The Build Up To Iran Timeline

Published: Thursday January 25, 2007


Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
Published: Monday January 22, 2007
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Click here for the full article, "Escalation of US Iran military planning part of six-year Administration push"

The "Axis of Evil"

September 2000

The Project for the New American Century issues "Rebuilding America's Defenses" as a blueprint for a potential Bush administration.

This paper states, "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

It further lays out as an objective that "We cannot allow North Korea, Iran, Iraq or similar states to undermine American leadership, intimidate American allies or threaten the American homeland itself."

"The National Security Strategy of the United States of America," released by the administration on September 20, 2001, closely echoes this PNAC document.

(Members of PNAC who then joined the Bush administration include Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Richard Armitage.)

PNAC (pdf)
Cooperative Research
Information Clearing House

December 9, 2001

Michael Ledeen, consulting for the Department of Defense, along with DOD employees Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, meet in Rome with Iran Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, and other Iranians.

Ledeen, who is only present for one of the meetings, has told Raw Story that the meetings were authorized by then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. He also stated that the meetings had to do with Iranian support for the opposition to US forces in Afghanistan.

According to Ghorbanifar, however, the discussions involved regime change in Iran.

Raw Story
Raw Story

early 2002

Michael Ledeen and Morris Amitay form the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, which is supported by former CIA director James Woolsey, and leading neo-conservative Frank Gaffney, among others.

Third World Traveler

January 29, 2002

Bush's State of the Union Address includes Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in the "Axis of Evil."

White House

February 2, 2002

Time Magazine reports that Iran may have been helping Taliban and al-Qaeda members escape from Afghanistan. Iran denies it.

Time Magazine

February 26, 2002

Frm. Amb. Joseph Wilson visits Niger. According to a 2004 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "The intelligence report also said that Niger's former Minister for Energy and Mines [redacted]. Mai Manga, stated that there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s. He knew of no contracts signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of uranium.

He said that an Iranian delegation was interested in purchasing 400 tons of yellowcake from Niger in 1998, but said that no contract was ever signed with Iran."

Washington Note
Senate Report (pdf)

Raw Story

Raw Story


The Focus Intensifies on Iran's Nuclear Program, August 2002 – February 2003

August 5, 2002

Steve Rosen of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) asks DOD employee A (possibly Doug Feith, then Undersecretary of Defense Policy, or Harold Rhode) for the name of someone with expertise on Iran and is directed to Larry Franklin.

On August 15, Franklin begins a series of meetings with Naor Gilon, then political officer at the Israeli Embassy.

By about that time, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley were aware that the FBI was carrying out a counterintelligence investigation of AIPAC.

Franklin indictment
Washington Post

mid-August 2002

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (which considers itself an Iranian government in exile, and of which Mujahedin-E-Khalq or for short MEK, is the dominant member) holds a press conference in Washington and states that Iran has a secret nuclear facility at Natanz, due for completion in 2003.

Global Security
Council of Resistance of Iran v. State Department

October 2002 - January 2003

Iran conducting uranium laser enrichment experiments. (Note that this does not mean a WMD program.)

Global Security

February 10, 2003

Iran acknowledges that it is building a nuclear energy facility at Natanz as part of a nuclear energy program.

Global Security

February 12, 2003

Larry Franklin and DoD employee B meet with Rosen and Kieth Weissman of AIPAC for the first of a series of meetings concerning US policy towards Iran.

Franklin indictment

February 21, 2003

IAEA inspectors (including El Baradei) visit Iran. They are shocked to find that the design of the centrifuges is of Pakistani origin. Pakistan is an ally of the United States in the War on Terror.

Global Security

The Push for Action at the Onset of the Iraq War, February - June 2003

February 24, 2003

Neocon analyst Yossef Bodansky claims:

"The Iranian clerical leaders have decided to actively undermine the US ability to consolidate a post-Saddam government in Baghdad. Iran has already begun implementing this policy, deploying proxy Shi'ite forces into Iraqi Kurdistan and modifying the deployment of Iran's own Armed Forces."

Internet Archive (Global Information System)

March 7, 2003

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) first hears about "Ali" (former Iranian minister Fereidoun Mahdavi), an associate of Manucher Gorbanifar. Some have suggested that the introductions are made via Michael Ledeen, although Ledeen and Weldon’s spokesperson have both denied the allegations.

Raw Story
American Prospect

March 20, 2003

Invasion of Iraq.


April 15, 2003

The US Army permits the Mujahedin-E-Khalq (MEK) in Iraq -- militant Islamo-Maoist opponents of the government in Iran, officially considered terrorists by the US, and formerly supporters of Saddam's regime -- to keep their weapons.

