By Quentin Choy
I remember being afraid that an actual hot war would take place between the United States and Iran a few years ago. Being at the prime age for the military draft, I was greatly concerned. I wrote to my Congressman Ed Case, trying to figure out what Congress was doing to get the situation under control.
I clearly remember thinking to myself, how did we get to this point? In this post, we’ll explore a timeline of events that deteriorated the U.S.-Iran relationship to a breaking point.
1953: The C.I.A. launches a coup in Iran, overthrowing democratically elected PM Mohammad Mosaddegh following plans to nationalize Iranian oil. The Shah takes power and is friendlier to the West.
1963: The Shah launches the White Revolution, enacting large-scale social reforms including voting rights for women, nationalization of resources, profit sharing, and land reform.
Many rural, conservative, and clerical Iranians felt dissatisfied with the Shah’s far-reaching reforms.
1977: President Jimmy Carter hosts the Shah in the United States. Conservative Iranians despised the Shah’s forced westernization and secularization of Iranian society.
1979: Conservative Iranians grow tired of the Shah and act in active hostility toward his government. The Iranian Revolution takes place, causing the Shah to flee Iran.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns from exile and becomes Iran’s first Supreme Leader.
The first U.S. sanctions are applied to Iran.
President Jimmy Carter allows the Shah to receive life-saving medical treatment in the United States, angering many Iranians.
Iranian college students kidnap 52 Americans at the U.S. embassy in Iran. Students cited the U.S. role in the 1953 coup and the western embrace of the dictatorial Shah as causes for the Iranian hostage crisis.
The hostage crisis would create some of the longest-lasting scars for US.-Iran relations.
1980: The U.S. supports Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. American support for Iran’s enemy worsened relations between the U.S. and Iran.
1983: Militants believed to be affiliated with Iranian-backed Hezbollah bomb an American barracks in Beirut, Lebanon killing 241 military personnel.
1985: The Iran-Contra affair shakes Washington. The Reagan administration had been selling weapons to Iran who was placed on an arms embargo to fund the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua.
Arms sales by the U.S. to the Contras had already been banned.
1988: The USS Vincennes shoots down Iran Air Flight 655, killing all 290 people on board.
1989: Ayatollah Khomeini dies. Ali Khamenei becomes 2nd Supreme Leader of Iran.
2002: President George W. Bush groups Iran with North Korea and Iraq as an “Axis of evil.” Many Americans begin to view Iran even more unfavorably.
2014: The civil war in Yemen becomes a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The U.S. ultimately supports its ally Saudi Arabia in fighting Iran.
2015: The Obama administration, international partners, and President Hassan Rouhani establish the Iranian Nuclear Deal, limiting Iran’s potential of creating nuclear weapons in exchange for relief of sanctions.
2018: The Trump administration abandons the Iran Nuclear Deal, citing that it fails to restrict nuclear weapons access and regional power.
2020: Donald Trump orders a drone strike, assassinating Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. U.S.-Iranian relations reach a low point. Iranians retaliate by launching missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq.
The Iranian military shoots down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 killing all 176 onboard.
2021: Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi wins the Iranian presidential election.