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Iran–United States proxy conflict

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Iran–United States proxy conflict
File:MapChart Map(1).png
Iran and its allies (red), and the U.S. and its allies (blue)
Date4 November 1979 - present
Worldwide, mainly the Middle East and North Africa and Europe

 Saudi Arabia


 Afghanistan (2021)[182]
Units involved

Iranian Armed Forces

Syrian Armed Forces

Jihad Council
Iraqi Armed Forces

 Russian Armed Forces

Houthi fighters
Liwa Fatemiyoun
Liwa Zainebiyoun
al-Qassam Brigades
File:InfoboxSabireen.png al-Sabireen Brigades
al-Ashtar Brigades
File:PFLP Infobox Flag.svg Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades
File:Flag of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine.svg Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command

File:Fatah Flag.svg al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades
Liwa al-Quds
Eagles of the Whirlwind
Amal fighters
Ba'ath Brigades
Taliban fighters (allegedly)
File:InfoboxIRMA.png Husseiniyun Brigade
Yemeni Republican Guard (until 2017)
Yemeni Armed Forces (Pro-Houthi)
Polisario Front
Palestinian Liberation Front
Qatar Armed Forces (since 2017)
Ansar-e Hezbollah
Kurdistan Workers' Party (allegedly)

Armed Forces of Armenia

United States Armed Forces

Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia
Israel Defense Forces
Turkish Armed Forces (sometimes)
United Arab Emirates Armed Forces
Egyptian Armed Forces
British Armed Forces
Jordanian Armed Forces
Bahrain Defence Force
Royal Moroccan Armed Forces
Kuwait Military Forces
 Sudan Armed Forces (from 2015)
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Peninsula Shield Force
Yemeni Armed Forces (Pro-Hadi faction)
Free Syrian Army
Syrian Democratic Forces

Free Iraqi Army
People's Mujahedin of Iran
Free Libyan Army
Academi security contractors
File:National Resistance.jpg Yemeni National Resistance
al-Hirak Movement (mostly)
Saleh loyalists (since 2017)
Revolutionary Commando Army
Armed Forces of Senegal
Qatar Armed Forces (until 2017)
Armed Forces of Ukraine

Turkish Armed Forces
Muslim Brotherhood
Grey Wolves
File:Flag of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.svg Tahrir al-Sham
Syrian National Army
Azerbaijani Armed Forces
Qatar Armed Forces (since 2016)

Turkish Village Guards

The Iran–United States proxy conflict is an ongoing proxy war and power struggle between the United States and Iran.[183] The conflict has its roots trace from the Iranian revolution of 1979, and since then, Iran has had some difficult relations with Western countries, especially the United States. Iran has been under constant US unilateral sanctions, which were tightened under the presidency of Bill Clinton and later on by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, Iran has been known to use anti-Israeli and anti-Saudi Arabia rhetoric, both of which are strategic allies in the area.[184]

In what has been described as a cold war, the United States and Iran have indirectly engaged each other by supporting opposing sides in Syria,[185][186] Iraq,[187][188] Yemen,[189][190][191] Libya,[192] Bahrain,[193][194] Qatar,[195][196] Israel,[197][198] Egypt,[199] Lebanon,[200][201] Western Sahara,[202] and Ukraine.[197]


Iranian Revolution[edit]

The proxy conflict can be traced back to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the US-backed Imperial State of Iran became an Islamic republic. The revolutionaries called for the overthrow of monarchies and secular governments to be replaced with Islamic republics, much to the alarm of the region's Sunni run Arab monarchies Saudi Arabia, Ba'athist Iraq, Kuwait, and the other Persian Gulf states, most of whom were monarchies and all of whom had sizable Shia populations. The overthrow also ended the 'Twin Pillar' policy of former U.S. President Richard Nixon, which involved Iran and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia initially congratulated Iran with its overthrow, however, relations deteriorated after the Grand Mosque seizure and the Qatif uprising.

Grand Mosque seizure[edit]

After the Iranian Revolution, militants seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca in November 1979.[203] The siege lasted 2 weeks until 4 December, when it was liberated by Saudi soldiers. The seizure was concurrent with the 1979 Qatif Uprising.

First Phase: 1979-1988[edit]

Iran hostage crisis[edit]

On 4 November 1979, Iranian students and members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq[204] stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 55 U.S. citizens hostage. The crisis led to a surge in American patriotism.[205] On the day of the storming, 6 American diplomats evaded capture and were offered asylum in Canada, and subsequently fled with Canadian passports, in an event known as Canadian Caper. Negotiations ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords, and the release of the hostages minutes after the First inauguration of Ronald Reagan.[206]

Lebanese Civil War[edit]

1982 Israeli invasion

On 6 June 1982, Israeli forces under direction of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon launched a three-pronged invasion of southern Lebanon in "Operation Peace for Galilee". Roughly 60,000 troops and more than 800 tanks, heavily supported by aircraft, attack helicopters, artillery, and missile boats, crossed the Israel–Lebanon border in three areas. Simultaneously, Israeli armor, paratroopers, and naval commandos set sail in amphibious landing ships from Ashdod towards the Lebanese coast north of Sidon. Israel's publicly stated objective was to push PLO forces back 40 kilometers (25 mi) to the north.

The advance along the coastal road was preceded by heavy artillery bombardment and airstrikes, but quickly became bogged down and was soon behind schedule. The narrowness of the road forced a slow advance, and Israeli armor became stuck in a large traffic jam. Several armored vehicles were knocked out by PLO fighters with anti-tank weaponry hiding in three groves along the road. One of the lead battalions, which was supposed to bypass Tyre and establish a blocking position to the north of the city, made a wrong turn and found itself in the center of the city, where it was ambushed. At eight in the evening the force finally crossed the Litani River and headed towards Sidon. In the central sector, the mission went as planned. The two Israeli divisions bypassed Beaufort Castle on both sides. Although an order to postpone the capture of Beaufort Castle was issued, it did not reach Israeli forces in time to prevent the operation, and Israeli troops of the Golani Brigade captured the castle in the fiercely-fought Battle of the Beaufort. The road junction at Nabatieh was also secured by the end of the first day. Meanwhile, the easternmost force penetrated into the Bekaa Valley and bore down on the Syrian positions. One division bypassed Mount Hermon via a road bulldozed by Israeli military engineers and cleared the town of Hasbaiya before swinging right and advancing towards Rachaiya. Though Israeli forces halted in the floor of the valley, they were flanking Syrian forces from the east and west. The Syrians put up minimal resistance and conducted some harassing artillery fire. By the end of the first day, the operation had gone almost entirely according to plan, though the advance along the coastal road was behind schedule.

Despite the delays, the Israeli advance along the coastal road continued steadily. This advance was supported by heavy air attacks against PLO positions that included the use of cluster bombs. Israeli missile boats also employed 76mm cannons to destroy targets along the coast, firing 3,500 shells during ten days of fighting. Israeli armor continued to advance towards Sidon, while other Israeli infantry attacked the three Palestinian refugee camps in the area that were used as PLO bases: Rashidiya, Burj ash-Shamali, and al-Bass. The camps were all crisscrossed with networks of bunkers, trenches, and firing positions. The Israelis took each camp section by section using the same method: warnings were blared by loudspeaker urging civilians to leave, before air and artillery bombardment commenced, followed by an infantry assault. Israeli infantry had to engage in fierce urban combat in narrow streets. The PLO defenders put up strong resistance and sometimes used civilians as human shields. It took four days of combat to secure Rashidiya and three days to secure the other two camps. At the same time, an Israeli amphibious operation was conducted north of Sidon, beginning with a diversionary bombardment of targets away from the landing zone by missile boats and aircraft. Two groups of commandos from the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit then came ashore to probe enemy defenses and secure the landing site, one of which swam to the mouth of the Awali River and another which came ashore on the landing beach in rubber dinghies. After a brief gunbattle with armed Palestinians, the main landings began, with paratroopers coming ashore in rubber dinghies to establish a beachhead followed by three landing craft that unloaded troops and armor. Over the following days, the three landing ships would run between Israel and Lebanon, shuttling more troops and armor onto the beachhead. The PLO response was limited to ineffective mortar fire, while Israeli missile boats and aircraft attacked Palestinian positions in response, and in total, about 2,400 soldiers and 400 tanks and armored personnel carriers were landed. From the beach, these forces advanced on Sidon, supported by naval gunfire from missile boats. At the same time, Israeli forces in the central sector advanced towards Jezzine while those in the eastern sector remained in place, but began setting up heavy artillery positions that put Syrian SAM units in artillery range.[207][208]

Meanwhile, Israeli forces advancing along the coastal road reached the outskirts of Sidon, but were delayed by heavy resistance in the main streets and the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp on the southeastern edge of the city, and after an attempt by paratroopers to capture the city center and secure the south–north route through the city failed, the city was bypassed via a detour through the hills to the east. After linking up with the forces that had landed north of Sidon, while another force of paratroopers and armor with heavy air and artillery support advanced through central Sidon and cleared a south–north route through the city in fierce fighting. Another Israeli division passed through the city to link up with the forces north of Sidon.[208] In the center, Israeli forces were ambushed by the Syrians as they approached Ain Zhalta, and were pinned down by Syrian forces firing from superior positions. The Israelis were bogged down, and an infantry battalion was sent in by helicopter to reinforce them. The town was only captured after a two-day armored and infantry battle. The battle cost the Israelis 11 killed and 4 tanks, while the Syrians lost approximately 100 killed and 35 tanks. After Ain Zhalta fell, the Israelis advanced to the town of Ain Dara, which overlooked the Beirut-Damascus highway, and captured the heights overlooking the town. Along the road to Ain Dara, the Israelis encountered Syrian tank and commando units, and found themselves bogged down as the Syrians took advantage of the terrain. The Israelis called in air support, and Israeli attack helicopters that took advantage of ravines to fly in low beneath their targets to gain an element of surprise proved particularly effective against Syrian tanks. After a daylong battle, the Israelis had surrounded Ain Dara and were in a position to strike on the highway.

On 10 June 1982, the Israeli air force mistook a column of IDF Nahal Brigade forces for a Syrian commando unit. An IAF F-4 Phantom attacked the Battalion 931, advancing in open APCs in south-eastern Lebanon with cluster ammunition. The unit suffered 24 fatalities and 108 wounded, with a further 30 soldiers shell-shocked.[209][210]

In the east, Israeli forces advanced along four main routes towards Joub Jannine, along both sides of the Qaraoun reservoir. The Syrians resisted fiercely. Syrian infantrymen armed with anti-tank weapons staged ambushes against Israeli tanks, and Syrian Gazelle helicopters armed with HOT missiles proved effective against Israeli armor. However, the Israelis managed to capture the valley floor, and the Syrians retreated. The Israelis captured Rachaiya, advanced through Kfar Quoq, and took the outskirts of Yanta. Joub Jannine also fell to the Israelis. The extent of Israeli advances ensured that Syrian reinforcements were blocked from deploying west of the Qaraoun reservoir. An Israeli armored battalion then probed past Joub Jannine to the town of Sultan Yacoub, and was ambushed by Syrian forces lying in wait. In the Battle of Sultan Yacoub, the Israelis fought fiercely to extricate themselves, and called in reinforcements and artillery fire to cover the withdrawal. After six hours, the Israelis managed to retreat, having lost 10 tanks and 3 armored personnel carriers. In addition, another major air battle erupted in which the Israeli Air Force shot down 25 Syrian jets and 4 helicopters.