Raw Story

April 25, 2003

Curt Weldon meets with an "Ali" in Paris. Ali claims that Iranian intelligence had stolen enriched uranium from Iraq prior to the start of the war, smuggling it into Iran. But the CIA determines this to be a fabrication.

Michael Ledeen has recounted a very similar story, which he also passed along to US intelligence. He denies Ghorbanifar is his source on this.

Raw Story

April 30, 2003

Michael Ledeen tells the JINSA Policy Forum it's time to focus on Iran.


May 6, 2003

Forum on "The Future of Iran" sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, Hudson Institute, and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and chaired by Meyrav Wurmser. Participants include Michael Ledeen and Morris Amitay.

Wurmser's husband, David, is the Middle East Advisor to VP Cheney.


May 10, 2003

The MEK accept a formal cease-fire and are placed under a sort of protective custody by US special forces in Iraq.

Global Security

May 12, 2003

Editorial by Neocon William Kristol in the Weekly Standard calls for regime change in Iran.

Weekly Standard

May 16, 2003

US officials say the May 12 bombings in Saudi Arabia were carried out by al-Qaeda operatives who have taken refuge in Iran.


May 17, 2003

The Forward reports that Neocons and warhawks in the administration have convinced Bush, Cheney, and the Pentagon of the need for regime change in Iran but the State Department remains opposed.

It also states that the infamous Office of Special Plans is now gathering intelligence on Iran.

Information Clearing House

May 20, 2003

Neocon Daniel Pipes promotes support for the MEK.

Daniel Pipes

June 3, 2003

Larry Franklin and Naor Gilon meet to discuss a person (who may be Judith Miller), her thoughts on Iran's nuclear program, and certain charity efforts, which may refer to Miller's work with Rhode and Ahmed Chalabi on the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

Franklin indictment

June 2003
(probably between June 6 and 12)

Rhode and Ghorbanifar meet in Paris. According to the Jerusalem Post, the purpose of the meeting was to undermine any deal for Iran to hand over several high-ranking al-Qaeda members in exchange for the US either handing over MEK members and/or cutting off its support of MEK. More generally, the intent is to worsen US-Iran relations.

Juan Cole

June 15, 2003

George Bush endorses pro-democracy student demonstrations in Iran that have been going on for the previous five days.


June 16, 2003

El Baradei calls on Iran to allow more intrusive inspections. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and accuses the US of stirring up the IAEA.


June 17, 2003

French police arrest 165 MEK members at their headquarters near Paris. This comes in the context of both the ongoing student demonstrations and a conflict in the US administration between the Pentagon and the State Department over whether to form an alliance with MEK against the Iranian government.

Raw Story

The IAEA Defuses the Situation, July - October 2003

July 6, 2003

Joseph Wilson op-ed in the New York Times, "What I Didn't Find in Africa."

Common Dreams

July 10-13, 2003

The IAEA holds technical discussions with Iran and asks for full transparency.

Global Security

July 14, 2003

CIA covert officer, Valerie Plame Wilson is outed by Robert Novak in alleged retaliation for her husband’s criticism of the Bush administration.

Plame-Wilson was working on an Iran project at the time of her outing. Later, in their book, Hubris - Michael Isikoff and David Corn - we would report that she was also working on Iraq WMD as well.

Raw Story
Crooks and Liars (MSNBC video)

The Nation

July 2003

Israel warns the United States of a heightened insurgency to come in Iraq with support from Iran, but the US rejects Israeli urgings to seal the border. When the insurgency explodes in early August, the Israelis conclude the US is unwilling to confront Iran.

New Yorker

July 28, 2003

Iran is reported to be holding several top al-Qaeda members.


August 9-12, 2003

IAEA team of technical experts in Iran to inspect sites.

Global Security

August 15, 2003

Secretary Powell lists the National Council of Resistance of Iran as an alias of MEK, which the State Department still considers a terrorist organization, ordering its US offices closed and its assets frozen. The NCR charges that this is a part of the negotiations for Iran to turn over al-Qaeda operatives under its control and allow IAEA to inspect its nuclear sites.

US Government

August 26, 2003

IAEA reports it has found particles of highly enriched uranium at Natanz. Iran says the particles must have come in with the imported centrifuges.

This is later confirmed by tests.

Global Security

October 4, 2003

Robert Novak column outing Brewster Jennings, Valerie Plame's front company at the CIA.

Brewster Jennings was involved in tracking prolifiration in the Middle East.

