Public Security and Terrorism in Iran

Historical events that led to Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism

It is evident that confrontations as well as differences in diplomacy and hidden interests have led to the rising of terrorist groups funded by countries like Iran. Various groups with terrorism agenda and in countries like Philippines, Lebanon, Bosnia and Palestinian among other places (Bakhash, 1986; cited in Bayman, 2008: 169), have received financial support among other assistance such as training, inspiration and others, from Tehran (Byman, 2005; cited from Bayman, 2008). The Iranian government has received accusations from European countries, the United States and Israel, of supporting terrorist groups through providing funding, equipment, weapons, giving sanctuary and training terrorists. This has happened since the 1979 Iranian revolution when there was the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who was being backed by the United States. Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the aforementioned.

Collaboration between Lebanon and Iran can be conceptualized in the fact that the Lebanon’s long-suffering Shiites were more receptive to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary message according to Hamzeh (2004: 18). Hezbollah emerged during the civil war of Lebanon as an Iranian-sponsored second resistance movement for Lebanon’s Shia community. The participation of Shiite clerics of Iran, Iraq and Lebanon in their “circles of learning” at the city of Najaf provided a good place for knowledge of each other. The society of Shiites block of Lebanon was the origin of the Hezbollah group. Shiite was a politically and economically disadvantaged group in Lebanon as they felt after the independence of Lebanon in 1943. They were meant to be given more say in government through the appointment of Imam Musa Sadr as the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council as the first head. The leader had come to Lebanon in 1960 to become a leading Shiite figure in Tyre, before his appointment in 1969. The arising of Hezbollah was activated by the military defeat after the invasion of Lebanon in 1978 so as to disassociate Lebanon from Syria’s influence and the PLO with an hope of bringing peace between the two (Hamzeh, 2004 : 16). This led to killing of Shiites. The group’s legitimacy and rationale for its guerrilla warfare was facilitated by the Israel’s invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982. In addition, the group’s existence has been boosted by the presence of U.S. Marines in Lebanon because they consider fighting these forces as legitimate as fighting the Israel occupation (Hamzeh, 2004: 18).

The hatred between the U.S. and the Hezbollah advocates was also recorded in 1982 when the American and European multi-national force (MNF) entered Beirut in this year. the group forced Shiites squatters from posh neighborhoods of West Beruit near the airport, in addition to supporting a government beholden to the right-wing Christian Phalange Party which was led by Amine Gemayel the then president and the Sunni Beirut notables. The Hezbollah also viewed the MNF as pro-Israel. One notable incidence of hit-back by the Hezbollah was the suicide bombings (1983 Beruit barracks bombing) which led to the death of 300 American and French servicemen.

The United States has indicated before that Iran banked terrorists in important regions like Lebanon and Palestinian Territories. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-Pasdaran-e Inqilab) have been accused of supporting terrorism through activities like training terrorists. This group was formed by the Islamic Republic of Iran after the fall of the Shah. Its purpose of formation was to promote the government’s social policy.

In 1995, there was a meeting between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other groups to train the latter on helping destabilization of the Gulf States and provide aid assistance to militants in these countries to replace the existing governments with Iran-like regimes. The groups which participated in this meeting held in Beirut were the Hezbollah, Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, Iraqi Da’wah Party, Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The United States through the former President Bush in 2007 accused Iran of their involvement in roadside bombings.

