Washington, Aug 1 – The U.S. State Department branded Iran the world’s “preeminent sponsor of terrorism” and warned that the Islamic Republic and its Hezbollah allies were stepping up their plotting of terrorist acts.
The State Department’s annual report on global terror released this week found that Iran “increased its terrorist-related activity, likely in an effort to exploit the uncertain political conditions resulting from the Arab Spring, as well as in response to perceived increasing external pressure on Tehran.”
Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism, said in a briefing on Tuesday: “We are increasingly concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Hezbollah’s activities as they’ve both stepped up their level of terrorist plotting over the past year and engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s.”
Israel has blamed Hezbollah for last month’s attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in which five people were killed.
Benjamin added: “Iran is and remains the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism in the world … Together with Hezbollah, as they pursue destabilizing activities around the globe, we are firmly committed to working with partners and allies to counter and disrupt Iranian activities and to prevent Iran from sponsoring new acts of terrors. And we think that the international community is increasingly alert to this threat and will resist it.”
The report, which covers 2011, said Iran provided weapons and training to assist the Assad regime in Syria in its brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.
Iran also continued to provide weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of Hezbollah fighters at camps in Iran.
The report also drew attention to the situation in Sinai, which is part of Egypt but has become increasingly lawless since the fall of the Mubarak regime in early 2011.
“Egypt's Northern Sinai region remained a base for smuggling arms and explosives into Gaza, as well as a transit point for Palestinian extremists. The smuggling of humans, weapons, cash, and other contraband through the Sinai into Israel and Gaza created criminal networks with possible ties to terrorist groups in the region,” the report said.
Gaza is ruled by Iran’s ally Hamas and the report noted a rise in rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from the territory in 2011. The Hamas Charter sets out the organization’s aim to destroy Israel and kill Jews wherever possible.
“The number of rocket and mortar launches in 2011 increased significantly from the number of launches in both 2009 and 2010. The rocket attacks demonstrated technological advancements, allowing groups to indigenously manufacture and stockpile rockets at a low cost. In addition, Iran increased the provision of medium-range rockets and unsuccessfully tried to smuggle an anti-ship cruise missile into Gaza,” the report said.
For more details on rocket attacks, see the TIP “rocket box” which maintains an accurate count and provides other facts and figures. There were 653 attacks last year and there have been 529 so far this year.