Town Hall

Raw Story

October 2003

Reports emerge of Dr. A.Q. Khan's dealings with Iran. Khan is a notorious black market prolifirator of nuclear weapon components and designs. Brewster Jennings was in part tracking the Khan network, as well as creating obstacles for Iranian development of WMD from products purchased on the black market.

Raw Story

October 21, 2003

Iran agrees to accept tougher IAEA inspections.


October 24, 2003

Franklin and Naor Gilin speak on the phone about how work on the US policy towards Iran in which they have been interested seems to have stopped.

Franklin indictment

The Quiet Interim

December 2003

According to Seymour Hersh, by the end of 2003, the Israelis have concluded that the US is incapable of stabilizing Iraq. In response, they began training Kurdish commandos to run operations inside Kurdish areas of Syria and Iran and to spy on Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel is convinced that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons.

New Yorker

After a Year of Quiet, Iran is on the Table Again, September 2004 - September 2005

September 27, 2004

President Bush tells Fox News talking head Bill O'Reilly that the US will never let Iran acquire nuclear weapons and that "all options are on the table."

FOX News

October 2004

According to former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, the Pentagon presents George Bush at this time with a status report on its plans to have a viable military option for Iran in place by June 2005.


January 6, 2005

The Iran Freedom Support Act, supporting "a transition to democracy in Iran," is introduced in the House of Representatives. It is introduced in the Senate on February 9.

The Orator

January 20, 2005

Vice President Cheney states that Iran is "right at the top of the list" of global trouble spots and hints that Israel might strike to shut down its nuclear program.

Washington Post

January 2005

The National Intelligence Council orders a new NIE on Iran.

Washington Post

January 2005

The Iran Policy Committee is founded, with the objective of promoting regime change in Iran and with a membership dominated by Neocons and defense contractors. It is an active supporter of MEK.

Online Journal

April 6, 2005

The newly-formed Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus in the House of Representatives sponsors a briefing by the Iran Policy Committee promoting support for MEK. A similar briefing follows on May 10.


June 12, 2005

Bomb blasts in the Iranian city of Ahwaz. According to Raw Story, MEK forces carried out these bombings in hopes of provoking a Sunni insurgency.

BBC News
Raw Story

June 14, 2005

Publication of Kenneth Timmerman's Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran.

Timmerman is a Neocon who has been pressing for confrontation with Iran ever since his formation of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran in 1995. He has been responsible for disseminating numerous stories intended to discredit the Iranian regime, many of which have quickly proved to be false.


June 20, 2005

Scott Ritter reports that "the US war with Iran has already begun." He says the US is using pilotless drones and also sending MEK members into Iranian territory as special operations forces.

Raw Story, in a 2006 article, also reported on the use of MEK in Iran:

"The Pentagon is bypassing official US intelligence channels and turning to a dangerous and unruly cast of characters in order to create strife in Iran in preparation for any possible attack, former and current intelligence officials say.

"One of the operational assets being used by the Defense Department is a right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), which is being “run” in two southern regional areas of Iran. They are Baluchistan, a Sunni stronghold, and Khuzestan, a Shia region where a series of recent attacks has left many dead and hundreds injured in the last three months."

Raw Story

July 20, 2005

Rep. Curt Weldon and House Intelligence Committee Chair Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) are reported to have met in Paris the previous week with Manucher Ghorbanifar's associate, "Ali."


August 2, 2005

The Washington Post reports the leak of a new NIE on Iran assessing they are ten years away from having the ability to make nuclear weapons.

Washington Post

September 13, 2005

The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration has been trying to convince allies that Iran is on a fast track to obtaining nuclear weapons, using a presentation at odds with the NIE.

Washington Post

Pressure for Sanctions and a Possible Attack, December 2005 - May 2006

December 19, 2005

President Bush states that Iran cannot be allowed to have the capacity to enrich uranium because it "would lead to a weapons program."

White House

early January 2006

Plane carrying 11 top commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards goes down near the Iraq border. Foul play is suspected, and Iran accuses the US and UK of bringing the plane down through electronic jamming.

Asia Times

mid-January 2006

Kenneth Timmerman of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran tells Israeli radio he expects a pre-emptive strike on Iran by Israel within 60 days.

Asia Times

January 19, 2006

A pro-MEK rally in Washington is endorsed by Representatives Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Bob Filner (D-CA), and other members of Congress.


February 4, 2006

The IAEA votes to report Iran to the Security Council, a step potentially leading to UN sanctions.


