Imran Rabbani at New York University's Islamic Center. He's in his third semester at the university. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

NEWARK, N.J. — On a rainy morning, Imran Rabbani returned to the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center so he could reunite with his former keepers.

Four years before, Rabbani had arrived at the facility in shackles after being swept up in an Islamic State-inspired plot to set off a pressure-cooker bomb in New York. He was 17.

Now, just starting his third semester at New York University, the 22-year-old Rabbani wanted to give thanks to the people who guided him away from Islamist extremism. As he waited in the library last summer, glancing at books that had proved crucial to his transformation, the room slowly filled with city officials, staff and guards.

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A group of American hostages wave to newsmen as they arrive at Algiers airport from Tehran, Jan. 21, 1981. From left: Barry Rosen, Donald Cooke, Kathryn Koob, and two unidentified. (AP Photo/David Caulkin)

President Trump warned Iran on Saturday that if it retaliated against the U.S. for killing Gen. Qasem Soleimani — one of Iran's highest-level military figures — it would come to deeply regret it.

"Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge," Trump wrote. "Let this serve as a warning that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago)."

In making such bellicose threats, Trump has reopened deep-seated wounds from the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-81.

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The seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the latest example of how tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled into one of the world's most strategic and vital waterways for oil. Since May, Iran has been accused of harassing and attacking oil tankers in the strait.

As the British government continues to investigate Friday's seizure, experts worry that it raises the potential of a military clash. However, they also say it offers a lens into Iran's strategy toward the U.S.

Here is a look at what's been happening and why the Strait of Hormuz matters.

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Instagram via Fox News

Lawyers representing the family of an American citizen from San Diego detained in Iran said Thursday that the Navy veteran has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and for disclosing private information by posting a photo on Instagram of a woman he was visiting.

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Iran President Hassan Rouhani (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

They seemed an unlikely pair of spies.

The older man, Majid Ghorbani, worked at a posh Persian restaurant in Santa Ana's South Coast Village Plaza. At 59, he wore a thick gray mustache and the weary expression of a man who had served up countless plates of rice and kebab.

The younger man, Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, was a Long Beach native who held dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship. Round-faced and bespectacled, the 38-year-old answered to the Farsi nickname "Topol," or "Chubby."

Yet even as the men sipped coffee at a Costa Mesa Starbucks, chatted outside an Irvine market, or made trips to Macy's at South Coast Plaza, they were doggedly trailed by federal agents.

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