Iran is “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism” according to the United States’ annual Country Reports on Terrorism released this week.
The report states that the Iranian regime continues to plot and commit acts of terrorism globally. “In the past, Tehran has spent as much as $700 million per year to support terrorist groups, including Hizballah and Hamas, though its ability to provide financial support in 2019 was constrained by crippling U.S. sanctions,” the report states.
Tehran has also allowed an al-Qa’ida network to operate in Iran as it sends money and fighters to Afghanistan and Syria. The report went on to state that the Iranian regime “continued to foment violence, both directly and through proxies, in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.”
“Today, al-Qa’ida’s network continues to exploit under-governed spaces, conflict zones, and global security gaps to recruit, fundraise, and plot attacks,” it says.
The violence and terrorism aren’t isolated to the Middle East. Recently, North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa have been impacted by terrorist plots that directly involved Iran through its IRGC and Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Throughout 2019, European countries committed to combating Iranian regime-backed terrorism. Several countries pulled back on diplomatic relations following Iranian-supported schemes that included assassinations and bombings in Europe.
The United States designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in April 2019, marking the first time part of another government has been given such a designation.
The unprecedented FTO designation from the United States, along with European countries’ efforts to fight Iran-backed terrorism, “reflected the Iranian regime’s unique place among the governments of the world in its use of terrorism as a central tool of its statecraft,” the report says.
The United States also employed a “maximum pressure campaign” that imposed new sanctions on Tehran and “launched a military operation that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed “caliph” of ISIS.”
Last year, the United States created the Countering Transnational Terrorism Forum (CTTF). The forum united law enforcement, prosecutors and financial practitioners from over 25 countries “to disrupt Iranian terrorist activities and networks.”
Moreover, the second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial, held in July and cohosted by the United States and Argentina, led to Kosovo, Argentina, Paraguay, the United Kingdom and the United States all designated Hizballah a terrorist organization, upending the previously held “military wing” and “political wing” distinctions.
“There’s still counterterrorism work to do…But we’re undaunted in our pursuit of bringing terrorists to justice,” said Secretary Michael Pompeo during a press briefing on Wednesday.
The report says the most active and dangerous terrorist groups are Al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin in the Sahel, and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham/Al-Nusrah Front in Syria.