A new report from the State Department, released to the public Thursday, highlights Iranian-linked terror attacks and attempted attacks in India, Thailand, Georgia, and Kenya. A press release for the report goes so far as to say one of the “most noteworthy counterterrorism developments of 2012” is the “resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.”
The emphasis on Iran from the State Department comes on the same day a New York City Federal Court sentenced a 58-year-old naturalized American citizen, Manssor Arbabsiar, to 25 years in prison for participating in an Iranian plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. The State Department also announced Thursday the designation of Asghar Mir-Hejazi, the deputy chief of staff to Iran’s Supreme Leader, as a human-rights violator for his role in leading the crackdown against Iranian protesters following the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. government since 1984. But the nation has focused much of its lethal attacks on the United States inside Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade. Its strategy to work with allies like Hezbollah to attack Israeli targets in third countries represents an escalation in a shadow war between Iran and the West.
The United States and Israel have worked closely and in secret to sabotage the country’s nuclear program through cyberattacks. Israel is also the likely suspect in a campaign to kill Iranian nuclear scientists. Four attacks since 2007 on Iranian scientists used a specialized magnetic limpet bomb affixed to the target’s vehicle. Iran appears to be using this technique as well. A February 13, 2012, attack on the wife of Israel’s ambassador to India, for example, also used the limpet magnetic bomb affixed to her car, causing serious injuries to her and three other Indian nationals.
The State Department report says Iran used its paramilitary organization known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) to “implement foreign-policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and stir up instability in the Middle East,” noting the IRGC-QF “is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
“The government would not have highlighted this activity if it was not increasing,” said Matthew Levitt, the director of the counterterrorism program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “They are highlighting this activity because this is part of an ongoing thread of threats coming from the Hezbollah and Iran side of things.”