Saudi Arabia-Iran Proxy War

Saudi Arabia and Iran, The Middle East

The influence of the United States has, to a great extent, shaped the ongoing regional tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Within a decade of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the US played a significant role in securing the position of the house of Saud at the head of Arabian state. The California Texas Oil Company (later Caltex) helped save the Saudi king from financial ruin as the Second World War broke out, bringing with it a substantial decrease in visiting pilgrims and oil production and thereby threatening the viability of the nascent state. The payment of advances against future royalties as a means of securing a stake in the country’s future was a tactic quickly adopted by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government, who used the 1941 Lend-Lease Act to indirectly channel funds to the kingdom via Britain. In February 1943, President Roosevelt gave his approval for direct Lend-Lease aid to be given to Saudi Arabia, in a statement which confirmed Saudi Arabia to be “vital to the defense of the United States”. This affirmation of the centrality of the US-Saudi relationship to the country’s handling of Middle East affairs has defined its approach to the region ever since.

By contrast, the Iranian-US relationship has a much more chequered history, despite auspicious moments at the beginning of the twentieth century. Americans such as William Schuster and Howard Baskerville were influential in the Iranian constitutional revolution between 1906-11, acting against the colonial machinations of Britain and Russia who sought to cement the absolute rule of the Qajar monarchs. Yet, the good feeling created by the memory of such individuals was shattered in the years following the Second World War, when the US collaborated with the UK to remove the democratically-elected Mohammed Mossadeq from office on the mistaken grounds that he was pro-communist. This event, combined with the subsequent policy of propping-up the autocratic rule of successive Shahs, sullied the reputation of the US in Iran – a fact only fully realised in the 1979 Islamic Revolution which overthrew the Shah and established the Islamic Republic of Iran, in which the US was depicted consistently as the ‘Great Satan’.

In addition to damaging its relationship with the US, the Iranian Revolution led to a substantial worsening of Saudi-Iranian ties. The ‘Islamic’ character of the uprising threatened Saudi Arabia’s claim to leadership of the Muslim world by virtue of its custody of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and the predominance of the Shia sect in Iran created a dangerous precedent for the oppressed Shia minority within Saudi Arabia to potentially follow. The geopolitical threats to the kingdom’s regional hegemony combined with a fundamental intolerance of Shia Islam within the Wahhabi doctrine practiced in Saudi Arabia to foster a rivalry which would only grow as time went on. Saudi Arabia supported Saddam Hussein in the 8-year Iran-Iraq War which began with the invasion of Iran in 1980 and involved the repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers (investigations into which were blocked by the US). Iranian-Saudi tensions during this period were further damaged by the 1987 Mecca Incident, which saw over 400 people killed in a stampede following the decision of Saudi authorities to prevent Iranian pilgrims demonstrating against Israel and the US.

In the intervening years the two countries have generally adopted opposing positions on regional conflicts, with Saudi Arabia generally aligning with US interests and Iran generally opposing them. An ongoing proxy war has developed, whereby both countries seize every opportunity to weaken the other’s interests in the region. This has led to Saudi Arabia backing Jihadi rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War, while Iran supports the government. Iran has likewise offered support to the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, which occasionally fires missiles over the border into Saudi territory. Iran also adopts a significantly stronger anti-Israel stance than the Saudi kingdom, which has looked to facilitate the gradual thawing of tensions between the country and its Arab neighbours in recent years.

The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians, which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen, requires us to say to [the Saudis], as well as to the Iranians, that they need to find an effective way to share the neighbourhood and institute some sort of cold peace.

Key Facts

Over 2 million

People killed


Proxy wars

Ongoing for

43 years

Where: Middle East 
When: Ongoing since 1979
Proxy Wars:

              Syrian Civil War

Ongoing since March 15 2011

Deaths – 500,000

Refugees – 5.6 million (March 2018, United Nations)

Internally displaced people – 6.1 million (March 2018 – United Nations)

In need of humanitarian assistance – 13 million (March 2018 – United Nations)

            Yemen Civil War

Ongoing since March 19 2015

Deaths – 91,600 (June 2019, Associated Press)

Refugees – 3 million (UNCHR)

At risk of starvation – 15+ million (UNHCR)

With Cholera – 1.1 million (UNHCR)

               Iraq Civil War

Ongoing since January 1 2014

Deaths – 100,000

Refugees – 5.6 million

               Afghanistan War

Ongoing since April 27 1978 

Deaths – 1.5 to 2 million

Countries also involved: Pakistan, Nigeria, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon

The Key Actors

The Situation

Classification: Regional Power Struggle, Proxy Wars

Analyst’s suggestions:

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Saudi Arabia was the dominant Islamic state in the Middle East. The Iranian revolution of ‘79 threatened the status quo.

Iranians in Mecca and Medina clash with Saudi police after chanting political slogans. Iran accused Saudi authorities of discrimination towards Iranian pilgrims

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain form the Gulf Cooperation Council as part of a security response to the Iranian revolution and Iran-Iraq war.

Saudi Arabia reportedly supplies Iraq with $1bn per month in aid

 Iran attacks a Saudi oil tanker in Saudi waters in retaliation to Iraq’s attempts to interfere with Iran’s oil shipping. Saudi Arabia retaliates by shooting down an Iranian Phantom jet over Saudi waters.

Shiite pilgrims clash with Saudi police during the hajj, which resulted in a stampede. At least 400 are killed including more than 200 Iranians. Iranian protesters respond by attacking the Saudi and Kuwaiti embassies in Tehran

Saudi Arabia severs ties with Iran as a result of the hajj clash

Iran boycotts the hajj following Saudi Arabia reducing the number of pilgrim visas in response to the 1987 clashes

Tensions eased to some degree under President Akbar-Hashemi Rafsanjani who sought to improve Iran’s relations with its neighbors including Saudi Arabia. Trade and direct flights between the two increase.

Saudi Arabia sends aid to Iran after an earthquake kills 40,000

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia’s Capital city) and Tehran (Iran’s Capital city) restore diplomatic tie.

Following the Gulf War, Iraq was weakened and Saudi Arabia and Iran became the major regional powers.

Tensions eased again under President Mohammad Khatami who introduces a period of outreach to the Gulf. However, Saudi officials grow wary of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, limiting the influence of Khatami’s outreach program.

Crown Prince Abdullah attends the Organization of Islamic Conference summit in Tehran becoming the most senior Saudi official to visit Iran since 1979

Iranian President Khatami meets with Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia becoming the first Iranian leader to visit Saudi Arabia since 1979

Saudi officials grow increasingly wary of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq. The US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 empowered Iraq’s Shiite majority and resulted in a shift of political alignment towards Iran.

Tensions increased when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came into power as he takes a hardline stance on foreign policy.