A destroyed airliner at Beirut Airport, 1982.

To the west, as IDF troops mopped up remaining resistance in Tyre and Sidon, the Israeli advance on Beirut continued, and Syrian tank and commando units were then deployed south of Beirut to reinforce the PLO. When the Israelis reached the Beirut suburb of Kafr Sill, they met a joint Syrian-PLO force for the first time, and fought a difficult battle to take it. The IDF temporarily halted its advance in the western sector at Kafr Sill.

On 11 June, Israel and Syria announced that they had agreed to a cease-fire at noon, which would not include the PLO. The cease-fire was to come into effect at noon. Just before the cease-fire was to take effect, the Syrians moved a column of T-72 tanks so as to position it against Israeli forces in the valley. Israeli infantry teams armed with BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles ambushed the Syrian column, destroying 11 tanks. Another air battle also occurred, with the Israelis shooting down 18 more Syrian jets.[211] As the two sides prepared for combat, the IDF deemed capturing the Beirut-Damascus highway to be of critical importance. With the Syrians in control of most of the highway, occupying the towns along the highway and to the north, the Israelis could not prevent Syrian and PLO forces from escaping or launch further operations into Beirut without risking a Syrian flanking attack, and the Israelis also wanted a clear transit to Christian-held eastern Beirut.

On 22 June, the IDF launched an operation to capture the highway. The Israeli Air Force flew highly effective missions against Syrian positions and vehicles, with Israeli pilots reporting 130 enemy vehicles destroyed in a single air attack alone. Israeli long-range artillery targeted Syrian strongpoints to the north. Israeli armored forces with artillery support attacked Syrian positions along the highway, with the objective of driving them from the highway all the way back to the edge of the Bekaa Valley. With air and artillery support mostly limited to targets north of the highway, the fighting was fierce, especially to the south. By the end of the day, Israel accepted an American request for a cease-fire and halted its offensive, but the cease-fire collapsed the following day and the fighting resumed. As the Israelis pushed forward, and managed to trap a large Syrian force, Syrian defenses began to collapse. For the first time in the war, Syrian troops began to break and run. At Aley, which was defended by Iranian volunteers sent to fight for the PLO, the Israelis encountered fierce resistance.

The Israelis managed to push to the eastern Bekaa Valley, and on 24 June, began to shell the outskirts of Chtaura, which was at the northern mouth of the Bekaa Valley and served as headquarters of all Syrian forces there. It was also the last major obstacle before the Syrian border, as well as Syria's capital Damascus itself. The Israelis managed to reach the mountain pass near the village of Dahr el-Baidar, which was the last obstacle before Cthaura. The Syrians fought fiercely to hold the pass, and the Israeli advance halted, with the Israelis holding their ground and harassing the Syrians with artillery fire. By 25 June, with the remaining Syrian positions on and north of the highway no longer tenable, the Syrians withdrew. The Israelis allowed the withdrawal to occur but conducted artillery harassment and continued to shell the outskirts of Chtaura. The Syrians attempted to deploy a SAM battery in the Bekaa Valley at midnight, but Israeli intelligence detected this, and the battery was destroyed in an Israeli air attack. By the end of the day, a cease-fire was announced. The Israelis stopped at their present positions.

The Siege of Beirut had begun on 14 June: Israeli forces had completed the encirclement of the city the previous day. The Israelis chose to keep the city under siege rather than forcibly capture it, as they were unwilling to accept the heavy casualties that the heavy street fighting required to capture the city would have resulted in. Israeli forces bombarded targets within Beirut from land, sea, and air, and attempted to assassinate Palestinian leaders through airstrikes. The Israeli Navy maintained a blockade on the port of Beirut with a ring of missile boats and patrol boats supported by submarines.[212] The siege lasted until August, when an agreement was reached in August 1982. More than 14,000 PLO combatants evacuated the country in August and September, supervised by the Multinational Force in Lebanon, an international peacekeeping force with troops from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy. About 6,500 Fatah fighters relocated from Beirut to Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, both North and South Yemen, Greece, and Tunisia—the latter of which became the new PLO headquarters.[213] Israel withdrew its forces from west Beirut on 29 September, officially ending Operation Peace for Galilee. Philip Habib, Ronald Reagan's envoy to Lebanon, provided an understanding (i.e., assurance) to the PLO that the Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps would not be harmed. However, increased hostilities against the US resulted in the April 1983 United States Embassy bombing. In response, the US brokered the May 17 Agreement, in an attempt to stall hostilities between Israel and Lebanon. However, this agreement eventually failed to take shape, and hostilities continued. These attacks were attributed to Iranian-backed Islamist guerrillas. Following this incident, international peacekeeping forces were withdrawn from Lebanon.

Following the departure of the PLO and international peacekeepers, Islamist militants began launching guerrilla attacks against Israeli forces. Suicide bombings were a particularly popular tactic, the most serious being the Tyre headquarters bombings, which twice devastated IDF headquarters in Tyre, and killed 103 Israeli soldiers, border policemen, and Shin Bet agents, as well as 49–56 Lebanese. The IDF subsequently withdrew from the Shouf Mountains but continued occupying Lebanon south of the Awali River.

An increased number of Islamic militias began operating in South Lebanon, launching guerrilla attacks on Israeli positions and on pro-Israeli Lebanese militias. Israeli forces often responded with increased security measures and airstrikes on militant positions, and casualties on all sides steadily climbed. In a vacuum left with eradication of PLO, the disorganized Islamic militants in South Lebanon began to consolidate. The emerging Hezbollah, soon to become the preeminent Islamic militia, evolved during this period. However, scholars disagree as to when Hezbollah came to be regarded as a distinct entity. Over time, a number of Shi'a group members were slowly assimilated into the organization, such as Islamic Jihad members, Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, and the Revolutionary Justice Organization.

In February 1985, Israel withdrew from Sidon and turned it over to the Lebanese Army, but faced attacks: 15 Israelis were killed and 105 wounded during the withdrawal. Dozens of pro-Israeli Lebanese militiamen were also assassinated. From mid-February to mid-March, the Israelis lost 18 dead and 35 wounded. On 11 March, Israeli forces raided the town of Zrariyah, killing 40 Amal fighters and capturing a large stock of arms. On 9 April, a Shiite girl drove a car bomb into an IDF convoy, and the following day, a soldier was killed by a land mine. During that same period, Israeli forces killed 80 Lebanese guerrillas in five weeks. Another 1,800 Shi'as were taken as prisoners.

Israel withdrew from the Bekaa valley on 24 April, and from Tyre on the 29th. In June 1985, the IDF unilaterally withdrew to a security zone in southern Lebanon along with its principal Lebanese ally, the South Lebanon Army, completing its troop withdrawal to the security zone on 5 June.[214]

Despite this being considered the end of the war, conflict would continue. Hezbollah continued to fight the IDF and SLA in the South Lebanon conflict until Israel's final withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.

Iran-Iraq War[edit]

The protracted began on 22 September 1980 with a full-scale invasion of Iran by neighbouring Ba'athist Iraq. The war lasted for almost eight years, and ended in a stalemate on 20 August 1988, when Iran accepted Resolution 598 of the United Nations Security Council. Iraq's primary rationale for the invasion was to cripple Iran and prevent Ruhollah Khomeini from exporting the 1979 Iranian Revolution movement to Shia-majority Iraq and internally exploit religious tensions that would threaten the Sunni-dominated Ba'athist leadership led by Saddam Hussein. Iraq also wished to replace Iran as the dominant state in the Persian Gulf, which, prior to the Iranian Revolution, was not seen as an achievable objective by the Iraqi leadership due to pre-revolutionary Iran's colossal economic and military power as well as its close alliances with the United States, a superpower, and Israel, a major player in the Middle East. The war followed a long-running history of bilateral border disputes between the two states, as a result of which Iraq planned to retake the eastern bank of the Shatt al-Arab ceded in 1975. Iraq supported Arab separatists in the oil-rich territory of Khuzestan seeking an Arab state known as "Arabistan" who had started an insurgency in 1979 with support from Iraq. Iraq sought to seize control of and sever Khuzestan from Iran.[215] Saddam Hussein publicly stated in November 1980 that Iraq was not seeking annexation of Khuzestan into Iraq;[216] rather, it is believed that Iraq sought to establish a suzerainty over the territory.[217]

While the Iraqi leadership had hoped to take advantage of Iran's post-revolutionary chaos and expected a decisive victory in the face of a severely weakened Iran, the Iraqi military only made progress for three months, and by December 1980, the Iraqi invasion of Iran had stalled. As fierce fighting broke out between the two sides, the Iranian military began to gain momentum against the Iraqis and regained virtually all of its lost territory by June 1982. After pushing Iraqi forces back to the pre-war border lines, Iran invaded Iraq and went on the offensive for the next five years[218] until the latter took back the initiative in mid-1988 and launched a series of major counter-offensives that ultimately led to the conclusion of the war in a stalemate.[219] There were a number of proxy forces operating for both countries—most notably the People's Mujahedin of Iran, which had sided with Iraq, and the Iraqi Kurdish militias of the KDP and PUK, which had sided with Iran. The United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, France, and many Arab countries provided an abundance of financial, political and logistical support for Iraq. While Iran was comparatively isolated to a large degree, it received various forms of support, with its most notable sources of aid being Syria, Libya, China, North Korea, Pakistan and South Yemen.

Operation Praying Mantis[edit]

On 14 April, the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine while deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will, the 1987–88 convoy missions in which U.S. warships escorted reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers to protect them from Iranian attacks. The explosion blew a 4.5 m (15-foot) hole in the Samuel B. Roberts's hull and nearly sank it. The crew saved their ship with no loss of life, and the Samuel B. Roberts was towed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates on 16 April. After the mining, U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) divers recovered other mines in the area. When the serial numbers were found to match those of mines seized along with the Iran Ajr the previous September, U.S. military officials planned a retaliatory operation against Iranian targets in the Persian Gulf.

On 18 April, the U.S. Navy attacked with several groups of surface warships, plus aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, and her cruiser escort, USS Truxtun. The action began with coordinated strikes by two surface groups.

One surface action group, or SAG, consisting of the destroyers USS Merrill (including embarked LAMPS Mk I helicopter detachment HSL-35 Det 1) and USS Lynde McCormick, plus the amphibious transport dock USS Trenton and its embarked marine air-ground task force (Contingency MAGTF 2-88 from Camp LeJeune, NC)[220] and the LAMPS helicopter detachment (HSL-44 Det 5) from USS Samuel B. Roberts, was ordered to destroy the guns and other military facilities on the Sassan oil platform. At 8 am, the SAG commander, who was also the commander of Destroyer Squadron 9, ordered the Merrill to radio a warning to the occupants of the platform, telling them to abandon it. The SAG waited 20 minutes, then opened fire. The oil platform fired back with twin-barrelled 23 mm ZU-23 guns. The SAG's guns eventually disabled some of the ZU-23s, and platform occupants radioed a request for a cease-fire. The SAG complied. After a tug carrying more personnel had cleared the area, the ships resumed exchanging fire with the remaining ZU-23s, and ultimately disabled them. Cobra helicopters completed the destruction of enemy resistance. The Marines boarded the platform and recovered a single wounded survivor (who was transported to Bahrain), some small arms, and intelligence. The Marines planted explosives, left the platform, and detonated them. The SAG was then ordered to proceed north to the Rakhsh oil platform to destroy it.

