Palestinian refugees, Galilee, 1948

==1948.May.14 > [] The state of Israel is proclaimed.  The name ‘Israel’ is chosen only at the last minute.  Fighting has been underway for months in Palestine, and on May 15 - the day the British mandate officially ends - Arab forces invade from Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Transjordan (modern-day Jordan).  The attacks are soon defeated by the Israelis.  Most of the Palestinian residents of the new state flee during the fighting and are not permitted to return, becoming a permanent refugee population that remains intensely hostile to Israel.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict becomes the most intractable source of instability in the Middle East.      [tessler]


Gamal Abdul Nasser

==1952.Jul.23 > [] The Egyptian monarchy is overthrown by an army coup and Gamal Abdul Nasser begins his rise to power.  Radical pan-Arab nationalism is the dominant force in Arab politics for the next generation.

==1953.Aug.--- > [] In Iran, reformist Prime Minister Mossadegh is overthrown by the Shah with backing from the CIA.  American influence remains strong in Iran until 1979.  The United States is becoming a major player in the Middle East.

==1954.Nov.01 > [] Radical Algerian nationalists launch a revolt against French rule, beginning years of vicious guerilla warfare.  Political strains brought on by the revolt push France itself to the brink of civil war by the late 1950s.  Algeria finally establishes its independence in 1962.

==1955.early > [] A Soviet-Egyptian arms deal is concluded.   Soviet influence begins to penetrate the Middle East, which becomes a major theater of the Cold War.  Soviet-American rivalry further destabilizes the region.    [shim]

==1956.Jul-Nov.> [] The Suez Crisis.  After Nasser abruptly nationalizes the British-operated Suez Canal on Jul.26, Britain, France, and Israel attack Egypt (Oct-Nov) but are thwarted by opposition from the US and the Soviet Union.  After having been one of the dominant powers in the Middle East for generations, Britain’s influence withers.

==1957.Mar.10 > [X] Osama bin Laden is born in Riyadh, to a large family which is growing rich from its successful construction business.  The bin Ladens are becoming part of the Saudi establishment and are developing close connections with the royal family.     [berg]

==1958.Jul.14 > [] The unpopular pro-British monarchy of Iraq is overthrown.  In one of the most violent mass upheavals in the modern Middle East, nationalist officers butcher the entire royal family and unleash several days of extreme mob violence directed against the Iraqi ruling class.  The bloody coup is the start of a decade of intense power struggles in that country.      [abur]

==1958.Jul.15-Aug > [] US forces briefly land in Lebanon in the first post-World War II American military intervention in the Middle East.

==1959, Oct.--- > [] Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian associates establish the radical al-Fatah group at a congress held in Kuwait.      [lmd]

==1962.Aug.19 > [] John F. Kennedy rather reluctantly makes Hawk missiles available to Israel.  The United States begins to align with Israel - warily under Kennedy, more openly under Johnson, enthusiastically under Nixon and Kissinger.  During the early 1970s, American aid rises into the billions.  These closer ties to Israel greatly complicate US relations with the Arab world.     [nat.Jul.21.2003]

==1962.------ > [] Kennedy makes perhaps the only attempt by the US to encourage democratic reform in Saudi Arabia.  The Saudi royal family ignores his suggestions.      [bog.Mar.05.2002]

==1963.late.Mar > [X] The Ayatollah Khomeini begins publicly denouncing the pro-Western Shah of Iran as a tyrant, an unbeliever, and a “miserable wretch.”  On Jun.05, the Shah arrests Khomeini and crushes the resultant rioting.  On Nov.04.1964, the Shah deports the arch-conservative cleric.  See Jan.09.1978      [hiro2]

==1964.May.28-29 > [] The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is established under the influence of Nasser. In its early days, the PLO is a loose coalition of Palestinian activists, ranging from moderates to radicals. See Jul.10-17.1968 and Feb.03.1969.      [ferr / lmd / naftali]

==1964.Oct.--- > [X] King Zahir Shah promulgates Afghanistan’s first liberal constitution.  But within a year, both Marxism and Muslim fundamentalism are beginning to spread in Afghan universities and colleges.  See Jul.17.1973.      [hiro1]

