U.S. Fact Sheet on Iran’s “Terrorist Activity” Abroad

On May 22, the State Department issued a fact sheet accusing Iran of waging a “global campaign of terror” that has included up to 360 targeted assassinations, and mass bombing attacks. The fact sheet was released several weeks after senior Turkish and U.S. officials said that Iran appeared to be behind the assassination of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, an Iranian dissident in Turkey. Vardanjani was shot dead on an Istanbul street on November 14, 2019. “Given Iran’s history of targeted assassinations of Iranian dissidents and the methods used in Turkey, the United States government believes that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was directly involved in Vardanjani’s killing,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters on April 1. The following day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that reports about Iran’s involvement in the plot were “disturbing but fully consistent” with its previous actions. 

In response, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi alleged that U.S. diplomats have arranged coups, armed terrorists and more. In a tweet, he also accused the United States of “medical terrorism” for its sanctions on Iran during the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanitarian goods have always been exempt from U.S. sanctions, but foreign banks have been hesitant to conduct business with Iran.


The following is the full text of the State Department fact sheet.


Iran’s Assassinations and Terrorist Activity Abroad

“The Iranian regime also continues to export cruelty outside its own borders.  Last week, an Iranian dissident, Massoud Molavi, was assassinated in Istanbul after he defected to Turkey from Iran.  The killing of Mr. Molavi is yet another tragic example in a long string of suspected Iran-backed assassination attempts outside of Iranian soil.  The regime’s brutality and amorality know no international boundaries.”
-Secretary Pompeo, Remarks to the Press, November 26, 2019

“Reports that Iranian diplomats were involved in an assassination of a dissident in Turkey are disturbing but fully consistent with their assignments - Iran's "diplomats" are agents of terror and have conducted multiple assassinations and bomb plots in Europe over the past decade.”
-Secretary Pompeo, Twitter, April 1, 2020


  • Since coming to power in 1979, the Iranian regime has been implicated in assassinations, terrorist plots, and terrorist attacks in more than 40 countries.
  • Senior Iranian officials have declared that Iran follows and constantly surveils Iranian dissidents in other countries to “crack down on them” and “strike decisive blows.”
  • Iran's global campaign of terror has included as many as 360 targeted assassinations in other countries, and mass bombing attacks that killed and maimed hundreds.
  • Iran engaged in these assassinations and other attacks primarily through the IRGC-Qods Force and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, but also via third parties and proxies such as Hizballah.
  • Iranian diplomatic personnel have repeatedly been implicated in assassinations abroad, as evidenced by arrest warrants, judicial and police investigations, intelligence services, and witness reports.
  • As Iranian assassins using diplomatic cover have attracted increased scrutiny, Iran has showed willingness to use criminal gangs, drug cartels, and other third parties to carry out its assassination plots abroad.
  • Iran consistently lies about its involvement in killings abroad, even when its own diplomatic personnel are caught surveilling attack targets, providing explosives or fleeing crime scenes.

Former Iranian Minister of Intelligence Ali Fallahian

  • On May 20, the United States designated Ali Fallahian under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, due to credible information of his involvement in gross violations of human rights while he headed the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security. 
  • During his tenure, Fallahian was implicated in the assassination of multiple Iranian political dissidents in Europe, including cases in which Swiss and German courts issued warrants for his arrest.
  • Besides directing individual assassinations, Fallahian provided resources and direction to terrorist groups abroad, expanding Iran’s facilitation of state-sponsored terrorism.
  • On 9 July 1995, Alisa Michelle Flatow, a twenty-year old U.S. citizen in Israel on a foreign study program, was tragically killed in a suicide bombing in the Gaza Strip.  A terrorist group supported by Iran claimed responsibility for the attack.  In 1998, a U.S. federal district court found that Fallahian contributed to her death by personally approving the provision of resources to the terrorist group that killed her.
  • The most catastrophic operation attributed to Fallahian is the 1994 bombing of the Argentina-Israelite Mutual Aid Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 individuals and wounded hundreds more.  In 2006, Argentina issued an international arrest warrant for Fallahian based on credible evidence that Hizballah operatives and Iranian agents, under his direction, carried out the bombing.  In 2007, INTERPOL issued a Red Notice for Fallahian, four other Iranian officials, and one Hizballah member.

Iran’s Use of Its Diplomats for Assassinations and Terrorist Activity

  • Multiple countries have issued arrest warrants for Iranian diplomats for the killings of dissidents and others perceived as threats to the Iranian regime and its ideology. 
  • Two Iranians who were assigned as diplomats at the time are among Iranian officials subject to INTERPOL Red Notices for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA community center in Argentina that killed 85 people.
  • Mohsen Rabbani, the alleged mastermind of the bombing in Argentina, was the cultural attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires with support from Ahmad Reza Asghari, reportedly a member of the IRGC, who used a position as third secretary at the Iranian Embassy as cover. 
  • Since 2018, Asadollah Asadi, who had been assigned as an Iranian diplomat to Austria, remains in a Belgian prison awaiting trial based on evidence that he provided explosives to bomb a dissident rally in Paris, which could have killed scores of men, women, and children.
  • In March 2020, senior Turkish officials accused Iranian diplomats of ordering and coordinating the killing of Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in November 2019.

Targeting Civil Society

  • Besides targeting political dissidents, ethnic and religious minority leaders and activists, and foreign government officials for assassination, Iran has increasingly threatened Iranian civil society activists and journalists abroad.
  • Iran leverages its well-earned reputation for extrajudicial killings to try to silence civil society through death threats against activists, dissidents, and journalists. 
  • In March, four UN Special Rapporteurs called on the Iranian government to cease death threats against BBC and other journalists working outside Iran for Farsi-language news outlets.
  • Iran is also well known for misusing INTERPOL Red Notices to pursue political dissidents, as well as kidnapping dissidents to bring them back to Iran to face arbitrary detention, torture, and execution.
  • Earlier this year, reports emerged that Iranian intelligence threatened to kidnap journalists of London-based Iran International TV and forcibly take them to Iran.