As the SAG departed the Sassan oil field, two Iranian F-4s made an attack run but broke off when Lynde McCormick locked its fire-control radar on the aircraft. Halfway to the Rahksh oil platform, the attack was called off in an attempt to ease pressure on the Iranians and signal a desire for de-escalation.

According to Bradley Peniston, the attack by the U.S. helped pressure Iran to agree to a ceasefire with Iraq later that summer, ending the eight-year conflict between the Persian Gulf neighbors.[221]

1986 US-Libya incident[edit]

In response to a discotheque bombing in Berlin, joint US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps air-strikes took place against Libya on 15 April 1986 and code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon via the United Kingdom. Air defenses, three army bases, and two airfields in Tripoli and Benghazi were bombed. The surgical strikes failed to kill Muammar Gaddafi but he lost a few dozen military officers. Gaddafi spread propaganda how it had killed his "adopted daughter" and how victims had been all "civilians". Despite the variations of the stories, the campaign was successful, and a large proportion of the Western press reported the government's stories as facts.[222]

The attack mission against Libya had been preceded in October 1985 by an exercise in which the 20th TFW stationed at RAF Upper Heyford airbase in the UK, which was equipped with F-111Es, received a top-secret order to launch a simulated attack mission on 18 October, with ten F-111Es armed with eight 500-lb practice bombs, against a simulated airfield located in Newfoundland, Canada south of CFB Goose Bay. The mission was designated Operation Ghost Rider. The mission was a full rehearsal for a long-range strike against Libya. The mission was completed successfully, with the exception of one aircraft that had all but one of its eight bombs hang up on one of its wing racks. The lessons learned were passed on to the 48th TFW which was equipped with the newer "F" models of the F-111.[223]

1987 Mecca Incident[edit]

In response to the 1987 Makkah incident in which Shia pilgrims clashed with Saudi security forces during the Hajj, Khomeini stated: "These vile and ungodly Wahhabis, are like daggers which have always pierced the heart of the Muslims from the back...Mecca is in the hands of a band of heretics."[224] Iran also called for the ouster of the Saudi government.[225]

Second Phase:1988-2001[edit]

1989 Gulf of Sidra air battle[edit]

On the morning of 4 January 1989, the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy was sailing toward the eastern Mediterranean Sea for a scheduled port visit to Haifa, Israel.[226] It eventually travelled south of the 'line of death', a Libyan maritime claim. Two Libyan Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 were deployed, and attacked 3 military aircraft launched from the USS John F. Kennedy. The American aircraft eventually shot down the Libyan MiG-23s.

The following day, Libya accused the U.S. of attacking two unarmed reconnaissance planes which were on a routine mission over international waters. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called for a United Nations emergency session to take up the incident.[227] The U.S. claimed the American aircrews acted in self-defense due to demonstrations of hostile intent by the Libyan aircraft.

Two days after the engagement, the Pentagon released photographs taken from the videotapes on the F-14s which, according to U.S. naval intelligence analysts, showed the lead MiG-23 armed with two AA-7 Apex missiles and two AA-8 Aphid missiles.[227] The AA-7 can be either a semi-active radar-homing missile or an infrared-homing (heat-seeking) missile, and it can be fired at another aircraft from head-on. The imagery was used to prove the Libyan fighters were armed and helped support the U.S. position that the MiG-23s were hostile.

The intent for the Libyan aircraft on 4 January is not known for certain.[228][229] Gaddafi could have believed the U.S. was preparing an attack on the chemical facility in Rabta and ordered his military to see if the aircraft offshore were bombers bound for targets in Libya. The possible reasons for the MiG-23s' flight profile range from a deliberate attack against the battle group to a radio breakdown with ground controllers leading to the Libyan fighters merging with the F-14s.[228]

Details released three months after the incident revealed that the MiG-23s never turned on their fire control radars, needed to guide their AA-7 missiles at maximum range. The turns by the Libyan pilots prior to the first missile launch by the F-14s were considered too slight to be hostile, according to U.S. House Armed Services Committee chairman Les Aspin.[229] Despite these findings, Aspin said the self-defense claim by the U.S. was still justified due to the continued acceleration of the MiG-23s as they closed the distance with the F-14s and Libya's history of firing first.

Afghanistan Conflict[edit]

After the Soviet–Afghan War, the fall of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, and the subsequent signing of the Peshawar Accord, the Islamic State of Afghanistan struggled to maintain much authority, with Pakistani and Iranian backed group such as the Taliban, Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, and Hezbe Wahdat, began to wage a civil war against the general government. The US-Backed Islamic State wage on the war, with major clashes with the Taliban and the Uzbek Junbish, the Taliban seized Kabul in September 1996, which caused Junbish, Hezbe Wahdat, and the Islamic State to merge into the Northern Alliance. They would eventually liberate Kabul after the American-led invasion after 9/11.[230]

Ending of the Lebanese Civil War[edit]

During the 1989 War of Liberation, the Lebanese Army loyal to General and Prime Minister Michel Aoun, appointed by previous President Amine Gemayel and headquartered in eastern Beirut, fought against the western Beirut-based Syrian Armed Forces and the Lebanese Army loyal to President Elias Hrawi and Prime Minister Selim Hoss, appointed by the Taif Agreement. The conflict culminated on 13 October 1990, when the Syrian Army stormed Baabda Palace and other strongholds of Aoun, killing hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and civilians and ousting Aoun, marking the end of the Lebanese Civil War. Aoun survived and moved to France to live in exile.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese parliament ratified the Taif Agreement. The agreement called for the disarming of all Lebanese militias, except the Lebanese Armed Forces. However, Hezbollah and the PLO refused. The PLO surrendered and disarmed its Lebanese faction in 1991, while Hezbollah remains the largest paramilitary faction in Lebanon to the present day. However, during the Syrian civil war spillover in Lebanon and 17 October Revolution, multiple Lebanese groups, including Amal Movement, the Lebanese Communist Party, and Lebanese Forces, rearmed themselves.[231][232]

Iran-Libya Sanctions Act[edit]

After Iran allegedly supported Hamas, PIJ, Hezbollah, and Hezbollah Al-Hejaz, and Libya allegedly supported the PKK, POLISARIO, and PLO, President Bill Clinton signed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act on 5 August 1996. The law banned doing business with the Iranian and Libyan governments, and sanctioned firms doing business with them.[233]

On September 30, 2006, ILSA was renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), as it no longer applied to Libya.

Third Phase:2001-2011[edit]

September 11 and effects[edit]

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the 9/11 Commission found alleged ties between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, and stated that, "al-Qaeda forged alliances with the Hezbollah terror group and Iran for purpose of fighting a common enemy (the United States)".[234] The commission also indicted Lebanon, where Hezbollah had allegedly trained members of al-Qaeda.[235]

The 9/11 Commission Report stated that 8 to 10 of the hijackers on 9/11 previously passed through Iran and their travel was facilitated by Iranian border guards.[236] The report also found "circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000."[236]

Two defectors from Iran's intelligence service testified that Iranian officials had "foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks."[237] By contrast, the 9/11 Commission "found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation." In addition, both bin al-Shibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed denied "any relationship between the hijackers and Hezbollah" and "any other reason for the hijackers' travel to Iran" besides "taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports."[236]

The report also found "circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000."[236] Judge George B. Daniels ruled in a federal district court in Manhattan that Iran bears legal responsibility for providing "material support" to the 9/11 plotters and hijackers in Havlish, et al. v. Osama bin Laden, Iran, et al.[238][239][240][241] Included in Judge Daniels' findings were claims that Iran "used front companies to obtain a Boeing 757-767-777 flight simulator for training the terrorists", Ramzi bin al-Shibh traveled to Iran in January 2001, and an Iranian government memorandum from May 14, 2001 demonstrates Iranian culpability in planning the attacks.[238][242]

Afghanistan War and allegation of Iranian support of the Taliban[edit]

After 9/11 and the United States invasion of Afghanistan, allegations began circulating of Iranian support to the Taliban and Haqqani network, of which Iran denied.[243][244][245][246][247][248][249] The U.S. alleged that Iran had paid bounties to Taliban militiamen who killed American or ISAF soldiers.[250] The U.S. has also alleged of Qatari,[251] Russian,[252][253][254] Chinese,[255] and Pakistani[256] support of the Taliban. ISAF member countries have also repeatedly accussed Iran of meddling in Afghanistan's affairs.[257][258][259] Meanwhile, while condemning U.S. military presence,[260] Iran has increased aid to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. However, many Afghan politicians and experts claim that both Iran and Pakistan are working to weaken Afghanistan.[261][262]

Iraq War and insurgencies[edit]

In October 2002, Congress granted President Bush the power to decide whether to launch any military attack in Iraq in the War on terror.[263] The Iraq War began on 20 March 2003,[264] when the US, joined by the UK, Australia, and Poland, launched a "shock and awe" bombing campaign, and invaded the country via Kuwait.[265] The coalition were joined by multiple opposition groups and the Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga. Baghdad fell on 9 April, and Saddam Hussein was deposed. Hussein was found in Operation Red Dawn in December 2003, and was executed three years later in 2006. After the invasion, multiple insurgent groups rose, including the notorious Special Groups, consisting of the Mahdi Army (later the Promised Day Brigade), Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Sheibani Network, and Kata'ib Hezbollah, supported in large part by Iran.[266] The Islamic Army in Iraq also rose, along with the JRTN. Eventually a civil war occurred from 2006 to 2008 between these factions and the Iraqi government, which lead to 1,300 deaths.[267]

In the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal, another sectarian insurgency exploded into the War in Iraq, and the later on International military intervention against the Islamic State.

End of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon[edit]

On 14 February 2005, the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a truck bomb attack, which killed 21 and wounded nearly 100. Former Minister of Economy and Trade Bassel Fleihan later died as well from injuries sustained in the blast. This attack sparked huge demonstrations that seemed to unite large numbers of citizens from the usually fractured and sectarian Lebanese population. It was the second such incident in four months: former minister and MP Marwan Hamadeh had survived a car bomb attack on 1 October 2004.

Within hours of the assassination, Lebanese prosecutors issued warrants for the arrest of six Australian nationals who flew out of Beirut to Sydney, Australia three hours after the explosion claiming that seats occupied by the men had tested positive for traces of explosives, and that they were traveling without luggage. The Australian Federal Police interviewed ten individuals in Sydney upon the arrival of the flight, and found the men they questioned did have luggage. Although Sydney airport security sniffer dogs trained to find explosives did react to aircraft seats occupied by the men,[268] test swabs taken from three of the men by the Australian Federal Police tested negative for explosives. Within 48 hours, the Australian Federal Police absolved the six of any involvement in the assassination, giving little credibility to claims of the Lebanese officials.