February 2006

Condoleezza Rice asks Congress for an extra $75 million to promote democracy and assist dissidents in Iran, much of it to go to the Voice of America.

Information Clearing House

March 2006

An attack said to have been carried out by MEK kills 22 Iranian officials.

Raw Story

March 2006

The State Department creates an Office of Iranian Affairs, while the Pentagon creates an Iranian Directorate, on orders from Vice President Cheney, thereby undercutting Negroponte's role as Director of National Intelligence.

The Iranian Directorate appears to be equivalent to the Office of Special Plans that is said to have played a central role in fixing the pre-war Iraq intelligence.

Information Clearing House
Raw Story
Raw Story

March-April 2006

The US begins a hard push for a UN resolution that could pave the way for military action against Iran.

Raw Story

April 9, 2006

The Washington Post reports that "the Bush administration is studying options for military strikes against Iran."

Washington Post

April 17, 2006

Seymour Hersh reports that "the Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack." He indicates that the nuclear option is on the table.

According to Hersh, teams of US combat troops are already operating under cover within Iran, in concert with Kurds, Azeris, and Baluchs. Six months later, he will add that about this time, the US and Israel began working together to support incursions into Iranian territory by the Kurdish rebel groups, Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK). Because these operations are carried out by military special forces and not the CIA, the administration is not required to brief Congress.

New Yorker

April 20, 2006

Raw Story reports that President Cheney and the Department of Defense have put Manucher Ghorbanifar back on the payroll as an intelligence asset -- with approval from Rep. Pete Hoekstra, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence -- as part of an attempt to squelch any possible diplomatic resolution with Iran.

Raw Story

April 21, 2006

Iran shells PJAK positions within Iraqi territory.

Asia Times

May 11, 2006

Raw Story reports that military assets are beginning to be put in place for an air strike against Iran. The key assets could be in place by June, according to the report. (However, by June tensions appear to have eased for a time.)

Raw Story

late spring or early summer 2006

Rep. Peter Hoekstra travels to Paris to meet for a second time with Manucher Ghorbanifar's associate "Ali."

Raw Story

A Second Wave of Pressure, July 2006 to Present

July 14, 2006

Israeli incursion into Lebanon, initiating the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese War.

Herald Tribune

August 6, 2006

The Sunday Times alleges that Iran has been plotting to obtain large amounts of uranium from the African nation of Congo.

Sunday Times

August 14, 2006

Seymour Hersh reports that the US is watching the Israeli campaign against Lebanon as a possible prelude to an attack on Iran's nuclear installations.

New Yorker

August 23, 2006

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy, chaired by Rep. Pete Hoekstra, releases a report "Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat."

Based on unsubstantiated public sources, it is widely considered to be a transparent attempt to force a conclusion that Iran is an active threat to the United States. Some of the information is believed to have been obtained during Hoekstra's earlier meetings with Ghorbanifar.

PDA of report
Juan Cole
Ray McGovern

September 14, 2006

The IAEA says that the Hoekstra report contains "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated information."


September 17, 2006

Time Magazine reports that the Navy is deploying minesweepers to the Persian Gulf and is studying the possibility of blockading Iranian oil ports.


September 21, 2006

Raw Story reports that the Pentagon has moved to second-stage contingency planning for a possible military strike against Iran and is prepping for deployment of naval carriers.

Raw Story

September 30, 2006

The Iran Freedom Support Act is signed into law.

White House

early fall 2006

According to Seymour Hersh, a CIA assessment based on high-tech monitoring finds no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. The White House dismisses the findings but is concerned that they might be incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate.


October 1, 2006

The Sunday Times reports that Director of National Intelligence Negroponte has cautioned President Bush against the use of force with regard to Iran.

Sunday Times

October 1, 2006

It becomes apparent that the US is building up its naval forces in the Persian Gulf region. Pentagon officials confirm such a buildup on December 19.

Global Research

November 2006

Joshua Muravchik (a co-founder in 1995 of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran) writes, "Make no mistake: President Bush will need to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities before leaving office," and adds that his fellow Neocons "need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes."


November 13, 2006

Laura Rozen reports on the formation of the Iran Enterprise Institute, dedicated to regime change and led by an Iranian exile with dubious credentials.

American Prospect

January 9, 2007

The US imposes sanctions on a major Iranian bank.


January 10, 2007

Speech by George W. Bush announcing a "surge" of troops in Iraq which also states:

"Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria, and we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Radio Free Europe

January 11, 2007

The US raids an Iranian diplomatic mission in northern Iran and detains five staff members.