The war between Israel and Hezbollah (Lebanese militant group who receive funding from Iran) increases Saudi suspicions that Tehran is creating new regional alliances that threaten Saudi interests

Uprisings across the Arab world known as the Arab Spring cause political instability throughout the region which Iran and Saudi Arabia exploit to expand their influence particularly in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen

Saudi officials accuse Iran of inciting protest in Bahrain against the country’s Sunni royal family. Saudi officials are concerned that Bahrain’s Shiite majority will take power and ally with Iran. Saudi troops assist in quelling the unrest at the request of Bahrain’s Sunni Royal family

The U.S. Justice Department charges two Iranians with attempting to murder Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al Jubeir. Iran accuses the U.S. of fabrication and attempting to increase tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

 The Syrian Civil War begins. Iran actively backs the Syrian government while also backing the Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah who also actively support the Syrian government. Saudi Arabia is a member of the U.S.-led coalition that supports a myriad of rebel groups including the Free Syrian Army and Syrian Democratic Forces

Saudi Arabia blames Iran for protest against anti-Shiite discrimination in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province

Moderate Hassan Rouhani is elected Iranian president. Rouhani amends Iran’s foreign policy to a friendlier stance. Relations between Iran and most Gulf Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, improve.

Iran strikes an interim deal with big powers (US, UK, Russia, France, Germany, China) to limit its nuclear activity

Saudi authorities issue a death sentence for Nimr al Nimr a Shiite cleric involved in the 2011 protests. Iranian officials denounce the conviction

Iran increases it ground support for the Syrian Army (Russia also increases support for the Syrian Army in collaboration with Iran)

The U.S. coalition, including Saudi Arabia, begin launching airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria

The US increased efforts to curb Iran’s influence in the region after a deal saw Iran give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief

Saudi Arabia increases its support for the rebels fighting in the Syrian civil war.

Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to participate in peace talks regarding the proxy war however these ultimately failed.

Yemen Civil War begins. It is fought between the Supreme Revolutionary Committee led by the Houthis who are supported by Iran and forces loyal to current Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi who is strongly supported by the Saudi-led coalition.

A stampede in Mina, Mecca, during the hajj kills at least 2000 people including hundreds of Iranians. Tehran accuses Riyadh of mismanagement and threatens legal action.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Saudi counterpart Adel al Jubeir allegedly  get into a heated argument during Syrian peace talks in Vienna.

Saudi Arabia executes Sheikh Nimr al Nimr a prominent Shiite leader who supported anti-government demonstrations. This prompted protests or condemnation from Shiites in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Lebanon and Yemen. Iranian protesters burn part of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and storm the compound.

Following the protests and violence at the Saudi Embassy,Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Bahrain sever diplomatic ties, the UAE downgrades its relations with Iran. All members of the Arab League except Lebanon issue a statement condemning the attacks.

Saudi-led coalition bomb strikes a funeral procession in Yemen’s capital Sana’a killing 155.

Missiles are launched by Iranian supported Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi territory allegedly targeting a missile in Riyadh.

 Riyadh and several Sunni allies break off diplomatic relations with Qatar alleging Doha of supporting extremism that is linked with Iran (this was denied by both Iran and Qatar). This further increased tension.

 Houthi rebels in Yemen fire rockets at Riyadh. The attack is thwarted by Saudi Arabia’s missile shield.

 Saad Hariri Lebanon’s Prime Minister who is supported by Saudi Arabia announced during a broadcast from Riyadh his resignation, blaming Iran’s “grip” on his country via Hezbollah. Iran believe this resignation was forced, they also allege Hariri is being held against his will and the Saudis are using him as a pawn in the proxy conflict.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of “a blatant act of military aggression” alleging that the missiles fired at Riyadh by Yemeni Houthi militias originated in Iran. Tehran denies this.

Riyadh tightens the blockade on Yemen

 Yemeni officials allege that their President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has been barred from leaving Riyadh, possibly as part of a feud with the UAE who are a key player in the Saudi-led coalition against rebels in Yemen

Lebanese officials state that they fear Hariri’s resignation was part of a regional power play, with Saudi Arabia attempting to upset the delicate balance holding together Lebanon’s government. A change in the makeup of the Lebanese government could upset the Iran-linked Hezbollah who already accuse Riyadh of forcing Hariri to resign.

 The U.S. gives its support to Saudi Arabia. Nikki Haley, ambassador to the UN calls for the UN to “hold the Iranian regime accountable” for allegedly providing weapons to the Houthis

The UN warns that the tightened blockage on Yemen could cause “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.”

French President Emmanuel Macron announced while in Dubai that he would travel to Riyadh to meet Saudi officials. He said he wanted to meet Mohammad bin Salman the crown prince to discuss regional stability.

SPA (Saudi Press Agency) report that Saudi nationals are being told to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible.”

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun told a Saud official that Hariri’s resignation is unacceptable.

Lebanon’s leader of Hezbollah said in a televised address that it is clear that Hariri is detained in Riyadh and the “Saudi Arabia and Saudi officials have declared war on Lebanon.”

The Saudi-led coalition reopens its land border to allow aid into the Yemen. The ports remained closed.

Former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh in a televised speech suggests a willingness to engage in peace talks with Saudi Arabia to end the conflict. This is seen as a move aimed at side-lining Houthi rebels.

Former Yemen President Saleh is assassinated by Houthi fighters.

Houthi rebels fire a ballistic missile toward an airport at the Saudi border. The Saudi defense forces report that they shot down the missile, and note that the attack demonstrates the continued support of the Houthis by Iran.

Saudi Arabia joins forces with the US, Great Britain, and France to support a UN draft resolution condemning Iran for its failure to stop Houthi rebels from gaining access to ballistics.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia tells CBS that Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if Iran does so.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman announces that he will be putting more economic and political pressure on Iran, and urges other nations to follow suit.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei accuses the US of using Saudi money to assist in the creation of the Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia vocally supports US President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Iran takes advantage of the lifted sanctions to develop more ballistics and support various terrorist militias, including the Houthis.

The US reinstates sanctions against Iran.

Despite the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate, US President Trump reaffirms that the US will stand by Saudi Arabia as a staunch ally against Iran.

Iran has seized another foreign oil tanker in the Arabian Gulf and detained the ship’s seven crew members. The capture is the third such seizure in a month amid heightened tensions with the United States and its Arab allies, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have attacked a massive oil and gas field in Saudi Arabia. This is the second such attack on the Saudi energy industry in recent days and comes amid high Middle East tensions.

This month, at his Mecca palace, Saudi King Salman took the unusual step of expressing “extreme irritation” with the UAE, his closest Arab partner, according to sources familiar with the matter. The comment appears to be evidence of a fissure in the alliance, which is led in practice by the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), and the UAE de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MbZ).