Despite the lack, to date, of any actual substantial evidence implicating any party or individual, the Syrian government has borne the brunt of Lebanese and international outrage at the murder, because of its extensive military and intelligence influence in Lebanon, as well as the public rift between Hariri and Damascus just before his last resignation on 20 October 2004. The day after Hariri's resignation, pro-Syrian former Prime Minister Omar Karami was appointed Prime Minister.[269]

The killing caused mass unrest throughout the country, and mass protests were held every Monday in Martyrs' Square.[270]

Daily protests against the Syrian occupation attracted 25,000 people. While in the 1990s most anti-Syrian demonstrations were predominantly Christian and were put down by force, the new demonstrations were distinctly non-sectarian and the government did not respond with force or intimidation.[271]

On 28 February, the government of pro-Syrian prime minister Omar Karami resigned, calling for a new election to take place. Karami said in his announcement: "I am keen the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country". The tens of thousands gathered at Beirut's Martyrs' Square cheered the announcement, then chanted "Karami has fallen, your turn will come, Lahoud, and yours, Bashar".[272]

Opposition MPs were not satisfied with only Karami's resignation, and kept pressing for full Syrian withdrawal. Former minister and MP Marwan Hamadeh, who survived a similar car bomb attack on 1 October 2004, said "I accuse this government of incitement, negligence and shortcomings at the least, and of covering up its planning at the most... if not executing".

On 2 March 2005, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad announced that his troops would leave Lebanon completely "in the next few months". Responding to the announcement, opposition leader Walid Jumblatt said that he wanted to hear more specifics from Damascus about any withdrawal: "It's a nice gesture but 'next few months' is quite vague - we need a clear-cut timetable".[273]

On 23 March, Michel Abu Arraj, the Lebanese magistrate responsible for the internal Lebanese investigation of the assassination asked to be excused, citing a heavy court schedule. The Judicial Council of Lebanon was expected to rule on his request the next day.[274] His resignation and the consequent need to replace him raised the possibility of a delay in the investigation.

On 26 April 2005 international news agencies and the UN reported the last Syrian troops and intelligence agents had crossed the border in withdrawal from Lebanon. The Syrian government officially notified the United Nations that it had withdrawn its troops in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004. In a letter to the UN, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said his country "would like to officially inform you that the Syrian Arab forces stationed in Lebanon, at the request of Lebanon and under an Arab mandate, have fully withdrawn all their military, security apparatus and assets." On 27 April 2005,[275] the Lebanese People celebrated for the first time their first day free from Syrian omnipresence.[276] Also on 27 April 2005, The Washington Post reported that "Syria has not withdrawn a significant part of its intelligence presence in Lebanon, undermining its claim yesterday to have ended its 29-year intervention in its western neighbor, U.S., European and U.N. officials said."[277] This claim was reiterated by US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice on 25 May.[278]

Iran's Nuclear Program[edit]

On 14 August 2002, Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for an Iranian dissident group National Council of Resistance of Iran, publicly revealed the existence of two nuclear sites under construction: a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz (part of which is underground), and a heavy water facility in Arak. It has been strongly suggested that intelligence agencies already knew about these facilities but the reports had been classified.

The IAEA immediately sought access to these facilities and further information and co-operation from Iran regarding its nuclear program.[279] According to arrangements in force at the time for implementation of Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA,[280] Iran was not required to allow IAEA inspections of a new nuclear facility until six months before nuclear material is introduced into that facility. At the time, Iran was not even required to inform the IAEA of the existence of the facility. This "six months" clause was standard for implementation of all IAEA safeguards agreements until 1992, when the IAEA Board of Governors decided that facilities should be reported during the planning phase, even before construction began. Iran was the last country to accept that decision, and only did so on 26 February 2003, after the IAEA investigation began.

In May 2003, shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, elements of the Iranian government of Mohammad Khatami made a confidential proposal for a "Grand Bargain" through Swiss diplomatic channels. It offered full transparency of Iran's nuclear program and withdrawal of support for Hamas and Hezbollah, in exchange for security assurances from the United States and a normalization of diplomatic relations. The Bush administration did not respond to the proposal, as senior US officials doubted its authenticity. The proposal reportedly was widely blessed by the Iranian government, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.[281][282][283]

France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the EU-3) undertook a diplomatic initiative with Iran to resolve questions about its nuclear program. On 21 October 2003, in Tehran, the Iranian government and EU-3 Foreign Ministers issued a statement known as the Tehran Declaration[284] in which Iran agreed to co-operate with the IAEA, to sign and implement an Additional Protocol as a voluntary, confidence-building measure, and to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities during the course of the negotiations. The EU-3 in return explicitly agreed to recognize Iran's nuclear rights and to discuss ways Iran could provide "satisfactory assurances" regarding its nuclear power program, after which Iran would gain easier access to modern technology. Iran signed an Additional Protocol on 18 December 2003, and agreed to act as if the protocol were in force, making the required reports to the IAEA and allowing the required access by IAEA inspectors, pending Iran's ratification of the Additional Protocol.

The IAEA reported 10 November 2003,[285] that "it is clear that Iran has failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material and its processing and use, as well as the declaration of facilities where such material has been processed and stored." Iran was obligated to inform the IAEA of its importation of uranium from China and subsequent use of that material in uranium conversion and enrichment activities. It was also obligated to report to the IAEA experiments with the separation of plutonium. However, the Islamic Republic reneged on its promise to permit the IAEA to carry out their inspections and suspended the Additional Protocol agreement outlined above in October 2005.[286]

A comprehensive list of Iran's specific "breaches" of its IAEA safeguards agreement, which the IAEA described as part of a "pattern of concealment," can be found in a 15 November 2004 report of the IAEA on Iran's nuclear program.[287] Iran attributes its failure to report certain acquisitions and activities on US obstructionism, which reportedly included pressuring the IAEA to cease providing technical assistance to Iran's uranium conversion program in 1983.[288] On the question of whether Iran had a hidden nuclear weapons program, the IAEA's November 2003 report states that it found "no evidence" that the previously undeclared activities were related to a nuclear weapons program, but also that it was unable to conclude that Iran's nuclear program was exclusively peaceful.

In June 2004, construction was commenced on IR-40, a 40 MW heavy water reactor.

Under the terms of the Paris Agreement,[289] on 14 November 2004, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator announced a voluntary and temporary suspension of its uranium enrichment program (enrichment is not a violation of the NPT) and the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, after pressure from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany acting on behalf of the European Union (EU, known in this context as the EU-3). The measure was said at the time to be a voluntary, confidence-building measure, to continue for some reasonable period of time (six months being mentioned as a reference) as negotiations with the EU-3 continued. On 24 November, Iran sought to amend the terms of its agreement with the EU to exclude a handful of the equipment from this deal for research work. This request was dropped four days later. According to Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, one of the Iranian representatives to the Paris Agreement negotiations, the Iranians made it clear to their European counterparts that Iran would not consider a permanent end to uranium enrichment:

Before the Paris [Agreement] text was signed, Dr Rohani ... stressed that they should be committed neither to speak nor even think of a cessation any more. The ambassadors delivered his message to their foreign ministers prior to the signing of the Paris agreed text ... The Iranians made it clear to their European counterparts that if the latter sought a complete termination of Iran's nuclear fuel-cycle activities, there would be no negotiations. The Europeans answered that they were not seeking such a termination, only an assurance on the non-diversion of Iran's nuclear programme to military ends.[290]

In February 2005, Iran pressed the EU-3 to speed up talks, which the EU-3 refused to do so.[291] The talks made little progress because of the divergent positions of the two sides.[292] Under pressure from US the European negotiators could not agree to allow enrichment on Iranian soil. Although Iranians presented an offer, which included voluntary restrictions on the enrichment volume and output, it was rejected. The EU-3 broke a commitment they had made to recognize Iran's right under NPT to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.[293]

In early August 2005, after the June election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president, Iran removed seals on its uranium enrichment equipment in Isfahan,[294] which UK officials termed a "breach of the Paris Agreement"[295] though a case can be made that the EU violated the terms of the Paris Agreement by demanding that Iran abandon nuclear enrichment.[296] Several days later, the EU-3 offered Iran a package in return for permanent cessation of enrichment. Reportedly, it included benefits in the political, trade and nuclear fields, as well as long-term supplies of nuclear materials and assurances of non-aggression by the EU (but not the US).[295] Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organization rejected the offer, terming it "very insulting and humiliating"[295] and other independent analysts characterized the EU offer as an "empty box".[297] Iran's announcement that it would resume enrichment preceded the election of Iranian President Ahmadinejad by several months. The delay in restarting the program was to allow the IAEA to re-install monitoring equipment. The actual resumption of the program coincided with the election of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and the appointment of Ali Larijani as the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator.[298]

Around 2005, Germany refused to export anymore nuclear equipment or refund money paid by Iran for such equipment in the 1980s. (See European reactions 1979–89.)

In August 2005, with the assistance of Pakistan[299] a group of US government experts and international scientists concluded that traces of bomb-grade uranium found in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and were not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program in Iran.[300] In September 2005, IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei reported that "most" highly enriched uranium traces found in Iran by agency inspectors came from imported centrifuge components, validating Iran's claim that the traces were due to contamination. Sources in Vienna and the State Department reportedly stated that, for all practical purposes, the HEU issue has been resolved.[301]

In a speech to the United Nations on 17 September 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that Iran's enrichment might be managed by an international consortium, with Iran sharing ownership with other countries. The offer was rejected out of hand by the EU and the United States.[293]

The IAEA Board of Governors deferred a formal decision on Iran's nuclear case for two years after 2003, while Iran continued cooperation with the EU-3. On 24 September 2005, after Iran abandoned the Paris Agreement, the Board found that Iran had been in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement, based largely on facts that had been reported as early as November 2003.[302]

On 4 February 2006, the 35 member Board of Governors of the IAEA voted 27–3 (with five abstentions: Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa) to report Iran to the UN Security Council. The measure was sponsored by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and it was backed by the United States. Two permanent council members, Russia and China, agreed to referral only on condition that the council take no action before March. The three members who voted against referral were Venezuela, Syria and Cuba.[303][304] In response, on 6 February 2006, Iran suspended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and all other voluntary and non-legally binding cooperation with the IAEA beyond what is required by its safeguards agreement.[305]

In late February 2006, IAEA Director Mohammad El-Baradei raised the suggestion of a deal, whereby Iran would give up industrial-scale enrichment and instead limit its program to a small-scale pilot facility, and agree to import its nuclear fuel from Russia (see nuclear fuel bank). The Iranians indicated that while they would not be willing to give up their right to enrichment in principle, they were willing to[306] consider the compromise solution. However, in March 2006, the Bush Administration made it clear that they would not accept any enrichment at all in Iran.[307]

The IAEA Board of Governors deferred the formal report to the UN Security Council of Iran's non-compliance (such a report is required by Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute),[308] until 27 February 2006.[309] The Board usually makes decisions by consensus, but in a rare non-consensus decision it adopted this resolution by vote, with 12 abstentions.[310][311]

On 11 April 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium. President Ahmadinejad made the announcement in a televised address from the northeastern city of Mashhad, where he said "I am officially announcing that Iran joined the group of those countries which have nuclear technology." The uranium was enriched to 3.5 percent using over a hundred centrifuges.

On 13 April 2006, after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said (on 12 April 2006) the Security Council must consider "strong steps" to induce Tehran to change course in its nuclear ambition; President Ahmadinejad vowed that Iran will not back away from uranium enrichment and that the world must treat Iran as a nuclear power, saying "Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase. We say: Be angry at us and die of this anger," because "We won't hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation to enrich uranium."[312]

On 14 April 2006, The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published a series of analyzed satellite images of Iran's nuclear facilities at Natanz and Esfahan.[313] Featured in these images is a new tunnel entrance near the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan and continued construction at the Natanz uranium enrichment site. In addition, a series of images dating back to 2002 shows the underground enrichment buildings and its subsequent covering by soil, concrete, and other materials. Both facilities were already subject to IAEA inspections and safeguards.

