Iran – A Timeline of Sanctions

Jerusalem, Jan. 5 – The European Union will follow the lead of the United States and boycott the purchase of oil from Iran, seriously ratcheting up the pressure on the Islamic Republic to curtail its nuclear program.

The efforts of the international community to force Iran to halt its nuclear development date back to 2003, when concerns arose that the Iranians might be developing nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The Iranians continuously frustrated efforts by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to verify Iranian claims o that the program was for peaceful purposes.

A call by Iran’s President for Israel “to be wiped off the map,” coupled with Iran’s aggressive international political stance led to serious EU efforts in 2005 “to try to persuade it to drop parts of the program that could be used to make bombs.”

Despite years of repeated attempts by the United Nations to get Iran to cooperate with the international community, Iran still refuses to allow the IAEA inspectors access to all its facilities. The IAEA issued a damning report in November that concluded that Iran carried out “work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon.”

The following is a timeline of significant events in the history of Iran’s nuclear program:

Timeline: International Efforts to Stop Iranian Nuclear Proliferation

The international community has pressured Iran through the U.N. and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to halt its uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities since 2003. So far, these efforts have been fruitless, as demonstrated by the following timeline:

February 24, 2012

International Atomic Energy Agency releases report reiterating its concern over Iran’s “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” and concludes that Iran has significantly expanded the enrichment of uranium at the Natanz and Fordow sites.

February 17, 2012

SWIFT, the world's largest electronic banking system, declares its intent to end services to sanctioned Iranian financial institutions

January 23, 2012

European Union adopts sanctions banning imports of Iranian crude oil, petroleum products and key equipment; freezing the assets of the Iranian central bank; and prohibiting trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds between EU members and the Iranian central bank.

January 4, 2012

European Union decides in principle that it will impose an embargo on purchases of Iranian oil.

December 31, 2011

President Barack Obama signs into law a new defense bill that imposes the strictest sanctions yet that can be imposed on institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank, the main conduit for Iranian petroleum sales.

December 27, 2011

Iran’s Vice President Rahimi threatens to block the vital Strait of Hormuz that would choke the world’s oil supply.

December 15, 2011

U.S. Senate passes bill that includes sanctions on Iran’s central bank, strengthening existing sanctions and penalizes foreign banks for doing business with Iran.

November 21, 2011

United Kingdom implements unilateral sanctions against Iranian banks.

November 8

International Atomic Energy Agency releases damning report indicating that it has “credible evidence” that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

August 25, 2011

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again calls for “eradicating” Israel.

June 27, 2011

Iran holds war games, featuring tests of medium-range ballistic missiles that could hit Europe and Israel.

June 10, 2011

United Nations issues report saying Iran covertly accelerating its missile development programs.

May 25, 2011

IAEA issues reports revealing Syrian nuclear weapons program, and report that Iran was working on a trigger for nuclear weapons.

May 11, 2011

United Nations report accuses Iran of circumventing U.N. sanctions in both its nuclear weapons development and in illegally supplying weapons.

April 1, 2011

Turkey informs the U.N. it seized an illegal shipment of Iranian arms likely destined for terrorist groups.

January 20, 2011

In Istanbul, major world powers, comprising Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, led by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, launch two days of talks with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program.

(Farhad Pouladi, “Iran says uranium enrichment not up for debate at talks,” AFP, 21 January 2010.)

December 5, 2010

Iran and the US, China, Russia, France, the UK and Germany meet in Geneva for two days of talks after a 14 month hiatus, the conclusion of which was agreement to meet again in late January in Istanbul to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program. However, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saaed Jalil, reiterated that Iran would never give up its right to produce nuclear fuel.

("Iranians Agree to Talks in Istanbul,” Wall Street Journal, 8 December 2010)

November 8, 2010

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that Iran has yet to provide evidence that its nuclear program is strictly nonmilitary in nature. "Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities," Amano told the U.N General Assembly, adding that Iran should fully meet IAEA and Security Council demands over its nuclear program. Iran began loading fuel into the core of its first atomic power plant.

