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U.S.-Iran relations: What happened in the days leading up to Qassem Soleimani’s killing

WATCH: U.S. and Iran's rocky history explained in five minutes.

Tense relations between the United States and Iran worsened on Friday when the Trump administration killed prominent Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a targeted airstrike.

Soleimani’s death is just the latest in a series of escalating incidents that occurred after U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrew America from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Here’s a look at what happened in the days leading up to Soleimani’s death:

Cellphone video shows fiery aftermath of strike which killed General Qassem Solemaini
Cellphone video shows fiery aftermath of strike which killed General Qassem Solemaini

Dec. 29, 2019

The most recent round of tensions between the countries began when U.S. military strikes in Iraq and Syria killed 25 Iran-backed Iraqi militia fighters and wounded dozens more.

The attack, which occurred on Sunday, Dec. 29, was described as “precision defensive strikes” by the U.S. Department of Defence.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strikes send the message that the U.S. will not tolerate actions by Iran that jeopardize American lives.

The U.S. blamed the militia for a rocket barrage on Dec. 27 that killed a U.S. defence contractor at a military compound near Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Officials said attackers fired as many as 30 rockets in that assault.

READ MORE: U.S. conducts military strikes in Iraq, Syria at sites linked to Iran-backed militia

Dec. 30, 2019

A day after the Dec. 29 attack, Iran-backed Iraqi militia vowed to retaliate, raising concerns of new attacks and escalating the proxy war between the U.S. and Iran playing out in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government also spoke out, calling the attack a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty. It said it would reconsider its relationship with the U.S.-led coalition — the first time it has said so since an agreement was struck to keep some U.S. troops in the country.

READ MORE: Iran-backed militia vows revenge after U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, Syria

Iraq added that the U.S. attack targeted its forces operating in an area on the front lines of the war against the Islamic State group and fighters who played an instrumental role in defeating the extremists in eastern Syria and western Iraq.

The Iraqi statement said the U.S. violated the “goals and principles” of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State.

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American and Iraqi forces patrol outside U.S. embassy in Baghdad
American and Iraqi forces patrol outside U.S. embassy in Baghdad

Dec. 31, 2019

Angered by the deadly U.S. airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia, dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday.

The main door of the U.S. Embassy was smashed and the reception area was set on fire, making it one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent history. American guards fired tear gas, and palls of smoke rose over the embassy grounds.

A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: “The message was delivered.”

READ MORE: Iran-backed militia vows revenge after U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, Syria

Amid the unrest at the embassy, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced the immediate deployment of an infantry battalion of about 750 soldiers from the U.S. army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., to the Middle East. He did not specify their destination at the time.

Also on Dec. 31, Trump tweeted: “Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

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Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the U.S. and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government. But Iraq’s angry reaction to the U.S. airstrikes and its apparent decision not to prevent the protesters from reaching the embassy signalled a sharp deterioration of U.S.-Iraq relations.

‘Death to U.S.’ Anger in Tehran following targeted killing of top Iranian commander
‘Death to U.S.’ Anger in Tehran following targeted killing of top Iranian commander

Jan. 2, 2020

The Pentagon said late Thursday that the U.S. military killed Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of Trump. Soleimani was killed near Baghdad’s international airport early Friday local time.

The Defence Department said Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier in the week.

A statement released late Thursday by the Pentagon said the strike on Soleimani “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

READ MORE: Killing of Qassem Soleimani could endanger Canadian troops in Middle East, experts say

Jan. 3, 2020

Hours after the killing of Soleimani was announced, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S.

Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, said Soleimani’s body was torn to pieces. A senior politician said Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring he wore.

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The move resulted in concern across the globe. Canada, Britain and Germany suggested that Iran shared some blame in provoking the attack.

Israeli PM says country stands with U.S. following death of Soleimani
Israeli PM says country stands with U.S. following death of Soleimani

“Canada is in contact with our international partners. The safety and well-being of Canadians in Iraq and the region, including our troops and diplomats, is our paramount concern,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement late Friday morning.

“Our goal is and remains a united and stable Iraq,” Champagne said. “Canada has long been concerned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force, led by Qassem Soleimani, whose aggressive actions have had a destabilizing effect in the region and beyond.”

Several countries voiced concern and called for de-escalation.

“A further escalation that sets the whole region on fire needs to be prevented,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

READ MORE: Safety of Canadians in Iraq of ‘paramount concern’ after U.S. airstrike: minister

China described itself as “highly concerned.”

“We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous,” France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told RTL radio. “When such actions, such operations, take place, we see that escalation is underway.”

Meanwhile, Iran summoned a Swiss envoy representing American interests in Tehran to communicate with the U.S. over the killing.

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— With files from the Associated Press