US-Iran tensions: Why does the US have sanctions on Iran, how did it start and what’s the latest?

US-Iran tensions: Why does the US have sanctions on Iran, how did it start and what’s the latest?

- in Usa News

OVER recent years tensions between the US and Iran have continued to intensify. The relationship between the two countries has reached boiling point with Donald Trump threatening to “obliterate” and do “dastardly things” to Iran.

The President has significantly tightened sanctions on Iran as a result, but how did it all start and what’s the latest?

The US has threatened to impose the 'strongest sanctions in history' on Iran
AP:Associated Press

The US President has said ‘we know the culprit’ of the drone attacks on Saturday[/caption]

Why does the US have sanctions on Iran?

The United States has a long history of sanctions against Iran.

They have been implemented in response to actions by the Iranian Government dating back to the late seventies.

Iran has been accused of supporting terrorism and extremism and pursuing nuclear weapons.

The US says the country supports Governments of countries considered enemies to America, like Syria.

It also argues that Iran supports groups who are enemies of its allies, including Hamas.

What happened in the Gulf of Oman attack?

On June 13, 2019, the US said that Iran was behind the “torpedo attack” on its American-linked oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman.

Both the Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous – which was reportedly bombed – burst into flames and were forced to evacuate in the troubled region.

This comes after the US claimed Iran used explosives to blow huge holes in four ships – including two Saudi oil tankers – anchored in the Persian Gulf in May 2019.

The ships reportedly had ruptures measuring up to ten foot across  in their hulls as a result of the May 12 sabotage attacks.

Many international observers believe the attack was an act of “revenge” by Iran after the White House imposed crippling economic sanctions after Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal.

In May 2019 Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement which he called a “horrible, one-sided deal”, saying it did not address Iran’s ballistic missile activities and check in its regional behaviour.

He also threatened to hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

The tensions between the US and Iran dates all the way back to the seventies
The tensions between the US and Iran dates all the way back to the seventies

The US has since threatened to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” against Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out 12 demands for Iran and said relief from economic sanctions would only come when Washington had seen tangible shifts in Iran’s policies.

He warned: “The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations.”

Pompeo said a stronger pact should require that Iran stop enrichment of uranium, which was allowed within strict limitations under the previous deal.

Iran would also have to walk away from core pillars of its foreign policy, including its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Trump dismissed Iran’s insistence it had no involvement with the attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

He cited footage that Washington says shows Iranian forces in a small boat taking an unexploded mine off the hull of one of the ships.

Speaking to Fox News, Trump said Iran “did do it”.

He added: “I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it. And you saw the boat at night trying to take the mine off and successfully took the mine off the boat, and that was exposed.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the truth needed to be “clearly established”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani[/caption]

What is the relationship like between the US and Iran now?

Tensions are high.

Iran has warned the US it’s “ready for a fully-fledged war” as American bases are “within range of our missiles”, says a top commander.

The threat, from Aerospace Force boss Amirali Hajizadeh, comes hours after immense fires were seen engulfing two major Saudi Arabian oil plants.

Iran has dismissed accusations by the US that it was behind Saturday’s attacks on Saudi oil plants that disrupted world oil production.

Experts are saying the attacks are the “equivalent of 9/11” for the global oil industry and prices have now rocketed by 20 per cent.

The last time prices jumped anywhere this high was the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Trump has now threatened to do “dastardly things” to Iran in response to the drone attacks on the world’s largest oil plant in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group has already claimed responsibility for the attacks, that knocked out more than half of Saudi’s oil output.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen and accused Iran of “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”

His tweets have prompted a war of words, with Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, speaking on state TV, dismissing the American claim as “pointless”.

And, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander warned that the Islamic Republic was ready for “full-fledged” war and that US military assets were within range of Iranian missiles.

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000km around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force Amirali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

America said it was ready to tap its emergency oil reserves if needed after the attack on two oil plants, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility in Abqaiq.

