Trump displays a presidential memorandum on the Iran deal withdrawal. Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images

President Trump confirmed Friday that the U.S. was "cocked & loaded" to strike Iran last night, a move that could have accelerated the path to war.

How we got here: The strike had been ordered in response to Iran's shooting down of a U.S. drone earlier this week, but the trend toward conflict began in earnest last year when the president announced that the U.S. would pull out of the internationally negotiated Iran nuclear deal.

Leaving the deal

May 8, 2018: Trump announces that the U.S. will pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

  • That kicks off a "maximum pressure" campaign intended, at least officially, to yield a new, far more comprehensive deal. New rounds of sanctions are implemented in August, November and — most recently — April.
  • Iran initially continues to comply with the deal, and the European signatories work desperately to save it.
Bolton's warning

May 5: National Security Adviser John Bolton issues a statement referring to impending Iranian attacks and announces a U.S. aircraft carrier is en route to the region.

  • May 8: On the anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal, Iran announces it will increase uranium production.
  • May 9: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presents plans for 120,000 U.S. troops to be deployed to the Middle East in the event of an Iranian attack, per the New York Times.
  • May 10: The U.S. sends additional military hardware, including a warship, to the Middle East.
First tanker attacks

May 12: Four oil tankers — two Saudi, one Emirati, one Norwegian — are attacked near the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. later accuses Iran.

  • May 14: Armed drones strike two Saudi pumping stations. Houthi rebels operating in Yemen claim responsibility.
  • May 15: The U.S. orders a partial evacuation of its embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
New escalations

June 13: With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran and diplomacy apparently on the table, two more tankers — one Norwegian and one Japanese — are struck near the Strait of Hormuz.

  • June 17: Iran announces that it will breach uranium enrichment levels under the 2015 deal in 10 days.
  • June 17: The U.S. announces it will send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East.
The drone attack

June 20: Iran shoots down a U.S. drone it says was in its airspace. The U.S. provides evidence it was over international waters.

  • June 20: Trump approves strikes "on a handful of Iranian targets" but calls them off at the last minute, the NYT reports.
  • June 21: Iranian officials tell Reuters they received a message from Trump warning of impending U.S. attacks and seeking dialogue as Trump confirms he felt the planned strikes were "not proportionate."

Go deeper: Israeli officials say Iran won’t de-escalate without stronger U.S. response

Go deeper

Updated 19 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 12,813,864 — Total deaths: 566,790 — Total recoveries — 7,046,535Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 3,286,025 — Total deaths: 135,089 — Total recoveries: 995,576 — Total tested: 39,553,395Map.
  3. States: Florida smashes single-day record for new coronavirus cases with over 15,000 — Miami-Dade mayor says "it won't be long" until county's hospitals reach capacity.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA chief projects "apex" of South's coronavirus curve in 2-3 weeks — Coronavirus testing czar: Lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table"
  5. Education: Betsy DeVos says schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds — Pelosi accuses Trump of "messing with the health of our children."

11 GOP congressional nominees support QAnon conspiracy

Lauren Boebert posing in her restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, on April 24. Photo: Emily Kask/AFP

At least 11 Republican congressional nominees have publicly supported or defended the QAnon conspiracy theory movement or some of its tenets — and more aligned with the movement may still find a way onto ballots this year.

Why it matters: Their progress shows how a fringe online forum built on unsubstantiated claims and flagged as a threat by the FBI is seeking a foothold in the U.S. political mainstream.

Lindsey Graham says he will ask Mueller to testify before Senate

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Sunday that he will grant Democrats' request to call former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before his committee.

The big picture: The announcement comes on the heels of Mueller publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post that defended the Russia investigation and conviction of Roger Stone, whose sentence was commuted by President Trump on Friday.