Former President Donald Trump placed sanctions on Iran throughout his presidency, however, during his last months in office he placed even more than usual. From attempting to isolate ‘major’ banks to imposing sanctions against the Iranian oil sector all in the month of October, it appeared that Donald Trump was attempting to make Iranian relations as difficult as possible for the next president.
Today, President Joe Biden is facing this precise reality. A civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on US targets earlier this month. Additionally, a U.S. service member and five other contractors were injured when rockets hit sites on U.S.-led coalition in northern Iraq. Rockets have also struck U.S. bases in Baghdad, including the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic missions.
A Shi’ite militia group named Awliya Al Dam claimed responsibility for the attack on a website. It promised to keep targeting U.S. forces in revenge for the attacks that killed Major General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis under the Trump administration in January 2020. The Trump administration said Shi’a militant groups were armed and supported by Tehran, and this discourse has continued into the Biden administration.
In response to the attacks on U.S. personnel in recent weeks, President Biden launched a strike on Iranian-backed militias in Syria. The Pentagon said the strike destroyed "multiple facilities" and there was a very small number of casualties.
All of these elements have created an interesting environment for President Biden, who wanted to restore the 2015 JCPOA with Iran. In recent weeks, Tehran has increased its nuclear activities and has been producing Uranium-enriched metal, which directly violates the JCPOA. Iran wants a guarantee that the sanctions placed by the Trump administration will be lifted, however President Biden has stood firm against this. This week Iran rejected a European Union offer to hold direct nuclear talks with the US in the coming days.
Some have said that the recent strike against Iranian-backed militias in Syria highlights Iran’s ability to move weapons and personnel. In the year since Soleimani’s death, several new groups have emerged claiming responsibility for targeted attacks on Americans. The relationship between Washington and Tehran has remained tense for years, however, following the events of this week the future of relations are increasingly precarious.