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

THE US significantly tightened sanctions on Iran as tensions escalated between the two countries.

But why do they have them? How did it start and who is Iran allied with?

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 and began in 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 like Hamas.

What happened in the Gulf of Oman attack?

The US said on June 13 that Iran was behind the "torpedo attack" on an 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 last month.

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

What did Donald Trump say?

US President Donald Trump has 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".

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."

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.

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

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.

The US has now 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."

His demands came just weeks after the US pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and threatened to hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

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.

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