Saudi Arabia charged Monday that Iranian weapons were used to attack the kingdom’s oil installations, dismissing claims of responsibility by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who threatened additional assaults amid U.S. warnings of retaliation. The Houthis’ new threat, reported Monday by the group’s al-Masirah TV, came two days after they claimed a crippling assault on facilities in the desert kingdom. U.S. officials, meanwhile, were blaming Iran and its other proxies around the region, and President Trump warned that the United States was “locked and loaded” and ready to respond.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame on Iran for an attack at a Saudi oil field in a pair of tweets Saturday. Drone strikes on crucial Saudi Arabian oil facilities have disrupted about half of the kingdom’s oil capacity, or 5% of the daily global oil supply, CNN Business reported earlier Saturday. Yemen’s Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attacks but they are often backed by Iran.

An oil tanker belonging to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was hit and damaged by two missiles. The missiles were “possibly” fired from Saudi soil, Saheb Sadeghi, head of the public relations of the National Iranian Tanker Company, told state-run Press TV.

US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper says he has authorised the deployment of additional forces, including fighter jets and a defence system. He said it was in response to “threats in the region”, amid efforts to protect the kingdom from

“Iranian aggression”. The move comes after an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in September.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is heading for Tehran, two government officials said on Friday, weeks after the United States asked him to help mediate between long-time regional foes Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Yemen’s exiled government and southern secessionists have agreed to a preliminary deal.

The Riyadh Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia with support from the United Arab Emirates, is expected to be signed in the coming days. It expands the political influence of southern secessionists in return for their forces returning to the ranks of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The United Arab Emirates has said it has completed the withdrawal of its troops from Yemen’s southern port city of Aden as part of a deal brokered with Saudi Arabia to end a power struggle between southern separatists and the internationally backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Yemen’s civil war has killed more than 100,000 people since 2015, a database project that tracks violence said Thursday. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, said in a new report that this death toll includes more than 12,000 civilians that have been killed in attacks that directly targeted civilians.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed the United States and its allies for spreading “insecurity and turmoil” in Iraq and Lebanon, urging anti-government protesters in both countries to seek changes in a lawful way.

At least 4,000 Sudanese soldiers have been killed in Yemen since 2015 as part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels, a Houthi military spokesman said Saturday.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government and UAE-backed separatists have signed a power-sharing deal to halt infighting. The agreement will result in a government reshuffle to include the separatists with equal representation, and their armed forces will be placed under government control.

The U.N. envoy for Yemen has said the momentum to end the country’s devastating five-year war is building, pointing to a nearly 80 percent drop in airstrikes nationwide in the last two weeks, a strengthened cease-fire in the key port of Hodeida, and the beginning of the kind of leadership needed to restore peace to the Arab world’s poorest nation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has helped repatriate 128 rebels from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.

It comes two days after the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels said they would release 200 Houthi prisoners and allow medical cases to be flown out of Yemen’s rebel-held capital.

Iran acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that its security forces shot and killed protesters across the country to put down demonstrations last month over the sharply spiking price of gasoline, the deadliest unrest to hit the country since the turmoil of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

OPEC and allies led by Russia on Thursday agreed to one of the deepest output cuts this decade to prevent oversupply, in a deal that would apply for the first three months of 2020.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is meeting to discuss policy in Vienna. On Friday, OPEC will meet with Russia and other producers, a group known as OPEC+.

The Pentagon is considering sending thousands more troops to the Middle East as part of an effort to beef up air defense capabilities in the face of Iranian moves that include its recent transfer of short-range missiles into Iraq, CNN has learned from multiple defense officials.

The most realistic options include potentially sending 4,000 to 7,000 additional US troops to the region, the officials said.

Former minister Hassan Diab was named Lebanon’s new prime minister on Thursday with support from the Iran-backed group Hezbollah and its allies, a move that could complicate efforts to secure badly needed Western financial aid.

The nomination sets the stage for the formation of a cabinet that excludes allies of the United States and Sunni Gulf Arab countries while underlining the influence of Iran’s friends in Lebanon.

Diab, a little-known academic with a doctorate in computer engineering, vowed on Thursday to form a government quickly that works to pull the country out of economic crisis and reassures people who have protested against the political class for two months.

A delegation from Yemen’s Houthi rebel group held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Oman on Tuesday, according to a Houthi-run television. Al-Masirah television said the talks tackled the humanitarian situation in Yemen and the “blockade” imposed on the war-torn country. Discussions also took up the latest developments in Yemen and the region.

Iranian-backed bloc in Iraq’s parliament on Wednesday nominated Asaad al-Eidani, the governor of the southern province of Basra, as the new prime minister, a move rejected by many protesters who demand a complete overhaul of the political system. 

Iraqi President Barham Salid has refused to designate the nominee of an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc for prime minister, saying he would rather resign than appoint someone to the position who would be rejected by protesters.

US President Donald Trump has said that he ordered a precision strike to “terminate” a top Iranian commander who was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans, adding that the decision was one of deterrence rather than aggression. 

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said in a statement from his Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday, a day after a US drone strike on a Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani.

Iran, in a letter to the United Nations, called the attack state terrorism and an unlawful criminal act.

Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops overnight, declaring the strikes to be retaliation for the killing last week of the senior Iranian general Qassem Suleimani.

Al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province was hit 17 times, including by two ballistic missiles that failed to detonate, according to the Iraqi government. A further five missiles were targeted at a base in the northern city of Erbil in the assault

 An attack on a military training camp in western Yemen killed dozens of government soldiers and wounded at least 100 others.

Yemen’s president warned the military it needs to be on high alert and ready for battle following the mass-casualty attack he blamed on the Houthi rebels in the city of Marib.

The death toll from a suspected Houthi rebel missile attack on Yemeni government forces has risen to at least 116, making it one of the bloodiest incidents in the country’s civil war, and threatening to derail the country’s fragile peace process.

Ballistic missiles hit a mosque at al-Estiqbal military camp in the central province of Ma’rib, where soldiers had gathered for evening prayers. Pictures and video from the scene showed a huge impact crater in the spot where the mosque had stood.

Lebanon formed a new government, the presidency announced after Shi’ite Hezbollah and its allies clinched a deal on a cabinet that must tackle the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

Heavily indebted Lebanon has been without effective government since Saad al-Hariri resigned as premier in October under pressure from protests against state corruption and waste – root causes of the crisis.

The US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified green zone came under attack from rocket fire. 

Five rockets crashed into a riverbank near the embassy in the Iraqi capital without causing any injuries, the US Joint Operations Command said in a statement, but AFP news agency citing a security source said that three of the rockets “directly hit the US embassy”. One slammed into a cafeteria at dinner time, it added.

Iran is ready to strike the United States and Israel if they give it any reason to do so, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said in a live speech on state television. “If you make the slightest error, we will hit both of you,” Major General Hossein Salami said at a ceremony marking the 40th day since the death of top commander Qassem Soleimani.

A coalition spokesman confirmed that a Saudi Tornado fighter jet had “fallen” while carrying out a support mission near Yemeni army units, according to Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they shot down the plane. The United Nations said 31 civilians were killed in Saudi airstrikes in al-Jawf on

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen killed more than 30 civilians, according to U.N. officials. The airstrikes targeting Yemen’s northern Al-Jawf province came a day after the country’s rebel Houthi movement claimed it had shot down a coalition warplane in the same area. The attacks were widely seen as a retaliation for the downing of the fighter jet.

