January 10, 2020

Iran Escalation Timeline

This analysis is co-published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

Iran has been escalating its attacks on American and allied targets since May 2019. Iran has shot down an American drone, attacked American bases with rockets culminating in the death of an American contractor, and assaulted the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. These Iranian attacks established the context for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Qassem Soleimani and leading Iranian proxy in Iraq Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020. Iran’s escalations occurred in phases and were part of an orchestrated campaign to achieve its strategic objectives, including sanctions relief and the ouster of the U.S. from Iraq and the region. The graphic below illustrates those phases.