There are 196 countries on the planet and they all have their issues with their neighbors. They squabble, they fight, they complain, they protest, they even spy on one another and in a few cases they openly make war.
Some of those countries are vast and powerful such as the U.S., Russia or China, while others are small to the point of being insignificant on the world stage such as Monaco, Tuvalu or San Marino.
But there are only three countries that share a unique and disturbing distinction. There are only three countries remaining on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism:
It’s a pretty exclusive club, one that used to have as its members Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, Cuba and North Korea.
To be placed on this list, countries are alleged to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
In order to get off the list, countries have to demonstrate:
- Fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government of the country concerned;
- Not supporting acts of international terrorism, and
- The government has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
It doesn’t seem like an unreasonable set of criteria to follow, especially if a country wants to be part of the international community. But in Syria and Sudan’s cases, it’s understandable considering the civil wars they are embroiled in and inability of any central government to eliminate any safe havens for terrorist groups to operate in.
The Iranian regime stands out as the only government not undergoing any turmoil that actively and aggressively supports terrorism around the world; and does so with religious fervor.
The State Department terrorism report describes the Iranian regime polices this way:
“While its main effort focused on supporting goals in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
The mullahs in Tehran are using all of the available levers of state power to further their support of terrorism whether it is providing safe havens for terrorist leaders, financing of operations, supplying fighters and manpower, equipping them with arms and ammunition, providing transportation and intelligence or actively directing them in attacks.
In many ways, the Iran regime resembles the fictional Hydra organization in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as its tentacles stretch across the world seeking influence in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Unfortunately, in our universe, we don’t have Captain America or Iron Man to rely on.
That propagation of terrorism has served as a template for extremist groups such as ISIS and affiliated Al-Qaeda groups to spring up everywhere and launch attacks to the extent that the U.S. State Department issued a global travel advisory for only the fourth time in history and most ominously the alert extends through the busy holiday travel season through February 2016.
The general degeneration of global peace and stability can be traced in many ways back to the Iranian regime, including its support of the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war, the collapse of the Sunni-Shiite coalition government of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq, the overthrow of the Yemen government by Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the recruitment of Hezbollah and Afghan fighters across Syria and Iraq.
All of which puts a harsh spotlight on the rosy claims made by the Iran lobby and backers of the regime by a variety of groups and analysts such as the National Iranian American Council and Paul R. Pillar and Ali Gharib that approval of a landmark nuclear deal would usher in a new era of moderation and cooperation.
That naïve sentiment was again proven wrong as news reports came out revealing a surge in sophisticated computer espionage by the Iran regime resulting in serious cyberattacks against State Department officials over the past month.
According to the New York Times, “over the past month, Iranian hackers identified individual State Department officials who focus on Iran and the Middle East, and broke into their email and social media accounts, according to diplomatic and law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation. The State Department became aware of the compromises only after Facebook told the victims that state-sponsored hackers had compromised their accounts.”
“It was very carefully designed and showed the degree to which they understood which of our staff was working on Iran issues now that the nuclear deal is done,” said one senior American official who oversees much of that operation and who requested anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation. “It was subtle.”
It is clear now that the Iranian regime is not only the center of state-sponsored terrorism in the world, it is its living heart.
By Michael Tomlinson