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by Christopher Holton


The U.S. State Department has for years described Iran as the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism.

However, in recent years, it has suddenly become fashionable in some circles to downplay Iran's role in Jihadist terrorism. Most notably, Richard Clarke, the former terrorism advisor in the executive branch, has begun insisting that Iran's support for terrorism is largely something of the past, and as long as we don't interfere with their nuclear ambitions, Clarke believes they will continue to behave. On the other hand, if we do take a stand against Atomic Ayatollahs, Clarke says we can expect terrorism worse than anything Al Qaeda is capable of from Iran's favorite terrorist organization, Hezbollah.

All of this hogwash was recently detailed and refuted nicely by Thomas Joscelyn in the Weekly Standard, in an article entitled "Iran's War on the West."

Other observers, notably Gary Sick writing in the Autumn 2003 issue of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' The Washington Quarterly, insist that Iran would not establish an alliance with Al Qaeda because Al Qaeda is Sunni and Iran is Shiite (never mind all the evidence to the contrary, such as Iran's longstanding support for Sunni HAMAS and close relations with the Sunni Islamofascists in Sudan). In that article Sick even stated that "U.S. charges of Iranian association with terrorist activities brought potentially constructive contacts to a halt." In other words, it was American accusations of Iranian involvement in terrorism that was hurting relations between the two sides!

As Charlie Brown might say, "Good grief."

The Iranian constitution includes a clause calling for spreading the Islamic revolution to other lands. Terrorism is one of the chief means through which they have been fulfilling this mandate.

For more than 26 years, the radical Islamist regime in Iran has been the godfather of Jihadist terrorism. They have never stopped their support for such warfare and are even now actively recruiting, funding, sheltering, training and arming Jihadists to attack U.S. and other Western interests and, of course, to kill Israelis.

This terror war waged against the West began in earnest on 4 November 1979, when Iranian militant "students", likely including a young man named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took its staff hostage.

In reality, the U.S. war with terrorism began on that day, and not on 11 September, 2001. Over the next two and a half decades, Jihadist terrorists backed in some way by the Ayatollahs in Iran continued to attack and kill innocent Americans, Israelis and other Westerners.

Among the terrorist groups that Iran sponsors are Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Iran and Al Qaeda

Iran's relationship with Al Qaeda may be the most intriguing and important aspect of their involvement in terrorism at this point simply because of denials by some that the two could and would never form an alliance due to the fundamental split between Shia and Sunni Islam.

It is high time that this quaint notion be put to rest forever.

Shi'ite Iran's support for Sunni Wahhabi Al Qaeda was probably first brought to light in a book written by The Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz which was published in 2002: BREAKDOWN: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11.

In his book, Gertz revealed that Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Kie Fallis had discovered in 2000 that Al Qaeda "was intimately linked to the government of Iran -- namely to agents of Iran's intelligence and security services."

And thus began a series of reports from authoritative authors detailing the Iranian-Al Qaeda relationship:

But perhaps no published authority has provided as complete a summary of Iran's ties to Al Qaeda as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the September 11th Commission. In its report, the Commission said that it had found "evidence of a significant and continuing relationship between Al Qaeda and the Islamic Republic of Iran."

To sum things up, the same Iran that is working on nuclear weapons and building and acquiring ballistic missiles, is in league with America's most strident Jihadist terrorist enemies: Al Qaeda.


Iran and the Iraqi Insurgency

No analysis of Iran's terrorist activities would be complete without mention of Iran's extensive involvement in the insurgency in neighboring Iraq. All the available evidence shows that Iran is up to its ears in the violence in Iraq. In fact, without Iranian support, one wonders whether the insurgency could hold up more than a few months.

Perhaps that is why, as recently reported, the new Iraqi government has announced its intention to construct 45 forts along its border with Iran to stem the flow of terrorists and arms.

Iran's role in the Iraq insurgency has been known for some time. Back in November of 2004, U.S. News & World Report published an excellent cover story on this issue, entitled The Iran Connection. The magazine revealed that "secret CIA and Pentagon documents" showed that Iran was largely "behind the trouble in Iraq." Among the specific findings from USN&WR's investigation:

There would surely still be an insurgency in Iraq without Iran's involvement, but that insurgency would almost certainly be smaller, less deadly and more vulnerable to coalition forces without Iran's money, weaponry, training and safe harbor.

