Sanctions, Deployments & Tanker Attacks: A Timeline of Recent US-Iran Hostilities

by | Oct 16, 2019

As US relations with Iran plumb new depths in the wake of Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, it’s easy to lose track of the seemingly endless series of new sanctions, troop deployments and explosions in and around the Persian Gulf in recent months.

In an effort to keep it all straight, here’s a timeline of the major escalations between Washington and Tehran over the last year and a half, with some other related events.

May 8, 2018 – President Trump abrogates Washington’s end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

May 21, 2018 – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives “12 points” ultimatum speech at the Heritage Foundation, laying the groundwork for the “maximum pressure campaign.”

September 25, 2018 – Pompeo addresses United Against Nuclear Iran summit, painting Iran as an “outlaw regime” and calling on the international community to join US efforts against its “malign activity.”

November 5, 2018 – US restores all pre-nuclear deal sanctions on Iran.

April 8, 2019 – US designates Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization.

April 15, 2019 – Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton meets with his Israeli counterpart – National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat – in Washington, who tells Bolton of an impending Iranian attack plot.

April 22, 2019 – US ends most waivers on oil trade with Iran, threatening sanctions on any other countries or entities that continue doing business with the Islamic Republic.

May 4, 2019 – US sanctions Iran’s ability to export excess enriched uranium, making it far more difficult to comply with the JCPOA’s 300kg cap.

May 5, 2019 – US moves Carrier Strike Group (USS Abraham Lincoln) and Bomber Task Force into / near Persian Gulf, citing “escalatory indications” from Iran.

May 7, 2019 – US deploys four B52 Stratofortresses to al-Udeid Air Base near Doha, Qatar over alleged “attack plot.”

May 12, 2019 – Four ships – two Saudi tankers, a Norweigan tanker, and an Emirati vessel – damaged in apparent attack at the Port of Fujairah, Saudi Arabia.

May 14, 2019 – First Houthi attack on Saudi oil infrastructure (two pumping stations west of Riyadh).

May 20, 2019 – Iran announces it will quadruple uranium enrichment, despite inability to get rid of its excess stockpile, in first step of non-compliance with the JCPOA.

May 24, 2019 – US deploys 900 troops, a Patriot missile battalion, combat and reconnaissance aircraft and intelligence assets to Middle East in response to May 12 tanker attack.

June 7, 2019 – US sanctions Iran’s petrochemical industry, citing ties to the IRGC.

June 13, 2019 – Two tankers – Panama-flagged / Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous, and Marshall Islands-flagged / Norweigan-operated Front Altair – damaged in apparent limpet mine attack in the Gulf of Oman. Shipping company disputes “mine” story, insists “flying objects” hit vessel.

June 17, 2019 – US deploys 1,000 soldiers to Middle East in response to June 13 tanker attacks.

June 20, 2019 – Iran shoots down $130 million US Global Hawk Drone. Trump calls off retaliation strikes several days later.

June 24, 2019 – US sanctions Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials.

July 4, 2019 – British Royal Marines seize Iranian tanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar, arguing it was on its way to sell oil to Syria, in violation of EU sanctions. Iran slams the move as “piracy.”

July 7, 2019 – Iran announces it will enrich uranium beyond the 3.67% level allowed under the JCPOA, in second step of non-compliance with the deal.

July 19, 2019 – Iran seizes British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in response to July 4 Grace 1 incident.

July 24, 2019 – Iran tests medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missiles.

July 31, 2019 – US sanctions Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

August 16, 2019 – Girbraltar frees Iranian tanker Grace 1, over American objections.

August 17, 2019 – Second Houthi attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, used 10 drones (Shaybah oil field).

September 3, 2019 – US sanctions Iranian Space Agency and related entities, claiming they’re involved in missile work.

September 7, 2019 – Iran announces it has begun using advanced centrifuges prohibited under the nuclear accord, in third stage of non-compliance.

September 14, 2019 – Third Houthi attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, major strikes using drones and missiles (processing facility in Abqaiq and oil field in Kurais). US and Saudi Arabia blame Iran.

September 20, 2019 – US sanctions Iran’s central bank and National Development Fund, claiming they fund Hezbollah and the IRGC.

September 26, 2019 – US sends 200 soldiers, a Patriot battery and four Sentinel radars to Saudi Arabia, citing September 14 Houthi attack.

September 27, 2019 – Iran frees UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero.

September 30, 2019 – Eight EU states join France, Germany and the UK in sanctions-circumventing trade vehicle INSTEX, with two more likely to follow, putting the total at 13 nations.

October 11, 2019 – US sends 1,800 troops – adding to another 1,000 sent earlier in October – two squadrons of fighter jets, an air expeditionary wing, two Patriot batteries and one THAAD unit to Saudi Arabia, citing Iranian threat. 11,000 soldiers have been deployed to the region since May.

About Will Porter

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute and a staff writer at RT. Find more of his work at and Consortium News.
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