The USA has had a long history of complicated foreign relationships with almost every major country. With every changing president came a different approach, precariously attempting to balance diplomacy and hostility. In some cases, this worked well; however, as recent events prove, that isn't the case with Iran.
To understand the airstrike on Qassim Soleimani and the tension that followed, we must go back in time and explore the various events leading up to the present.
The Coup Reinstating Dictatorship (1953)
In 1953, USA and British Intelligence staged a coup against the democratic President Mohammed Mossadegh. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah, came back to power. This was done since Mossadegh had nationalised Iranian Oil, to the disadvantage of Britain. The spark to the fire that would result in resentment and distrust towards the States was hence lit.
Nuclear Cooperation (1957-70)
USA and Iran signed the Cooperation Concerning Civil Uses of Atoms in 1957. This was a civil nuclear cooperation agreement that shared nuclear technology and education with several countries, notably Israel, Pakistan, and Iran.
Hence the USA basically built the foundation for Iran's controversial nuclear programme.
By 1959, Iran sought nuclear materials and technology for the new Tehran Nuclear Research Center. By 1967, the states gave Iran a five-megawatt nuclear reactor, as well as weapon-grade uranium fuel.
In 1970, however, Iran signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This signified a commitment to not acquire nuclear weapons, although the civil nuclear programme could be maintained.
American Investment In Iran's Growth (1963-73)
In this decade between the 60s and 70s, Iran enjoyed massive growth as the USA invested in the former's military and political power. However, the autonomy of the Shah's government grew as well, with his secret police called SAVAK trained by the CIA gaining power.
Nixon met with the Shah in 1972, asking them to protect US security interests in exchange of letting Iran buy any weapon systems they want. In 1973, during the Arab-Israeli war's oil price spikes, the Shah bought huge amounts of advanced weaponry. The USA had no option but to reluctantly comply.
Years Leading Up To The Revolution (-1978)
As the Shah's power grew, so did Iranian resentment for the government and the States. Ayallah Ruhollah Khomeini was the face of this opposition, that took a religious form. Khomeini was exiled to Iraq in 1964, however, he continued delivering sermons that would be smuggled to Iran.
Carter visited Iran on 1977's New Year's Eve, toasting the Shah, unaware of the growing public resentment. Within a few days, demonstrations for the revolution began, with Khomeini at the centre.
On September 8, troops opened fire upon demonstrators in a downtown Tehran. Hundreds were killed, and the day has been termed Black Friday since. Busy with the Arab-Israeli war, the USA didn't have the resources to attend to the budding revolution.
The Iranian Revolution (1979)
On January 16th, the Shah announced a vacation, which the masses treated as the end of his reign. He appointed Shapour Bakthiar from the opposition as the prime minister, but protests did not stop.
Now in France, Khomeini was discussing an Islamic republic. On February the first, a few weeks before the Shah's vacation, Khomeini returned to cheering crowds of millions. The revolutionaries soon took control of the military, media, as well as the ministries. By April 1, Iran was officially the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iran-Iraq War (1980-88)
With the ongoing disturbance in Iran, Iraq started the war in 1980, confident to use the situation. However, the USA thought otherwise.
Tensions between USA and Iran were already simmering, as the USA embassy was seized by protestors in November 1979, just before the war. Representatives were held hostage for 444 days. The final 51 hostages were released only in January 1981, upon Reagan's inauguration.
Fearing Iran would win and gain further power in the region, Reagan's government provided Saddam Hussein's military with intelligence and resources. Despite condemning Iraq's chemical attacks, the USA continued supporting them.
By 1984, the USA declared Iran to be a state sponsor of terrorism, citing over 60 attacks against the States, Arab, and France. Through this move, they imposed heavy sanctions on Iran.
Despite an arms embargo, though, the USA continued to sell weapons to Iran from 85-86, allegedly to free hostages held by Iranian militants in Lebanon. However, the profits were used to fund Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua against the left-wing protests, due to the fear of socialism rising in Latin America.
Several officials of the Reagan administration were charged for lying to the Congress and secretly selling weapons to Iran. An impeachment resolution was submitted against Reagan, but it was never passed.
In 1988, an American warship shot down an Iran Air flight, killing all 290 passengers. The States claimed to have mistaken the flight for a fighter jet. Most of the travellers were pilgrims to Mecca.
Tensions, Nuclear Fears, And A Deal (2000-16)
In 2000, George Bush called Iran a part of the "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea, further driving Iranian rage against the States. By 2002, through statements by an Iranian opposition group, the USA accused Iran of a covert nuclear weapons programme. Iran denied the allegations, and several diplomatic meetings occurred.
However, these did not stop heavy sanctions from the USA, EU, and UN against president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government. Due to these, Iran's currency lost 2/3 value in just two years.
By September 2013, Iran had a less conservative president, Hassan Rouhani. He held a phone call with Obama, after which a long-term deal on Iran's nuclear programme was signed with the P5+1. (the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.)
In this accord, Iran agreed to limit sensitive nuclear activities, allow international inspectors, in return for lifting the sanctions.
Present Day Conflicts (2018-19)
In May 2018, Trump walked away from the nuclear deal and reinstated sanctions against Iran. The States further threatened all nations that continue to buy oil from Iran with such sanctions. This caused a huge recession in Iran's economy.
The situation worsened as the USA tightened sanctions by May 2019. These targetted Iran's oil exports. Iran responded, starting a counter-pressure campaign.
In May and June, six oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were hit by explosives. The USA blamed Iran. On the 20th of June, Iranian forces shot down an American military drone. While the USA says it was above international waters, Iran says it was above their territory.
By July, Iran began rolling back key commitments in the nuclear deal.
Killing Of Qassim Soleimani, Repercussions (2020)
On the 3rd this month, an American drone's airstrike killed Qassim Soleimani. Trump carried out this attack without Congressional approval.
Iran vowed "serious revenge" and pulled back from the nuclear accord, setting us back to square one- or worse.