US-Iran tensions: Timeline of events leading to Soleimani killing

Tensions between the United States and Iran escalated dramatically on Friday after US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

The attack at Baghdad International Airport also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly pledged to take “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s assassination.

Trump and US officials have defended the move, saying it was “self-defence”.

Here’s a look at the key events have led to the current situation:

US withdraws from Iran nuclear deal
Trump made good on an election campaign promise, announcing on May 8 that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

“I made clear that if the deal could not be fixed, the United States would no longer be a party to the agreement,” Trump said at the time. “The Iran deal is defective at its core.”

The JCPOA had tightly restricted Iran’s nuclear programme in return for ending sanctions that had severely damaged its economy.

In response, Iran called Trump’s decision “unacceptable” and said it would bypass Washington and negotiate with the deal’s other remaining signatories: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

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