Iran has been a conundrum since its 1979 revolution. It stunned the world by introducing Islam as a form of modern governance, and rattled the region by exporting its zealous ideology. It supported militant allies and challenged international norms. For decades, dealing with the Islamic Republic was complicated by internal repression, menacing rhetoric, and defiance over its nuclear program. USIP conducts research and policy analysis on Iran, and Institute experts regularly brief Congressional staff and U.S. officials. To learn more, see USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in Iran. For a comprehensive website on Iran providing timely analysis by American and Iranian scholars, see The Iran Primer, hosted by USIP.
Iran Timeline: Since the 1979 Revolution
For decades, Iran has vexed the international community. It introduced Islam as a form of governance in 1979 and has supported militants abroad and defied international norms. In May 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement negotiated by six world powers and Iran. The administration argued that the deal did not adequately curb Tehran’s nuclear program or address its missile program, human rights abuses, and support for terror.
Iran, proud and passionate, has been a conundrum since its 1979 revolution. For decades, a confluence of challenges—political and cultural repression, menacing rhetoric, and defiance over its nuclear program—complicated dealing with the Islamic Republic. Iran’s revolution has passed through at least five phases.
Beginning with the early January killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, the first months of 2020 have seen a spike in long-simmering tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Those tensions have largely played out within the borders of Iran’s western neighbor, Iraq, just as they have for much of the last 17 years. Still bearing the battle scars from years of war, few in the region want to see an escalation to more overt conflict. And after nearly two decades, the American public has clearly demonstrated its own fatigue with endless wars. The question remains, then, how can the U.S. achieve its objectives in regard to Iran and Iraq without military action?