Background history of the September 11, 2001 attacks

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Sept. 11, 2001 attacks
Background history
September 11, 2001
Rest of September
Missing people
Foreign casualties
Rescue workers
Hijacked Airlines
American Airlines Flight 11
United Airlines Flight 175
American Airlines Flight 77
United Airlines Flight 93
Sites of destruction
World Trade Center
The Pentagon
Government response
World political effects
World economic effects
Airport security
Closings and cancellations
Audiovisual entertainment
Rescue and recovery effort
Financial assistance
Memorials and services
Slogans and terms
Misinformation and rumors
U.S. Congress Inquiry
9/11 Commission

At the beginning of the 21st century, the United States' strongest allies in west Asia are Turkey (a member of NATO), Israel and Egypt. All of these nations receive financial aid from the U.S. In 2001, the U.S. also had military bases in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman.


Historical background


1954-1979: United States backs the Iranian monarchy led by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran. This rule gradually loses the population's favor, as in addition to its ruthless and dictatorial nature (including a brutal secret police), they see it as alien and secular, and gradually fundamental Shi'ite Islam strengthens.

1967: United States holds that Israel should withdraw from territory won in the Six-Day War (Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights), and agrees with both the UN and Israel that it should do so as part of a comprehensive peace agreement (see UN Security Council Resolution 242).


  • 1979: Iran is taken over by fundamentalist Shi'ite Islamists, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. The country proceeds from one extreme to another, eradicating all Western influence, setting up a radical theocracy and beginning to back radical Islamic forces all through the region.


  • 1983: United States troops go to Lebanon as part of a United Nations peace-keeping force. The U.S. withdraws after its Marine barracks and Beirut Embassy are bombed by Iranian-backed Shiite militants, killing more than 250 Americans.
  • 1980-1988: United States backs Iraq in the long and bloody Iran-Iraq War. The U.S. also blocks UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Iraqi invasion and removes Iraq from its list of nations sponsoring terrorism together with allowing transfer of U.S. arms to Iraq and re-establishing diplomatic relations.
  • 1987-1988: U.S. sends its navy to the Persian Gulf to protect oil tankers and show support for Iraq. On March 17, 1987, an Iraqi aircraft attacks USS Stark killing 37 seamen, probably erroneously, but forcing American forces to adopt a more vigilant mindset. This in turn leads to USS Vincennes's erroneous shooting down of an Iranian civilian airplane, mistaken for an F-14, killing 290 on July 3, 1988.
  • 1989: Introduction of the new US Quadrennial Defense Review which contains the Base Force strategy ( This strategy defines international terrorism and rogue states as new national security threats, labelling Iraq and a number of other countries as rogue states, a year before the invasion of Iraq into Kuwait. These new threats are to be used in order to replace the cold war threat of communism in the post-cold war world.
  • Osama bin Laden founds Al-Qaida, with over $60 billion of CIA funding from the years 1981-1988. Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan 1988. The United States ceases support for the mujahadeen. the Communist government falls three years later in (1992). A new government is formed to replace it but civil war among many rival factions ensues with some backed by Pakistan and other outsiders including the CIA.


The United States and allies have since patrolled no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. Economic sanctions against Iraq also continue, in an unsuccessful effort to compel Iraq to implement ceasefire agreements. Over a million Iraqi deaths have been blamed on the effects of these sanctions, although most evidence indicates the Iraqi leadership did not stop its weapon programs.

During the 1980s the Islamist movement spreads widely, teaching that all Arab nations are corrupt and not representative of "true" Islam; thus all of these nations must be overthrown and replaced with an Islamic government, run solely by Islamic law.

This analysis describes the introduction of the threat symbolized by the Middle Eastern Moslem fundamentalist--"the Fundie, a Khomeini-like creature, armed with a radical ideology, equipped with nuclear weapons, and intent on launching a violent jihad against Western civilization" and by "building up Saddam Hussein as the most dangerous man in the world and as one of America's first new post-Cold War bogeymen" in support of US Foreign Policy, as well as the processes needed to create these threats.
Author Leon Hadar states that at the moment of publication (August 1992), the creation of the threat of "The Green Peril" was underway for several months.
  • 1994: Osama bin Laden's Saudi Arabian citizenship revoked. He goes to Sudan.
  • 1996: The Taliban, a radical Islamic movement backed by the Arab mujahadeen staying in Afghanistan after the war with the Soviet Union ended, takes the capital Kabul and most of Afghanistan from the hands of the local mujahadeen groups and form a government. This Islamist regime is recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Osama bin Laden arrives from Sudan. The area of the country not under Taliban control remains under the Northern Alliance, made up of forces that had belonged to the local mujahadeen, and ironically, the former Communist government in addition to Afghan minorities who faced persecution (the Taliban members who are Afghani are mainly the ethnic majority Pashtun) group.
  • February 1998: Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists issue a fatwa declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims "to kill the Americans and their allies - civilians and military ... in any country in which it is possible". Bin Laden bases the fatwa on the United States support for Israel and its actions during and following the Gulf War.
  • August 21, 1998: The United States destroys what was apparently a pharmaceutical plant that manufactured aspirin for civilians (believed at that time to be a chemical weapons plant) in Sudan with cruise missiles, and tries to kill bin Laden in a cruise missile attack on his camp in Afghanistan, during a meeting of "terrorist leaders". Twenty-four people were killed, but the leaders had dispersed by the time the missiles struck, and bin Laden was unharmed. The United States blocks a United Nations investigation into the Sudan attack.
  • October 1998: Iraq ejects United Nations monitoring teams (some of whose U.S. members were accused by Iraq in spying for the United States). U.S. and the United Kingdom introduce less strict Rules of Engagement, resulting in intermittent bombing of Iraqi Anti-Aircraft installations regarded as dangerous to overflying aircraft.
  • 1999: Drought in Afghanistan begins.
  • September 23, 1999: Texas Governor George W. Bush predicts ( on his Presidential Exploratory Committee website, that if he were to become President of the United States, he would prioritize the defense of the homeland stating:
"The protection of America itself will assume a high priority in a new century. Once a strategic afterthought, homeland defense has become an urgent duty. Every group or nation must know if they sponsor such attacks, our response will be devastating. If elected president, I will set three goals: I will renew the bond of trust between the American president and the American military, I will defend the American people against missiles and terror, and I will begin creating the military of the next century. Our military needs the rallying point of a defining mission. And that mission is to deter wars - and win wars when deterrence fails. Sending our military on vague, aimless and endless deployments is the swift solvent of morale."

