Saudi Arabia-Iran Proxy War


Credit: WSJ

Overview

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.

Facts

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

Key Actors

Heavily backed by the United States, this coalition which includes the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait (as well as supporting nations such as Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco) is currently playing a significant role in the Yemeni civil war.

An Islamic religious and political movement that emerged from Yemen in the 1990’s. In 2014/2015 they took over the Yemeni government run by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and since that time they have gained control of most of the northern part of Yemen. They are allegedly supported by Iran.

Has been one of the major fronts in the conflict as a result of its revolution and subsequent civil war. Yemen has traditionally been under the influence of Saudi Arabia. The Houthi insurgence in Yemen caused an increase of tensions between Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran. This is due to Iran’s alleged support of the Houthis. As a result of the conflict and support from Saudi Arabia and Iran of opposing sides of the conflict the UN is predicting that we may see one of the worst humanitarian crises in history.

The ongoing civil war which began in 2011 has been a significant battleground for Saudi Arabia and Iran. Syria has historically played an important role for Iran to assert its influence. The civil war threatened this and created an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to increase its influence. Iran backs the government while Saudi Arabia back rebel militants

Under Saddam Hussein’s rule Iraq was hostile to Iran and Saudi Arabia. Following the American-led invasion in 2003 and subsequent power vacuum, Iran sought friendship with Iraq and still maintains that to this day being particularly influential in Iraqi government

Being historically close to Iran and strategically important to Saudi Arabia, the proxy conflict between the two countries has contributed to Afghanistan’s continuing instability. Iran and Saudi continue to fight for influence over Afghanistan.

Pakistan is an economic partner for Iran but has close political, economic, and strategic ties to Saudi Arabia. It is increasingly finding it more and more difficult to balance its relationship with both countries. 

Qatar was a strategic ally for Saudi Arabia and a fellow member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In 2017, Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a land, air and sea blockade on Qatar for fear of its possible close relationship with Iran – as they share the world’s largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) field. Iran & Qatar enjoy a relationship of convenience and necessity, as Qatar now relies on Iran for certain agricultural products and air routes. 

Has had a strained relationship with Saudi Arabia for some time. The resignation of Prime Minister Hariri whilst in Saudi Arabia further strained the relationship. The resignation has been viewed as a power play by Saudi Arabia to increase its influence in Yemen and counterbalance Iran’s victories in Iraq and Syria.

Has developed closer ties with the Saudis as a result of both countries’ shared antipathy towards Iran and their growing influence across the Middle East.

Regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of the the Arab states in the Persian Gulf excluding Iraq. Includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE. A proposal to transform the GCC into a ‘Gulf Union” with tighter economic, political and military coordination has been advanced by Saudi Arabia. This formation of such is meant to counterbalance Iran’s influence in the region.

The United States is a major supporter and ally of Saudi Arabia, and is an enemy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not only has the US provided material, logistical, military, and surveillance but is also openly hostile to Iran, inching towards a conflict that might involve the US and Iran. The US, under President Obama tried to negotiate a settlement, the JCPOA, known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, but President Trump left the deal and implemented a policy of maximum pressure on Iran.

The EU, and all of its Member states, are a party to the to the JCPOA, and hope to balance their ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as the United States and Iran. Despite its attempt at walking a fine line between all states, the EU is still an ally of the US. 

China is a major trading partner for Iran and an export destination for its oil. It opposes the US’ efforts to enforce a policy of maximum pressure with Iran, but also remains very friendly with Saudi Arabia.

India is a major trading partner for Iran and an export destination for its oil. India also enjoys long-standing cultural and historical ties to Iran. It has also increasingly been an economic partner for Saudi Arabia and a close ally of the US. 

Timeline

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.

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