==1965.Jan.01 > [X] Arafat’s al-Fatah organization - part of the radical wing of the PLO - begins guerilla operations against Israel.      [lmd / shim]

Sayyid Qutb

==1966.Aug.--- > [X] In Egypt, Nasser executes Sayyid Qutb for sedition.  A leader of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, Qutb had promoted the idea that true Muslims must conduct a jihad against all un-Islamic institutions and influences, including secular Arab regimes.  This outlook will form the basis of the Islamist movement.  Qutb wrote: “What should be our verdict on this synthetic (Western) civilization?  What should be done about America and the West, given their overwhelming danger to humanity…?  Should we not issue a sentence of death?  Is it not the verdict most appropriate to the crime?”  Qutb’s brother will later be one of Osama bin Laden’s college professors.      [hiro1 / berg]

==1967.Jun.05-10 > [X] The Six-Day War: Israel smashes the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and conquers Old Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai.  The long-term results of this brilliant Israeli victory are disastrous: Israel will become afflicted with overconfidence and burdened with ungovernable Palestinian territories, frustrated Muslim activists will increasingly turn to terrorism, and discredited secular pan-Arab nationalism will soon begin to be displaced by Muslim fundamentalism.  Directly after the defeat, Muslim religiosity sharply increases throughout the Middle East.      [hiro1]

==1967.summer > [] The first Jewish settlements are established in the occupied Palestinian territories.    [lmd]

==late.1960s > [] Neoconservatism begins to emerge in America.  A number of strongly anti-communist, pro-Israeli intellectuals - including Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz - split with other liberals over the Vietnam War, Middle East policy, and other issues, and develop a fiercely hawkish outlook.  Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and - temporarily - Daniel Patrick Moynihan come to be associated with the movement in the coming years. Originally, they are aligned with pro-defense Democrats like Henry Jackson, but they gravitate rightwards during the 1970s and become a major force in shaping the Reagan administration’s hardline anti-Soviet policies in the early 1980s.  See 1988 and Feb.1992       [wrme.Apr.1991]

==1968.Jul.10-17 > [] Influenced by Arafat, who has become the dominant Palestinian leader, the PLO reformulates its charter, adopting the extreme position that Israel has no right to exist and repudiating any possible compromises.      [lmd / shim]
=Arafat's Fatah organization has grown rapidly in a few short years. It receives generous contributions, especially from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and is provided with weapons and training by the Soviets. By this time, Fatah has 3000 to 5000 guerillas.     [naftali]

==1968.Jul.17 > [] A coup in Baghdad puts the radical Arab nationalist Baath Party in power.  The tightly organized Baathists quickly establish thorough control of the Iraqi government, military, and security police.  The tough political activist Saddam Hussein becomes a key figure in the regime.  See late 1970      [hiro2 / abur]

==1968.Jul.23 > [X] The first airplane hijacking by Middle Eastern radicals: A newly formed Marxist-Leninist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), begins a hijacking campaign by seizing an El Al flight, forcing it to fly to Algiers, and holding Israeli passengers and crew hostage for over a month. Until this point, hijackings were generally regarded as little more than nuisances, and hijackers were nearly always only trying to escape to another country. The El Al incident is the first aircraft hijacking committed as part of a broader political strategy and the first hijacking in which the primary purpose is to threaten passengers. It pushes things to a far more dangerous level, exporting Middle Eastern violence into the wider world, and revolutionizing the practice of terrorism. This episode marks the beginning of the first wave of international terrorism, which lasts through the early 1970s. This is the only successful hijacking of an El Al airliner to date.  See Sep.06.1970.      [tqa / naftali]
= [X] Within three months of the El Al incident, Washington receives the first intelligence reports that Middle Eastern groups may be planning terrorist actions inside the US.     [naftali] 

==1968.Sep.01 > [X] Mohamed Atta is born to a middle class Egyptian family in the Nile Delta.      [abc]

==1969.Feb.03 > [] Yasser Arafat is elected chairman of the PLO, which has become predominantly a guerilla organization.      [wall / lmd / shim]

==1969.Sep.01 > [] The eccentric radical nationalist Moammar Qaddafi seizes power in Libya.

