The United States says it has multiple images of Iranian commercial ships in the Persian Gulf that it believes are carrying missiles. An official told CNN that recent surveillance has shown some of the ships moving in and out of Iranian ports in the recent days. CNN hasn't reviewed the intelligence that led to this assessment. And the government hasn't provided any proof the ships are carrying hidden missiles or any other munitions. All this comes as the United States has moved bombers and a carrier strike group into the region. Fears of a potential military conflict between the countries have increased over the past couple of weeks. Officials in Washington are debating whether Iran is planning to attack US assets or whether it is acting defensively in an attempt to deter US action.

MORE: The United States is in the midst of an extremely dangerous standoff with Iran — and President Donald T-RUMP is mainly to blame.  Exactly one year ago Wednesday, Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions from Tehran in exchange for the country agreeing to curb its nuclear program. That wasn’t enough for Trump, though, who believed the accord was a disaster because it didn’t stop Iran’s growing ballistic missile program or sponsorship of terrorism.

The US president’s goal, it seems, is to put so much pressure on Tehran that it has no choice but to completely change its behavior — but he could end up leading the countries to the brink of war in the process.

Trump has authorized other hardline moves against Iran since pulling out of the accord, namely the reimposition of sanctions and a campaign to isolate the country from the international community. That led Iran’s economy to collapse, plunging the country into a deeper and deeper recession, impacting millions of Iranians who were already struggling under the regime’s brutal rule.

Last month, the Trump administration took things a step further when it decided to label the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — Iran’s hugely influential security and military organization responsible for the protection and survival of the regime — as a “foreign terrorist organization.” That’s the first time the US has called any part of another government a terrorist group, the Trump administration says.

That and other moves put the US and Iran on a collision course — and now it seems the countries have finally collided. While Iran has provoked the international community with its heinous actions, like supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and backing proxy groups that have killed hundreds of US troops, the fault for today’s precarious situation lies mostly at Trump’s feet.

America has the firepower to win a war with Iran, but the cost would be catastrophic, Amin Saikal writes in Project Syndicate. Iran could sink US ships, threaten countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel with missiles, and launch suicide attacks, he writes, warning of an “uncontrollable regional inferno.” With those consequences in mind, Steven Simon and Richard Sokolsky write at Politico Magazine that it’s imperative for Congress to check the Trump administration’s escalation. After National Security Advisor John Bolton cited threatening intelligence reports, Simon and Sokolsky call on Congress to vet the details—lest it repeat the mistakes of 2003’s Iraq invasion. 

The recently cited intelligence involved Iran loading missiles onto ships, and writing for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Fabian Hinz suggests those missiles were most likely headed for Yemen to assist Houthi rebels, not necessarily to threaten American troops.

The deal is a special agreement between the country of Iran and other major world powers - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.   The agreement spells out what Iran is allowed to do as regards its nuclear programme - that's the scientific steps by which a country develops nuclear power - which could be used to generate energy but which could also lead to the development of nuclear weapons.  

But the US - led by President Donald T-RUMP -  pulled out of it.  So what is the Iran nuclear deal and why is it such a big deal that the US has withdrawn from it? 

Over the years, Iran has not had a very good relationship with many major world powers because they thought Iran was working to build a nuclear weapon.

Even though Iran said its nuclear activities were peaceful many in the international community simply did not believe that.For 10 years, a worldwide organisation of countries called the United Nations (UN) put rules and restrictions on Iran called sanctions, which were designed to put pressure on Iran to stop developing its nuclear programme by damaging the country's econoFor example, Iran was stopped from selling oil and natural gas to certain countries, which was a big deal because the country made a lot of money from doing this. 

That caused a lot of problems for Iran. When President of Iran Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, he said he wanted to improve the country's relationship with the rest of the world and try to improve the economy.

After years of talks, in 2015, President Rouhani agreed a deal called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with six major world powers - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. 


Countries on both sides of the deal had to agree to certain things. The UN, US and EU agreed to take away the restrictions put on Iran, but in return, Iran had to stop large parts of its nuclear programme and allow international inspectors to monitor what was going on.