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Key events raising tensions in the Persian Gulf

July 7, 2019
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FILE - This Jan. 15, 2011 file photo, shows a part of Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran announced Sunday, July 7, 2019 it will raise its enrichment of uranium, breaking another limit of its faltering 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and further heightening tensions between Tehran and the U.S. (Mehdi Marizad/Fars News Agency via AP, File)

Iran announced Sunday it will raise its enrichment of uranium, breaking another limit of its faltering 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and further heightening tensions between Tehran and the U.S.

Iran made the decision a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal. Iran has repeatedly warned Europe in recent weeks that it would begin walking away from an accord neutered by a maximalist American campaign of sanctions that blocked Tehran’s oil sales abroad and targeted its top officials.

A timeline of recent events:

May 5: John Bolton, the White House national security adviser and a longtime Iran hawk, announces the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” without providing details. He threatens “unrelenting force” in response to any attack.

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May 8: Iran vows to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels, starting July 7, if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its nuclear deal. The U.S. responds by imposing sanctions on Iran’s metal industry.

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May 9: The European Union urges Iran to respect the nuclear deal and says it plans to continue trading with the country despite U.S. sanctions. Trump says he would like Iran’s leaders to “call me.”

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May 10: The U.S. says it will move a Patriot missile battery into the Middle East to counter threats from Iran.

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May 12: The United Arab Emirates 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.

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May 13: European foreign ministers urge the United States and Iran to show restraint, while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs his counterparts on the alleged threats from Iran. Trump warns that if Tehran does “anything” in the form of an attack, “they will suffer greatly.”

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May 14: Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels launch a drone attack on Saudi Arabia, striking a major oil pipeline and taking it out of service. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says “no one is seeking war,” but that it wouldn’t be difficult for Iran to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels.

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May 15: The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad orders all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq immediately. The Netherlands and Germany say they are suspending their training of Iraqi forces.

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May 16: Saudi Arabia blames Iran for the drone attack on its pipeline and an English-language newspaper close to the palace calls for the U.S. to launch “surgical” strikes in retaliation.

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May 19: A rocket lands near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, without harming anyone. It’s not clear who is behind the attack, but after the initial reports, Trump tweets: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Iran’s foreign minister responded by tweeting that Trump had been “goaded” into “genocidal taunts.”

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May 20: Iran says it has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium, which is used for civilian applications but not nuclear weapons. The increased production will lead it to exceed the stockpile limits in the nuclear deal.

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May 24: Trump says the U.S. will bolster its military presence in the Middle East with an additional 1,500 troops. He says the troops will have a “mostly protective” role. Senior Pentagon officer Vice Admiral Michael Gilday says the U.S. has a high degree of confidence that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was responsible for the explosions of the four tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and that Iranian proxies in Iraq fired rockets into Baghdad.

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May 31 and June 1: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman hosts three high-level summits in Mecca, drawing heads of state from across the Middle East and Muslim countries to present a unified Muslim and Arab position on Iran. The monarch calls on the international community to use all means to confront Iran and accuses the Shiite power of being behind “terrorist operations” that targeted Saudi oil interests.

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June 12: Saudi Arabia says 26 people were wounded in an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting an airport in kingdom’s southwestern town of Abha. The Houthis claim they’d launched a cruise missile at the airport.

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June 13: Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz are hit in an alleged assault that leaves one ablaze and adrift as 44 sailors are evacuated from both vessels and the U.S. Navy rushes to assist. America later blames Iran for the attack, something Tehran denies.

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June 17: Iran says it will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days.

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June 19: U.S. Navy expert says the limpet mines used to attack a Japanese-owned oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz on June 13 bore “a striking resemblance” to similar mines seen in Iran. Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami says allegations that Tehran was behind the tanker attacks was “totally a lie” meant to tarnish Iran’s image.

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June 20: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shoots down a U.S. military surveillance drone.

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June 21: Trump says he called off a planned retaliatory strike on Iran over concerns about casualties. Airlines reroute flights to avoid airspace near the Strait of Hormuz after American aviation officials warn that commercial jetliners could be mistakenly attacked amid tensions between Tehran and Washington.

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June 23: A new attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Abha airport kills one person and wounds seven others.

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June 24: Trump sanctions Khamenei and others.

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July 1: Iran breaks the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by the nuclear deal.

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July 3: Iran’s president warns Tehran will increase its enrichment of uranium to “any amount that we want” beginning on July 7.

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July 4: Authorities in Gibraltar intercept an Iranian supertanker they believe to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Tehran’s crude oil to war-ravaged Syria. Iran angrily reacts after suggestions the interception came on advice of the U.S.

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July 5: A former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard suggests the Islamic Republic should consider seizing a British oil tanker in response to authorities detaining an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar.

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July 7: Iranians officials say they will surpass the limit set on Iran’s uranium enrichment within 24-hours, but are still open to talks with the U.S. and Europe to save the deal.

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