The U.S. government classifies the Islamic Republic of Iran as the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” alleging that Iran provides “a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to [terrorist] groups around the world – particularly Hezbollah.” The U.S. has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984.
What is state-sponsored terrorism?
State-sponsored terrorism is a state’s deliberate use of terrorism or assistance to terrorist organizations as a foreign policy tool against other countries or groups of people. It can refer to either direct attacks by the state or support of terrorist organizations through the provision of weapons, funds, training, and sanctuary.
Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism by Iran:
Since the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979, one of the defining hallmarks of the Iranian regime has been its habitual use of terrorism against the United States and its allies throughout the world and its ties to terrorist organizations. In addition to carrying out direct attacks, Iran has committed terrorism by proxy through Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, militias in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, and the Gulf and a plethora of other terrorist groups. Iran has a long history of terrorist attacks against the U.S. and other Western countries, carrying out bombings, abductions, and hijackings.
The U.S. State Department noted in its most recent Country Reports on Terrorism that “Iran and Hizballah are emerging from the Syria conflict emboldened and with valuable battlefield experience that they seek to leverage across the globe.” The 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community also highlighted Iran as an emerging cyber threat, assessing that “Iran will continue working to penetrate U.S. and Allied networks for espionage and to position itself for potential future cyber-attacks, although its intelligence services primarily focus on Middle Eastern adversaries—especially Saudi Arabia and Israel.” As illustrated in the timeline below, Iran has accelerated its support for terrorism in recent years, particularly since reaching a nuclear deal with the P5+1 in July 2015. Rather than fostering moderation, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has emboldened Iran to escalate its destabilizing activities and enhanced its ability to bankroll terrorism and proxy wars.