Since its inception in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has aggressively sought to “export” its Islamic Revolution and remake the Middle East under its dominion. Iran’s primary method to empower itself has been to anchor loyal proxies in the region, which it has done most successfully with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and more recently in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Gaza.
Hezbollah, the Shia political party and militant group based in Lebanon, acts as a proxy for Iranian terror and crime internationally. Through Hezbollah, Iran has furthered its terrorism against the West, criminal activities, and regional ambitions.
35 years after the conclusion of the Iran Hostage Crisis, Iran continues to take Americans hostage. The Iranian regime is currently holding the six American citizens and residents profiled below on trumped-charges.
Iran’s rationale for taking these hostages is manifold. American hostages serve as bargaining chips for the regime and these detainees are used as an example to curb internal dissent and punish undesirable behavior. Finally, Iran does not recognize dual citizenship, so by targeting dual citizens, the regime demonstrates to the Iranian expatriate community that it is not beyond their grasp.
The Iranian-Syrian alliance stretches back over three decades, constituting one of the most enduring alliances among authoritarian regimes in the region. Iran views the maintenance of Assad’s control in Syria as a check against Sunni power in Syria and the greater Middle East. Through the Assad regime, Iran is further able to project its influence throughout the Levant. In a testament to Assad’s utility, the Islamic Republic and its proxies have played the critical role in saving and sustaining Bashar al-Assad’s regime amidst the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which began in March 2011. Because Assad has been so instrumental in serving Iranian interests, Tehran views his downfall as an existential threat, referring to Syria as its strategically important “35th province.”
The presidency of Hassan Rouhani is being carefully analyzed for signs that the Iranian regime is moderating. Optimism in some circles has been encouraged by a change in tone from his administration. However, while the newly reelected president speaks the language of conciliation, real power is still vested in the supreme leader, who remains committed to the revolutionary, hegemonic ambitions of the Islamic Republic.
Quds Day (“Jerusalem Day”), held on the last Friday of Ramadan, is an annual day of protest organized by the Iranian government against Israel. While nominally about Jerusalem, the Quds Day rally serves as a forum for regime figures to call for hostilities against Israel and the liberation of Palestine, envisaging the inevitable elimination of the “Zionist regime.” “Death to Israel” is a common chant at the rallies, often accompanied by “Death to America. The rhetoric often slides into overt anti-Semitism including characterizations of Zionism as a cosmic evil and statements denying the Holocaust.
At the September 2013 UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani proposed that the General Assembly take steps against “violence and extremism” by creating a UN initiative entitled “WAVE: World Against Violence and Extremism.” In December 2013, the UN adopted the Iranian-authored “World Against Violent Extremism” Act. Given the Iranian regime’s long-time sponsorship of terrorism worldwide, egregious human rights record and extremism, the ideals espoused under WAVE in no way comport with the record of Rouhani's government. Rather, WAVE is a rhetorical ploy to mask the Iranian regime's long-established record of violence and extremism and is an affront to the UN and its principles.