==1969.Sep.--- > [X] A Saudi-sponsored Arab summit at Rabat, Morocco, leads to the creation of the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO), the first pan-Islamic inter-governmental association.  The conservative Saudis are increasing their influence in the Muslim world, giving out generous subsidies to undermine secular leftism and to encourage the spread of Muslim fundamentalism.  America is generally supportive, seeing Islamic hardliners as dependable anti-communists.      [hiro2 / bog.Mar.04.2002]

The start of terrorism on the grand scale:
the PFLP blows up airliners at Dawson’s Field, Sep.12.1970
==Sep.06-12 > [X] The first large-scale terrorist operation: the Palestinian PFLP hijacks three airliners on Sep.06, fails in a fourth attempt on the same day, and then hijacks a fifth plane on Sep.09.  Three of the hijacked airliners, with 425 passengers and crew, are flown to remote Dawson’s Field in the Jordanian desert, and on Sep.12, the PLFP dramatically blows up the emptied aircraft in front of news crews.  This spectacular operation helps trigger the ‘Black September’ war.      [harc]

==Sep.11 > [X] Nixon announces the US government's first measures to prevent air hijackings, including the recruitment of sky marshals.      [naftali]

==Sep.17-27 > [] ‘Black September.’ Faced with a growing threat from the Palestinians, Jordan's King Hussein attacks and defeats the PLO in a bloody struggle. Syria hesitantly supports the Palestinians; Israel and America back Hussein.      [gowers / seale / naftali]

==Sep.28 > [X] Nasser dies suddenly, and Anwar Sadat becomes President of Egypt.  He retreats from Nasser’s secularism and encourages Islamic fundamentalism - at first.      [hiro1]

==Nov.--- > [] The ruthless officer Hafez al-Assad seizes full power in Syria, ending many years of instability and fierce political infighting.  Assad is a member of the Baath Party, but he is bitterly opposed to the rival faction of Baathists that rules Iraq, including his future enemy Saddam Hussein.

==end.1970 > [] After methodically eliminating all possible rivals, Saddam Hussein effectively dominates Iraq, although he doesn’t assume the presidency until 1979.  By the mid-1970s, Saddam’s power is unassailable.      [abur]

==Jul.13-19 > [] Jordan crushes the Palestinian guerilla groups active within its borders.  Palestinian remnants flee to Lebanon and resume operations from there.  Lebanon soon begins to destabilize.

==Dec.--- > [] British forces complete their withdrawal from the Persian Gulf area.  American-backed Iran is the guarantor of security for the Gulf until the Iranian revolution in 1979.      [hiro2]

==May.--- > [] US President Nixon promises to provide the Shah with any non-nuclear weapons he desires, and Iran soon begins an immense military buildup.  At the same time, the CIA is developing close links with the Savak, the Shah's brutal security agency.  With Iran awash in oil revenues for the next five years, the regime is becoming overconfident and the Shah is showing signs of megalomania.  In 1973 he tells a reporter: “My visions are miracles that saved the country.  My reign saved the country, and it had done so because God is on my side.”      [hiro3]

==Jul.18 > [] Sadat expels his Soviet advisers.  Egypt begins to break with Russia.

==Sep.05-06 > [X] The Palestinian Black September group seizes the Israeli Olympic team in Munich.  A bungled West German rescue attempt results in a bloodbath.      [usdos / lmd]

==Sep.--- > [X] In the wake of the Munich incident, the US beefs up its measures against terrorism. Just after the attacks, the first American counterterrorism committees are set up by the State Department. On Sep.15, the CIA produces its first weekly summary of terrorist activity. On Sep.25, the interagency Working Group on Terrorism is created to coordinate federal counterterrorism policies. On Sep.27, the US begins requiring visas for all non-Canadian foreign visitors, and a process is set up to screen visa applicants for links to terrorism. Around this time, American officials begin using the phrase 'international terrorism.'          [naftali]

==Jan.03 > [X] Serious antiterrorist measures are finally implemented at US airports with the introduction of screening of all passengers and carry-on luggage. Air hijackings in the United States virtually cease.      [naftali]
=At around the same time, armed guards begin accompanying shipments of radioactive materials within the US.      [naftali]

