Iran is supporting a number of Shiite terrorist groups in Iraq, which it sees as a crucial route to supply weapons to the Lebanese Hizballah, according to U.S State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, released this week.
“Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2017, including support for Lebanese Hizballah (LH), Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East,” the report said. “Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to provide support to terrorist organizations, provide cover for associated covert operations, and create instability in the Middle East.”
According to the report, Iran has acknowledged the involvement of the IRGC-QF in both of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, and the IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad. Iran uses regional proxy forces to provide sufficient deniability to shield it from the consequences of its aggressive policies.
Moreover, the report added that Iran supported a number of Shiite terrorist groups in Iraq, including Kata’ib Hizballah, not to mention supporting the Assad regime in Syria and sees it as an ally and Syria and Iraq as crucial routes to supply weapons to the LH.
“Through financial or residency enticements, Iran has facilitated and coerced primarily Shia fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown in Syria. Iranian-supported Shia militias in Iraq have also committed serious human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians. Iranian forces have directly backed militia operations in Syria with armored vehicles, artillery, and drones.”
The report stressed that not only does Iran enable Al Qaeda to conduct global operations from within its borders, but also remains "unwilling to bring to justice senior Al Qaeda members residing in Iran and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody.”
It added that Iran continued to provide weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, which have been behind a number of deadly attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank.
Moreover, the report stressed that the Iranian government maintains a robust offensive cyber program and has sponsored cyberattacks against foreign government and private sector entities.
“Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members residing in Iran and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody. Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”
It is pertinent to mention that U.S. sanctions over countries designated as “State Sponsors of Terrorism” include imposing a ban on arms-related exports and sales; prohibitions on economic assistance; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
A study released earlier this month by the Washington-based think-tank New America – based on an analysis of documents recovered from Usama bin Laden’s compound in 2011 – asserted there is next to no evidence Tehran and the terror group co-operated in executing attacks.
“Iran had an evolving, tactical understanding with Al Qaeda, which it saw as the enemy of its enemies, but not a trusted ally. But Iran can be very ecumenical when it comes to terrorist groups,” said Jim Phillips, Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at The Heritage Foundation, according to Fox News.
“Although Iran and Al Qaeda see themselves as rival leaders of a global Islamist revolution, they share a set of common enemies: the United States, Israel, and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Iran undoubtedly saw al-Qaeda as a useful force for undermining Arab governments aligned with the United States.”