Several rockets landed near the embassy of the United States in Iraq’s capital early on Sunday, US and Iraqi military officials said, in the latest of a series of attacks against US assets in the country. The rockets struck an Iraqi base hosting US troops and other coalition forces in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, an area that is home to foreign embassies and government offices.

Lebanon may not survive if its new government fails, the powerful Hezbollah warned, urging the country’s divided politicians not to obstruct the cabinet as it seeks to address an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also said there was no point in politicians trading blame over the causes of the crisis, after former prime minister Saad al-Hariri accused his rivals of pushing the country to near-collapse.

Senior officials in Iran and Iraq have decided to establish a joint committee to prosecute the US officials involved in the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, Iranian IRNA Agency reported.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that when it comes to the rising tensions in the Gulf, the United States and Saudi Arabia are to blame.

“I believe our neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, do not want to (de-escalate),” Zarif said when asked about the status of the relationship at the Munich Security Conference. He added that he suspected Riyadh was operating under the influence of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” on Iran.

Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, uses his visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss security concerns over Iran with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen, Turki al-Maliki, claims their military has intercepted several missiles fired at Saudi cities from the Yemeni capital Sana’a. 

One Saudi citizen is sentenced to death and a further seven to time in jail for alleged treason and spying for Iran.  

Meanwhile, the CEO of an online payment processing company, Ahmad Khawaja, alleges that Saudi and Emirati officials used stolen identities to contribute to Trump’s election campaign in 2016. The funding was allegedly provided on the understanding that further sanctions would be imposed on Iran in the event of a Trump victory. 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen claims it has foiled an attempted terrorist attack on an oil tanker off Yemen’s coast. 

The Gulf state accuses Iran of deliberately covering up the spread of coronavirus and failing to stamp Bahraini passports. 

Saudi Arabia claims to have intercepted missiles allegedly fired at the cities of Riyadh and Jizan by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. 

The Saudi-led coalition launches 19 air strikes on the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in response to the previous day’s missile attacks on Saudi cities. No casualties are reported. 

The social media site Twitter removes thousands of fake accounts linked to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which were found to be spreading fake news about Qatar, Turkey and Iran. 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen announces a unilateral two-week ceasefire as a means of enabling the country to effectively counter the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, fighting appears set to continue. 

Iran and Saudi Arabia rank only behind China in terms of the number of executions carried out in 2019, according to a report released by Amnesty International. Iran was found to have put at least 251 to death in the previous year, while Saudi Arabia executed 184. 

The unilateral ceasefire announced by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen two weeks’ prior is extended by a further month. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tells the Emir of Qatar that Iran is closely monitoring US activities in the Middle East, as tensions between the two powers continue. 

Saudi Arabia announces that those sentenced to death while still minors are no longer eligible for execution. 

The sanctions waiver, which enables Iraq to continue importing Iranian electricity and gas despite international sanctions against the country, is extended by a further 30 days. However, the length of this extension is significantly reduced from the conventional terms of 45 or 120 days – an attempt by the Trump administration to increase pressure on Iran. 

The US calls on countries to prevent Iran’s Mahan Air from flying through their airspace, as the flights are alleged to be transporting support to the Maduro government, which the US opposes. 

Abbas Musavi, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, releases a statement condemning the German government’s decision to ban the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and clamp down on its activities in the country. Musavi accuses Germany of adopting the position “without considering the realities” in West Asia and supporting the interests of the “propaganda machine of the Zionist regime and the confused US regime”. 

Hundreds of fake social media accounts allegedly linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation (IRIB) are removed from Facebook. It is claimed that the accounts deliberately spread “disinformation” to further Iran’s political interests. 

US President Donald Trump vetoes legislation passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier this year, which sought to limit his ability to wage war against Iran. The legislation was initially passed in response to the extra-judicial murder of the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, by US forces in January.

The United States begins to scale back a build -p of military assets in Saudi Arabia, which had been amassed in order to intimidate Iran earlier in the year. Military personnel as well as surface-to-air missiles are set to be removed.

US President Donald Trump and King Salman of Saudi Arabia discuss their shared strategic interests in the Middle East and in maintaining stability in the energy markets during a phone call. The call comes after the removal of US military assets from Saudi Arabia and the fallout from Saudi’s aggressive oil price war damaged the US energy industry.

Ali Rabiei, a spokesman for the Iranian government, expresses the country’s willingness to conduct an exchange of prisoners with the US “without any preconditions” as a means of mitigating against the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on prison populations.

The US publicly threatens the trigger a return of all UN Sanctions against Iran should the UN Security Council refuse to extend the arms embargo currently in place, which is due to expire in October this year.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, writes a letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres warning against US attempts to deploy its navy to intercept Iranian fuel transfers to Venezuela. The US has spearheaded severe sanctions against both countries.

Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza becomes the latest target of US sanctions, allegedly imposed in response to “serious human rights abuses” committed during last November’s countrywide protests. Senior law enforcement officials are similarly targeted.

Satellite images of a Saudi nuclear reactor site emerge, apparently showing significant progress with building works on the site – a development causing alarm with international arms monitors, as the kingdom is yet to implement International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules.

 A flotilla of five Iranian oil tankers carrying over one-and-a-half million barrels of alkylate and gasoline to Venezuela, in spite of US opposition, reaches the Caribbean Sea. Venezuela has confirmed that its military will escort the ships to land once they reach the country’s territorial waters.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warns that the US will “be in trouble” if they intercept oil tankers en route to Venezuela. The comments emerged from a phone call with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, during which Rouhani confirmed that Iran would never initiate a conflict with the Americans.

The first among a flotilla of Iranian fuel tankers headed for Venezuela reaches the country’s territorial waters unimpeded by any American interference, suggesting that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was merely posturing during recent public statements.

Sanctions waivers which had enabled European, Chinese and Russian firms to operate at a limited number of Iranian nuclear sites. The motive for the move is initially unclear as the operations of international bodies at these sites were intended to reduce the Iranian capacity for making nuclear weapons.

Germany, France and the United Kingdom announce their regret at a decision by the US to end three of four sanctions waivers in Iran. These waivers enabled work to be carried out on Iranian nuclear sites with a view to preventing the development of weapons.

Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, calls on the US to “stop violence” against its people after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman. The comments come alongside an announcement that the country is prepared to continue supplying Venezuela with oil should they request it – despite US opposition to the trade.

Professor Sirous Asgari, an Iranian scientist imprisoned in the US for several years despite his acquittal in the trade secrets case brought against him, is released back to his home country. There is speculation his release forms part of a prisoner-swap deal between the two countries.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency reveals that Iranian stockpiles of enriched uranium, limited to 300kg by the 2015 Nuclear Deal, are eight times higher than the limit stipulate d by this deal. It is also announced that Iran is continuing to enrich the uranium beyond the 3.67% limit stipulated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to levels of 4.5%. The failure to comply with the provisions outlined in the deal are unsurprising in the context of Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign of crippling sanctions.