On 28 July 2006, the UN Security Council approved a resolution to give Iran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of sanctions.[314]

Iran responded to the demand to stop enrichment of uranium 24 August 2006, offering to return to the negotiation table but refusing to end enrichment.[315]

Qolam Ali Hadad-adel, speaker of Iran's parliament, said on 30 August 2006, that Iran had the right to "peaceful application of nuclear technology and all other officials agree with this decision," according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency. "Iran opened the door to negotiations for Europe and hopes that the answer which was given to the nuclear package would bring them to the table."[315]

In Resolution 1696 of 31 July 2006, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment and reprocessing related activities.[316]

In UN Security Council Resolution 1737 of 26 December 2006, the Council imposed a series of sanctions on Iran for its non-compliance with the earlier Security Council resolution deciding that Iran suspend enrichment-related activities without delay.[317] These sanctions were primarily targeted against the transfer of nuclear and ballistic missile technologies[318] and, in response to concerns of China and Russia, were lighter than that sought by the United States.[319] This resolution followed a report from the IAEA that Iran had permitted inspections under its safeguards agreement but had not suspended its enrichment-related activities.[320]

2006 Lebanon war[edit]

The 2006 Lebanon war was precipitated by the 2006 Hezbollah cross-border raid on 12 July 2006. Hezbollah fighters fired rockets at Israeli border towns as a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack on two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence.[321] The ambush left three soldiers dead. Two Israeli soldiers were abducted and taken by Hezbollah to Lebanon.[321][322] Five more were killed in Lebanon, in a failed rescue attempt. Hezbollah demanded the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel in exchange for the release of the abducted soldiers.[323] Israel refused and responded with airstrikes and artillery fire on targets in Lebanon. Israel attacked both Hezbollah military targets and Lebanese civilian infrastructure, including Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport.[324] The IDF launched a ground invasion of Southern Lebanon. Israel also imposed an air and naval blockade.[325] Hezbollah then launched more rockets into northern Israel and engaged the IDF in guerrilla warfare from hardened positions.[326]

On 11 August 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 (UNSCR 1701) in an effort to end the hostilities. The resolution, which was approved by both the Lebanese and Israeli governments the following days, called for disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon, and for the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces and an enlarged United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the south. Israel fully withdrew by 14 August, while its naval blockade of Lebanon continued to 8 November.

2008 Lebanon conflict[edit]

After the 2006 war, Lebanon entered into an 18-month long political crisis. Lebanon's political crisis suddenly exploded when the government made two decisions to remove Hezbollah's telecommunications network and dismiss the Rafik Hariri International Airport's head of security after finding out about a Hezbollah surveillance camera monitoring the western runway number 17, which is used primarily for executive jets.[327] In response to these decisions, mushrooming riots swept across Beirut resulting in heavy clashes between Hezbollah, Amal, SSNP, and the Lebanese Ba'ath Party, and the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Future Movement, afterwards Hezbollah and Amal forces invaded and took control of western Beirut. This was the first time since the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) that weapons were used by Hezbollah on the internal front. Battles moved to several areas in the country including Mount Lebanon and the North, and 300 people are estimated to have died in the operation. The Arab council quickly acted to stop the violence. Based on the Arab initiative regarding containment of the Lebanese crisis, and in pursuance of the agreement concluded among the Lebanese parties in Beirut on 15 May 2008, under the aegis of the Arab Ministerial Committee an agreement was reached.

2009 Hezbollah-Egypt incident[edit]

IN April 2009, Egypt arrested 49 men, members of Hezbollah,[328][329] and accused Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, Qatar, and the Muslim Brotherhood of conspiring the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.[330][331] The incident resulted in a spat between Iran and Egypt, as Egypt also accused the 49 men of planning a large-scale bombing.[332][333]

Fourth Phase:2011-present[edit]

Egyptian Crisis[edit]

During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Iran repeatedly called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a "traitor" who supported the Zionist movement,[334] which eventually led to anti-Iranian protests in Egypt.[335] Mubarak was eventually overthrown, and was replaced by Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was more friendly towards Iran,[336] and after massive protests stemming from alleged nepotism, Morsi himself was overthrown by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the military. Iran condemned Morsi's overthrow. el-Sisi would eventually grow closer to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States, and frequently criticized Iran.[337][better source needed][132]

Bahraini Uprising[edit]

Saudi Arabia and Iran have sought to extend their influence in Bahrain for decades. While the majority of Muslims in Bahrain are Shia, the country is ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family - who are widely viewed as being subservient to the Saudi government. Iran claimed sovereignty over Bahrain until 1970, when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi abandoned claims after negotiations with the United Kingdom.[338] The Iranian Revolution led to resumed interest in Bahraini affairs. In 1981, the front organization Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain led a failed coup attempt to install a Shia theocratic regime led by Hadi al-Modarresi. Since then, the government has accused Iran of supporting terrorist plots within its borders.[339]

Sunni states have long feared that Iran might stir up unrest among regional Shia minority populations, especially in Bahrain. Bahrain government's stability depends heavily on Saudi support. The island is connected to Saudi Arabia by the 25 kilometer King Fahd Causeway, and its proximity to Saudi Arabia's oil-rich, the Saudi Shia minority in Eastern Province is viewed by Riyadh as a security concern. Any political gains by the Shia in Bahrain are seen by the Saudis as gains for Iran.[340]

In response to the Arab Spring in 2011, the GCC governments sought to maintain their power through social reform, economic handouts, and violent repression. Member states also distributed a share of their combined oil wealth to Bahrain and Oman to maintain stability. Saudi-led GCC forces quickly intervened in support of the government of Bahraini to put down the anti-government uprising in Bahrain.

The Bahraini government publicly blamed Iran for the protests, but an independent commission established by King Hamad rejected the claim, instead highlighting human rights abuses committed in the crackdown.[341] The protests, along with the Iran nuclear deal, strained Bahrain's relationship with the United States. Bahrain has sought closer ties with Russia as a result, but this has been limited due to Saudi Arabia's alliance with the US.[342]

Following the onset of the Arab Winter, Bahrain accused Iran of orchestrating several domestic incidents as part of a campaign to destabilize the country. Tehran denied all allegations and accused the government of Bahrain of blaming its own internal problems on Iran after every incident.[343] In August 2015, authorities in Bahrain arrested five suspects over a bombing in Sitra. Officials linked the attacks to the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, although Iran denied any involvement.[344] In January 2016, Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia in cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran following the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.[345] In November 2017, Bahrain called an explosion on its main oil pipeline "terrorist sabotage" linked to Iran, drawing a rebuke from Tehran. Saudi Arabia also referred to the incident as an "attack on the pipeline".[343]

Libyan Crisis[edit]

Syrian Civil War[edit]

Syria has been a major theater in the proxy conflict throughout its ongoing civil war, which began in 2011. Iran, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. have provided varying degrees of military and financial support to opposing sides, with Iran backing the government and United States supporting rebel militants such as the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Revolutionary Commando Army. Syria is an important part of Iran's sphere of influence, and the government under Bashar al-Assad has long been a major ally. During the early stages of the Arab Spring, Supreme Leader Khamenei initially expressed support for the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, characterizing them as an "Islamic awakening" akin to its own revolution in 1979. When protests broke out in Syria, Iran changed its position and condemned them, comparing the uprising to its own presidential election protests in 2009 and accusing the United States and Israel of being behind the unrest.[346]

The war threatens Iran's position, and Saudi Arabia and its allies have sided with Sunni rebels in part to weaken Iran. For years Iranian forces have been involved on the ground, with soldiers in Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps facing heavy casualties.[347] In 2014, with no end in sight to the conflict, Iran increased its ground support for the Syrian Army, providing elite forces, intelligence gathering, and training. Iran also backs pro-Assad Hezbollah fighters.[348] Although Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed in 2015 to participate in peace talks in Vienna in participation with United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the talks ultimately failed.[349]

Saudi Arabia countered Russia's intervention in Syria by increasing its support for the rebels and supplying American-made anti-tank TOW missiles, a move which slowed initial progress made by Russian and Syrian forces.[350]

Turkey has also taken the opportunity to undermine both Russia's and Iran's foreign policy in Syria by invading Syria on multiple occasions often attacking the SDF or Iranian proxies.[351][352][353][354][355]

Spillover in Lebanon[edit]

Members of multiple armed groups, including the Free Syrian Army, Tahrir al-Sham, ISIS, and Fatah al-Intifada, have travelled to Lebanon to fight each other in Lebanese soil.[356][357] Lebanon has conducted joint offensives with Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran to remove the Islamic State from Lebanese territory.[358][359][360] The FSA and HTS have also been pushed out of Lebanese territory as of June 2017.[358]

Israeli-Iranian warfare[edit]

On several occasions, between 2013 and 2017, Israel reportedly carried out or supported attacks on Hezbollah and Iranian targets within Syrian territories or Lebanon. One of the first reliably reported incidents of this kind took place on 30 January 2013, when Israeli aircraft struck a Syrian convoy allegedly transporting Iranian weapons to Hezbollah.[361] Habitually, Israel refused to comment on the incident, and allegedly so that the Syrian government would not feel obliged to retaliate.[361]

Syria confirmed some reports regarding Israeli Air Force incidents in May 2013, December 2014, and April 2015, and denied others. Israel systematically refused to comment on the alleged targeting of Hezbollah and Ba'athist Syrian targets in Syrian territory. In 2015, suspected Hezbollah militants launched a retaliatory attack on Israeli forces in Shebaa farms. In March 2017, Syria launched anti-aircraft missiles toward Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights, allegedly targeting Israeli Air Force aircraft, which Syria claimed were on their way to attack targets in Palmyra, Syria. After the incident, the State of Israel stated it was targeting weapons shipments headed toward anti-Israeli forces, specifically Hezbollah, located in Lebanon. Israel denied Syria's claim that one jet fighter was shot down with another one damaged. Israel has not reported any pilots or aircraft missing in Syria, or anywhere else in the Middle East following the incident. According to some sources, the incident was the first time Israeli officials clearly confirmed an Israeli strike on a Hezbollah convoy during the Syrian Civil War.[362]

By early December 2017, the Israeli Air Force confirmed at least six years of nearly 100 attacks in Syria, all targeting arms convoys of Hezbollah and the Ba'athists.[363] In September 2018, the Israeli Air Force stated that it had conducted over 200 airstrikes on Iranian targets in 2017–2018 alone.[364]

On 8 May 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.[365] The same day Israeli air strikes targeted Syrian army positions in the southern Damascus area of Al-Kiswah, killing 15 people, including 8 Iranians according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.[366][367] According to reports, the targets were Iranian rocket launchers aimed at Israeli territory.[368]

War In Iraq[edit]

In the aftermath of the Iraq War, the jihadist insurgency, led by ISI, ISIS's predecessor, continued. However, in 2014, seized Anbar,[369][370] and later seized control of almost all of Northern Iraq,[371] and were about 48 kilometres (30 mi) from Baghdad.[372][373] The Northern Iraqi offensive also completely overran Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and annihilated the Free Iraqi Army, which was also conducting an insurgency.[374] In the aftermath of both offensives, major interventions against ISIS were conducted, mainly by the United States. ISIL would eventually be defeated at the hands of the Peshmerga, and after 2017, be forced into an insurgency.[375]

