New U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy on Iran

October 5, 2018

On October 4, President Donald Trump vowed to “roll back Iran’s global terrorist network” in his announcement of a new counterterrorism strategy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also cited Iran as a key threat. “Terrorist groups and networks such as al-Qa`ida, ISIS, and Iranian-supported terrorists continue to target us, our allies, and partners. We must combat these threats through a comprehensive and coordinated approach,” he said. Iran was the only country that Trump and Pompeo mentioned by name in their statements on the new strategy. 

Iran “remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, supporting militant and terrorist groups across the Middle East and cultivating a network of operatives that pose a threat in the United States and globally,” according to the strategy. The following are statements by President Trump and Secretary Pompeo with relevant excerpts from the strategy. 

 

President Donald Trump

President TrumpAs your President, I am committed to protecting the United States and its interests abroad from the threat of terrorism.  The National Strategy for Counterterrorism that I approved today will help protect our great Nation, enhance our national security, and guide our continued effort to defeat terrorists and terrorist organizations that threaten the United States.

Under my leadership, the United States has accelerated efforts to defeat terrorists.  Working with coalition partners, we have decimated ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  Likewise, I ended United States participation in the horrible Iran deal, which had provided a windfall for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies, funding Iran’s malign activities throughout the world.  Importantly, I have also secured historic increases in defense funding to rebuild our Nation’s military.

The National Strategy for Counterterrorism is an important next step.  It outlines the approach of the United States to countering the increasingly complex and evolving terrorist threats and represents the Nation’s first fully articulated counterterrorism strategy since 2011.  It provides the strategic guidance needed to protect the United States against all terrorist threats, while simultaneously fostering the agility to anticipate, prevent, and respond to new threats.  

Guided by the National Strategy for Counterterrorism, we will use all instruments of American power to protect our great Nation, and we will defeat our enemies with the full force of American might.  

—Oct. 4, 2018, in a statement

This National Strategy for Counterterrorism sets forth a new approach. We will protect our homeland, our interests overseas, and our allies and partners. We will defeat radical Islamist terrorists such as ISIS and al-Qa'ida, expand our agile counterterrorism toolkit to prevent future terrorist threats, deter emerging threats, roll back Iran's global terrorist network, and ensure our country's continued safety. Now, and in the future, we will secure our Nation and prevail against terrorism.

—Oct. 4, 2018, in the introduction to the new national strategy

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

PompeoToday’s terrorist threats are more complex, fluid, and fast-moving than ever.  Terrorist groups and networks such as al-Qa`ida, ISIS, and Iranian-supported terrorists continue to target us, our allies, and partners.  We must combat these threats through a comprehensive and coordinated approach.  Earlier today, President Trump announced a new National Strategy for Counterterrorism that brings to bear all facets of American power to protect our people and interests.  The President’s strategy emphasizes the importance of diplomacy and the role of international partnerships in combating the terrorist threats we face.  The strategy recognizes the need for all nations to equitably share the burden of confronting terrorism, to expand the counterterrorism capabilities of our partners, and to work collaboratively to defeat the terrorists of today and tomorrow.  As such, the State Department, in close coordination with other federal agencies, will continue to work with our allies and partners to implement the policies and tools necessary to eliminate our terrorist enemies and their networks of support.  

—Oct. 4, 2018, in a statement

 

National Strategy for Counterterrorism of the United States of America

Executive Summary 

We Remain a Nation at War 

Presidential sealToday's terrorist landscape is more fluid and complex than ever. For this reason, counterterrorism remains a top priority for this Administration. Our principal terrorist enemies are radical Islamist terrorist groups that seek to conduct attacks globally, violate our borders, and radicalize and recruit potential extremists within the United States and abroad. We continue to face threats from Iran, the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, through its global network of operatives and its ongoing support to an array of terrorist groups. Terrorists motivated by other forms of extremism also use violence to threaten the homeland and challenge United States interests. These terrorist threats are different in many ways, but they all seek to use violence to undermine the United States and disrupt the American way of life. ...

This strategy places America First and emphasizes protection of the homeland...This strategy recognizes, however, that America First does not mean America alone. We will broaden our range of partners to combat radical Islamist terrorism, Iran-sponsored terrorism, and other forms of violent extremism; encourage capable partners to play a larger role in counterterrorism efforts; and assist other partners so that they can eventually address terrorist threats independently. 

The Terrorist Adversary

Iran remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, supporting militant and terrorist groups across the Middle East and cultivating a network of operatives that pose a threat in the United States and globally. These groups, most notably Lebanese Hizballah (Hizballah), use terrorism and other asymmetric means in partnership with Iran to expand their influence in Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria, and Yemen and to destabilize their rivals. Hizballah fields powerful military and intelligence elements, possesses large stocks of sophisticated arms, and maintains extensive networks of operatives and sympathizers overseas, including individuals in the homeland.

Through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Iran's primary terrorist support arm, the Government of Iran provides financial and material support, training, and guidance to Hizballah and other Shia militant groups operating in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It also supports HAMAS and other Palestinian terrorist groups. With operatives deployed around the world, the IRGC-QF has the capability to target United States interests and possibly the homeland.

Click here for the full strategy.