The situation between Iran and the United States almost escalated into a full conflict after a US drone strike killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in January, prompting Tehran to retaliate by firing ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq hosting US forces.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stated that the "Americans won't stay in Iraq and Syria and will be expelled", according to his official website.

In the meantime, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that Tehran will retaliate if Washington takes action against the fuel deliveries to crisis-hit Venezuela.

The statement comes after the US State Department in 2019 designated Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba as countries that had “not cooperated fully” with Washington in fighting terrorism. According to the US, Tehran remains "the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism", backing Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia groups, while its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated by Washington as a foreign terrorist organisation, is "directly involved in terrorist plotting and the killing of US citizens".

In early January, a US strike in Baghdad killed Iraqi Shia militia commander Abu Mahdi Muhandis and Qasem Soleimani, chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. Washington alleged that both were involved in an attack on the US Embassy late last year.

The US has been enforcing a policy of so-called “maximum pressure” on Iran since 2018, when the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a nuclear deal reached between Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union in 2015. 

The US-led coalition of more than 60 countries has been carrying out airstrikes and other operations against the Daesh terrorist group in Iraq since August 2014 and in Syria since September 2014. However, the coalition has been acting in Syria without the approval of the Syrian government or the UN Security Council.