Iran and the US: how did it come to this and what’s next?

Tit-for-tat attacks by Iran and the United States have seen tensions boil over again. How did it start? Who was Qassem Soleimani? And what will happen next?

Tensions have boiled over again between Iran and the United States with the  assassination of a top Iranian general by the US prompting a missile strike from Iran in retaliation. The crash of a Ukrainian passenger jet on take-off from Tehran on January 8 – killing all on board – comes at an extremely tense time.

The tit-for-tat attacks between Iran and the US – the assassination and the missile strikes – come after months of escalating rancour between the two long-standing enemies. Some have likened the atmosphere over the past year or so to the feeling leading up to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

So why is the world confronting the prospect of yet another war in the Middle East, and should Australia brace to be invited into another Coalition of the Willing?

The current deterioration in relations began in May 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015, which limited Iran’s nuclear development in return for easing sanctions. Trump said it was not tough enough and imposed more severe sanctions, under a policy he called “maximum pressure”.

On April 8 last year, Trump moved again and, over the objections of Pentagon officials, designated a powerful arm of the Iranian military, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a foreign terrorist organisation.

Read the article by Nick O’Malley and Michael Bachelard in The Sydney Morning Herald.