With menacing missiles and ultimatums being thrown across the Atlantic Ocean and Twitter, the relationship between Iran and the United States is starting to crumble. Iran and the U.S have gone in and out of agreements and threats that has put a strain on their relationship throughout time.
In September 2013, Former President Barack Obama had a top-level phone call with the moderate president Hassan Rouhani of Iran for the first time in 30 years. The call was focused on the solution to the nuclear issue and also discussed the American prisoners in Iran.
In 2015, Iran had signed a deal with a long term agreement for ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (JCPOA) with a group of global powers including the US, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, and Germany. In the program, Iran had committed to reducing uranium enrichment which helps make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons. Under the deal, Iran has also committed to selling their uranium rather than keeping it. Iran has a nuclear facility near Arak that has a heavy water reactor containing plutonium that can make a nuclear bomb and under JCPOA, they promised to not use the arc to produce weapon-grade plutonium. Also under JCPOA, Iran agreed to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA can inspect Iranian nuclear sites when deemed suspicious. Before the 2015 deal, Iran had a large amount of enriched uranium and 20,000 centrifuges, which are machines that separates two substances, which is enough to create eight to 10 bombs according to the Obama administration.
In May of 2018, President Trump had reinstated economic sanctions on Iran after abandoning JCPOA. The President had also threatened other countries and firms to apply sanctions if they continued to buy Iran’s oil. Due to the President’s sanctions, Iran was forced into an economic recession. A year later, the U.S. tightened its sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and in response, Iran ran a counter-pressure campaign. According to BBC, due to Trump’s decision, Iran’s currency has been down a record low, the annual inflation rate quadrupled, and foreign investment has gone away.
On June 13, 2019, two oil tankers were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz while passing through the Gulf of Oman. The United States called it an “unprovoked attack” by Iran. In both of the tankers, the crew was forced to evacuate with one of the vessels being left ablaze. On June 20, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone. The U.S. claimed that the drone was in international water whereas Iran countered that it was in Iranian territory.
In May of 2019, Iran suspended their commitments to the nuclear deal, JCPOA. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has deferred two parts of the JCPOA deal; the sale of their enriched uranium, and heavy water. President Rouhani has threatened to produce more enriched uranium if the other countries in JCPOA don’t protect them from U.S sanctions. Rouhani gave China and Russia the ultimatum of if they failed to provide the financial and oil commitments, Iran will produce only more.
On Jan. 3, 2020, President Donald Trump administered an airstrike on Iranian General Qassem Suleimani. The General and Iraqi paramilitary leader, Abu Mahdi Muhandis, entered a SUV and drove to the highway from the airport. The U.S. drone fired a pair of missiles, creating a worldwide fear of a new world war. Killing two of the most important military and political figures in the Middle East has created uncertainty around the globe. President Trump’s order added tension to the very long and strenuous history with Iran.
On Jan. 8, 2020, a Ukranian Boeing 737 went down, killing all 176 passengers. Originally Iran had denied rumors that they had a playing cause on the Ukrainian aircraft crashing. It took a released video showing apparent missiles being shot at it for Iran to admit they it was their fault. The Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 to Kyiv had departed from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran before being shot down.
Iran and the US have also had a strained relationship but events of late have only increased tensions and it will be interesting to see what happens next.