Recent (2000-01)

  • Late 2000: The Israeli-Palestinian peace process falls apart, and the al-Aqsa Intifada begins.

Intelligence available pre 9/11

There are a number of unresolved claims regarding prior warning in addition to the list below. See the discussion at: 9/11 conspiracy theories.


  • June 28, 2001: Senator Warner states in his testimony ( before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that he would scrutinize their budget submissions "because we've got to prepare for an attack here at home of a terrorist nature in some form right in the cities here in the United States, and how best this nation responds."
  • July 20, 2001: The G8 summit in Genoa, Italy begins. Security is extremely tight because of large protests and intelligence indicating that terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden were planning to attack the summit to kill George W. Bush and other attendees. The reported attack plan involved crashing a plane packed with explosives into the buildings where the delegates were meeting or staying during the summit.
    Numerous precautions against this attack were taken, including; George W. Bush staying at a separate location from the other delegates, fighter jets patrolling the sky over the city, a large 'no fly zone' for commercial aircraft, and surface to air missile batteries emplaced around the city.
  • August 6, 2001: George W. Bush is informed in his President's Daily Brief that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike targets within the United States and that the FBI believed activity consistent with preparations for hijacking US airplanes was underway.
  • August 18, 2001: The FBI reports that, if released, suspect Zacarias Moussaoui "might take control of an airplane and crash it into the World Trade Center".
  • September 10, 2001: The National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States intercepted two Arabic messages to Saudi Arabia from Afghanistan. U.S. officals believed the two people in Afghanistan were connected with Al-Qaida. The statements "Tomorrow is zero hour" and "The match begins tomorrow" were contained in the messages. However, the messages which hinted at an impending attack, were not translated until September 12, 2001.

Exact dates unknown

In the months preceding September 11, the governments of at least four countries—Germany, Egypt, Russia and Israel—gave specific "urgent" warnings to the US of an impending terrorist attack, indicating that hijacked commercial aircraft might well be used to attack targets in the USA. [1] (, full list of July-August 2001 intelligence warnings here ( The Egyptian and French warnings to the USA are said to have originated from Mossad and German intelligence. [2] (

The exact dates these warnings were received is unknown, the warnings only being made public in the aftermath of 9/11.
  • German intelligence service BND told both US and Israeli intelligence agencies in June that Middle East terrorists were "planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture." (Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 14, 2001)
  • Egypt sent an urgent warning to the US June 13. It , Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the French newspaper Le Figaro that the warning was originally delivered just before the G-8 summit in Genoa, and was taken seriously enough that antiaircraft batteries were stationed around the Genoa airport. According to Mubarak, "an airplane stuffed with explosives" was mentioned. (Source: New York Times, September 26, 2001)
  • Russian intelligence notified the CIA during the summer that 25 terrorist pilots had been specifically training for suicide missions. In an interview September 15 with MSNBC, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that he had ordered Russian intelligence in August to warn the US government "in the strongest possible terms" of imminent attacks on airports and government buildings. (Source: From The Wilderness web site; MSNBC).
  • The Israeli Mossad warned FBI and CIA in August that as many as 200 followers of Osama bin Laden were slipping into the country to prepare "a major assault on the United States." The advisory spoke of a "large-scale target," and The Los Angeles Times cites unnamed US officials confirming Mossad's warning had been received. (Source: Sunday Telegraph, September 16, 2001; Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2001)
  • The Independent, a liberal daily in Great Britain, published an article asserting the US government "was warned repeatedly that a devastating attack on the United States was on its way." The Independent cited an interview given by Osama bin Laden to a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi, in late August. (Source: Independent, September 17, 2001)

Related Articles

Overview -- Background history -- Planning and execution -- September 11 -- Rest of September -- October -- Aftermath

External Links and References



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