Recent US and Iran tensions

  • May 5: USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force is deployed in Middle East in response to ‘a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings’ by Iran.
  • May 8: Iran vows to enrich its uranium stockpile if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its nuclear deal. The US responds by imposing sanctions on Iran’s metals industry.
  • May 10: The US says it will move a Patriot missile battery into the Middle East to counter threats from Iran.
  • May 24: President Trump says the US will bolster its military presence in the Middle East with an additional 1,500 troops.
  • May 12: The UAE says four commercial ships off its eastern coast “were subjected to sabotage operations,” just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets air false reports of explosions at a nearby Emirati port.
  • June 13: Two oil tankers are attacked in the Gulf of Oman – Washington blames Iran while Tehran denies involvement.
  • June 18: US sends more than 1,000 additional troops to Middle East citing Iran’s ‘hostile behaviour’.
  • July 19: Trump said a US warship had destroyed an Iranian drone that came too close – but Iran has denied losing a drone.
  • June 20: Iran shoots down American ‘spy’ drone insisting the aircraft had flown over its airspace – a claim the US denied.
  • June 24: Trump imposes additional sanctions on Iranian leaders, including on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • July 3: Iran confirmed its threat to increase uranuium enrichment after Europe failed to respond to requests to ease financial pressure on Iran.
  • July 19: Iran seized a UK-flagged oil tanker in strategic waters.
  • July 20: The Pentagon said US troops are being deployed to Saudia Arabia to defend American interests from “emergent credible threats”, amid heightened tensions over the safety of shipping lanes in the Gulf.
  • July 22: Iran says it has arrested 17 spies who it claims were working for the CIA, and sentenced some of them to death.

What happened with the drone shooting?

The President said Iran had “made a very big mistake” shooting down a US drone on June 20, 2019.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin warned US against using force on Iran, saying it would have catastrophic consequences.

Trump further commented that the drone strike could have been an accident by someone “foolish and stupid”.

There was no immediate response from Iran to Trump’s suggestion that the shootdown was a mistake.

But the Islamic Republic’s state-run IRNA news agency insisted the country’s Revolutionary Guard hit the drone when it flew over Iran in a “clear message” to Washington.

Iran called the increased sanctions “economic terrorism” insisting the drone had invaded its airspace – near the Kouhmobarak district in south of the country.

It further accused the US of “a very dangerous and provocative act”.

It has now filed a complaint with the United Nations over the incident which comes amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The US confirmed another attempt by Iran to shootdown an American drone as well as the successful destruction of one on June 6 by Iranian-aligned Houthi forces in Yemen.

The superpower then announced plans to deploy more than 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East following suspected bomb attacks on two oil tankers.

The Pentagon released photos which it claims proves Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were behind the attacks on the ships in the Gulf of Oman.

Just days after shooting down the US drone, it was revealed Iran had executed a former Ministry of Defence employee after intelligence officials accused him of spying for the CIA.

An aerial picture showing the huge blaze raging on the oil tanker after the attack in the Gulf of Oman
AP:Associated Press

An aerial picture showing the huge blaze raging on the oil tanker after the attack in the Gulf of Oman[/caption]

Sheikh Abdullah calls for joint de-escalation effort

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said a joint effort is needed to avoid escalation.

The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said during a visit to Bulgaria:”Real regional security and stability will only be attained when regional actors work together.

“Our region is the main energy supplier to the world; our safety and security is key to ensuring prosperity and stability for all.

“We must work together to spare the region from escalation, and give the voice of wisdom a chance.”

US and Iran – a troubled history

  • Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran was one of America’s biggest allies in the Middle East and was led by the US-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
  • However, since the seismic revolt, Iran has been led by murderous Islamic fundamentalists and tensions with Washington have remained ever since.
  • On November 4, 1979, the Iranian regime took 52 US diplomats hostage in response to President Carter’s administration allowing Iran’s deposed former leader into America.
  • The hostage crisis lasted for 444 days and also included a failed rescue mission which cost the lives of eight US soldiers.
  • In April 1980, the US ended diplomatic relations with Iran – a break which lasted for more than 30 years.
  • In April 1983, Washington blamed the Iranian-funded terror group Hezbollah for carrying out a bombing attack on the American embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
  • The assault, carried out amid a brutal civil war in Lebanon, killed 17 Americans.
  • In November of that year, two truck bombs in Beruit killed 241 US peace keepers. The US again blamed Hezbollah for the incident.
  • The Clinton White House, in 1995, placed a total embargo on Iran meaning US companies could not trade with the country.
  • And in 2002, George W Bush included the Islamic Republic in his famous “Axis of evil” speech along with North Korea and Iraq.

How did the sanctions start?

In 1979 the Iranian Islamic revolution replaced the country’s monarch with a system of Government based on the values of Shia Islam.

Nine months later a group of students took 52 people hostage inside the American Embassy in capital city Tehran for 444 days.

This was in protest to the news that the US permitted the exiled Shah of Iran to enter the country for medical treatment.


The US responded to the hostage situation by freezing around $12 billion in Iranian assets, which include bank deposits and real estate.

In 2015 the two countries made a nuclear agreement that meant Iran would reduce its nuclear facilities in order to lift all nuclear-related sanctions.

This would free up tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets.

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