Iran and Hezbollah

Before September 11th, 2001 the Jihadist terrorist group that boasted the highest body count of American victims was Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon. Hezbollah gets its money, weaponry, and training from Iran. They also receive aid from Syria, mostly in the form of safe haven in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which Syria has controlled for decades.

According to some observers, including former CIA director George Tenet, former US Senator Bob Graham and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Hezbollah is more capable and dangerous than Al Qaeda.

Historically, Hezbollah has targeted Americans with bombs, suicide attacks, hijackings and hostage-taking. These attacks started in 1983 and seem to have subsided in the 1990s, however, some counterterrorism experts believe that Iran and Hezbollah have just been biding their time and making plans for future attacks. Among Hezbollah's more significant terrorist attacks have been:

After the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, it appeared that perhaps Hezbollah and Iran had decided to curtail operations aimed at America and the West in general. This is a subject of heated debate in intelligence circles, however, and the FBI has admitted that there are Hezbollah cells in the United States. One such cell uncovered in the late 1990s was the subject of the excellent book, Lightning Out of Lebanon.

Another item of concern is Hezbollah cooperation with Al Qaeda. It has been documented that Osama Bin Laden met with Hezbollah operatives in Sudan way back in the first half of the 1990s and sought information on the type of truck bomb that Hezbollah used to kill 241 Americans at the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983. However, even more extensive ties are feared.

Finally, there have been persistent reports of Hezbollah operatives surfacing in Iraq, mainly in support of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. British Army officers in particular have speculated that the number and type of Improvised Explosive Devices indicate, to them at least, that Hezbollah is active in Iraq.

Iranian Support for HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Iran openly provides funding to the Palestinian Jihadist terrorist groups HAMAS and Islamic Jihad.

Iran has also openly exhibited hostility to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, which is no surprise given the statements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for Israel's destruction. The extent of Iran's involvement in Palestinian terrorism is probably best illustrated by the seizure by Israeli forces in January 2002 of a cargo ship sailing from Iran with a cargo destined for Palestinian terrorists. The ship, the Karine-A, held more than 50 tons of weaponry and munitions, including everything from AK-47s and small arms ammunition to 122mm rockets and 1.5 tons of C4 explosive.

Other Iranian Terror Activities

Iran has been involved in other acts of terrorism that go beyond sponsorship of Jihadist terrorist groups. Two come to mind, one very well known, and the other a very worrisome event that has gone largely forgotten.

In 1989 author Salmen Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, was published. The book contained material that was thought as insulting to the prophet Mohammed and the supreme leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for Rushdie's death. Khomeini's successor, the Ayatollah Khameini, upheld the fatwa after Khomeini died and it has never been lifted. Rushdie has lived in almost constant fear for his life ever since and rumors of terrorist cells and assassins stalking him have persisted. International appeals to have the fatwa lifted have fallen on deaf ears and efforts by Rushdie to express regret have been equally ineffective. So far, Rushdie has escaped assassination, however, in view of his experience, the recent controversy surrounding the cartoons of Mohammed published in Europe should have come as no surprise.

Back on June 29, 2004, something happened that caused a brief media stir, but all too quickly was forgotten and has completely faded from America's memory now. On that day, the U.S. expelled 2 Iranian security guards stationed at Iran's UN mission in New York. The FBI and NYPD had observed these guards repeatedly photographing and videotaping New York City subways, buses, tunnels, skyscrapers and landmarks. Almost shockingly, at the time of the incident, the State Department reported that this was the third time such activities by Iranian security personnel at their UN mission had resulted in their expulsion from the United States.

For their part, the Iranians claimed that their personnel were just sightseeing, but law enforcement personnel were convinced by the nature and scope of their videography and photography activity that it was something more sinister. This incident two years ago is even more worrisome now given the burgeoning confrontation with Iran over their nuclear program. When the world's most active sponsor of Jihadist terrorism sends agents out to conduct surveillance and target acquisition of key locations within America's largest city, one has to wonder how far we will be willing to let the Ayatollahs go. Their recent threats to retaliate against the U.S. for any action taken against Iran for its nuclear activities should prompt all Americans to sit up and take notice of their terrorist activities.

Christopher Holton heads the Center for Security Policy's Divest Terror Initiative ( He can be reached at

This article was published December 20, 2006 in Family Security Matters as Part 2 of a 4-part series. It is archived at


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