Iraqi-Kurdish conflict[edit]

In the midst of ISIL's withdrawal, Iraqi Forces, the PMF, Iranian Forces,[376] and alleged Turkish Forces invaded the Kurdistan Region and areas held by the Sinjar Alliance,[377] and seized 20 percent of its territory, including its capital Kirkuk after an intensive battle. The conflict arose after the 2017 Kurdistan Region independence referendum and after the Peshmerga ignored an Iraqi call to return Kirkuk.[378][379]

2019 Protests[edit]

Unrest in Iraq flared up again in October 2019, when protests erupted in Baghdad in Liberation Square over high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption. These protests spread to the southern provinces. The authorities imposed an internet blackout and shut down 75% of the country's internet access.[380] Protesters demanded the resignation of Adil Abdul-Mahdi and prepare for early elections.[381] The protesters also began demonstrating against Iranian influence, and against the leader of Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani.[382] At the beginning of the protests, the demonstrators were mostly young male, holding the government responsible for its many failures, according to vox.[383] The Iraqi prime minister declared a curfew until further notice.[384] Abul-Mahdi eventually resigned, and was replaced by Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

The US Embassy in Baghdad was attacked on the last day of 2019. The attack was organized and directed by Iran's proxy leaders Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Qais al-Khazali, Hadi al-Amari, and Falih al-Fayyadh. They are seen in the pictures taken on the scene.[385]

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of the leaders of the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, was condemned and spent years in jail in Kuwait for directing the December 1983 attacks on the US and French embassies there.[386][387]

For a long time, Iraqi anti-government protestors tried to enter Green Zone and were brutally suppressed and held back. On 31 December, groups of Popular Mobilization Forces (al-Hashd al-Sha'abi) entered the Green Zone and went directly toward the American Embassy without being blocked by security forces.[388]

US president Donald Trump accused Iran of "orchestrating" the attack on the embassy and added that they would be held "fully responsible".[389] In the aftermath, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, Major General Qasem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were assassinated in a U.S. drone strike while traveling in a convoy near Baghdad International Airport.[390] On 5 January in reaction to these airstrikes the Iraqi parliament called for the expulsion of US troops from the country. Iran later retaliated by bombing a U.S. air force base.

2021 Baghdad clashes and the attempted Assassination of Mustafa Al-Kadhimi[edit]

The violence at the 2021 Baghdad clashes was fueled by the 2021 Iraqi parliamentary election. Supporters of pro-Iranian groups, which suffered large losses in the polls, tried to storm the Green Zone, they threw stones at security forces, who fired tear gas and shot in the air to disperse the crowd. The protestors were mainly people affiliated with Iran-backed militias and Pro-Iran political parties. Some of the militias were Kata'ib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Badr Organization (militia wing), Kata'ib al-Imam Ali and Quwat al-Shaheed al-Sadr (militia wing of the Islamic Dawa Party), which are all part of the PMF. Some of the political parties were the Islamic Dawa Party, and the Fatah Alliance, which includes the Badr Organisation (political wing), the Al-Sadiqoun Bloc (the political wing of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq), and much more, the Fatah Alliance are all close allies of the PMF.[391][392][393][394]

Protesters threw stones and tried storming into the Green Zone, an area in Baghdad which holds all government buildings and embassies. Protesters threw projectiles and blocked all access to the Green Zone, until police pushed them out. Police fired at the protesters and also used tear gas. Security forces were accused of burning tents set up by protesters.[395]

The clashes left 125 people injured and two people dead. 21 protesters were injured by smoke inhalation, and nine police officers were hurt from getting stones thrown at them.[396] Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi ordered a full investigation into the events, while President Barham Salih called for restraint. Nouri Al-Maliki, former Prime Minister of Iraq, said on Twitter that “protesters were ‘claiming their legitimate rights’, but should not have fueled the violence and should’ve avoided provoking security forces in the first place”. Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, condemned the violence and urged justice for the wounded demonstrators. In Khazali’s own words, “Whoever they were, they must be held accountable”, referring to the security forces.[397]

Two days later on the 7 November, an assassination attempt was made on Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi via a drone strike. The PM survived the attack unharmed but resulted in six of his bodyguards being injured. The assassination attempt was connected to these protests, as a militia source who requested to remain anonymous said it was done by a Shia militia, most likely Kataib Hezbollah or Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The weapons used in the assassination attempt were made in Iran.[398][399][400]


Breakdown and U.S. withdrawal[edit]

Yemeni Civil War[edit]

An airstrike in Sana'a by a Saudi-led coalition on 11 May 2015

Yemen has been called one of the major fronts in the conflict as a result of the revolution and subsequent civil war.[401][402] Yemen had for years been within the Saudi sphere of influence. The decade-long Houthi insurgency in Yemen stoked tensions with Iran, with accusations of covert support for the rebels. A 2015 UN report alleged that Iran provided the Houthi rebels with money, training, and arms shipments beginning in 2009.[403] However, the degree of support has been subject to debate, and accusations of greater involvement have been denied by Iran.[404][405][406] The 2014–2015 coup d'état was viewed by Saudi leadership as an immediate threat, and as an opportunity for Iran to gain a foothold in the region. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, including all GCC members except Oman, intervened and launched airstrikes and a ground offensive in the country, declaring the entire Saada Governorate a military target and imposing a naval blockade.[407]

The United States intervened in October 2016 after missiles were fired at a US warship, which was in place to protect oil shipments along the sea lane passing through the Mandeb Strait. The US blamed the rebels and responded by targeting radar sites with missile strikes along the Red Sea coast. In response, rebels called the strikes evidence of American support for the Saudi campaign.[408][409] Recently, Israel and Turkey have also given support to the Saudi campaign.[410][411]

The Qatar diplomatic crisis also has roots stemmed from the Yemeni Civil War.[412]

2017 Saudi Arabia-Lebanon spat[edit]

On 4 November 2017, during the first day of purges, in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri tendered his resignation from office, citing Iran's and Hezbollah's political over-extension in the Middle East region and fears of assassination.[413][414] Hariri's resignation led to a drop in Lebanese bonds and warnings of a cut to its credit rating.[415]

Iran vehemently rejected Saad Hariri's remarks and called his resignation part of a plot by the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to heighten Middle Eastern tensions.[citation needed]

On 21 November, Hariri declared in Beirut that he had suspended his resignation. He stated that President Aoun had asked him to "put it on hold ahead of further consultations."[416] He refused to talk about what happened in Saudi Arabia and claimed that events will remain undisclosed.[417] On 5 December he withdrew his resignation in a speech in which he emphasized Lebanon's neutrality in all regional conflicts.[418]

Qatari Diplomatic Crisis[edit]

On 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Gabon, the Maldives, Yemen, and Senegal cut ties with Qatar.[419][420] This led to the complete economic boycotts by the GCC, and other countries. This came after Qatar was accused of supporting al-Qaeda, Tahrir al-Sham, ISIS, the Houthis, and Hezbollah.[421][422][423]

The Saudi coalition withdrawing diplomatic relations accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, of interfering with their internal affairs[424] and of maintaining relations with Iran.[425][426] Qatar denies allegations that it supported terrorism, and pointed out that it has been contributing to the U.S.-led fight against ISIL.[427][428] The countries have also stressed the measures are in response to Qatar's violation of an agreement[429] in 2014 to not undermine the "interests, security and stability" of other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.[430]

The diplomatic crisis came after a speech in May given by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in which he was alleged to have declared support for Iran, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, along with calling Iran an "Islamic power" and criticizing Donald Trump's hostile stance toward it.[431] Qatar denied the allegations and claimed that hackers had posted fabricated statements on the state-run Qatar News Agency's website.[432] US investigators believe the news agency was breached by Russian hackers as part of an ongoing fake news campaign designed to cause diplomatic rifts among the United States and its allies in the region. The Kremlin denied involvement, and the government of Qatar claimed the hack instead originated in the boycotting Gulf states not Russia after tracking suspicious cellphone signals.[433][434][435][436] Qatar is planning to sue countries involved in the blockade.[437] The sudden economic isolation forced Qatar to turn to Turkey and Iran for food and water supplies.[438][439] Iran offered to use three of its ports for delivering supplies to Qatar.[440]

Arab media claimed that Qatar has secretly accepted to become part of an Iranian Shia sphere of influence that Tehran is trying to create in the Middle East, and which would include Lebanon (Hezbollah), Syria (Assad), and Iraq (Shia-majority government)[441] and that, in a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Emir Al Thani said he wanted the ties with Iran to be "stronger than ever before."[442] Qatar claims Iranian-backed Hezbollah is a resistance movement against Israeli occupation, not a terrorist group.[443] Arab media also claimed that a member of Qatar's ruling House of Thani, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Thani, tweeted that Qatar's ruler Tamim has "joined forces with Iran against your brothers and set up terrorist groups and published electronic battalions to beat your opponents."[444] Saudi media also alleged that Iran Revolutionary Guards are protecting Qatar's ruler Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani inside his palace.[445]

The Saudi-led bloc of states issued prerequisites to be met by Qatar before restoring diplomatic relations and lifting the blockade. The thirteen demands stipulated that the country must cut relations, military, and intelligence cooperation with Iran, comply with the US and international trade sanctions on Iran, immediately shut down a Turkish military base, and halt military cooperation with Turkey. It was also demanded that Qatar cut any existing ties with all "terrorist, sectarian and ideological organizations" such as ISIL, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and Hezbollah, and must concur with any group's addition to the list of terrorist organizations as defined by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.[446] Other demands were more punitive, requiring reparations and compensation for loss of life and other financial losses caused by Qatar's policies in recent years, the closure of state-funded media outlets like Al Jazeera, Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Mekameleen, and the Middle East Eye.[447]

The bloc sought a guarantee that Qatar will in the future align in all matters with other Gulf states, discuss all its decisions with them, and provide regular reports on its activity (monthly for the first year, quarterly for the second and annual for the following ten years). They also demanded deportation of all political refugees who live in Qatar to their countries of origin, freezing their assets, providing any desired information about their residency, movements and finances, revoking their Qatari citizenship if naturalized, and forbade Qatar from granting citizenship to any more fugitives.[448][449]

Upon rejection of demands by Qatar, the countries involved announced that the blockade would remain in place until Qatar changes its policies.[450][451]

With Omani and American mediation, all parties agreed to restore full diplomatic relations on 5 January 2021.[452]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict[edit]

2021 crisis[edit]

2019-22 Persian Gulf Crisis[edit]

Military tensions between Iran and the United States escalated in 2019 amid a series of confrontations involving the US, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman took place in May and June.[453][454] In the wake of growing tensions, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that Iran sought good relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their allies, and called on them to end their dispute with Qatar.[455]

In September 2019 a drone attack was launched on the Saudi Aramco oil processing facility in Abqaiq and Khurais oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The attack knocked out half of the country's oil supply.[456] Although the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged that Iran was behind the attack, a charge which Iran denied.[457] Saudi Arabia and the US were reportedly investigating whether the attacks involved cruise missiles launched from Iran or Iraq. US officials had previously concluded that the attack on the East-West pipeline was launched by Iranian-backed militias in southern Iraq, despite Houthi rebels also claiming responsibility.[458]

2019 Warsaw Conference[edit]

On 14 February, the United States and Poland hosted a anti-Iran conference in Warsaw which included participation of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom, all of which had notable anti-Iranian foreign policies.[citation needed]

Iran has protested over the conference, calling it a hostile move.[citation needed] The foreign policy chief of the European Union, Federica Mogherini said that she will not attend the Warsaw meeting, "which has received a cool reception from European countries."Russia's Foreign Ministry also released a statement on 22 January and cited that Russian officials will not attend the conference, which it described as an "anti-Iran platform." Major European powers such as Germany and France, refused to send their top diplomats over fears that the summit was designed mainly to build an alliance against Iran.

