A timeline of the U.S.-Iran conflict


Many in Generation Z have been scared of being drafted into the U.S. Army as a result of growing tensions in Iran. However, there is no need to worry as high schoolers are unable to be drafted, there is currently no U.S. draft, the U.S. Army is able to be successful using a voluntary army, and previous military conflicts have not spread to America. 

The fear of being drafted has come as a result of recent tensions between the United States and Iran. The beginnings of the conflict in Iran occurred in 1979 after Iran took 52 Americans hostage. They were released 44 days later. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have fluctuated in the decades since. If the current situation continues to escalate, it may cause conflicts in many countries, hypothetically starting WWIII. 

The legality of the U.S. killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani is still disputed. Some see it as the equivalent of a foreign country assassinating Vice President Mike Pence, while others argue it was a legal strike because it happened in Iraq, where our troops are legally stationed and engaged in longstanding combat against terrorists. What is certain is that it led to at least a short-term escalation of the conflict between the countries.

This timeline will get you caught up on the conflict and provide some context for what has happened to this point and why it matters.



November 16, 2011


  • Donald Trump commented, “Our president (Obama) will start a war with Iran becaU.S.e… the only way he figures that he’s going to get reelected…is to start a war with Iran.” Some are U.S.ing this comment from eight years ago to show that President Trump may have killed Soleimani in order to distract from his impeachment and help his reelection chances.



June 2019


  • Trump secretly authorized Soleimani to be killed if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials. The only condition was that Trump would have the final sign-off on any specific operation to kill Soleimani (news broke on January 13, 2020)



December 18, 2020


  • Trump is impeached by the HoU.S.e of Representatives



December 27, 2019


  • A U.S. contractor is killed and a couple of service members are injured in a rocket attack on the K1 military base in northern Iraq



December 29, 2019


  • U.S. launches airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iranian-backed militias. U.S. officials blame 11 recent attacks on U.S.-led coalition bases, including the December 27th attack. In the strikes, 25 militia fighters were killed.



December 31 2019/January 1 2020


  • The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was attacked by a crowd protesting the U.S. airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia. Clashes continued on Wednesday as demonstrators hurled stones while U.S. forces fired tear gas. No U.S. personnel were injured. 
  • President Trump blames Iran for the embassy attack and threatened that “(Iran)will pay a very big price” for any damage or loss of life. “This is not a warning, it is a threat.” 
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded by saying the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing.”
  • Tehran (Iran’s capitol) denied orchestrating the protests.



January 1, 2020


  • The embassy protesters are dispersed; 700+ troops are ordered to deploy to the area and more are on standby
  • Aids give Trump options on what to do; Trump selected the most extreme option, which was to kill Soleimani, stunning top Pentagon officials 



Jan 2, 2020


  • Trump tweets American flag photo from Google while reports come out about Soleimani’s killing (the attacks were late at night, so it was already Jan. 3 in Iraq)


January 3, 2020 

  • Soleimani and other officials from Iran-backed militias are leaving Baghdad International Airport when they are hit by a U.S. drone strike. At least seven people are killed, including Iraqi militia leader Mahdi al-Muhandis
  • The U.S. tried and failed to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai, another senior Iranian military official in Yemen (information was unknown until January 10th 2020)
  • U.S. embassy in Baghdad releases statement telling Americans to leave the country 



January 4, 2020


  •  Iran has identified at least 35 U.S. targets that could be hit with retaliatory strikes after the country’s president vowed to exact revenge 
  • Trump threatens to bomb 52 significant cultural centers to represent 52 hostages that were taken by Iran in 1979 if Iran attacks the U.S. or American interests. This would be considered a war crime if carried out.
  • Trump tweets: “(we have)targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran in 1979), some at a very high level & important to Iran &  the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The U.S.A wants no more threats!” 



  • January 5 2020


  • After pushback from the media and his own administration, Trump announces he won’t bomb the cultural centers



January 6, 2020


  • Two Iranian-Americans are stopped at U.S.-Canada border after being in Canada with their kids on a ski trip. Two others have been stopped since the attack and more than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans were questioned. Some were held for over 12 hours.
  • Congressional leaders received a debriefing on why Trump killed Soleimani. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who viewed the classified information, said, “There is no intelligence inside that document about this supposed imminent attack.” Republican Congressman Mike Lee of Utah voices a similar complaint about the briefing.



January 7, 2020


  • Soleimani funeral postponed after 50 people died in a stampede at his funeral procession
  • Trump announces he has begun drafting sanctions against Iraq
  • Iran state TV announces Tehran launched over a dozen surface-to-surface missiles at two Iraqi airbases housing U.S. troops 
  • Iran said the attacks were “hard revenge” for Soleimani’s death and that any country that housed U.S. troops could be subject to “hostile and aggressive acts” 
  • Iraq called on American citizens to demand the government remove the troops from the region
  • White House announces the president and senior staff will not be making any statements
  • Hours later Trump announces he will address the nation on Wednesday, January 8th
  • Trump tweets “Assessment of casualties and damages taking place now. So far so good. We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world by far!”
  • Ukrainian plane crashes in Iran and kills 176 people
  • 4.9 magnitude earthquake hits near Iranian nuclear plant



January 8, 2020


  • Trump delivered a statement on Iran
    • “We have sent a powerful message to terrorists: if you value your own life, you will not harm the lives of our people”
    • Trump imposes more sanctions on Iran



January 9, 2020


  • U.S. puts new sanctions on Iranian metal exports and eight senior Iranian officials
  • Trump tells Fox News that Soleimani had been planning an “imminent attack” against Americans but “we don’t know precisely where and we don’t know precisely when”



January 10, 2020


  • Iran denies that they shot down the plane
  • Iraq asks the U.S. to send a delegation to Baghdad so the U.S. can begin to withdraw troops from Iraq
  • Iran’s only female Olympic medalist defects to Europe. “I didn’t want to be part of hypocrisy, lies, injustice, and flattery.”
  • Trump announces that they killed Soleimani because Iran planned multiple attacks on American embassies across the Middle East. No evidence has been produced to support that claim



January 11, 2020


  • Iran says they did shoot the plane down by mistake due to human error



January 12, 2020


  • Outside a Tehranian university, hundreds protest the plane being shot down, calling the Iranian leadership “lying and incompetent.” The protesters also want Iran’s commander-in-chief to resign
    • Witnesses say Iranian security forces opened fire on the protestors
    • Protests also pop up in several other cities (Kermanshah, Yazd, Semnan, and Mashhad)
    • Trump tweets in support of the protests
  • Yuri Shvytkin, the deputy head of the Russian Dumas Defense Committee, criticized Iranian authorities for admitting responsibility of the plane being shot down and said that the Iranians should have blamed the U.S. “It was a missile strike provoked by the United States, that is, Iran’s retaliatory actions were unintentional. It is necessary to condem both the actions of the United States and the actions of Iran regarding the downed plane.”
    • Russian senator Alexei Pushkov agreed with the statement and said, “The United States carry their part of the responsibility for this tragedy.”
  • Defense secretary Mark Esper said he did not see any specific evidence that Iran planned an imminent attack



January 13, 2020


  • Trump said it doesn’t matter if Soleimani posed a threat to the U.S. because of his “horrible past,” seemingly undermining his administration’s previous stances regarding an “imminent threat”