From US ally to 'axis of evil'
After the assassination of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, Washington said the US strategy towards Iran would not change and the practice of imposing tough sanctions against Iran would continue. Meanwhile, in Tehran, it was considered that the assassination of a general is tantamount to starting a war.
Inews in the article US and Iran: A brief history of relations, from the nuclear deal to Donald Trump's sanctions reminds that early relations between Iran and the US showed few signs of the tense conflict which would emerge. The last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, maintained a strongly pro-American foreign policy and was viewed as friend of the US.
Friend of US
In 1953, Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq was overthrown in a coup organised by US and UK intelligence agencies after he had tried to nationalise the country's oil industry. The Shah was reinstated and received backing from the US, helping the nation create its nuclear program. But the Iranian revolution of 1979 saw the Shah deposed and two weeks later Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile and the Islamic Republic of Iran is declared. The same year the US embassy in Tehran was seized and the American hostages inside were held for over a year. In 1980, the US severed diplomatic relations with Iran, a status which has remained. Four years later, it listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. US President Ronald Reagan revealed a secret arms deal with Tehran had taken place in the mid-1980s in violation of the US arms embargo.
Severed diplomatic relations
By 2002, US president George W. Bush had declared Iran, Iraq and North Korea an "axis of evil". Under Barack Obama's administration there was a thawing of relations. In 2009, he told Iranian leaders he would extend a hand if they unclenched their fist and by November 2013 Iran and six major powers agreed the Joint Plan of Action nuclear deal, curbing Iran's nuclear work in return for limited sanctions relief.
President Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions in 2018 which saw the tension return to the region. Last year, the US designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a "terrorist organisation" a month later Iran said it increase enriched uranium production.