EXPLAINER: Breaking down Biden’s Iran problem

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Atomic Energy Organization of Iran

In this photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, spokesman of the organization Behrouz Kamalvandi, center, briefs the media while visiting Fordo nuclear site near Qom, south of Tehran, Iran Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Joe Biden has an Iran problem. And, its getting more complicated by the day. Thanks to provocative moves by Iran and less-than-coherent actions by the outgoing Trump administration, the president-elect is facing an increasingly uncertain situation when it comes to Iran, a decades-long American nemesis that has been a target of blame for much of the Middle East's instability, (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

WASHINGTON – Joe Biden has an Iran problem. And, it’s getting more complicated by the day.

Thanks to provocative moves by Iran and less-than-coherent actions by the outgoing Trump administration, the president-elect is facing an increasingly uncertain situation when it comes to Iran, a decades-long American nemesis that has been a target of blame for much of the Middle East's instability.

In the past week alone, President Donald Trump’s team has dispatched B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf in response to alleged Iranian attack planning and reversed an order to bring home the USS Nimitz, the only U.S. aircraft carrier in the region.

On Monday, Iran not only announced it had resumed advanced uranium enrichment in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal but also seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker and its crew. This combustible combination coming just two weeks before the president-elect’s inauguration threatens to derail or at least delay Biden's hopes to return the U.S. to the nuclear accord that Trump withdrew from in 2018.

A look at the latest developments:

DOES THIS AMOUNT TO A DANGEROUS ESCALATION OF TENSIONS?

Concerns have run high for some weeks about Iran stoking tensions, particularly around the Jan. 3 one-year anniversary of the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq. U.S. officials have been on heightened alert for possible retaliation from Iran, including from allied militia in Iraq that have previously launched rockets at U.S. facilities in the country.

Although neither the enrichment announcement nor the seizure of the South Korean-flagged ship appeared linked to the death of the general, the two moves did raise tensions in the region, which has long been unpredictable.