Iran and the US: Months of escalating tensions ahead of Soleimani killing

Iran and the US: Months of escalating tensions ahead of Soleimani killing

Tehran’s nuclear activities and tanker attacks, as well as targeting of Saudi oil facility and US drone, along with Trump’s pullout from nuke deal, all contributed to situation

An oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019 near the strategic Strait of Hormuz where two ships were reportedly attacked. (AP Photo/ISNA)
An oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019 near the strategic Strait of Hormuz where two ships were reportedly attacked. (AP Photo/ISNA)

TEHRAN, Iran — Tensions between Iran and the United States have been steadily escalating with Washington tightening sanctions, Tehran resuming nuclear activity and a series of incidents in the flashpoint Gulf.

After a US strike killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani early on Friday, here is a recap.

Terror blacklist

On April 8, 2019 Washington declares Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps a “terrorist” group. Its Quds Force, which operates abroad, is also put on the blacklist.

On May 5, White House national security adviser John Bolton announces the deployment of an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East.

Nuclear accord unravels

On May 8, a year after Washington unilaterally withdrew from an international 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed sanctions, Tehran warns it is prepared to resume nuclear activity.

Trump announces new measures against Iran’s steel and mining sectors.

Attacks on ships

On May 12, four ships, including three oil tankers, are damaged in mysterious attacks in the Gulf that the United States blames on Iran.

On May 25, the United States says it is deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to counter “credible threats” from Iran.

Two tankers, Norwegian and Japanese, come under attack in the Gulf of Oman on June 13. Washington, London and Riyadh blame Iran, which denies involvement.

US drone shot down

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says on June 20 it shot down a US drone which violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump approves a retaliatory strike, but cancels it at the last minute.

Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani (left) with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (Wikipedia)

On June 24, Trump announces “hard-hitting” financial sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian military leaders.

On July 18, Trump says the US military has taken down an Iranian drone that came dangerously close to one of its naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.

On July 1, Iran announces it has breached a cap on its uranium enrichment set out in the 2015 deal.

Saudi oil attack

On September 14, aerial attacks claimed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels spark fires at two major Saudi oil facilities.

Tehran is accused by the United States and other powers of being responsible but denies involvement.

AFPTV screen grab from video shows smoke billowing from an Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, September 14, 2019. (AFP)

On September 20, Trump announces “the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country,” hitting Iran’s central bank.

On November 7, Tehran resumes uranium enrichment at its underground Fordo plant — its fourth walkback from the 2015 nuclear accord.

US backs protesters

Iran is furious when the US expresses support for protesters who take to the streets on November 15 after a fuel price hike.

Anti-government protesters dance in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, December 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The White House condemns Iran for using “lethal force” in the days of violence which reportedly leaves scores dead. Iran’s foreign ministry criticizes “American economic terrorism.”

US strike kills commander

On December 29, the United States carries out air strikes against bases of a pro-Iran group in Iraq, killing at least 25 fighters.

The strikes are in retaliation for rocket attacks against US interests in Iraq, including one in which a US civilian contractor is killed on December 27.

On December 31, pro-Iran protesters storm the US embassy compound in Baghdad expressing fury over the strikes. Trump warns Tehran it could “pay a very big price.”

A man waves the Iraqi flag while the Iraqi army soldiers are deployed in front of the US embassy, in Baghdad, Iraq, January 1, 2020. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

On January 3, 2020 a US strike kills top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander, in Iraq.

The Pentagon says Trump ordered the “killing” after the siege of the US embassy in Baghdad.

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