Chronology toward Iran – Israel war

September 20, 2012


  • March 12 – Russian president Vladimir Putin and Iranian president Mohammed Khatami sign a cooperation and security agreement during a state visit to Moscow, the first since the 1979 Revolution.
  • April – Iran and Saudi Arabia sign a security agreement with the objective of combatting drug trafficking and terrorism.
  • June – Five years after a truck bomb destroyed the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; a federal grand jury in the US indicts 13 Saudis and one Lebanese for their role in the attack. The indictment states that all were part of Saudi Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy. The blast killed 19 US servicemen.
  • October 2 – Six years after it halted arms sales to Iran due to US diplomatic pressure, Russia signs a military agreement with Iran that includes the sale of missiles, fighter aircraft, and other armaments.
  • October 8 – Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei condemns the US airstrikes in Afghanistan. However, Iran
  • agrees to perform search and rescue missions for US pilots that crash or are shot down over Iranian soil.
  • September – A CIA report accuses Iran of possessing one of the most active nuclear weapons programs in the world. Moreover, it indicates that Iran is seeking ballistic missile technology from Russia, China, and North Korea.


  • January – Israeli seize the Karina A. They discover that the ship is carrying 50 tons of arms that Israeli officials believe are intended for Palestinian militant organizations.
  • January 29 – US president George W. Bush refers to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address.
  • September – Iran begins construction of its first nuclear reactor at Bushehr with the assistance of Russian engineers and technicians. The move prompts strong objections from the US.
  • December – The US accuses Iran of possessing a secret nuclear weapons program centered on two nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak, both of which are under construction at the time.


  • March – In the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Iran and Syria expand and intensify their cooperation to ensure that they themselves would not become targets as well. Both countries begin to support insurgent groups in Iraq, and expand bilateral defense cooperation.
  • May – Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, a Swiss diplomat relays Iranian conditions for bilateral talks to the US government. The offer, however, is not considered seriously by the Bush administration.


  • June 21 – Iran arrests six British sailors for allegedly trespassing into Iran’s territorial waters. They are paraded through Tehran and later forced to apologize. All are released three days later after negotiations.
  • November – Iran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for trade concessions from Europe.


  • August – George W. Bush makes one of many statements to follow about not ruling out the use of force to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
  • June – Former IRGC commander and presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei states that Iran played a larger role in the overthrow of the Taliban than the US gave it credit for.
  • June 16 – Iran and Syria sign a military cooperation agreement to defend against what both sides deemed the “common threats” presented by the US and Israel. The defense ministers of both countries stated in a joint press conference that the agreement was aimed at consolidating defense efforts and strengthening mutual support.
  • June 6 – Iran is given observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental mutual security organization that includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Iran later applies for full membership in March 2008, but its admission is blocked by sanctions imposed on it by the UN.
  • October 25 – Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls for Israel to “vanish from the pages of time.” This statement is widely seen as a threat levelled at Israel.


  • April – Washington denies a claim reported in The New York Times that the US is considering a tactical nuclear strike on Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.  Iran lodges a complaint at the UN, and states that it will retaliate against any attack. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reaffirms that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. Iran later offers to hold direct talks with the US regarding Iraq, but withdraws the offer soon after.
  • May – Iran threatens withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if pressure on its nuclear program escalates following a UN Security Council draft resolution.  Later that month, the US offers to join the EU in direct negotiations with Iran if Tehran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment
  • December – The UN Security Council passes a resolution that imposes sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.


  • January – Members of the IRGC are arrested in Iraq by US forces for engaging in sectarian warfare. After lumping Iran together with al-Qaeda in the State of the Union address, US president George W. Bush states that he does not intend to attack Iran.
  • February – Iran denies accusations that it is promoting violence in Iraq.
  • February 8 – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei states that Iran would retaliate against US interests Cordesman/Wilner, Iran & The Gulf Military Balance around the world if the US were to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
  • March 24 – Iran detains 15 British marines and sailors for allegedly trespassing into Iran’s territorial waters. They are released after approximately two weeks.
  • May 28 – The US and Iran hold the first high-level official talks since the 1979 Revolution in Baghdad. The meeting comes after the Iraqi government holds a security conference attended by regional states and permanent members of the UN Security Council. The talks focus on Iraqi security, and are later followed by more talks in July and November. In the course of these meetings, the US urges Iran to stop supporting Shi’ite militias in the country. The talks, however, do not lead to anything meaningful, and cease after three meetings.
  • August – Iranian officials denounce US plans to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization as “worthless.” Bush warns Iran over its support for Shi’ite militias in Iraq.
  • September 6 – NATO forces in Afghanistan intercept a large shipment of Iranian arms intended for the Taliban. Among other things, the shipment includes explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). US officials state that the large size of the shipment made is indicative that Iranian officials are at least aware of it. Iran denies the accusations.
  • October – The commander of US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, claims that Iran is promoting violence in Iraq. Petraeus also accuses Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, of being a member of the Al Qods Force, the special operations wing of the IRGC that is responsible for training and equipping Iran’s proxies.
  • November – Twenty Iranian citizens held by US forces in Iraq are released.  The IAEA releases a report that states that Iran supplied transparent records of its past nuclear activities, but emphasizes that it only has limited knowledge of Iran’s then-current nuclear activities.
  • December – A US intelligence report states that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but continued to enrich uranium. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hails the report as an Iranian victory. US president George W. Bush states that Iran risks further isolation if it does not reveal the full extent of its nuclear activities. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates states that Iran may have restarted its nuclear weapons program at a conference in Bahrain, despite the US report. Moreover, he states that Iran still poses a serious threat to Middle East security and the US. Iran protests US espionage against its nuclear activities in a formal letter to the US.