Meanwhile, the US Navy veteran Michael White – imprisoned in Iran in 2018 – arrives in Switzerland after his release as part of what appears to be a prisoner-swap between the two countries. His release comes just a day after the release of Iranian scientist Sirous Asgari from a jail in the US.

Majid Taheri becomes the second Iranian interned in a US Prison to be released within the last week following months of behind-the-scenes diplomacy between the two countries. He had been imprisoned in the US for 16 months after being accused of violating American sanctions by attempting to export a filter to Iran for vaccine research.​

Iran announces that it will execute a man accused of providing intelligence to the US which aided their assassination of the Quds general Qassem Soleimani. The unnamed man allegedly provided information on Soleimani’s location to both Mossad and the CIA.​

Major-General Hossein Salami of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard boasts of Iran’s ability to operate according to its own interests despite US aggression, after they successfully supplied Venezuela with fuel shipments in the face of US pressure to desist. He also criticises the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd.

The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mariano Grossi, calls upon Iran to allow inspectors from the UN’s atomic energy watchdog access to two sites where undeclared nuclear material is allegedly stored. Iran maintains that activities at the sites concluded prior to the signing of the 2015 Nuclear Deal and that, consequently, there is no legal basis for IAEA access to them.

The Foreign Ministers of Russia and Iran meet in Moscow, with the former promising his counterpart that Russia will stand by Iran amid growing tensions over the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Sergey Lavrov vows that Russia will do everything within its power to preserve the 2015 agreement

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announces that Iran will send the black box from the Ukrainian passenger jet downed in January to France within the coming days. Iranian authorities have also indicated that they are willing to enter into negotiations concerning reparations to the affected countries and any compensation for families of the victims killed in the crash.

Four Iranian companies, as well as German and Emirati subsidiaries of the chief Iranian steelmaker Mobarakeh, are blacklisted by the US government. The latest bout of sanctions prevents the companies from dealing with Americans and freezes and US assets they hold.

Iran issues an arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump as well as several others it alleges were involved in the extrajudicial murder of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. A request has been submitted to Interpol to assist with his arrest.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that any chances for the upkeep of the nuclear deal depend upon the end of the UN arms embargo this October. Although the embargo is scheduled to end in three months’ time, the US is seeking the support of other powers to extend it indefinitely as part of Trump’s maximum pressure policy towards the country. Zarif said that any such action would undermine UNSC Resolution 2231 “in its entirety”.

According to Swedish officials, Iran agrees to compensate the families of any foreign victims who were killed when two missiles struck a Boeing 737 plane near Tehran on 8 January this year. All 176 people on board the aircraft were killed in the strikes.

Meanwhile, US federal prosecutors aim to disrupt Iran’s supply of gasoline to Venezuela by seizing four tankers heading towards the country. A civil-forfeiture complaint is filed in the District of Columbia federal court, claiming that the sale was arranged by Mahmoud Madanipour, who the US government designates a terrorist.

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, declares the US decision to kill Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at the start of the year “unlawful”. Citing a lack of evidence that the move constituted an “act of self-defence”, she designated the assassination an “arbitrary killing”.

The US criticises the declaration by the UN’s Agnes Callamard that the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani this January was “unlawful”. A spokeswoman for the US State Department described the declaration as “tendentious”, “tedious” and dishonest.

The Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) blames “human error” for the decision to shoot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner earlier this year amid heightened tensions stoked by the US. An air defence unit’s radar system was misaligned, leading to a chain of errors which resulted in the plane being shot from the sky, killing all 176 people on board.

Reze Asgari, a former worker for the Iranian defence ministry, is executed following a conviction for spying on behalf of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Asgari allegedly exchanged secrets relating to Iranian weaponry for money. The confirmation of his execution comes as 3 more death sentences are handed out to people accused of taking part in protests taking place in November last year.

Iran’s foreign ministry confirms that the black boxes of the Ukrainian airliner accidentally shot down amid heightened tensions with the US in January have been sent to France for analysis.

Iraq hosts Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for the first time since the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani in the country in January. The visit comes just a week before Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi is set to visit Saudi Arabia, with the country attempting to balance rivalries in the region.

Meanwhile, the planned executions of three men convicted of participating in the protests against rising fuel prices in November are halted as their legal representatives called for a retrial.

Mahmoud Mousavi Majd – a man accused of spying on Iran on behalf of the USA and Israel – is executed having spent two years in jail. Majd had been convicted following evidence allegedly indicating he had accepted substantial payments from Mossad and the CIA. The execution comes on the same day that a number of arrests are made in relation to protests in the southern city of Behbahan.

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister claims that the black boxes from the Ukrainian airliner mistakenly shot down by Iran in January confirm there was “illegal interference” with the plane. The remarks follow a preliminary analysis of black box data by a team of experts in France.

Meanwhile, over Syria, several Iranian passengers on a commercial Mahan Air flight are injured after the pilot was forced to rapidly decrease the aircraft’s altitude following an approach by a US F-15 jet. US spokesmen refer to the incident as conforming to “international standards”, whereas Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described it as a “clear violation of aviation security”.

The Iranian judiciary confirms that passengers injured on the Mahan Air flight stalked by a US military plane over Syria will be able to sue the US military using the country’s courts. Complainants were also encouraged to pursue the international legal option via the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard fired a missile at a replica of a US aircraft carrier during a training exercise in the Strait of Hormuz. The exercise, which appeared to destroy the inside of the replica ship, was broadcast on state television. US officials condemned the action as “irresponsible and reckless”.

Iran boasts of firing ballistic missiles from underground in another exercise which was later shown on state television. Officials claim this is the first such operation in the world, allowing missiles to be fired “in a completely camouflaged way”.

Iranian officials arrest Jamshid Sharmahd, who they accuse of heading a terrorist organisation based in the US. The group allegedly bombed a mosque in 2008, killing 14 people and wounding over 200 others in the Iranian city of Shiraz. The group, known as the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, aims at restoring the Pahlavi monarchy which was removed by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iranian authorities have confirmed the execution of a Mostafa Salehi, who was convicted of killing a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) during countrywide protests from 2017-2018.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, has called on the body to hold the US accountable for what he has called an “unlawful” interception of a Mahan Air flight over Syria last month.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi calls upon the US to lift sanctions imposed on Lebanon in the wake of the catastrophic explosion last week. International leaders have pledged $300m in aid in the wake of the blast, which killed at least 158 people and left a further 300,000 homeless.

The US military claims that Iranian forces boarded a civilian oil tanker in international waters in the Gulf. The ship, named the Wila, is registered to a Liberian firm called Bandit Shipping Co. The ship was apparently released within 5 hours of being boarded.

