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A timeline of US-Iran nuclear tensions for DUMMIES

A timeline of US-Iran nuclear tensions for DUMMIES


On Friday, Prominent Iranian military scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an attack outside Tehran. Mohsen was widely seen as the mastermind of Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons by Western intelligence. 

This incident has not been well received by Iranian administration. Hassan Rohani, the president of Iran has accused Israel for the killing of their scientist and questioned Western power’s silence over the matter.

Back in January another important member of Iranian administration, Qasim Solemani, Major in Iranian Revolutionary Guard was killed by an airstrike in Iraq. 

In just one year, Iran has lost two prominent figures who worked keenly on Iran’s Nuclear Programme. Meanwhile, Israel is making ties with Gulf States with help of Trump administration trying to isolate Iran in the region. These political strategies are directly related to the Iran Nuclear Programme. This Nuclear Programme has been a crucial variable in determining the discourse of world history. 

Timeline of Iran Nuclear Fiasco

Here’s a brief history of Iran’s nuclear programme, and its storied relationship with the United States

March 5, 1957

Iran and the United States sign an agreement concerning civil uses of atomic energy. It is part of the “Atoms for Peace” policy declared by Eisenhower in 1953.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, under whose rule Iran was a close ally of the US and the UK, establishes the Tehran Nuclear Research Center.


The US provides Iran with its first research nuclear reactor, the Tehran Research Reactor, a five-megawatt apparatus that continues to be in operation until today.

February 2, 1970

Iran ratifies the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), making its programme subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verification.

March 1974

Shah Reza Pahlavi announces a plan for Iran to build at least 20 nuclear reactors. Two months later, Nixon sends experts to Tehran to help in the building of the reactors.

Summer 1975

Iranian students arrive in the US to train as nuclear scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to the Boston Globe, at least three of the 35 graduates will dedicate their careers building Iran’s nuclear programme. 

January 16, 1979

At the height of the Iranian Revolution, the shah and his family flee the country. Less than a month later, Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran after 14 years in exile. Following the revolution, Iran’s nuclear energy programme is temporarily halted.

November 4, 1979

Iranian students storm the US embassy in Iran and take diplomats hostage, leading to a diplomatic breach that continues up to this day. The hostages are released 444 days later on January 21, 1981 at the beginning of US President Ronald Reagan’s term in office.  

September 22, 1980

With US backing, Iraq launches a military attack against Iran, igniting the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, during which Iran will feel an energy crunch. As the war with Iraq rages on, Iran resumes its interest in a national nuclear programme.


Following the first US-led Gulf War against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iran begins to dedicate funds to speed up its research and development of nuclear power. In 1995, it signs several deals with Russia for the development of its nuclear programme.

December 2002

The administration of US President George W Bush accuses Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons plan. Months earlier, the exiled opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran will report the existence of a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak.

June 19, 2003

An IAEA report on the inspections says that Iran has failed to comply with the NPT. More than a year later, Iran promises European Union (EU) negotiators that it will suspend all nuclear fuel processing and reprocessing work.

June 24, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mayor of Tehran, is elected president. Months later, the IAEA will report that Iran has resumed uranium conversion at the Isfahan nuclear research facility.

January 10, 2006

Iran resumes nuclear fuel research at the Natanz enrichment plant after breaking the United Nations (UN) seals on the facility, prompting the IAEA to report Iran to the UN Security Council.

December 23, 2006

The UN Security Council votes for sanctions and gives Iran a 60-day deadline to suspend enrichment. Iran calls the resolution illegal.

March 24, 2007

The UN Security Council unanimously approves further financial and weapons sanctions against Iran over its uranium-enrichment activities, which Tehran says are for peaceful purposes.

October 24, 2007

The US imposes new sanctions on Iran and accuses the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of distributing weapons of mass destruction. A month later, China, France, Russia, the UK, the US and Germany (P5+1, or “the group of six”) will agree to push ahead with a third round of tougher sanctions.

December 3, 2007

A US National Intelligence Estimate says Iran halted its attempts to build a nuclear bomb in 2003. It also says with “moderate confidence” that the programme has not resumed as of mid-2007. 

June 5, 2009

A quarterly IAEA report says Iran now has 7,231 centrifuge enrichment machines installed, a 25 percent increase in potential capacity since March. Two months later, the IAEA will say that Iran has slightly reduced the scale of its uranium enrichment, while also raising the number of installed centrifuge machines by some 1,000, to 8,308.

April 14, 2012

The six world powers – P5+1 – and Iran launch a new round of negotiations in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul.

June 15, 2013

Hassan Rouhani, the former chief nuclear negotiator, is declared the winner of Iran’s presidential elections.

September 27, 2013

Rouhani has an historic phone call with US President Barack Obama

November 24, 2013

Secret US-Iran talks are revealed. Iran agrees to curb certain nuclear activities and accept enhanced IAEA monitoring. In return, minor sanctions are lifted, and Iran is promised that no new sanctions will be imposed. The deal is considered temporary until a new, broader agreement is reached.

March 3, 2015

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launches a last-ditch effort to stop the Iran nuclear deal by delivering a speech before the US Congress.

March 3, 2015

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launches a last-ditch effort to stop the Iran nuclear deal by delivering a speech before the US Congress.

July 14, 2015

Iran and the six world powers sign the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The accord ends nearly 12 years of a nuclear standoff between Iran and Western powers led by the US. In exchange of Iran giving up its nuclear weapons programme, international sanctions are lifted. 

August 21, 2015

Ehud Barak, former Israeli prime minister and defence minister, says Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010 and 2011.

January 16, 2016

International sanctions against Iran are lifted after the IAEA’s Yukiya Amano says that Tehran has complied with its side of the July 2015 agreement.

November 9, 2016

Donald Trump is elected president of the US. During his campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed to withdraw from the Iran nuclear pact, calling it the “worst” deal ever.

May 20, 2017

Rouhani is re-elected as president. During his first term, Rouhani vowed that economic sanctions in Iran will be lifted.

October 13, 2017

Trump “decertifies” the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying Tehran is not living up to the spirit of the accord.

January 12, 2018

Trump waives US sanctions against Iran for the “last time”. He says that if his demands to change the deal are not met within 120 days, the US will withdraw from the deal on May 12.

March 5, 2018

IAEA’s Yukiya Amano says Iran has continued to implement its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. It is the 10th IAEA report certifying Iran’s compliance with the deal.

April 30, 2018

Netanyahu delivers a speech saying that Iran pursued a “secret nuclear programme”, but experts say there was nothing new to what was said.

The EU’s Federica Mogherini and other US allies say that Iran continues to abide by the JCPOA since it was signed in 2015.

Experts also say Netanyahu’s speech proves that inspections are necessary, and that ending the deal can lead to an end of regular inspections.

May 8, 2018

Trump announces that the United States is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, directing his administration to re-impose sanctions.

In response, Rouhani says Tehran will bypass Washington and negotiate with the other signatories of the deal.

August 7, 2018

US President Donald Trump’s first round of sanctions against Iran takes effect.

Trump’s sanctions were designed in two phases, based on the 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods set by the US Department of Treasury, counting from the May 8 announcement. 

The first phase targeted aviation and auto industry, as well as its currency and the sale of Iranian products such as carpets, caviar and pistachios.

November 5, 2018

Second round of US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and gas industry, as well as its banking, is reimposed.

Iran vowed to defy the sanctions and said it will continue to trade energy, which is the source of up to 80 percent of the country’s export revenues.

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