September 26, 2010

The Stuxnet virus, a computer worm, infects Iran’s nuclear stations.

(“Computer Worm Infects Iran’s Nuclear Station,” The Telegraph, 26 September 2010).

September 22, 2010

A statement released by China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States said: “Our objective continues to be a comprehensive long-term negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," Major powers’ foreign ministers told Iran they hope for early talks about Iran’s nuclear program as well as talks about a possible nuclear swap.

September 6, 2010

The IAEA released a report reiterating that for two years, since August 2008, Iran has refused to answer questions “about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” The report said it was “essential that Iran engage with the agency on these issues” because evidence can degrade with “the passage of time.” The agency also reported that Iran had barred two of its most experienced inspectors only days after the Security Council passed its latest sanctions.

August 21, 2010

Iran begins loading fuel at its Bushehr nuclear reactor.

July 26, 2010

The EU imposes tighter sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, aiming to block oil and gas investment and curtail its refining and natural gas capability.[1]

June 24, 2010

The U.S. Congress approves tough new unilateral sanctions aimed at squeezing Iran's energy and banking sectors, which could also hurt foreign companies doing business with Tehran. They are signed into law on July 1.[2]

June 9, 2010

The U.N. votes to extend sanctions against Iran.[3]

May 18, 2010

The U.S. hands the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution that will expand U.N. sanctions against Iran by hitting banking and other industries.[4]

May 17, 2010

Iran, Brazil and Turkey sign a nuclear fuel swap deal. Iran says it has agreed to transfer 1.2 tons (2,646 lbs.) of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey within a month in return for higher-enriched nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor.[5]

May 12, 2010

U.N. resolutions aimed at increasing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program "are not worth a penny" and Tehran will give no ground to pressure, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says.[6]

April 27, 2010

Brazil offers to mediate to help end the West's standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim says.[7]

April 9, 2010

Ahmadinejad showcases an improved centrifuge which officials say will enrich uranium faster than existing models. He says Iran's nuclear path is irreversible.[8]

March 25, 2010

The United States, Britain, France and Germany begin talks with China and Russia on a U.S.-drafted proposal for a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran.

March 18, 2010

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Russia, criticizes Moscow's plans to start up a nuclear power station in Iran. Russia announced the same day it would start up the reactor at the Bushehr plant in the summer of 2010.[10]

Feb. 18, 2010

An IAEA report states for the first time that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability.[11]

Feb. 9, 2010

Iran begins making higher-grade nuclear fuel, enriched to a level of 20 percent, at its Natanz facility.[12]

Jan. 19, 2010

Diplomats say Iran has formally rejected key parts of the IAEA-brokered deal.[13]

Nov. 29, 2009

Iran announces plans to build 10 more nuclear sites in reaction to growing international pressure.[14]

Nov. 24 27, 2009

The IAEA censures Iran for developing a secret enrichment plant near Qom and demands Iran freeze the project.[15]

Nov. 24 26, 2009

Former IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei criticizes Iran's blockage of a plan to divest it of possible nuclear bomb material as "disappointing."[16]

Nov. 24, 2009

World powers have drafted an IAEA resolution urging Iran to clarify the purpose of its previously secret uranium enrichment site.[17]

Nov. 18, 2009

Iran says it will not send its enriched uranium abroad for further processing but would consider swapping it for nuclear fuel within its borders.[18]

Oct. 30, 2009

Iran tells the IAEA it wants fresh nuclear fuel for a reactor in Tehran before it will agree to ship some enriched uranium stocks to Russia and France, according to the U.N.[19]

September 11, 2009

The United States circulates a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that aims to strengthen global efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons.[20]

September 2, 2009

Diplomats from the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China and the EU meet in Germany to discuss the possibility of another round of U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.[21] This time, the powers countries may target Iran’s gasoline imports, which account for nearly 40 percent of the regime’s gasoline.[22]