  • January – Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, states that US-Iranian relations could be restored in the future. The US accuses Iran of harassing US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz.  Bush accuses Iran of being the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.
  • April – The US accuses Iran of continuing to support Afghan insurgents.
  • July – The IRGC carries out a series of war games and ballistic missile tests during the Great Prophet 3 military exercises. Iran test fired a new version of its Shahab-3 intermediate range ballistic missile, which Iran states are capable of hitting targets in Israel. The tests, however, draw attention over allegedly doctored Cordesman/Wilner, Iran & The Gulf Military Balance photographs, and some experts claim that the missile is the shorter range Shahab-3A or the SCUD C, which would indicate no improvement in Iran’s ballistic missile technology or capabilities.


  • January 29 – A White House spokesman indicates that US president Barack Obama will “preserve all his options,” and has not ruled out the use of force to confront Iran’s nuclear program.
  • February 3 – Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announces the launch of the Omid (“Hope”),  Iran’s first indigenously produced satellite. The launch is seen in the West as veiled research into ballistic missile technology.
  • May 1 – The US Department of State designates Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran responds by stating that the US is in no position to accuse other states of terrorism in light of its actions at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
  • May 20 – Iran successfully tests the Sajjil-2 ballistic missile, which the regime states has a 1,500-mile range (the longest range of any of Iran’ missiles). The Obama administration responds by stating that the test was a “significant step” in Iran’s ballistic missile program, and indicated that Iran was working on enhancing its missiles’ payload capacity.
  • September – Iran admits to constructing the Fordow uranium enrichment facility near Qom, but states that it is for peaceful purposes.
  • September 22 – Iran shows its Shahab-3 and Sajjil ballistic missiles in a military parade. Additionally, it shows off its Russian-built Tor M1 air defense system for the first time.
  • September 27-28 – Iran tests a number of different ballistic missiles during the Great Prophet 4 war games, including the Tondar-69, the Shahab-1, the Shahab-2, and the Fateh-110.
  • December – General David Petraeus again accuses Iran of supporting Shi’ite militants in Iraq, and providing a “modest level” of support to Afghan insurgents.


  • January – Masoud Ali Mohammadi, an Iranian physics professor, is killed in a bombing in Tehran. No group claims responsibility, but the Iranian government claims the US and Israel are behind the attack.
  • March – Iran and Qatar sign a security agreement to combat terrorism and promote security cooperation.
  • April  – The IRGC conducts the Great Prophet 5 exercises in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. The exercises include the conspicuous use of IRGC fast attack craft armed with anti-ship missiles against larger, static targets.
  • May – Iran holds the Velayat 89 naval war games in the Gulf and the Sea of Oman. Both the IRGC and the regular navy participate. The games include exercises in chemical and biological warfare,  large-scale offensive naval infantry operations, and the use of small, fast-attack patrol craft.
  • August – Iran successfully tests a new version of the Fateh-110, a short-range ballistic missile with a 155-mile range. In what Iran describes as a milestone in its quest for nuclear energy, technicians begin loading fuel into the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
  • September – The Stuxnet computer virus is detected in staff computers at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The virus is believed to have been created by a nation state.
  • November – Iran carries out what it terms its “largest ever” air defense drill. The five-day exercise is aimed at defending the country’s nuclear sites from airstrikes, and a number of missiles are test fired, including the S-200 system.


  • January – Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, states that Iran now possesses the technology needed to make fuel plates and rods for its nuclear reactors.
  • February 7 – The commander of the IRGC, Brigadier General Mohammed Ali Jafari, unveils the Khalij Fars, a guided anti-ship ballistic missile. General Jafari claims the missile is capable of destroying a US aircraft carrier. Iran sends two warships through Suez Canal for first time since the Islamic Revolution, in what Israel describes as an act of provocation.
  • July – The Iranian military holds the “Great Prophet 6” war games, during which Iran test-fires new long range missile designs and reveals the presence of underground missile silos.  US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Army General Lloyd Austin express concern that Iran is providing Shi’ite militants in Iraq with advanced rockets and other armaments.
  • September – The commander of Iran’s navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, announces Iran’s intention to send warships to patrol the Atlantic, stating following: “Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders.”
  • October – US officials reveal an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US. Iran denies all involvement.
  • November – The IAEA releases a report that provides detailed indicators that Iran has weaponized its nuclear program.
  • November – Explosions as a result of apparent acts of sabotage on Iranian nuclear and missile sites. Explosions at a missile site outside of Tehran on November 12 nearly leveled the facility, and killed IRGC General Hassan Moghaddam. On November 28, explosions rocked a uranium enrichment facility outside of Isfahan. Although Iranian officials claimed the event was an accident, the timing of these events makes such a conclusion unlikely.
  • December – Iran makes increasingly aggressive statements regarding the presence of the US 5thFleet in the Gulf, including, but not limited to threatening a US aircraft carrier if it returned to the Gulf.


  • January – Iran concludes the Velayat-90 naval exercises, during which the IRGC tested a number of missiles, mines, and torpedoes.
  • March  – President Obama and Secretary of Defense Panetta make increasingly direct and aggressive statements that allude to the likelihood of a US strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities should Tehran continue to refuse to cooperate with the international community over its program.

Taken from Cordesman/Wilner, Iran & The Gulf Military Balance  Rev 4 (p8-p12)


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