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Timeline: Iran's key events (1953 - present)
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 19 - 01 - 2016

On 16 January, Iran emerged from decades of isolation when nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union were lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Tehran had taken steps to limit its nuclear activities under terms of an agreement reached in July 2015.
Below is a chronology of the main events that led to, sustained and expanded, and then reversed the sanctions.
1953 — The CIA, with British help, engineers the overthrow of Iran's popular Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadeq (who had nationalised the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, later known as BP) to strengthen the rule of Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, their ally.
1957 — The United States and Iran sign an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation that provides for American technical assistance and the lease of enriched uranium to Iran.
1967 — The United States provides Iran with the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), a five-megawatt nuclear reactor, fuelled by highly enriched uranium.
1968 — Iran signs the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) which, when ratified two years later, permits Iran to have a civil nuclear programme in return for a commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons. Uranium enrichment is allowed under the treaty.
1975 — Construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant by German companies begins. It is the brainchild of the Shah who wanted a national electrical grid powered by nuclear power plants.
1979 — Mass protests force the Shah to flee. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns from exile and becomes supreme religious guide after declaring Iran an Islamic Republic. Iranian protestors demanding the extradition of the Shah seize the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November and hold staff hostage for 444 days.
US freezes $12 billion in Iranian assets held in the United States, then imposes an Iranian oil import ban.
1980 —The United States cuts diplomatic ties with Iran and prohibits most trade with it. Supported by Western nations, including the US, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein launches an invasion of Iran, marking the beginning of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.
1981 — Iran releases US hostages as part of the Algiers Accords agreement that provisioned the unfreezing of Iranian assets and trade sanctions on Iran. The accords also stipulated that US would not interfere politically or military in internal Iranian affairs.
1984 — Iraq attacks the Bushehr nuclear power plant after work had resumed to complete its construction. Iran opens a nuclear research centre with China's help. The US lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.
1986 — US Vice President George H W Bush initiates the transfer of military intelligence to Saddam Hussein and relays a message to the Iraqi president that he had to be more aggressive in bombing inside Iran. In response, Iraq flies 359 missions over Iran, striking deep into Iran, bombing oil refineries, according to Craig Unger's book House of Bush, House of Saud.
1988 — US warship Vincennes mistakenly shoots down Iranian passenger plane over the Gulf, killing all 290 aboard. Iraq-Iran War ends.
1990-1992 — Iran signs a nuclear cooperation agreement with China. Iran and Russia sign an agreement on the sale of heavy-water reactors to Iran. The US's Iran-Iraq Arms Non-proliferation Act imposes sanctions on foreign entities that provide Iran technology that could be used in the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
1995 — Iran signs an $800 million deal with Russia to complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant. US Executive Order 12957 prohibits transactions related to the development of Iran's oil industry. US Executive Order 12959 prohibits re-exportation of goods or technology to, and investment in, Iran.
2000 — US President Bill Clinton signs a law that allows sanctions against people and organisations that provide aid to Iran's nuclear programme.
2002 — President George W Bush describes Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil”. US officials accuse Tehran of operating a secret nuclear weapons programme.
2003 — International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei encourages Iran to sign a protocol allowing IAEA inspectors greater and faster access to nuclear sites. Iran declines to sign the protocol and reiterates that its nuclear programme is for producing power and not weapons. The IAEA reveals that its inspectors in Iran have found traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. Iran acknowledges Natanz and accepts modifications to the NPT's subsidiary arrangements, requiring Iran to notify the IAEA of intentions to set up nuclear facilities.
2006 — Washington says it is willing to join multilateral nuclear talks with Iran if it verifiably suspends nuclear enrichment. In December, UN Security Council Resolution 1737 stipulates economic and trade sanctions on 10 entities associated with both the Iranian nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes. The assets of 12 individuals are frozen. IAEA reports that Iran produced 3.6 per cent enriched uranium, but found no sign that Iran enriched uranium for military purposes.
2007 — March: UN Security Council Resolution 1747 tightens sanctions to include 13 new entities in connection with Iran's nuclear programme and imposes a ban on arms sales to Iran. In December, a US National Intelligence Estimate assesses that Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons until the fall of 2003, when it halted weapons work.
2008 — US President George W Bush for the first time sends an official, Under-Secretary of State Bill Burns, to directly take part in nuclear negotiations with Iran in Geneva. UN Security Council Resolution 1803 extends asset freezes and calls upon states to monitor the activities of Iranian banks, inspect Iranian ships and aircraft, and to monitor the movement of individuals involved with Iran's nuclear programme through their territories.
2009 — US President Barack Obama takes office and tells Iran's leaders he will extend a hand if they will “unclench their fist” and persuade the West they are not trying to build a nuclear bomb.
2009 — Britain, France and the United States announce that Iran is building a secret uranium enrichment site at Fordow. Iran says it disclosed the site to the IAEA nuclear watchdog earlier in the week.
2010 — EU bans providing technical assistance and oil technology to Iran and some Iranian banks, in addition to expanding the EU travel ban list. The EU freezes assets of 243 Iranian entities and 40 individuals. UN Security Council Resolution 1929 bans Iran from participating in any activities related to ballistic missiles, tightens the arms embargo, imposes travel bans on individuals involved with Iran's nuclear programme, freezes the funds and assets of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, and expands trade and economic sanctions.
2012 — US law goes into effect giving Obama power to sanction foreign banks, including the central banks of US allies, if they fail to significantly reduce their imports of Iranian oil. The result is a drastic reduction in Iranian oil sales and a sharp downturn in the Iranian economy. On 15 October, EU bans all dealings between European and Iranian banks — while making a few exceptions — and adds the Iranian energy minister and 34 companies to its blacklist.
2012 — US and Iranian officials begin secret talks, which intensify in 2013, on the nuclear issue. In December 2012, the EU expands its blacklist to include 92 Iranians, 466 companies and groups, including the Iranian Central Bank.
2013 — Hassan Rouhani is elected Iran's president on a platform of improving Iran's relations with the world and its economy, something that can only be achieved by easing sanctions imposed because of Iran's nuclear programme.
August 2013: The CIA publicly admits for the first time that it was behind the coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadeq in 1953.
On 28 September, Obama and Rouhani speak by telephone in the highest-level contact between the two countries in three decades.
On 23 November, with the groundwork laid by secret US-Iran talks, Iran and six major powers reach an interim pact called the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) under which Iran agrees to curb its nuclear work in return for limited sanctions relief. The six powers are the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia (the permanent members of the UN Security Council) and Germany.
2015 — On 14 July, Iran and the six powers strike an agreement under which Iran agrees to take a series of steps, including slashing its number of centrifuges and disabling a key part of its Arak nuclear reactor, in return for a significant easing of US, UN and EU sanctions. The deal is called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
UN Security Council Resolution 2231 of 20 July sets out a schedule for suspending and eventually lifting UN sanctions, with provisions to re-impose UN sanctions in case of non-performance by Iran, in accordance with JCPOA.
2016 — On 14 January, Iran releases 10 US sailors who ended up in Iranian territorial waters on two small boats less than 24 hours after Iran took them into custody.
On 16 January, the United States and Iran announce a prisoner swap. Four Americans imprisoned in Iran are freed in return for clemency for at least seven Iranians, most of who are dual US-Iranian nationals convicted or awaiting trial in the United States. A fifth American is released separately.
Later, the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken steps to restrict its nuclear activities as required under the JCPOA. The United States lifts nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.
Compiled by Al-Ahram Weekly from Reuters, The Cairo Review of the American University in Cairo, and other sources.

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