July 26, 2009

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons a hopeless endeavor: "What we want to do is to send a message to whoever is making these decisions (in Iran), that if you are pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, of projecting your power, we're not going to let that happen."[23]

July 8, 2009

The Group of Eight (G8), comprising the world’s industrialized nations, set a September deadline for Iran to decide whether it is willing to negotiate over its nuclear program or face additional sanctions.[24] Iran has until Sept. 24 when the Group of 20 (G20) of the world’s major economic powers meet in Pittsburgh, Pa. "If there is no progress by then we will have to take decisions," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy.[25]

April 8, 2009

The E3+3 group - U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - offers Iran a "freeze-for-freeze" deal, which stipulates that if Iran agrees to freeze uranium enrichment, no additional sanctions will be imposed on the Islamic Republic.[26] Uranium enrichment can facilitate the production of weapons-grade uranium through enrichment, but Iran’s heavy-water reactor in Arak is capable of producing plutonium for a nuclear bomb.[27]

March 20, 2009

President Obama offers Iran a "new beginning," proposing that Iran engage in direct negotiations with the United States and discuss ending its nuclear program.[28]

September 27, 2008

A resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council calls for Iran to comply with three previous resolutions and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The brief resolution reaffirmed Security Council resolutions that impose progressively stronger political and economic sanctions on Iran for failing to stop its uranium enrichment program. The Security Council action followed a September 15 report from the IAEA that said Iran had not suspended uranium enrichment.[29]

July 9, 2008

G8 leaders meet in Japan to discuss peaceful nuclear developments around the world. The meeting’s key issue is Iran and its failure to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and international law. The leaders consider measures designed to achieve a “diplomatic solution to the issue through the dual track approach.” The G8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States.[30]

June 16, 2008

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with Germany, offer Iran a broad framework for negotiations on issues ranging from nuclear energy to agriculture, civil aviation, and infrastructure. This is done on the condition that Iran freezes its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities at their current rate of development – implicitly accepting the idea of a nuclear Iran. [31]

June 11, 2008

U.S. President George W. Bush gains European support for tougher sanctions at a meeting in Slovenia with the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso; the prime minister of Slovenia, Janez Jansa; and the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. The leaders agree to toughen sanctions if Iran continues with its nuclear program in defiance of the NPT.[32]

March 3, 2008

The U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 1803 by a vote of 14-0-1 (with Indonesia abstaining), broadening sanctions against Iran with tighter restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, increased vigilance over Iranian banks and a requirement that member states inspect cargo headed for Iran.[33]

Aug. 27, 2007

French President Nicolas Sarkozy states that France will not rule out the possibility of military action against Iran if it does not curtail its nuclear program. Sarkozy praises the sanctions and diplomatic measures taken by the U.N., but adds that if Iran continues to be uncooperative, alternatives must be evaluated, as a nuclear Iran would be “unacceptable” to France.[34]

March 24, 2007

The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1747, sponsored by Britain, France, and Germany, increasing the sanctions put in place in December 2007, banning Iran’s arms exports and freezing the assets and restricting the travel of individuals engaged in the country’s nuclear activities.[35]

Dec. 23, 2006

The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1737. Also, hyperlink to actual resolution) sponsored by Britain, France, and Germany, imposing sanctions on Iran that would result in “blocking the import or export of sensitive nuclear materiel and equipment and freezing the financial assets of persons or entities supporting its proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear-weapon delivery systems."[36]

July 31, 2006

The U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 1696 by a vote of 14-1, demanding that Iran “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”[37]

June 26, 2006

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung says that Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium, but under close watch by the U.N. to ensure that it is not using it to build atomic weapons:

Said Jung, “The offer includes everything. That means the civilian use of nuclear energy is possible but not atomic weapons. And monitoring mechanisms must be applied. I think it would be wise for Iran to accept this offer.”[38]

