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Escalation between Iran and the United States

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Tehran (AFP)

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have intensified since April when the US added Iran's Revolutionary Guards to its blacklist of "terrorist" organisations and strengthened sanctions against the Islamic republic.

A recap:

- Blacklist -

On April 8, Washington declares as a "terrorist" group the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Iranian regime's ideological army.

President Donald Trump says it is the first time it has branded part of a foreign government a terrorist group.

The Guards' prized Quds Force, which operates abroad, is also placed on the blacklist.

The next day Iran says US troops serving in the wider Middle East from the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan are "terrorist" organisations.

- US deployment -

On May 5, White House national security adviser John Bolton announces the Pentagon is sending the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group and a bomber task force to the Middle East.

"The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces," he says.

On May 7, the US says it is deploying B-52 bombers to the Gulf, followed by the Pentagon saying it will position a Patriot missile battery and an amphibious assault ship in the region.

- New sanctions -

On May 8, Iran says it is preparing to increase enriched uranium and heavy water production as part of its decision to stop some commitments made under the 2015 nuclear deal with major world powers.

A year after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the deal, reimposing sanctions on Tehran, Trump announces new measures against Iran's steel and mining sectors.

A day later Trump says Iran is "very threatening", as he seeks to justify the US military deployment. "But they should call," he says. "If they do, we are open to talk to them."

On May 13, Trump warns Iran against attacking American interests. "If they do anything they will suffer greatly," he says.

- Neither 'war', nor negotiations -

On May 14, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says: "We fundamentally do not see a war with Iran".

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that "there is not going to be any war" with the United States.

On May 15, the US orders all non-emergency staff to leave Iraq due to an "imminent" threat from Iranian-linked militias there.

Trump tweets: "I'm sure that Iran will want to talk soon."

The next day Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accuses the US of an "unacceptable" escalation of tensions and says there is "no possibility" of negotiations.

Riyadh accuses Tehran of being behind drone attacks claimed by Yemen's Huthi rebels against Saudi oil pumping stations. The attacks came after unclaimed acts of "sabotage" in the Gulf which, among others, hit Saudi oil tankers.

- 'End of Iran' -

On May 19, Trump suggests that any Iranian attack on American interests would "be the official end of Iran".

On May 30 Bolton says that Iran is "almost certainly" behind May 12 sabotage attacks off the UAE.

Pompeo says that Iran is trying to raise the price of oil through these acts.

On June 6, the UAE says the initial findings of a multinational investigation into the attacks point to the likelihood that a state was behind them, but there is no evidence yet of Iranian involvement.

- New sanctions -

On June 7, Washington hits Iran's petrochemical group PGPIC - the country's largest and most profitable such group - with economic sanctions due to its ties to the Revolutionary Guards.

Zarif warns on June 10 that those waging "economic war" against Tehran cannot expect to "remain safe".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepares to travel to Iran, on the back of a visit by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, in a bid to mediate between Washington and Tehran.

The UN's nuclear watchdog the IAEA says it is "worried about increasing tensions" over Iran's nuclear programme.

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