In response, Iran–Poland relations worsened, and Iran cancelled a Polish film festival.[459]

Death of Soleimani and Iranian retaliation[edit]

In retaliation of the U.S. bombings of the PMF, pro-Iranian groups stormed and occupied the American embassy at Baghdad, where Iraqi and American troops dispersed the rioters.[460] In what was considered an act of revenge, the United States assassinated Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike near Baghdad on 3 January 2020. Many pro-Iran groups and multiple countries condemned the strike,[461] with some hailing Soleimani as a "hero".[462][463][464][465] Iran, in retaliation, striked American airbases, and proceeded to shoot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 over Tehran hours later.

Venezuela presidential crisis[edit]

In May 2018, Maduro was re-elected for a second term, but the election was denounced as fraudulent by most neighboring countries, the European Union, Canada and the United States.[466] Iran, however, recognized the election and President Rouhani congratulated Maduro.[467]

In January 2019, the majority opposition National Assembly of Veneuzuela declared that Maduro's reelection was invalid and declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of Venezuela. The United States, Canada, Brazil and several Latin American countries recognized Guaidó as interim president.[468] Iran continued to support Maduro.[469]

Allegations of Iranian support of the Russo-Ukranian war[edit]

During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, multiple members of the U.S. Senate accused Iran of supporting Russia in its conflict against Ukraine.[470][471]

Involved Parties[edit]

Iranian supporters[edit]

Iraqi militias[edit]

Iran and Hezbollah have vocally and militarily supported multiple paramilitaries, PMCs, and militias in Iraq. The list goes as followed:

Popular Mobilization Forces[edit]

The Popular Mobilization Forces are a group of militias and PMCs mainly considered as Iranian proxies. The PMF is mainly anti-American, mainly after its leader was murdered by the United States, and is considered antisemetic.[477][478] The PMF is also known for garnishing large support from Russia, and Iraq.[479][480]



Syria and Iran are strategic allies. Syria is usually called Iran's "closest ally",[481] with ideological conflict between the Arab nationalism ideology of Syria's secular ruling Ba'ath Party and the Islamic Republic of Iran's pan-Islamist policy notwithstanding. Iran and Syria have had a strategic alliance ever since the Iran–Iraq War, when Syria sided with non-Arab Iran against neighbouring Ba'ath-ruled Iraq.[482] The two countries shared a common animosity towards then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and coordination against the United States and Israel.

Syria cooperates with Iran in sending arms to Palestinian groups including Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have designated both Iran and Syria as State Sponsors of Terrorism in part due to support for Hezbollah.[483]

During the Syrian Civil War, Iran conducted, alongside Russia, "an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power."[484] Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Russia also form an anti-terrorism alliance that has its headquarters in Baghdad.


Russia has been aligned with Iran and Syria for years. It intervened in Syria to provide support for the Assad government and to target rebel groups, working together with Iran and using Iranian air bases to stage air strikes.[485] It also joined Iran, Iraq, and Syria in forming a joint intelligence-sharing coalition as part of the fight against ISIL.[486] The alliance coincided with the US-led coalition created a year earlier to fight ISIL. The competing military actions were seen as part of a larger proxy conflict between the United States and Russia.[487][488][489] However, Russia's tie with Saudi Arabia has become increasingly warmed since 2010s despite numerous differences, thus sometimes affected Iran's stance on relations with Russia.[490]

In the past, Saudi Arabia backed Chechen and Dagestani fighters as well as Arab Mujahedeen in the North Caucasus during the First and Second Chechen Civil Wars in the 1990s, in which Russia has fought against them.[491] In recent years however, Saudi Arabia has shifted its diplomacy to become friendlier to Russia, with King Salman became the first Saudi head of state to visit Russia, heralding possible political change.[492] Since then, Saudi Arabia and Russia have started to support each other in various conflicts in Syria and Libya, with Saudi Arabia supported Russian intervention in Syria, while Russia and Saudi Arabia have together backed Khalifa Haftar's forces in Libya.[493][494] In addition, Saudi Arabia and Russia are also becoming more antagonistic to Iranian ambitions in the Middle East, as revealed by their secret cooperation alongside Israel and Jordan against Iran.[495]

Russia has also backed Iran against Turkey, especially during the former's invasion of Ukraine,[496] and against the U.S., Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf crisis.)[497][498]

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya[edit]

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 resulted in the overthrow of the Shah and the improvement of Iranian-Libyan relations. The turning point in Iran–Libya relations came during the Iran-Iraq War, when Libya came to Iran's aid despite Western pressure to keep Iran isolated. During the war Libya and Syria were Iran's only middle eastern allies.[499][500][501]

Both Iran and Libya were indicted in the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act as they were united by their anti-American stance. Gaddafi later bribed Iran to destabilize Saudi security.[502]


Hezbollah has also received Iranian-supplied weaponry, including 11,500 missiles already in place in southern Lebanon. 3,000 Hezbollah militants have undergone training in Iran, which included guerrilla warfare, firing missiles and rocket artillery, operating unmanned drones, naval warfare, and conventional war operations.[503]

Mahmoud Ali Suleiman, the Hezbollah operative captured in August 2006 by the IDF for his role in the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, admitted during his interrogation that he received weapons-training and religious instruction in Iran. He told his interrogators that he rode in a civilian car to Damascus, from where he flew to Iran.[504] Other than the Russian-made Katyusha, Hezbollah's reported artillery cache is entirely Iranian-made.

On August 4, 2006, Jane's Defence Weekly, a defense industry magazine, reported that Hezbollah asked Iran for "a constant supply of weapons to support its operations against Israel" in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. The report cited Western diplomatic sources as saying that Iranian authorities promised Hezbollah a steady supply of weapons "for the next stage of the confrontation".[505]

Iran long denied supplying Hezbollah with weapons,[506][507] despite persistent reports to the contrary.[505][508][509][510] However, "Mohtashami Pur, a one-time ambassador to Lebanon who currently holds the title of secretary-general of the 'Intifada conference,' told an Iranian newspaper that Iran transferred the missiles to the Shi'ite militia, adding that Hezbollah has his country's blessing to use the weapons in defense of Lebanon".[511] The Israel Defense Forces regard Hezbollah as virtually an arm of the Iranian armed forces; a senior Israeli defence official told Jane's Defence Weekly that "we should consider that what we are facing in Lebanon is not a militia but rather a special forces brigade of the Iranian Army."[512] In an interview in 2007, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Kassem told the Iranian Arabic-language TV station al-Qawthar that all terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Lebanon must be approved by the ayatollahs in Tehran; in 2008 Iran issued a stamp commemorating a recently killed Hezbollah leader.[513][514]

As of 2018, annual Iranian monetary support for Hezbollah is estimated at 700 million dollars according to US estimates.

Similar claims and denials regarding supply of weapons have been made with respect to Syria.[506][509][515] Many have accused Syria of funneling the weapons to Hezbollah from its border with Lebanon. Hassan Khalil, a top political adviser to Nasrallah, said that the group "firmly opposes the supervision of the Syrian-Lebanese border," adding that "Hezbollah has enough weapons to defend Lebanon against [an] Israeli aggression, even if borders with Syria are completely closed".[516] There has been multiple claims that have also mentioned a private security contractor, Jason G., claiming that Qatar sponsored Hezbollah as early as 2017, in which he was offered €750,000 by Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Sulaiman al-Khulaifi, Qatar's ambassador to Belgium, to hush up the supply of money and weapons to the organization.[517]

Palestinian Militants[edit]

Between 2005 and 2011, Iran was one of the main funders and suppliers of Hamas. Israel estimates the Hamas' Brigades have a core of several hundred members, who received military training, including training in Iran and in Syria (before the Syrian Civil War).[518] In 2011, after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, Hamas distanced itself from the Syrian government and its members began leaving Syria. Since 2012, Hamas ceased receiving any support from Iran due to Hamas' support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. In a speech for the spokesman of the Qassam brigades in 2014 on Hamas's 27 anniversary he thanked Iran for aid in finance and weapons.

Iran is also a major financial supporter of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ).[519][520][521][522] Following the Israeli and Egyptian squeeze on Hamas in early 2014, PIJ has seen its power steadily increase with the backing of funds from Iran.[523] Its financial backing is believed to also come from Syria.


For nearly three decades, Iran and Sudan enjoyed a close relationship. However, Sudan decided to expel all Iranian groups just hours before joining a Saudi military operation in Yemen in March 2015[524] as the Sudanese President is said to be calculating in favour of his fragile economy[525] in addition to the trauma and horror which struck the Sudanese society when seeing its best and brightest joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) this March, generating a huge public alarm about regional security.[526] The emotional component of protecting Saudi Arabia and walking back to the (Arab house) unfolded dramatically in Arab media.[527] On January 4, 2016 Sudan cut off all diplomatic relations with Iran due to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.[528] As a result, the bond between both countries has severely soured.

Once allies, both countries were once listed by the United States as "State Sponsors of Terrorism", although Sudan was removed from the list in December 2020 following its accession to the Abraham Accords. According to the U.S. Department of State, Iran remains a state sponsor of terror.


As President of Venezuela from 1999, before his death, former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez developed strong ties with the government of Iran, in particular in the area of energy production, economic, and industrial cooperation.[529] The two countries have good cooperation in construction, oil and gas, and in infrastructure projects. He has visited Iran on several occasions, the first time in 2001,[530] when he declared that he came to Iran to "prepare the road for peace, justice, stability and progress for the 21st century".[529] As the fifth President of Iran with a term lasting from 3 August 1997 to 3 August 2005,[531] Mohamed Khatami visited Venezuela on three occasions.[532] During his March 2005 visit, Chávez awarded him the Orden del Libertador and called him a "tireless fighter for all the right causes in the world."[532]

In March 2005, the BBC reported that Chavez's relationship with Iran and his support of their nuclear program has created concern for the US administration.[533]

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President of Iran on August 3, 2005.[534] Since then, Ahmadinejad and Chávez visited each other multiple times, signing more than 270 bilateral deals to support multiple campaigns for social and infrastructural national development. Both presidents of Venezuela and Iran, President Hugo Chávez and President Ahmadinejad, respectively, have described themselves on the world stage as opposed to "US imperialism".[535] Citing this commonality of opinion, they regard each other as allies, and they have embarked on a number of initiatives together.[536] Chávez never scrimped in displays of support for Ahmadinejad's Iran and immediately recognized the legitimacy of his second term as president and supported Tehran's nuclear policy.