Feb. 4, 2006

The IAEA votes 27-3 to approve a measure sponsored by the EU3 (Britain, France and Germany) to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China also vote in favor.[39]

Sept. 24, 2005

The IAEA determines that Iran's “many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement constitute noncompliance."[40] Iran’s actions have “given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council.”[41]

Nov. 26, 2004

Representatives of the EU3 Governments, together with the High Representative of the E.U., meet in Paris with representatives from Iran to reaffirm and build upon the framework of the Tehran Agreed Statementmade by Iran to EU foreign ministers.[42]

Oct. 21, 2003

The foreign ministers of the EU3 visit Tehran to discuss Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The talks result in an agreement, thereafter called the Tehran Agreed Statement, on “measures aimed at the settlement of all outstanding IAEA issues with regard to the Iranian nuclear program and at enhancing confidence for peaceful cooperation in the nuclear field.”[43]


[1] "TIMELINE-Iran's nuclear program" Reuters, July 26, 2010,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Cutler, David, "Timeline - Iran's nuclear program," Reuters, April 12, 2010,

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Lederer, Edith, "US proposes nuclear resolution at UN," The Associated Press, Sept. 12, 2009,


[21] Sturdee, Simon, “World powers discuss Iran as sanctions pressure grows,” Agence France-Presse, Sept. 2, 2009,

[22] “Iran Says Ready For Nuclear Talks With World Powers,” Reuters India, Sept. 2, 2009,

[23] Mathes, Michael, "Clinton: Iran pursuit of nuclear weapons 'futile'," Agence France-Presse, July 26, 2009,

[24] Jarry, Emmanuel, and Jeff Mason, "G8 sets Iran deadline for nuclear talks," Reuters, July 8, 2009,

[25] Jarry, Emmanuel, and Jeff Mason, "G8 sets Iran deadline for nuclear talks," Reuters, July 8, 2009,

[26] Borger, Julian, "Iran calls for nuclear talks as further sanctions loom," The Guardian, Sept. 1, 2009,

[27] Fleischauer, Eric, "Plutonium and Iran: Why the panic?" Times Daily, Aug. 24, 2009,


[28] "Obama offers Iran 'new beginning,' BBC, March 20, 2009,

[29] "UN Security Council stops short of sanctions on Tehran," France24, September 28, 2008

[30] “G8 Leaders Stress Safe, Peaceful Nuclear Development,” International Atomic Energy Agency, July 9, 2008,

[31] “Text of diplomatic offer to Iran,” June 16, 2008, Institute for Science and International Security,

[32] Fathi, Nazil and Myers, Steven Lee, “European leaders back Bush on Iran,” The New York Times, June 11, 2008,

[33] “Tightens restrictions on Iran’s Proliferation-Sensitive Nuclear Activities, Increases Vigilance Over Iranian Banks, Has States Inspect Cargo,” UN Security Council, March 3, 2008,

[34] Sciolino, Elaine, “French leader raises possibility of force in Iran,” The New York Times, Aug. 28, 2008,

[35] “Security Council Toughens Sanctions Against Iran, Adds Arms Embargo, With Unanimous Adoption of Resolution 1747 (2007),” UN Security Council, March 24, 2007,

[36] “Security council imposes sanctions on Iran for failure to halt uranium enrichment unanimously adopting resolution 1737 (2006),” UN Security Council, Dec. 23, 2006,

[37] “Security Council demands Iran suspend uranium enrichment by 31 August, or face possible economic diplomatic sanctions,” UN Security Council, July 31, 2006,

[38] “Germany could accept nuclear enrichment in Iran,” Reuters via China Daily, June 26, 2006,

[39] “Iran Reported to Security Council,” BBC News, Feb. 4, 2006,

[40] “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republics of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Sept. 24, 2005,

[41] “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republics of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Sept. 24, 2005



[42] “INFCIRC/637,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Nov. 26, 2004,

[43] “In Focus: IAEA and Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Oct. 21, 2003,

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