Iran and US President Donald Trump: A timeline of key events

From the US killing of General Qassem Soleimani to Iran’s arrest warrant for Trump, a list of key US-Iran events.

People gather for a protest against the Trump administration''s escalation of military tensions with Iran in Times Square in New York, New York, USA, 08 January 2020. US President Trump made a stateme
People gather for a protest against the Trump administration's escalation of military tensions with Iran in Times Square in New York [File: Justin Lane/EPA]

Iran has issued an arrest warrant against US President Donald Trump and dozens of his aides on Monday, months after the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in an air strike in Iraq.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have soared since, but the two rivals have been at loggerheads since Trump pulled his country out of a landmark nuclear deal in 2018 signed three years prior between Iran and world powers. 

Here is a list of key events which led to the latest Iranian decision.


  • December 27: A rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk killed a US contractor and wounded several US service members and Iraqi personnel. In its statement confirming the attack, the US-led coalition against the ISIL (ISIS) armed group did not specify who might be responsible, but US officials later blamed Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group, for the attack.

  • December 29:The US military carried out “defensive strikes” on sites in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataib Hezbollah that Washington said were in retaliation for the killing of the US contractor.  


  • January 2: US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said there were “some indications” that Iran or groups it supports “may be planning additional attacks” on US interests in the Middle East.

  • January 3: In a predawn air raid at Iraq’s airport in Baghdad, the US struck and killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Iran-backed group in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or PMF. 

  • January 3: In its first comments on the killing, the White House said Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”, and that the killing was aimed at “deterring future Iranian attack plans”. 

  • January 4: Trump threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran attacked Americans or US assets. The 52 targets represented the 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for 444 days after being seized at the US embassy in Tehran in November 1979, he added.

  • January 5: Tens of thousands of mourners clad in black filled the streets of Iran’s Mashhad and Ahvaz to pay their respects to Soleimani. 

  • January 6: Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed he saw intelligence which proves an Iranian attack was “imminent, and it was very, very clear in scale, scope”.

  • January 9: Trump said he chose to assassinate Soleimani “because they were looking to blow up our [Baghdad] embassy”. Later, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that the attacks were “imminent”, adding: “We don’t know precisely when, and we don’t know precisely where … But it was real.”

  • January 8: Iran launched a series of missile attacks on two Iraqi bases housing US troops, including the Ain al-Assad military base, and a second facility near Erbil airport. In a Tweet, Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran had taken and concluded “proportionate measures in self-defence” under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

  • January 8:The Kyiv-bound flight (PS752) of Ukraine International Airlines crashed minutes after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

  • January 13: Iran – grappling with public anger and international condemnation – denied a “cover-up” after it took days for officials to admit that the plane was mistakenly shot down during a confrontation with the US.

  • March 12: Three US-led coalition troops are killed after multiple rockets hit Taji military base housing US and coalition troops near Baghdad.

  • March 18: The US slapped new sanctions on Iran targeting nine entities and three individuals. They mainly targeted Iran’s petrochemical industry and are intended to “further Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation”, Pompeo said.

  • March 29: Iran’s Zarif accused the US of moving from “economic terrorism” to “medical terror” by not lifting sanctions since the country’s coronavirus outbreak began in February.

  • April 6: Human Rights Watch released a report urging the US to ease economic sanctions imposed on Iran. Sanctions are “negatively affecting the Iranian government’s ability to adequately respond to the mounting health consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” HRW said.
  • May 20: The US announced another round of sanctions – this time targeting Iran’s interior minister as well as senior law enforcement officials, over allegations of grave human rights violations.

  • May 21: Iran dismissed new US sanctions on several of its officials as “fruitless and repetitive”.

  • June 29: Iran issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol for help in arresting Trump and dozens of others it believes carried out Soleimani’s killing.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies