For over three decades, the United States has listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. In that time, Iran has done little to convince the Western world otherwise. In fact, their actions over the years have only further established their reputation as duplicitous, to say the least.
Though the U.S. and Iran have had particularly rough tensions in the past, Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, and even their own people, have not been any better. Though Iran’s leaders claim act on behalf of their nation, they have no interest in bettering conditions for the average citizen.
For example, behind claims of developing programs to bolster economic advancement and stability, Iran has notoriously fostered hidden nuclear proliferation activities for decades. Additionally, despite the terms of the current Iran Deal they continue to make incremental violations, which started mere months after the JCPOA was signed by Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia).
In the latest annual report to date published in July 2017, the State Department named Iran as the “planet’s foremost” state sponsor of terrorism in 2016. The 2017 Worldwide Threat Assessment by the U.S. Intelligence Community also listed Iran as the foremost sponsor in terrorism, and named Hezbollah in Lebanon as its primary accessory that continues to pose a threat to U.S. interests and partners worldwide. There are various criteria for being listed as a state sponsor of terror, and that designation remains in place until there’s adequate proof that the state has stepped away from their nefarious activities. Until then, the designation is not to be rescinded.
To “qualify” as a state-sponsor of terror, the state in question must have demonstrated a deliberate use of terrorism or aid to a terrorist organization as a foreign policy tool against other countries or groups of people. Direct attacks or a funneling of resources in financial, weaponized, or intelligence forms count as participative efforts to support terrorist activities.
For years, Iran has been acting as a patron of terrorism in the region. They have actively trained and sent resources to Hezbollah, facilitated terrorist activities in Palestinian territories, and have even trained and provided Iraqi militants with bombs,and other weaponry. Since at least 2005, Iran has been actively supporting the Iraqi insurgency and influencing local politics. Iran aggressively threatened U.S. efforts in Iraq, directly resulted in the deaths of U.S. troops. For these and other reasons, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds-Force (IRGC-QF) was also added to the list of foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S. in 2007.
In fact, the IRGC-QFsupports terrorist organizations outside of Iran. They have been an active force in the Afghanistan insurgency and have supported the Taliban in western and central areas of the country.
In Iraq, Iran is positioning itself to gain more leverage in the region by dominating local politics. Though Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, elected in 2014, initially seemed like just the pillar Iraq needed to stand up to Tehran influence, his recent move to join forces with Iran-aligned Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is making experts in the West uncomfortable, to say the least. Factions of this group (Asaib ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, and Harakat al-Nujaba) have been involved in various sectarian attacks and human rights abuses including attacks on Americans and Iraqis, both civilian and military personnel, alike.
The Big Picture
Since the Hostage Crisis nearly four decades ago, the U.S. and the West have been at odds with Iran and their overt and clandestine activities in the region. Their nuclear proliferation activities had been surreptitiously developed over a few decades, and they continuously lied about their enrichment activities and their long-term nuclear intentions. Though the 2015 Iran Deal was meant to mitigate their nuclear activities, opponents of the deal in its current form say the restrictions are not enough. One analyst, Mark Dubowitz, has consistently outlined flaws in the Iran deal, mainly arguing that Iran sees no negative repercussions to their actions and thus will not change their behavior; the incentive is not yet good or strong enough.
Until we figure out a way to paralyze Iran’s power plays, we can only expect to see them continue their reign as a state sponsor of terror.