Central ideas behind The Country’s foreign policies

The country has made significant moves to establish relations with the Saudi Arabia, and has relations with Syria. Competitive objectives sometimes drag the country’s foreign policy, which also aims at protecting the country from external threats and improving or establishing trade partnerships. The country has also a policy well known for being anti-U.S. and anti-Israel as well as supporting terrorism and selling its fundamentalist revolution. The spreading of the Islamic revolution has been termed by Bayman (2008: 170) as the leading foreign policy goal of Iran, and supporting revolutions oversees was seen as a revolutionary duty to be carried out by the clerics in Tehran. Spread of Islam outside Iran has been implicated as a reason for such revolutionary, hence linking religion Islam to this revolution, according to the aforementioned author. A call to spread the sovereignty of God throughout the world is also evident in the Iran’s constitution (Bakhash, 1986; cited in Bayman, 2008). The new leaders believed that the survival of Iran would be possible through advancing their revolution aggressively, despite being on the offensive side (Walt, 1994; cited in Bayman, 2008: 171) and their leader Ayatollah Khomeini said that they would be defeated if they remained in an enclosed environment (Ramazani, 1985; cited in Bayman, 2008: 171). The leaders went ahead to oppose the Shah at home, as well as Iraq’s Saddam Hussain. Tehran was looked upon by the many Shi’a groups oppressed around the world after the Iran’s revolution. Iran leaders have a special affinity for the Shi’a, being in one of the largest Shi’a nations. There was backing of the Shi’a groups in Kuwait, Pakistan, Iraq, Bahrain and other places (Ramazani, n.d; cited in Bayman, 2008: 170). In Iraq, Iran sought to replace Iran-type government in Iraq (Ramazani, n.d.; cited in Bayman, 2008: 171). The Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution was a group of various Shi’ite groups organized by Tehran in 1982 and aimed at weakening Saddam’s Iraq and was termed as the government in waiting (International Crisis Group, 2003; cited in Bayman, 2008: 171). Iran backed many of the left-wing revolutionary movements many with secular ideologies because it saw itself as a champion of the “dispossessed around the world. The ideological support made the Iran’s neighbors to react through many ways including forming anti-Iran alliances, welcoming Iranian dissidents including those groups supporting terrorism against Iran, as well as cutting or freezing trade with Iran. In return, Iran used terrorism and subversion. Iran supported the overthrowing of the Bahrain government, and supports group which violently oppose the Arab-Israel peace process, for example the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iran has a multifaceted foreign policy that has drawn attention because of the country’s involvement in terrorism. The origin of the country’s foreign policy in relation to supporting terrorist organizations like the Hezbollah and Hamas, about Tehran’s nuclear posturing and the country’s involvement in Iraq is important in the wake of interests of United State’s interest to dialogue with Iran on Iraq. Since the ideological 1982, the country’s foreign policy has grown more complex and nuanced, with the country showing open revolt to the U.S. and ambitions in the Persian Gulf region. The multifaceted and “muddled” foreign policy, it has been argued by experts, may be a result of the divisions within the Iran’s leadership, in that the leadership consists of revolutionaries, reformers, moderates as well as militants. The policy is fragmented over such issues as the importance of nuclear weapons, although it appears to the face of reformist challengers to be united in purpose. Iran, since its war with Iraq in 1980-1988 pursued an ideological or kind of defensive strategy to maintain its revolution through the country’s first generation revolutionaries. The “war generation” elites in Iran has shifted to a more defensive and pragmatic stance as compared to earlier days when it sought to export the Islamic Revolution throughout the middle East by force if possible, and having an offensive posture in the 1980s. the Iran’ s foreign policy is forged by the SNSC, a body composed of officials from the foreign ministry, intelligence, interiors and military leaders and headed by the negotiator to Iran’s nuclear issues. In act, one of the reasons why the United States is objectionable is the involvement of Iran in nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Since 1979, there was no diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington because of Iran’s hostage crisis. In 1980s, Iran transacted arms with the United States to aid the release of the Americans held hostage In Lebanon. The Americans were released. Tehran has had low level of cooperation with the United States on anti-oil smuggling efforts in Iraq, counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack, and anti-drug policies. There have been efforts to resolve differences between Iran and United States, indicated by the current United States president Barrack Obama. There have been interests by leaders in Iran to resolve differences by dealing directly with United States rather than through the EU-3 or Russia for example.

Iran agreed to the UN Security Council Resolution 598 which allowed the implementation of cease fire earlier proposed by Iraq, in 1982. The country also succumbed to international pressure to sign Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement on December 18, 2003. The country would cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to shed more light on its nuclear program as well as voluntarily suspend Uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities. The relations between Iran and the west European countries have been based on trade and security. It does not mean that the country has not established diplomatic relations. Talks with the United States led the cooperation of the two in the overthrowing of the Taliban in 2001 and the establishment of the broad-based government for the Afghan people. Although the United States has shown interests to improve Iran’s state of freedom of media and people through allocation of money in the fiscal year 2006, Iran has had reactions that tend to discourage relations with the country, such as the imprisonment of four innocent Iranian-American scholars, civil society actors and journalists in 2007. These were accused of jeopardizing the country’s security.

Iran has received sanctions through the UN Security Council, while the country’s economy depends on outside investors and its energy sector. The country had large foreign exchange reserves owing to the high oil prices (Beehner, 2006).