Mar.01 > [X] On Mar.01, PLO-controlled Black September terrorists storm a reception at the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum and take five diplomats hostage. In previous terrorist incidents, the United States had quietly (and usually successfully) negotiated for the release of hostages, but at a Mar.02 press conference, President Nixon angrily blurts out "…we will not pay blackmail." With negotiations impossible, the PLO promptly orders the execution of three western diplomats, including the American ambassador to Sudan. Publicly, the US permanently adopts a hardline 'no concessions' position on terrorists, though this policy is not really always adhered to.      [naftali]

The twin towers of the World Trade Center

==Apr.04 > [X] Under construction since 1966 and partly opened since 1970, the twin towers of the World Trade Center are formally dedicated after the completion of the South Tower.  They are briefly the world’s tallest buildings - by 2001, they are the world’s fifth tallest.      [wap / skym]

==Jul.17 > [X] After years of drift in Afghanistan, Muhammad Daoud overthrows his cousin King Zahir Shah and proclaims a republic.  The ambitious Daoud  cracks down hard on Islamists and eventually turns against his Marxist allies as well.  See Apr.27.1978      [hiro1]

==Oct.06-24 > [] The Yom Kippur War: full-scale Egyptian and Syrian offensives catch Israel by surprise.  The Israelis soon regain the initiative, but suffer heavy losses.  This partial success boosts Arab confidence.

==Oct.19-1974.Mar.18 > [] The first oil embargo.  In protest against US aid to Israel, the Arab states halt oil exports to America, triggering a severe energy crisis and a sharp recession in America and Europe.      [ferr]

==Oct.25 > [] A sharp, dangerous US-Soviet crisis is provoked by events in the Middle East.      [ferr]

==Fall > [] The PLO and the United States begin conducting secret back-channel talks. Arafat presents himself to US officials as a relative moderate.      [naftali]

==Nov.26-28 > [] In a conference in Algiers, the Arab League recognizes the PLO as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”      [lmd]

== ------- > [X] In Egypt, some of the more zealous members of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood begin breaking away and forming widespread clandestine groups.  The underground Al Jihad (also known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad) founded to combat the Egyptian government, soon adopts the ultra-extreme doctrine that it’s every Muslim’s duty to engage in armed struggle to bring down both secular Muslim states and the entire non-Muslim world.  The more public Al Gamaat is also active, attacking businesses and individuals it considers un-Islamic.  Islamist extremism is emerging in the Middle East.        [berg / hiro1]

== ------- > [] The conservative Likud Party is formed in Israel.      [lmd]

==Jun.--- > [X] In an early outburst of Islamist violence, religious extremists attack an Egyptian military base in a failed coup attempt.      [hiro1]

==Jun.--- > [X] In effect, the PLO stops calling for the destruction of Israel. This more moderate stance alienates the PFLP and other radical Palestinian groups, who split off to form a 'rejectionist' wing.      [harc]

==Nov.13 > [] Arafat addresses the UN.  The UN recognizes the Palestinians’ right to independence and the PLO gains UN observer status.      [lmd / ferr]

==Dec.02 > [X] The Washington Post reports that the PLO is purging its pro-terrorist elements. During the mid-1970s, many US officials believe that the threat of international terrorism is receding.     [hiro1]

== ------- > [X] Saudi oil revenue for the year is $22.6 billion, a 36-fold increase in a decade.  The once-austere kingdom is rapidly becoming urbanized and corrupted, with an increasing number of resident foreigners.  Arabian fundamentalists are growing alienated.       [hiro1]

Streetfighting in Beirut, Dec.1975
==Apr.13 > [] The Lebanese civil war breaks out.  The prosperous country, which has been a major modernizing influence on the Islamic world, slides into appalling chaos.      [ferr]

== ------- > [X] About this time, the young Osama bin Laden enters King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, and comes under the influence of Islamist professors and groups. According to some sources, he befriends fellow student Prince Turki ibn Faisal, who will later become head of the Saudi intelligence service.      [berg / obs.Oct.28.2001]

==Mar.15 > [] Sadat completes his break with Russia - Egypt is aligning with America.      [ferr]

