A US drone strike at Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020, killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force and one of the most powerful men in the country, and brought Washington and Tehran to the brink of all-out war.
While the strike marked a sudden and violent escalation in tensions between the two countries, problems have arisen since early 2018 – when former US President Donald Trump tore up the nuclear deal signed under Obama.
Here is the chain of events that shook the Middle East to a sharp point:
The 9th of May: Donald Trump announces that the US will withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “ core defect, ” saying strict new sanctions will be imposed on Tehran.
21st of May: The US is issuing a list of 12 requirements that Iran must meet – including the complete shutdown of its nuclear energy program – otherwise sanctions will be imposed. The list is rejected by Tehran
Donald Trump signs an executive order to reimpose sanctions on Iran and effectively tear up the nuclear deal signed by Obama
August 7: America imposes first round of sanctions, including canceling multi-billion dollar deal for Boeing planes and banning gold sales to Tehran
November 5: Second round of sanctions announced, this time against Iranian oil exports – Tehran’s main source of income – and cut off access to banking markets
April 8: Donald Trump appoints Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s domestic military force, a ‘terror group’, imposing travel bans and economic sanctions against its leaders
5th of May: National Security Adviser John Bolton Announces a Carrier Strike Group and Air Force Bombers Will Be Deployed to the Region to Combat “ Some Troubling and Escalating Indications ”
May 8th: On the eve of Trump’s one-year anniversary breaking the deal, Iran says it will stop complying by increasing and enriching its supplies of uranium to near weapon-worthy levels.
May 12th: Four oil tankers from Saudi Arabia, Norway and UAE are hit by explosions near Fujairah in attack America blamed on Tehran
An oil tanker burns in the Strait of Hormuz – one of two from Japan and Norway attacked on June 13
June 13th: Two more tankers, this time from Norway and Japan, are startled by explosions that Washington again attributes to the Iranian regime.
June 19: A US Navy drone is shot down by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles over the Strait of Hormuz, prompting Trump to order and then quickly cancel airstrikes on Iranian targets.
July 4: British Marines seize Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker they said was bound for Syria, off the coast of Gibraltar as it entered the Mediterranean
10th of July: British Heritage tanker is harassed by Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships in the Strait of Hormuz, but they are driven back by a Royal Navy warship
July 20: British-flagged tanker Stena Impero is impounded by the IRGC and towed to Bandar Abbas, where it is kept under armed guard by gunboats.
August 15: Britain agrees to release Iranian tanker after seeking assurance it will not go to Syria
September 14: Drones and cruise missiles are being used to attack a Saudi oil field in Khurais and the country’s largest refinery in Abqaiq, killing a third of the world’s oil supply. The US and Saudis blame Iran, which denies responsibility
September 27: Iran is releasing the Stena Impero and its crew
Smoke is seen from Saudi Arabia’s largest oil refinery in Abqaiq, following an attack that Riyadh blamed on Iran
11 October: Iranian oil tanker sailing off the coast of Jeddah is startled by two explosions that Iran says were caused by guided missiles fired by Saudi Arabia.
December 27: A US military contractor is killed in a missile strike near the city of Kirkuk, Iraq, in an attack that Washington blames Iran
December 29: America launches retaliatory attacks against Kataeb Hezbollah, part of pro-Iran People Mobilization Forces in Iraq, killing 25 people
December 31: US Embassy in Baghdad under attack by PMF forces led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, pictured outside among camouflage-clad protesters
January 3rd: Qassem Soleimani arrives at Baghdad airport on a jet plane from Lebanon or Syria, is hit by missiles fired by a US Reaper drone and is killed. Muhandis is also murdered, along with Mohammed Ridha Jabri, a senior PMF figure
The burning wreckage of a car believed to have been transporting General Soleimani at Baghdad airport after being hit by a US drone
Pictured: Officials stand by the wreckage after a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed with 176 people at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, killing everyone on board; in Shahriar, Iran, January 8, 2020
January 8: Iraqi Al Asad airbase, home to US-led coalition forces, was attacked with ballistic missiles as part of Iran’s ‘Operation Martyr Soleimani’, named after General Qasem Soleimani. It was also reported that Erbil airbase in Iraqi Kurdistan was also under attack.
Hours after the attack, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed just after takeoff from Tehran International Airport, killing all 176 passengers and crew, including 82 Iranian and 63 Canadian civilians.
March: More missile attacks in Iraq. In one strike, two Americans – a soldier and a contractor – and a British soldier are killed.
April: Revolutionary Guard chief Hossein Salami says he ordered Tehran’s naval forces to destroy all U.S. warships threatening the ‘security’ of Iranian ships after Trump said he told the U.S. Navy to shoot at all Iranian ships. ships harassing it at sea.
October: The US threatened to close their embassy in Baghdad unless the attacks stopped.
December: Missiles are fired at the American embassy. Trump swears that if an American is killed, he will launch a full-scale bombing campaign.
January 4: Iran seizes a South Korean-flagged tanker in the Gulf, the first such seizure in more than a year. Iran called “environmental reasons” and demanded money for its damage to the environment.
January 22: Iran’s supreme leader appeared to be threatening Trump with revenge on Twitter before the social media platform suspended the ad hoc account.
15 February: Missile fire targeted Erbil Airbase in Iraqi Kurdistan; a US-led coalition civilian contractor was killed and eight others, including a US soldier, were injured in the attack.
February 26: US President Joe Biden ordered air strikes on Kata’ib Hezbollah facilities in the city of Abu Kamal, Syria, in retaliation for a recent missile strike in Erbil.
The attack left casualties among Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, with deaths ranging from 1 to 17 or even 22 militants, with varying reports.