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. The U.S. State Department noted in its most recent Country Reports on Terrorism that “Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2020, including support for Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various terrorist and militant groups in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere throughout the Middle East.” Iran also has a history of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, and militant groups in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
As illustrated in the timeline below, attacks by the most violent Iran-backed groups—including Lebanese Hezbollah; Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza; Badr Organization, Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and other militias in Iraq and Syria—have accelerated in recent years, particularly since Iran reached a nuclear deal with the P5+1 in July 2015. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also conducts its own operations against U.S. citizens, including current and former government officials; Israeli citizens and Jewish people; and dissidents and journalists worldwide. 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.