A US proposal to indefinitely extend the arms embargo in place against Iran has failed to gain the required votes to pass in the UN Security Council, falling well of the 9 “yes” votes’ threshold in the fifteen-member body. Only the Dominican Republic joined the US in supporting the Resolution, with eleven countries abstaining.

The vote is held the same day that the US claims to seize four Iranian fuel tankers heading for Venezuela. The seized cargo is apparently being held at Houston in Texas.

After failing in its bid to encourage the UN Security Council to support the extension of the arms embargo in place against Iran, the US administration threatens to trigger a “snapback” – a provision of the 2015 Nuclear Deal that would restore all UN sanctions against the country. The US would  be hard-pressed to trigger this clause, however, given that it unilaterally exited the deal in 2018.

Iranian State TV displays two new missiles on its National Defence Industry Day amid heightened tensions with the USA. The missiles are named after those killed in a US air strike in Baghdad in January this year – General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Madi al-Muhandis. The new weapons purportedly have ranges in excess of 1,000km. The display occurs the same day that the US formally notifies the UN of its intention to restore all sanctions against Iran for alleged violations of the 2015 Nuclear Deal (from which the USA has already withdrawn unilaterally).

Meanwhile, Iranian forces detain a UAE-flagged ship sailing in its territorial waters following the deaths of two Iranian fishermen, who were killed by the UAE coastguard. Tensions between the two sides are on the rise following an escalation in the rivalry between the US and Iran in recent weeks and the UAE’s controversial decision to normalise ties with Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says the USA has no right to demand the return of sanctions against the Middle Eastern state, following its decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015. In a letter to the UN Security Council, Zarif also accused the US of violating a UN Resolution by pulling out of the deal

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the UN atomic energy watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announces that he will visit Tehran to discuss further cooperation with the Iranian government on nuclear activities. The visit comes as the US continues its attempts to re-impose biting sanctions against the country under the “snapback” mechanism of the 2015 Nuclear Deal from which the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew in 2018.

Iranian officials blame a blast which damaged the Natanz nuclear facility last month on saboteurs. Refusing to reveal further details at this stage, the state news agency suggests that further information will be revealed by security officials in due course.  

Ali Akbar Alehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, praises “constructive” talks with Rafael Grossi – the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Although not all concerns regarding access to Iranian nuclear sites were ironed out, both parties reaffirmed their commitment to their legal responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the current head of the UN Security Council, Indonesia, denies the US the right to demand a re-imposition of international sanctions against Iran under the “snapback” mechanism of the 2015 Nuclear Deal, saying it cannot do so given the lack of consensus among the members on the issue.

During a visit from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran agrees to allow inspectors access to two former suspected nuclear sites. In return, the IAEA will no longer pursue questions about the two sites in Isfahan and Tehran.

The remaining parties to the Iran Nuclear Deal – Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia – meet in Vienna to discuss ways forward as they attempt to save the deal. The US is isolated in its attempt to re-impose total sanctions on Iran, which has increased nuclear activities since the US unilaterally scuppered the deal in 2018.

Meanwhile, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini condemns the UAE’s normalisation of ties with Israel, saying the gulf state “betrayed” the Muslim World by so doing.

UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) releases a report claiming that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is now over 10 times larger than the limit imposed in the 2015 Nuclear Deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which the US unilaterally withdrew in 2018, stipulates that Iran may hold up to 202.8kg of enriched uranium. It currently possesses around 2,105kg.

Amid heightened tensions with the US, Iran begins a three-day military exercise close to the Strait of Hormuz. The exercise featured ground, air and naval forces and is aimed at improving the country’s ability to respond to an attack.

UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) releases a report claiming that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is now over 10 times larger than the limit imposed in the 2015 Nuclear Deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which the US unilaterally withdrew in 2018, stipulates that Iran may hold up to 202.8kg of enriched uranium. It currently possesses around 2,105kg.  

Amid heightened tensions with the US, Iran begins a three-day military exercise close to the Strait of Hormuz. The exercise featured ground, air and naval forces and is aimed at improving the country’s ability to respond to an attack.  

US President Donald Trump announces that Bahrain will become the fourth Arab state to normalise relations with Israel, following the UAE’s decision to do so in recent weeks. The move seems to have been primarily motivated by a fear of Iranian influence in the region. 

Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrestler accused of stabbing a security guard to death in the southern cit of Shiraz two years earlier, is executed. Afkari’s confession was broadcast on state media, however, the wrestler alleged that this was obtained through torture.

The iranian government warns US President Donald Trump against the making of a strategic error following comments alleging that any Iranian attack to avenge the killing of Qassem Soleimani would be met by a response one thousand times its magnitude.  

Iran tells the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) that US sanctions are ruining lives across the country, as it attempts to overturn nuclear sanctions unilaterally imposed by the government of Donald Trump. Iran has argued that the sanctions are in breach of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between the two countries.  

The US has stated its intention to the UN to declare all sanctions on Iran unilaterally back in force this weekend, despite widespread opposition across the international community. Elliott Abrams, the US special representative for Iran, contravened the majority position of the UN Security Council in making the country’s intentions known. Iran has urged the international community to defy the reimposition of the sanctions, with the US threatening “consequences” for anyone who does so. 

Iran has promised “decisive” action in response to the US government’s decision to reimpose sanctions without the approval of the UN. Addressing the nation on state TV, President Hassan Rouhani said that the US policy of “maximum pressure” had failed, leaving them with “maximum isolation”.  

The Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) tells reports of a “strong” suspicion held by the Iranian governmetnt that “internal agents” played a role in an explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility earlier this year. The blast occurred on 2 July this year, causing the building’s roof to collapse.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz called on nations to work towards a solution to Iran’s growing influence in the region. King Salman criticised his rival’s “expansionist activities” and proclivity to fund “terrorist networks”, urging world leaders to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, criticised the “delirious” Saudi King’s speech to the UN, describing it as a means for King Salman to shift the blame for his own country’s “crimes”.

Following the summoning last week by the UK, France and Germany of their respective Iranian ambassadors in an effort to pressure the country to amend its treatment of political prisoners, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif makes a statement slamming European countries for their support of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War.

Saudi Arabia claims to have located and taken down a terrorist unit allegedly trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Ten people were arrested and various weapons seized from the cell, which the Iranian administration denies any link to.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the UN’s nuclear watchdog – is given access to a second undeclared Nuclear site in Iran, as it investigates on the back of suspicions that Iran halted a coordinated nuclear weapons development programme in 2003.

Baghdad saw thousands of demonstrators gather to mark one year since mass protests swept the country in 2019, demanding the ruling elite step down from government. Protestors vowed to revive the protests if no significant reforms were put in place by the government of Mustafa al-Khadimi.