Main political actors who promote terrorism and the reasons behind this

The main political actors who promote terrorism are mainly influential people in the government. These people may also be prominent people with relations with the government officials, but to be effective they must go beyond this to influence the political system such as can be observed in Iran. In Iran, those involved in terrorism activities do not merely have relationship with the leaders, but that these are people in the government authorities influencing the policies of the land and commanding terrorist activities. The Iran government, for example, is composed of leaders with mixed interests leading to a non-monolithic foreign policy. Terrorist activities are commanded through the IRGC group which has an influence across the country and away. Usually the top officials like Supreme Muslim leaders, Presidents and military leaders are involved. Such like the state-sponsorship of terrorism by Iran is a well established agenda over the years and involvement of leaders in the advancement of such an agenda is important in ensuring sponsorship goes on. Therefore such groups may be used to either direct political interests such as election of leaders, election process or imposing of political leaders.

State-sponsorship of terrorism is an agenda by governments involved and therefore the top organ like the Islamic Supreme Leader in Iran as well as the president is involved and well aware of the intensions. State-sponsorship of terrorism is mostly politically motivated and meant to achieve certain influences of political nature, or to show discontent to particular political trends. Iran has constantly supported terrorism with intent of hitting back to Israel and the United States as a result of past mistakes. In fact, this was the original intention of arising of groups like the Hezbollah. The revolts have been boosted by the continuous interference of countries such as Iran’s affairs because the countries victimized view involvement in terrorism as legitimate action.

State-sponsorship of terrorism involves not only funding of the terrorists, but also training, provision of hiding places for the terrorist groups, as well as resisting any moves aimed at ending terrorism by fighting back the United States which has been on the forefront to fight the vice. The terrorists have also hit back at countries or shown discontent to leaders who support this quest. The provision of the large sums of money, training equipment and other physical support means that the terrorists must enjoy support not to be wiped out as well as have access to finances and military training activities. Iran has shown open support to terrorists.

Looking at the case study of Iran, it is clear that because security and trade have been at the center stage of relations with other countries, the two are what drives the agenda on terrorism. Supremacy is one factor engraved in the security issue. Security concerns raised include the involvement of Iran in weapons of mass destruction and nuclear project for war purposes, with the United States and supporters urging for a stop in these project. Yet trade and security have been concerns only raised in the process because historical evidence discussed here shows that Iran for example has reacted angrily towards Israel and the United States as a result of interference with its affairs in what would be seen as a community’s (Shiites) cry for more freedom and expression. There has been since a shift of focus towards policies and to favor the original interests raised by this community because of dominance of these ideologies in the country leadership or influence of the proponents of these ideologies. Recent twists in the focus of terrorism have implicated religion in terrorism with a wide feeling that the United States has been targeting the Islamic community in their war against terrorism. Islamic dominated regions have largely been opposed to the United States diplomacy and ideologies because of influence inflicted to them by other countries, and therefore the claim that the Islamic community has been a target, is well understood. Iran for example has focused on spreading its Islamic revolution agenda to other countries and therefore biased messages have been sent relating to the concern of attacking the Muslim community. It appears that religion is no basis for the terrorism itself, but the advocates of terrorism have brought in such claims to advance their selfish interests.

How state-sponsored terrorism works

Iran has been accused of sponsoring the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. The support for any terrorist group is motivated by the desire for achieving political interests. The state provides either political support for the groups, commands attacks, offers financial support and trains the terrorists. The country also may declare open support for the terrorist and train the terrorists to feel as though they are engaging in legitimate activities to fight back an enemy. State sponsorship of terrorism enjoys a wide range of support by influential people of a regime such as in Iran, so as to be able to shape foreign policies in objection to perceived enemies. In Iran, state sponsorship of terrorism has been executed through the IRGC and through various groupings opposing the ideologies of perceived enemies like Israel and the United States. This is the case with support of Iran for the agenda of groups like Hamas against the Israelites. These groupings have political differences with the groupings supported by the enemies. Therefore, whereas state sponsorship of tourism may be argued as a means to progress or impose certain revolutions such as the Iran’s I0slamic Revolution, it may be perceived as a means of hitting back the enemy by whatever means.

In state-sponsored terrorism, the group may even have been formed by the government. Iran for example was involved in the formation of the Hezbollah which was established in 1982. The force was aimed at uprooting the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) at Lebanon, after the invasion by Israel in 1982. In state-sponsored terrorism, a country will use surrogates to attack other people. State-sponsorship of terrorism may be used to cause damage, kill people or perform any other harm against the targets. In the recent past, state-sponsored terrorism has focused on killing citizens such as the Americans killed through the activities of Hezbollah, destruction of property such as in embassies if for example the country is not in a position to attack the enemy in his own homeland. The state funds the terrorist activities by arming the terrorist groups, training and funding them. In this case, the Iranian government has funded, armed and trained the Hezbollah through the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Hezbollah has relations with the Islamic Revolution (9: cited in Bayman, 2008: 171).

