Iran once again earns the dubious distinction of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, the US said Wednesday in a new report that also noted a decline in the number of terrorist attacks globally between 2015 and 2016.
In its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism” released Wednesday, the State Department said Iran was the planet’s “foremost” state sponsor of terrorism in 2016, a dubious distinction the country has held for many years.
It said Iran was firm in its backing of anti-Israel terror groups as well as proxies that have destabilized already devastating conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. It also said Iran continued to recruit in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Shiite militia members to fight in Syria and Iraq. Additionally, it said Iranian support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah was unchanged.
In terms of non-state actors, the report said the Islamic State (ISIS) group was responsible for more attacks and deaths than any other group in 2016. It carried out 20 percent more attacks in Iraq in 2016 compared with 2015, and its affiliates struck in more than 20 countries, according to the report.
Iran: State Sponsor of Terrorism Since 1984
Iran has been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the State Department and subjected to a variety of US sanctions since 1984. Many of the activities outlined in the report are identical to those detailed in previous reports, indicating that Iran’s belligerent policies and actions have remained unchanged over the years.
“Iran remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2016 as groups supported by Iran maintained their capability to threaten U.S. interests and allies,” said the report.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) continues to play “a destabilizing role in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen,” the report confirmed.
Iran used a unit of the IRGC, the Quds Force, “to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations and create instability in the Middle East,” the report said. It added that Iran has publicly acknowledged its involvement in Syria and Iraq.
With Iranian support, Hezbollah continued to develop “long-term attack capabilities and infrastructure around the world,” it said.
The report also accused Iran of supplying weapons, money and training to militant Shia groups in Bahrain, maintaining a “robust” cyberterrorism program and refusing to identify or prosecute senior members of the al-Qaida network that it has detained.
As in previous reports, Sudan and Syria were also identified as “state sponsors of terrorism.”
Drop in Total Number of Attacks
Despite the activities of Iran and groups like ISIS in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria, and Boko Haram and al-Shabab in Africa, the total number of terrorist attacks in 2016 decreased by 9 percent from 11,774 in 2015 to 11,072, according to statistics compiled for the report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
That reduction was accompanied by a 13 percent decrease in deaths — from 28,328 to 25,621 — from such attacks over the same period. Of those killed in 2016, 16 were American citizens, including seven in high-profile attacks in Brussels, Belgium in March and Nice, France, in July. Seventeen Americans were injured in the Brussels attack and three in Nice, the report said.
The report attributed the drops to fewer terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen. At the same time, the report said attacks in the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan and Turkey increased between 2015 and 2016.