Narges Mohammadi – an Iranian journalist and human rights activist – is released from prison following a reduction in her sentence. She had served eight-and-a-half years in jail after being found guilty of “forming and managing an illegal group” in her efforts to oppose the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the US announces further sanctions on the Iranian economy, this time targeting the country’s financial sector. The new raft of measures introduces the blacklisting of 18 major Iranian banks as the US aims to weaken the country’s economy further.

The 13-year-long arms embargo imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council (UNSC) comes to an end, despite strong US opposition. The loosening of restrictions is a part of the nuclear accord signed between Iran and several world powers in 2015, from which Donald Trump’s administration unilaterally withdrew in 2018.

Iran’s Defence Minister has hit back at US threats of sanctions against any nation looking to make deals with Iran upon the expiry of the arms embargo placed upon it, accusing Washington of futile rhetoric.

The US Department of the Treasury announces the sanctioning of five Iranian groups on the alleged basis that they attempted to interfere in the upcoming US Presidential election. The US government imposed the sanctions in response to apparent direct and indirect interference in the upcoming poll.

Iran imposes sanctions on the US ambassador to Iraq, Matthew Tueller, alongside two other US diplomats in the country. The move comes in response to the US decision to blacklist Iran’s Baghdad envoy, with the Iranian government citing the US’ encouragement of anti-Tehran terrorist activity as the reason for the decision.

Mohammad Javad Zarif takes to twitter to criticise Emmanuel Macron, after the French President spoke in support of cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad. The Iranian Foreign Minister accused the European stateman of encouraging “extremism” by opportunistically abusing his “freedom of speech”.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors confirm that Iran has begun the construction of an underground centrifuge assembly plant, following the destruction of one in what Iran considered to be a sabotage attack. However, the IAEA’s director-general Rafael Grossi confirms that the country does not possess enough low-enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani increases his criticisms of French President Emmanuel Macron regarding his support for the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He described Western support for the right to publish such depictions is “unethical and insulting” to all Muslims.

US officials announce the capture of an Iranian shipment of missiles apparently bound for Yemen. The revelation comes on the same day that sanctions are announced against 11 firms for allegedly selling petrochemical products to Iran.

Iran’s Supreme Leader ridicules the US election aftermath, saying that it exposes the reality of the flawed nature of US democracy. “What a spectacle”, Ayatollah Khamenei intoned, “One says this is the most fradulent election in US history. Who says that? The president who is currently in office. His rival says Trump intends to rig the election! This is how #USElections & US democracy are.”

Iran’s foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visits his Cuban counterpart in Havana to mark the two countries’ mutual solidarity in the face of crippling US sanctions.

Apparently in recognition of the impending victory of Joe Biden in the US Presidential election, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urges the “next US administration” end its “economic terrorism” and return to the commitments of the 2015 Nuclear Deal.

The US expands its sanctions package aimed at decimating the Iranian economy, this time taking aim at six companies accused of supplying the Iranian military with “sensitive goods” such as electronic components. Four individuals are also affected by the new sanctions.

The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reveals that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium exceeds the limit set by a nuclear accord by a factor of 12. The body has called on Iranian authorities to explain this level.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman calls upon world powers to take a stand against Iran in order to prevent their alleged development of nuclear weaponry. Speaking in an annual address to a government advisory body, he stressed Iran’s apparent destabilising role in the region.

Iran rejects claims emerging from the US and Israel that Israeli operatives killed a key al-Qaeda operative in Tehran in August this year. Iranian officials accused the US of trying to deflect responsibility for their roles in forming such groups by implying they were in some way linked to the Iranian government.

Iran’s foreign ministry hits back at calls from the Saudi Arabian King Salman for world powers to form a united front against Iran’s influence in the region, accusing him of making “baseless allegations and hate-mongering”.

Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir declares that the country “will do everything it can to protect its people and to protect its territories” in the event that Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, suggesting that the kingdom would also work to develop one if that situation arose.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN Kazem Gharibabadi accuses Saudi Arabia of using its regional rival as a scapegoat in order to disguise its self-interested pursuit of nuclear weapons. Gharibabadi took to Twitter to accuse the Saudi minister of demagoguery and of blaming their “wrongdoings on others by lies”.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called upon US President-elect Joe Biden to lift the crippling sanctions placed upon the country by the Trump administration, offering to implement the 2015 nuclear deal in full if he did so.

Iran has hit back at criticism of its commitment to the 2015 Nuclear Deal, after three European countries voiced concern over its apparent scaling back of commitments outlined under the agreement. Iran criticised a joint statement by the so-called E3 countries – the UK, France and Germany – which described those countries as being “extremely concerned by Iran’s actions”. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said the comments were “irresponsible”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has offered the US the opportunity to end its brutal policy of sanctions towards the country, saying that the two nations can return to the state of their relations prior to Donald Trump’s tenure as President. Rouhani also called on President-elect Biden to explicitly condemn the foreign policy decisions of his predecessor.

Meanwhile, Iran has completed a prisoner swap in which the jailed academic Kylie-Moore Gilbert was freed in exchange for three unnamed Iranians held in other countries.

The high-ranking Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, accused by Western nations of being key to Iran’s nuclear program, is assassinated near to the capital Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani blames the attack on the “mercenary usurper Zionist regime” (Israel) and vows revenge.

Iran’s parliament calls for an end to international inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities following the assassination of a Mohsen Fakhrizadeh near Tehran, in what the conservative body describes as a “proportionate” response to the killing.

Joe Biden, the US President-elect, has signaled his intention to return to the nature of Iran-US relations prior to the tenure of President Donald Trump. Biden stated his intention to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a means of avoiding a nuclear arms race in the middle east, provided that Iran promised “strict compliance” with the agreement’s terms.

A report by the international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) alleges that Iran is planning to accelerate its underground uranium enrichment program in an apparent breach of agreements with world powers. Iranian authorities intend to install three more clusters of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at the underground Natanz facility – a move which seems intended to put pressure on the US to relieve sanctions in line with its former commitments to the 2015 Nuclear Deal.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud insists that Gulf states must be consulted prior to any announcement by the US of a decision to re-join the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The comments come amid speculation that the Biden presidency may adopt a more lenient approach towards Iran than his predecessor’s administration.

European powers party to the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal have voiced their concern over the revelation in a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran intends to install more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at its Natanz underground facility. Iran has insisted the steps are reversible should the US wish to relieve sanctions pressure.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tells world powers that the 2015 Nuclear Deal can be restored without any negotiations, signalling an intent on the part of the Asian nation to move beyond recent escalations in tension between the various parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPO). Rouhani claims that if the other parties to the agreement return to their commitments, Iran will do the same.

Ruhollah Zam, a previously exiled journalist whose online work helped inspire countrywide protests in Iran in 2017, is executed. Zam had been convicted of “corruption on Earth” for apparent attempts to overthrow the country’s government. The execution has drawn international condemnation.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announces that the country will not accept any attempts by foreign powers to renegotiate the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was agreed in 2015. The comments come amid calls from the other parties to the agreement for Iran to cease its controversial missiles programme.

