Iran has carried out acts of cyberterrorism against foreign governments and the private sector, according to a new State Department report. Tehran maintains funding for terrorist groups in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza as of 2016, and has provided weapons and training to militant groups opposed to the government of Bahrain. Iran also continues to provide financial and residence incentives for foreign Pakistani and Afghani fighters operating in Syria to bolster the regime of Bashar al Assad.
The report follows remarks delivered by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on June 29, 2017 alleging repeated violations of Security Council Resolution 2231 concerning Iran’s ballistic missile program and criticizing Iranian support for terrorist organizations in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Bahram Qassemi, rejected the report’s characterization of Iran as “false, biased and groundless.” The Islamic Republic “has been at the forefront of the campaign against the most dangerous kind of terrorism in the region,” he said. The following is an excerpt from the Bureau of Counterterrorism’s annual report.
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2016, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East. 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. Iran has acknowledged the involvement of the IRGC-QF in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.
In 2016, Iran supported various Iraqi Shia terrorist groups, including Kata’ib Hizballah, as part of an effort to fight ISIS in Iraq and bolster the Assad regime in Syria. Iran views the Assad regime in Syria as a crucial ally and Syria and Iraq as crucial routes to supply weapons to Hizballah, Iran’s primary terrorist partner. Iran has facilitated and coerced, through financial or residency enticements, 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 committed serious human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians and Iranian forces have directly backed militia operations in Syria with armored vehicles, artillery, and drones.
Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has supplied Hizballah with thousands of rockets, missiles, and small arms, in direct violation of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1701. Iran provides the majority of financial support for Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. Hizballah fighters have been used extensively in Syria to support the Assad regime and in support of operations against ISIS in Iraq. Hizballah also carried out several attacks against Israeli Defense Forces in 2016 along the Lebanese border with Israel.
Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. These Palestinian terrorist groups have been behind a number of deadly attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank, including attacks against Israeli civilians and Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.
Iran has provided weapons, funding, and training to Bahraini militant Shia groups that have conducted attacks on the Bahraini security forces. On January 6, 2016, Bahraini security officials dismantled a terrorist cell, linked to IRGC-QF, planning to carry out a series of bombings throughout the country.
The Iranian government maintains a robust cyberterrorism 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 it continued to detain and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody. Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.
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Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi
“The report should, in principle and based on its pre-defined framework, discuss the situation of countries in fighting terrorism as well as the progress made in this regard; bust as for Iran, the report denies the fact that the Islamic Republic has been at the forefront of the campaign against the most dangerous kind of terrorism in the region, something that the whole world admits.”
“The report resorts to unrealistic and very preliminary approaches as well as the political contradictions which exist in a country, denies the clear and obvious facts and levels baseless accusations.”
“This comes as, by the admission of many governments and international organizations, reports on Iran’s actions in fighting terrorism, including the imposition of triple international sanctions against terrorism, are not comparable with [the performance of] many of US allies in the region.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to continue fighting terrorist groups and violent extremism as a global threat, and will stand by Iraqi and Syrian governments to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups as long as Baghdad and Damascus want it to.”
“Levelling false, biased and groundless accusations such as the ones mentioned in the recent report by the US State Department will have no bearing on this policy.”
“We consider a world and a Middle East free from terrorism an attainable goal and believe that in order for that to happen, certain regional and transregional countries should stop their financial, ideological and military support for terrorist groups, the alleged military coalitions which are just a show should be dismantled, an alliance should be established among all states which are honest in the fight against terrorism, and there should be serious and honest determination in this regard.”
—July 20, 2017, in a statement