According to the America efforts to reduce terrorism were undermined by the state sponsored terrorism in their Country’s reports 2009 and ranked Iran as the most significant state sponsor of terrorism. The country was indicated to continue employing terrorism to counter interference of the west particularly in the Middle East, oppose the Arab-Israeli peace, to ensure regional dominance and regime survival, achieve national security and foreign policy interests. Among the groups supported by the IRGC-Qods Force are the Balkans, certain Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas, Palestinian Hizballah, among other groups. Such as those groups which launch attacks in Lebanon to undermine the elected government of Lebanon indicate that state-sponsored terrorism may seek to express opinion or discomfort with the existing government, or to replace government with that which support yours. This may be carried out through provision of support-may be financial, provision of weapons or other support-to groups opposing the existing regime. The U.S. has blamed Iran of arming select Taliban members which has disturbed stability efforts in the country (United States Department of State Publication, 2009: 10).

Main terrorist groups affiliated with Iran

Iran has been accused of sponsoring terrorist groups such as the Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. The aforementioned groups execute criminal activities elsewhere, where Iran has hidden agenda such as hitting back at the United States and Israel. Iran pledged $50 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) after their winning of elections in 2006 while the United States do not provide aids as a result of the connection between PA and Hamas (Council on Foreign Relations, 2007).

The Pasdaran is believed to have connections with terrorists groups in the Middle East and also influences groups in United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain. The training ground of the militants has been indicated to be Sudan, Lebanon, and Iran, but the targets group of Pasdaran consists of about 12, 000 North Africans, Lebanese Shiites, Iraqis, Afghans and Iranians who received training in Iran.

The Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has deep influence of the Iran’s power structure and participates in socio-military-political-economic affairs. The former fighters held government positions in the country. The commanders of this group report to the supreme leader of the country while the president appoints the guard’s leaders. The group can assist armies in external defenses though it also has a primary role of internal security. The deployment of fighters of the Pasdaran in external regions was necessitated by the war between Iran and Iraq in 1980 to 1988 through The Quds Force unit of the Pasdaran. The aforementioned was to conduct foreign-policy missions starting with the Kurdish region of Iraq, and make possible for Kurdish and Shiite groups to relate to one another. Other groups which are allied to the Pasdaran have been sent elsewhere and includes a unit sent to aid the Bosnia Muslims in their civil war in the early and mid-1990s. The group also is involved in training activities and preparing the citizens for homeland defense (National Defense Research Institute, 2009: xi).

The United States accused the Quds Force of aiding militias in Iraq to fight a proxy war with coalition forces. In addition, they accused Daqduq, a Lebanese-born who was captured in Iraq, of collaborating with the Quds Force to train Iraqi extremists in logistics, explosives and firearms (Council of Foreign Relations, 2007).

Although there has been expressed concern over Iran’s support for terrorism, Iran has not yet offered the chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to the terrorists as expressed by Bayman (2008; 169). This is because of three main reasons, namely, Iran may be cautious in offering these weapons as a major support to the terrorist activity may spur the wrath of the United States and the international communities. Secondly, the country has been more cautious in its backing of terrorism in the recent past, and because offering these weapons of mass destruction to terrorists may leave the country with few tactical advantages because the terrorist groups are able to operate effectively with existing methods and weapons (Bayman, 2008; 169).

Works Cited

Ahmad, N. Hamzeh. In the path of Hizbullah. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004

Anoushiravan Ehteshami. After Khomeini. New York: Routledge, 1995),p. 131

Bakhash S. Reign of the Ayatollahs. New York: Basic Books, 1986, pp. 235–236

Bayman. Iran, Terrorism, and Weapons of Mass Destruction Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Routledge. 31:169–181, 2008. Web.

Beehner L. (2006). Iran’s multifaceted foreign policy. Web. 

Council on Foreign Relations. State Sponsors: Iran. 2007. Web.

Daniel Byman, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

International Crisis Group. Iraq’s Shiites under Occupation. 2003. pp. 12–13.

Martin Kramer. The Moral Logic of Hizballah. In Walter Reich, ed., Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 138.

National Defense Research Institute. The rise of the Pasdaran. 2009. Web. 

Ramazani, R. K. Revolutionary Iran: Challenge and Response in the Middle East. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1985, p. 24.

Stephen Walt. Revolution and War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

United States Department of State Publication. Country reports on terrorism 2008. Web.

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