US report singles out Iran as ‘world’s worst terror sponsor’

Activities of IRCG, regional proxies put in spotlight.
Friday 26/06/2020
Defence Minister Ali Hatami (3rd-R) and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Hossein Salami (2nd-L) touring during an official ceremony where the ministry handed the IRGC 110 high-speed vessels, in the port city of Bandar Abbas. (AFP)
Defence Minister Ali Hatami (3rd-R) and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Hossein Salami (2nd-L) touring during an official ceremony where the ministry handed the IRGC 110 high-speed vessels, in the port city of Bandar Abbas. (AFP)

WASHINHTON - The US State Department singled out Iran in its “2019 Country Reports on Terrorism,” calling the Tehran regime “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism” and accusing it of utilising a vast proxy network to carry out its “sectarian” agenda.

The report accuses Tehran and its proxies of continuing “to plot and commit terrorist attacks on a global scale” and noted the US’s multifaceted work to curb their influence.

It pinpointed the IRGC’s elite Quds force as “Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorist groups abroad,” noting that it provides “financial and other material support, training, technology transfer, advanced conventional weapons, guidance, or direction to a broad range of terrorist organisations.” The military unit also engages “in large-scale illicit financing schemes and money laundering to fund its malign activities,” the report said.

Washington’s focus on the IRGC is a key feature of its campaign to destabilise the Tehran regime. The Revolutionary Guards maintain a parallel military and economic system that promotes the regime’s expansionist agenda and benefits top members of the ruling class.

The US took bold action against the IRGC in early January, killing its leader, Qassem Soleimani, in a targeted missile strike as he landed at Baghdad International Airport with a prominent Iran-backed militia commander. The strike, in direct response to an attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad which the US said was instigated by Iran, was seen as a devastating blow to the Tehran regime, forcing it to reevaluate its geopolitical approach in areas of strategic interest, including Iraq.

Further straining the Revolutionary Guards, the US has imposed near exhaustive sanctions on connected figures and entities. Most recently, the US introduced sanctions on 9 Iranian metal export companies that provide revenue to the IRGC.

“Any person doing business with [Revolutionary Guard] or conducting prohibited transfers of graphite to Iran risks sanctions,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the new sanctions.

The US report highlighted Washington’s moves to designate the IIRGC as a terror group. It said that the IRGC’s designation– which marked the first time a foreign government branch had been blacklisted in such a way — “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 focused also on Tehran’s network of proxies. Whether in Syria, Iraq, Yemen or Lebanon, Iran was documented as  carrying out Tehran’s aggressive agenda in the region.

Among the listed terror groups supported by Iran were Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Iraqi militia Katai’b Hezbollah. The Islamic Republic also sent weapons to the Houthis in Yemen and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the report noted.

The report noted that the US had moved to denounce the entire Hezbollah organisation in Lebanon as a foreign terrorist group, while taking aggressive action to curb its influence.

“Throughout the year, the United States ratcheted up efforts to degrade and disrupt Hezballah’s finances, with numerous designations of financial entities, facilitators, and money launderers tied to the group,” the report noted.

Numerous governments in Western Europe and South America joined the US in designated all branches of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group  as a terror organisation, it added.

The report defended Washington sanctions policy towards Tehran. The US pushes hard to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran that is set to end in October. Pompeo, threatening to seek to impose UN sanctions on Iran if the embargo is lifted, said it would be “unacceptable” for the embargo to be lifted, allowing Iran to “become an arms dealer of choice for terrorists and rogue regimes all throughout the world.”

Tensions between the US and Iran increased after US President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world power in 2018 and re-imposed economic sanctions. The US has since sent thousands more troops, long-range bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in response to what it saw as a growing threat of Iranian attacks on US interests in the region and threats to regional allies.

With Washington determined to carry on with its sanctions strategy, the regime in Tehran is pinning its hopes on a change of the US administration after November elections.