In early May 2006, it was reported that Venezuela was interested in selling its 21 F-16 Fighting Falcons to Iran, an announcement which proved controversial.[537] Also in May 2006, Chávez expressed his favorable view of the production of nuclear energy in Iran announced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denied that they had plans to develop atomic weapons.[538]

In July 2006, Chávez paid a two-day visit to Iran when the government faced international criticism for continuing its nuclear program and backing Hezbollah guerrillas.[539] In July 2006, Chávez pledged that Venezuela would "stay by Iran at any time and under any condition." He said "We are with you and with Iran forever. As long as we remain united we will be able to defeat imperialism, but if we are divided they will push us aside".[540] In July 2006, Reuters reported that Chávez told a crowd at the University of Tehran, "If the U.S. succeeds in consolidating its dominance, then the humankind has no future. Therefore, we have to save the humankind and put an end to the U.S.". The reports adds that Chávez slashed out at Israel and labeled the 2006 Lebanon offensive as "fascist and terrorist."[541]

On January 6, 2007, the two announced that they would use some money from a previously-announced $2bn joint fund to invest in other countries that were "attempting to liberate themselves from the imperialist yoke", in Chavez's words.[536]

On March 16, 2007, Chavez said in a television interview that he disagreed with President Ahmadinejad's alleged call to "wipe Israel off the map" (which is a mistranslation) saying "I don't support causing harm to any nation.".[542] (See also Israel-Venezuela relations.)

The two presidents declared an "axis of unity" against "US imperialism" in July 2007.[535]

In May 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA for defying US law and sending “Iran two tankers of an oil product.”[543] In September 2011, Ahmadinejad postponed a visit to Caracas while Chavez recovered from a fourth round of cancer treatment, according to officials. Several days earlier, the two countries had “signed cooperation deals on manufacturing, energy, construction and agriculture during talks in Caracas.” Around this time, Maduro stated that ““While imperialism and its criminal elites have declared war on the Muslim people since more than 10 years ago, we in the Bolivarian Revolution, led by President Chavez, declare our love for the culture of Muslim people, all their history, and declare our eternal brotherhood.”[543]

The object of Chávez's Bolivarianism was to create an ideological basin spreading from the Caribbean Sea to the Persian Gulf. It is a role that Iran is trying to carve out for itself amidst the undercurrents  engulfing his part of the world and the need to show that Iran is not isolated internationally.

n January 2015, Maduro visited Iran, as a stop on his tour of other OPEC countries. Both Maduro and Rouhani agreed that falling oil prices resulted from increased fracking in the United States, as well as their “common enemies” using oil prices as a “political ploy.” Rouhani affirmed that Iran and Venezuela would join forces to “thwart world powers’ strategies ... and to stabilize prices at a reasonable level in 2015.” At the time, Venezuelan oil accounted for “over 95 percent of the country's export earnings,” with the price of a barrel dropping by half since 2014.[544]

In June 2015, Iran and Venezuela signed a series of agreements to “fund joint investments and improve the supply of goods,” with Maduro announcing “These are six agreements of major importance for the economy of our countries.” The countries agreed to jointly fund a research program in nanotechnology, and Maduro also stated that he secured goods “necessary for the Venezuelan people” such as drugs and surgical equipment. Iran's Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade reportedly stated the agreement was preliminary subject to review by Iran's finance ministry.[545]

On November 23, 2015, Maduro and Rouhani met in Tehran[546] in Maduro's second visit to the country that year, and the fifth from Venezuelan senior officials. During the meetings, the presidents announced they were re-affirming their country's mutual alliance. [547] In January 2016, Maduro and Rouhani reportedly held telephone talks where "Maduro called on Rouhani to promote the adoption of measures to restore oil prices on the world market," with Maduro calling for a meeting of OPEC members to address the issue, and congratulating Rouhani on recent cancelations of sanctions.[548]

In May 2018, Maduro was re-elected for a second term, but the election was denounced as fraudulent by most neighboring countries, the European Union, Canada and the United States.[549] Iran, however, recognized the election and President Rouhani congratulated Maduro.[550]

In January 2019, the majority opposition National Assembly of Veneuzuela declared that Maduro's reelection was invalid and declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of Venezuela. The United States, Canada, Brazil and several Latin American countries recognized Guaidó as interim president.[551] Iran continued to support Maduro.[552]


The Houthis are a Yemeni rebel group that are currently fighting against the Yemeni Government, the Saudi-led coalition,[553] and the United States.[554] Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh had accused the Houthis of having ties to external backers, in particular the Iranian government.[555] Saleh stated in a New York Times' interview that "The real reason they received unofficial support from Iran was because they repeat same slogan that is raised by Iran death to America, death to Israel". He also said "The Iranian media repeats statements of support for these Houthi elements. They are all trying to take revenge against the USA on Yemeni territories". The Houthis are also allegedly supported by Qatar,[556]>[557][558][559] Hezbollah, and Syria.[560][561]

The Houthis were formerly designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. on 10 January 2021, but was delisted a month later.[562]


In January 2020, China condemned the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi alleging that the targeted killing of an Iranian general in Iraqi territory by the United States was in violation of international law.[563]

In June 2020, Iran was one of 53 countries that backed the Hong Kong national security law at the United Nations.[564]

North Korea[edit]

Diplomatic relations between Iran and North Korea improved following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the establishment of an Islamic Republic. Iran and North Korea pledge cooperation in educational, scientific, and cultural spheres.[565] Some media reports claim this cooperation extends to nuclear cooperation,[566] though official U.S. government publications[567] and academic studies have disputed this.[568] The United States has been greatly concerned by North Korea's arms deals with Iran, which started during the 1980s with North Korea acting as a third party in arms deals between the Communist bloc and Iran, as well as selling domestically produced weapons to Iran, and North Korea continues selling missiles to Iran. North Korea and Iran are the remaining two members of George W. Bush's "Axis of evil", which has led to many of the concerns regarding Iran–North Korea relations.

The United States designates both nations as State Sponsors of Terrorism, and they reciprocate this shared enmity. Despite this, Iran is one of the few countries in the world that has a good relationship with both North and South Korea.

Nor were the two states in full concord in adopting a position toward the various manifestations of international terrorism. On the one hand, both Iran and the North Korea provided military assistance to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they actively sided with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian wing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during the Syrian civil war. North Korea and Iran held substantially different views about the conflicts in which the Taliban, the Boko Haram, and the Iraqi wing of ISIL were involved. While the North Korea stressed that U.S. efforts to suppress these organizations constituted interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Iraq, the Iranian leaders, who regarded Sunni Salafi extremism as a direct threat to their own interests, repeatedly accused America of not striving hard enough to eliminate these groups or even seeking to reach an agreement with them.[569][570]

During the intertwined North Korean and Iranian nuclear crises, the favorable or unfavorable views that Iranian observers and policy-makers formed about North Korea's nuclear policies were considerably influenced by their political affiliation. In general, Iranian reformists were more negatively disposed toward the DPRK than conservative hard-liners, as they were of the opinion that Iran could not afford to pursue a confrontational nuclear strategy akin to North Korea's policy. Conservative hard-liners cited North Korea's open nuclear defiance of America's might as a positive example that Iran should emulate, but if the DPRK happened to enter nuclear talks with the U.S., they monitored the negotiations with thinly veiled distrust.[571]


Following Lebanese President Michel Suleiman's visit to Tehran in 2008 and the signing of a military and economic agreement between the two countries, formal military ties were encouraged.[572]

Following the 2010 Adaisseh incident and consequent American threats to cut off funding for the Lebanese Army should it not be verified that Hezbollah would be kept from getting access to it, Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias Murr set up a fund to ask for donations to the armed forces.[573] A few weeks later Suleiman asked Iran to consider selling advanced military equipment to the Lebanese Army, while stating modernization should take place while keeping in mind Beirut's strategic needs as well as its budget limitations.[citation needed] The next day, Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi expressed readiness to offer military aid to Lebanon. "Lebanon is a friend and its army is our friend. We are prepared to help them."[574] Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, affirmed Iran's willingness to aid Lebanon as requested by President Sleiman and Defense Minister Elias Murr. Upon being asked if Iran was willing to sell advanced rocket systems, Abadi said the Iranian Defense Minister was clear on this matter. "Everything is open before Lebanon in supplying it with arms and supporting it other fields." He also affirmed Iran would help in solving Lebanon's electricity problems at international rates in six months.[575] Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said that the Lebanese executive (as led by Saad Hariri), was afraid of the US' wrath and thus would not pursue the Iranian offer of arms supplies.[576]

Iran's ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, vowed that Iran would support Lebanon in its battle with Israel.[577]

Polisario Front[edit]

Iran has funded the Polisario Front via Hezbollah, Syria, and Algeria, with the goal to subvert Morocco.[578][579]

Bahraini opposition[edit]

In the aftermath of the Bahraini uprising of 2011, the Al-Ashtar Brigades were formed allegedly by the IRGC with the goal to overthrow Bahrain's Sunni Government. Th Al-Ashtar Brigades are also supported by Qatar and Iraq.[580][581] Along with the February 14 Youth Coalition, AL-Ashtar initiated an insurgency.

The Al-Ashtar Brigades has stated that it is loyal to the government of Iran, and has adopted branding consistent with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.[582]


The United States alleges of a mutual connection between al-Qaeda and Iran.[583][584][585]


United States supporters[edit]


Saudi Arabia[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]








Syrian opposition[edit]

Free Syrian Army[edit]
Syrian Democratic Forces[edit]



On 23 February 2011, Senegal severed diplomatic relations with Iran but relations have since then been restablished.[586][587]



People's Mujahedin of Iran[edit]


In October 2008, Australia imposed sanctions against Iran because of Iran's nuclear program and missile program and efforts to contravene United Nations Security Council sanctions. These sanctions were applied to gold, precious metals, and arms.[588]

In July 2010, Australia imposed financial sanctions and travel bans on individuals and entities involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs or who assist Iran in violating sanctions, and an arms embargo.[589] As of 2011, the two-way trade, which had diminished in recent years, was still $200 million.

Australia imposed further sanctions in January 2013 to limit Australian business with oil, gas, petroleum and financial sectors in Iran. Foreign Minister of Australia Bob Carr said "These sanctions further increase pressure on Iran to comply with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations and with UN Security Council resolutions and to engage in serious negotiations on its nuclear program".[590]

In 2014-15, the two-way trade was more than $354 million.[591] Most international sanctions on Iran were lifted in 2016, following the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

Baloch rebels[edit]

Ba'athist Iraq[edit]

American support for Ba'athist Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War, in which it fought against post-revolutionary Iran, included several billion dollars' worth of economic aid, the sale of dual-use technology, military intelligence, and special operations training.[592][593] The U.S. refused to sell arms to Iraq directly due to Iraq's ties to terrorist groups, but several sales of "dual-use" technology have been documented; notably, Iraq purchased 45 Bell helicopters for $200 million in 1985.[594][595] Of particular interest for contemporary Iran–United States relations are accusations that the U.S. government actively encouraged Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to invade Iran (proponents of this theory frequently describe the U.S. as having given Saddam a green-light), supported by a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence and generally regarded as the conventional wisdom in the Arab world, but the U.S. government officially denies that any such collusion occurred, and no direct documentary proof of it has been found.

U.S. government support for Iraq was not a secret and was frequently discussed in open sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives. On June 9, 1992, Ted Koppel reported on ABC's Nightline that the "Reagan/Bush administrations permitted—and frequently encouraged—the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq."[596]

American views toward Iraq were not enthusiastically supportive in its conflict with Iran, and activity in assistance was largely to prevent an Iranian victory. This was encapsulated by Henry Kissinger when he remarked, "It's a pity they both can't lose."[597][598]



Other involved parties[edit]








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