb its nuclear work in exchange for lesser sanctions. It’s called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the JCPOA.

The sanctions are officially lifted in 2016.

2017 and on – Trump in Office

Trump walks away from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018 and reimposes sanctions because he believes the deal really never did anything.

Starting in 2019, the U.S. names the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “terrorist organization.” In response, Iran says it will increase its enriched uranium production, moving past its commitments in the nuclear accord.

From here, stuff just starts happening. Oil tankers get attacked in the Gulf that belong to the U.S. and they blame Iran. Iran denies involvement.

Iran shoots down a drone that it says was in Iranian airspace sent by the U.S. and then seized a British oil tanker. Then Saudia Arabia’s state-run oil company is attacked and they also blame Iran, which they also deny involvement.

December 2019

A lot of stuff happened in December which is kind of the point where everything escalated. The two events I’m going to put down here are the killing of an American contractor in Iraq and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

Killing of the American Contractor: An American defense contractor is killed, while other U.S. Service members and Iraqi Security Forces are wounded, after a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk by an Iran-backed militia. The U.S. retaliates by firing on the militia’s bases.

Attack on U.S. Embassy: Around 6,000 Iraqi protesters gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. They were angry about the U.S. airstrikes (the ones sent as retaliation for the American contractor’s death) that killed 25 militia fighters from an Iran-backed Shiite militia in Iraq. Several were able to get into the reception area just outside of the compound and set fires in various areas. Many shouted “Death to America.”

January 2020

On Friday, January 3rd, President Trump ordered an overnight airstrike that hit a Baghdad airport, killing Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani was the second most powerful person in Iran behind their Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Trump issued the airstrike without the Congress’s approval, which became a whole thing. A tweet from a Senator is just one example. Some say he didn’t need it, others say that he should have gotten it as an act of courtesy.

Since then, Iran has pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord and has vowed “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death. The United States is not well liked around the world at the moment, with billboards being put up that have a cartoon Statue of Liberty billowing smoke that say Death to America. Trump is not well liked in his own country right now based on various polls and data.

On top of that, despite the U.S. saying the situation is being handled, Iranian Americans who are U.S. citizens are being held for extra questioning at various travel borders. Some could say it was an extra precaution but when those who were pulled aside saw everyone else who was also pulled aside, it painted an obvious picture that border patrol was specifically questioning those of Iranian descent. Some people were held up for an extra 12 hours with children who didn’t understand what was going on.


And that’s all I’ve got this far. More things are developing as I write this so maybe I’ll do a part 2 if things become dire but until then, happy reading.

Stay aware. Drink Water. Stay Weird.

Justice xoxo

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