==Apr.--- > [X] A CIA study predicts the rise of a 'transnational' form of terrorism that is independent of state control. But the report does not foresee terrorism becoming more destructive or dangerous.      [naftali]

==May.31 > [] Syrian forces intervene in Lebanon in opposition to the PLO, moving into Beirut by Nov.15.      [wall]

==Jun.27 > [X] The Palestinian PFLP and members of the ultra-left German Baader-Meinhof Group hijack an Air France airliner with 258 passengers and force it to Uganda.  On Jul.03, Israeli commandos rescue the hostages in a spectacular raid.      [usdos]

==Dec.19 > [] The British Observer reports that Saudi Arabia has struck a secret deal with the US, guaranteeing oil in return for “far reaching protection of the Saudi regime.”      [hiro1]

==Jan.20 > [] Jimmy Carter is inaugurated as President of the United States.

==Feb.early > [X] Shiite riots erupt in Iraq.  Vice President Saddam Hussein cracks down hard on Islamist dissidents.      [hiro2]

==Jan.18-19 > [X] Muslim fundamentalists riot against nightclubs in Cairo - the start of years of intense Islamist unrest in Egypt.      [hiro1]

==May.17 > [] The right wins Israeli elections for the first time.  On Jun.21, Menachem Begin forms a Likud bloc government and adopts hardline anti-Arab policies.  Jewish settlements in the occupied territories proliferate.      [lmd]

==Jul.05 > [X] The ruthless General Zia ul-Haq seizes power in Pakistan.  In the next eleven years, he increases the power of Islamists in the officer corps and encourages the spread of Muslim fundamentalist madrassas (Koran schools), which popularize Islamic extremism.  See Aug.17.1988      [wall / berg]

==Nov.19-21 > [] Anwar Sadat launches a peace initiative, dramatically visiting Israel and delivering an eloquent plea for peace to the Knesset.  Sadat’s overtures to Israel soon cause a break between Egypt and much of the Arab world.

==Jan.09 > [X] Clerical students riot against the Shah in the holy city of Qom and are fired on by the police.  Iran begins to destabilize, swept by repeated cycles of violent unrest that are encouraged by the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini.  By mid-February, rioters have adopted the chant "Death to the Shah."      [hiro3]

==Apr.27-28 > [] Afghan President Daoud is overthrown and killed in a bloody military coup engineered by the Khalq, a radical Marxist group.  By summer, the Khalq is suppressing rival leftist factions.      [newl / hiro1]

==Sep.08 > [X] Black Friday: after massive demonstrations in Tehran on Sep.07, the desperate Shah imposes martial law.  Troops shoot down thousands of demonstrators.  The Shah's authority begins to crumble, and the situation in Iran spins out of control.         [hiro3]

==Sep.17 > []  After talks mediated by US President Carter, Sadat and Begin agree to the Camp David Accords, establishing a timetable for Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations.  On Nov.05, the Arab League denounces the Accords.      [lmd / ferr]

==Nov.--- > [] The Khalq regime attempts to forcibly impose sweeping reforms on Afghanistan, infuriating the rural population.  Afghanistan rapidly polarizes.  By winter, armed resistance is becoming widespread in the countryside and some mountainous regions have completely broken away from central control.      [newl / hiro1]

This chronology is intended as an outline of developments related to 9/11 and its aftermath, and tends to focus on unrest, war, and terrorism.  It is not meant to be a comprehensive timeline of Middle East history.

Text Symbols
 [] = The Levant: Israel, Palestine,
         Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey
[X] = Non-Islamist Terrorism
 [] = Egypt and North Africa
[X] = Islamist Extremists
 [] = The Persian Gulf Region and Arabia
[X] = Islamist Terrorism (not al-Qaeda)
 [] = Central and Southern Asia
[X] = al-Qaeda and bin Laden
 [] = Europe and the Soviet Union
[X] = The 9/11 Operation
 [] = The United States
[X] = Counterterrorism

9/11 Intro          Source Abbreviations

1979-1986      1987-1992      1993-1995      1996-1998      1999-2000

2001, Jan-Jun
     2001, Jul-Sep.10

September 11, 2001, Part I      September 11, 2001, Part II