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Thursday, June 18, 1998 Published at 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK


World: Middle East

US-Iranian ties: chronology



  • 1953 US and British intelligence services help Iranian military officers depose Prime Minister Muhammad Mussadeq, a leading exponent of nationalising the oil industry.

  • 1979 US-backed Shah of Iran forced to leave the country after widespread demonstrations and strikes.


    [ image: Ayatollah Khomeini]
    Ayatollah Khomeini
    Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile and takes effective power.

    Iranian students seize 63 hostages at the US embassy in Tehran prompting drawn-out crisis leading to the severing of diplomatic ties and sweeping US sanctions against Iran.

    Their initial demand is that the Shah return from the US to Iran to face trial. Iran subsequently also demands that the US undertake not to interfere in its affairs.

  • 1980 Secret US military mission to rescue hostages ends in disaster in sandstorm in central Iranian desert.


    [ image: Isolation during war with Iraq]
    Isolation during war with Iraq
    Shah dies in Egypt, but hostage crisis continues.

    Iraq invades, sparking a war with Iran which lasts the rest of the decade.

    While several western countries provide support to Iraq during the war, Iran remains diplomatically isolated.

  • 1981 Last 52 hostages freed in January after intense diplomatic activity. They were held for 444 days.

  • 1985/6 US holds secret talks with Iran and makes weapons shipments, allegedly in exchange for Iranian assistance in releasing US hostages in Lebanon. With revelations that profits were illegally channelled to Nicaraguan rebels, this creates the biggest crisis of Ronald Reagan's US presidency.

  • 1987/8 US forces engage in series of encounters with Iranian forces, including strikes on Gulf oil platforms. US cruiser Vincennes shoots down Iran Air Airbus over the Gulf, killing all 290 people on board.

  • 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini dies. Hashemi Rafsanjani elected President, with apparent backing of both conservatives and reformers in the leadership.

  • 1990/91 Iran remains neutral in US-led intervention in Kuwait. Rapprochement with the West hindered by Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 religious edict ordering that British author Salman Rushdie be killed for offending Islam in one of his novels.

  • 1992/3 Iran criticises perceived US regional interference in the wake of the Gulf War and the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

  • 1993 US President Bill Clinton takes office, launches drive to isolate Iran, accusing it of supporting "terrorism", seeking nuclear arms and trying to derail Middle East peace efforts.

  • 1995 President Clinton imposes oil and trade sanctions against Iran.

  • 1996 Clinton stiffens sanctions with penalties against any firm that invests $40 million or more a year in oil and gas projects in Iran and Libya.

  • 1997 Muhammad Khatami elected President of Iran.

  • 1998 President Khatami calls for a "dialogue with the American people" in American TV interview. But in a sermon a few weeks later he is sharply critical of US "oppressive policies".





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