As Iran ramps up its rhetoric about securing revenge for the murder of General Qasem Soleimani nearly a year ago, the five permanent members of the security council, Germany and the EU hold virtual talks with Iranian representatives in an attempt to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is hoped the incoming Biden presidency may secure the deal for years to come.

The foreign ministers of the UK, China, Russia, France, Germany and Iran hold a two-hour conference chaired by the EU’s foreign policy head Josep Borrell, during which they express a firm commitment to restoring the Iran Nuclear Deal, which has come under increasing strain since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the deal in 2018.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump blames Iran for a missile attack aimed at the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Nobody is injured in the attacks, however, Trump issues a warning that a military response will follow should any American soldiers be killed.

Thousands of mourners in Baghdad hold a mock funeral procession for Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on the one-year anniversary of their assassination by US forces. The mourners marched to the airport where the attack took place.

An Iranian government spokesman announces that the country will resume its program of enriching 20 percent uranium at the Fordow nuclear facility in defiance of terms of the 2015 nuclear deal signed with Western powers. While the 20 percent level is significantly over the agreed cap of 3.67 percent, it is far below the 90 percent level required to make nuclear weaponry.

Meanwhile, a bill aimed at tackling violence against women is approved by the Iranian government.

The U.S. military is expanding its ability to operate from Saudi Arabia, striking an arrangement with Riyadh to use various air bases and seaports in the country’s western regions.

Italy is countering the sale of thousands of missiles to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to commit to peace-building in Yemen.

The Biden administration addressed their foreign policy agenda by backing the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia and ending support for military operations in the war in Yemen, including arms deals.

Saudi Arabian military coalition deployed in Yemen claims it has intercepted and destroyed four armed Houthi drones.

Saudi Arabian military coalition proves that Houthi armed weapons were targeting Abha airport, in which a civilian plane caught on fire.

Ambassadors to Iran and Qatar spoke about supporting diplomatic relations, security, and lasting stability in the region. The President of Iran remains “committed to the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) initiative and believe that peace and stability in the region will not be achieved except through cooperation and dialogue”.

In a call between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the United States confirms its assistance in defending the borders of Saudi Arabia.

The Houthi Movement was condemned for their attacks on Saudi Arabia with sanctions by the United States on top military commanders. The US
has specified the commander of the Houthi air force – Ahmad al-Hamzi and the commander of Yemen’s naval forces – Mansur al-Saadi are deemed responsible for these attacks.

A spokesman of the Houthi faction Yahya Sarea claims that the movement was responsible for a Quds-2 missile attack on the Saudi Aramco oil site in Jeddah. There has been no confirmation of the attack by Saudi Arabian authorities.

In response to Houthi missile and drone strikes to oil and military
facilities in Saudi Arabia, Saudi coalition warplanes have implemented
several air strikes targeting Yemen’s capital and other districts. Saudi
state media clarified that “civilians and civilian objects in the kingdom
are a red line” for these cross-state attacks by Yemen’s Houthis.

Yemeni Houthi fighters deployed two ballistic missiles from the Saada
province to uninhabited areas in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi coalition
responded by targeting a missile bunker in Saada to “neutralise and
destroy sources of threat to protect civilians”. The coalition also
intercepted a Houthi attack from King Khalid air base in the southern
town of Khamis Mushait.

Houthi drone attacks target an oil refinery in Riyadh causing a fire that
did not affect oil supplies nor did it result any causalities. However, this attack has elicited much attention from the international community,
Arab Parliament condemned the Houthis as a terrorist group with
violations to international humanitarian law.

Saudi-led coalition intercepted and destroyed several Houthi drones aimed
at Saudi military bases in Damma, Najran, and Asir as well as Aramco oil
facilities in Ras al-Tanura, Rabigh, Yanbu and Jizan. Saudi Energy Ministry has
condemned the Houthis after a projectile impacted a petroleum distribution
center causing a fire (with no casualties) during these drone attacks. The
coalition has retaliated with strikes on Houthi military bases.

A representative of the Houthi Movement claims the group has launched
drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh. There has been no
confirmation from Saudi authorities. These attacks have been announced in
the midst of a ceasefire proposal by the Saudi government in coordination
with the Yemeni government.

Since January, Iran and Saudi Arabia have engaged in talks focusing on their competing policies in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria. The heads of Iranian and Saudi intelligence have met as well prompted by the United States reducing its role in the proxy conflict.
The Biden administration reduces troops, anti-missile systems, and military aircraft from countries surrounding Iran, including its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system from Saudi Arabia. While the administration seeks to de-escalate tensions with Iran, Saudi Arabia remains equipped to deter foreign missile attacks.
Abdullah suggests that more Arab states would benefit from normalizing relations with Israel due to perceived increase in Iranian aggression in the region. He welcomed diplomatic efforts between the Gulf States and Iran.

The United States Navy’s 5th Fleet commissioned Task Force 59, which aims to integrate artificial intelligence with maritime operations within its region of command, the Middle East and South Asia. Under this new task force, the American Navy would cooperate extensively with its regional partners to ensure the safety of the region.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, has announced that all tactics were being considered by his government to coerce Iran to end its process of enriching Uranium. Just a week later, the Defense Minister of Israel sought a higher defense budget, citing Iran as the main security concern in the region.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reported that they had successfully stopped an attempt by the Americans to capture and detain an Iranian oil tanker. The Pentagon vehemently denies such an incident, instead stating that the IRGC had detained a Vietnamese oil tanker back in October, a statement which was supported by the Vietnamese government.

The Israeli defense minister has reportedly met with the American defense secretary to discuss plans to attack Iran in the near future. Iranian commander Major General Gholam Ali Rashid has threatened a counterattack against Israel if Iran was invaded.

The American Navy seized 1,400 Kalashnikov-style rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition on a stateless fishing boat staffed by Yemeni sailors. The Fifth Fleet accused Iran of smuggling weapons to the Houthis, an Islamist political and armed movement based in Northern Yemen. The US added that this was in direct violation of United Nations sanctions.

The United Kingdom has criticized Iran for conducting testing of its tactical ballistic missile from a military maneuver. The tests were reportedly a warning against Israeli attacks.

Regional superpowers Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to resume talks in Iraq following suspension in March. Iranian state media Nour News has expressed Tehran’s desire of normalizing diplomatic relations through the fifth round of talks, and that the Iranian government is confident that these talks will be successful. The severing of diplomatic ties occurred in 2016 when Iranian protestors stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.

Israel has announced its intention of joining an American-led coalition of countries around the Middle East to counter Iran’s hostility in the region. The coalition would be called the Middle East Air Defense Alliance (MEAD), and would “help the countries in the region to better protect themselves from Iran’s attempts to attack the region’s countries using rockets, cruise missiles and UAVs”, said Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz. Possible members in the alliance including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have previously expressed interest in purchasing Israeli air defense systems.

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