|Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic
in 1979, Iran views terrorism as a legitimate means to further its ideological
and strategic aims -
|Iranian Terror Against Israel|
|Iranian Assistance To Palestinian Terror Organizations|
|Assistance to Hizballah|
|Elimination Of Opposition Activists|
|The Rushdie Affair|
|Terror against Western Targets|
Khomeini bequeathed to his successors the support for the armed struggle of the “Fighting Muslims”. Since his death Iran has expanded and improved the terror option. Although the claim is heard frequently in the West, that only the Iranian radicals support terrorism, the reality has proved otherwise. The radicals in recent years have been ousted from the centers of power, whereas both the Iranian spiritual leader, Khamena’i, and President Rafsanjani were in all probability, directly involved in ordering the execution of terrorist attacks. Moreover, there are several Iranian agencies involved (directly or indirectly) in terrorism abroad: the Ministry of Intelligence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Guardians of the Revolution. Various other Iranian organizations, cultural centers and mosques serve as an infrastructure for the recruitment of local militants and as a cover for terrorist activity.
In spite of its undercover nature, Iran’s worldwide involvement in international terrorism cannot always be concealed. Occasionally, events come to light that are proof of Iranian government's involvement in terrorist activities. For instance, the March 1996 discovery, in Belgium, of a specially-built Howitzer canon sent by ship from Iran to Germany to be used in a terrorist attack; or the involvement of the highest Iranian officials in the assassination of Kurdish leaders in Germany, the so-called “Mikonos Affair”.
The Islamic regime’s determination to continue supporting terrorism, in conflict with normal international behavior, has forced the Iranian Foreign Ministry to strive, under extreme international pressure, to offset the damage caused by this policy to Tehran’s economic and political ties. Iran does not deny its adherence to Khomeini’s "Islamic revolutionary ideology”, which supports all radical Islamic movements worldwide, but stresses that Iranian assistance is merely cultural, moral and humanitarian in nature. Tehran strongly denies any military and/or financial assistance to these movements. It must be emphasized that such denial is deeply imbedded in the Shi’ite tradition, in the principle of the “taqiyya” (concealing the faith) which was used as a means of protection against the persecutors of the Shi’ite religion.
Iranian Terror Against Israel
Since the “Madrid Conference” in October 1991, Iran has been active in attempting to disrupt the peace process in the Middle East, which threatens to increase Iran's political isolation in the region, to limit its influence and interests in Lebanon. This opposition lead Iran to strengthen its ties with those Palestinian organizations that oppose the peace process, such as The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Hamas and the various “Fronts”. Iran hoped that terrorist attacks carried out by the Palestinian organizations, together with those perpetrated by Hizballah, would hamper the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and undermine Yasser Arafat’s position. This goal concurs with the basic Iranian hostility towards Israel that originates from the regime’s Islamic religious ideology. Iran refuses to recognize Israel’s existence, and refers to Israel as “the occupation regime of al Quds”, and constantly calls for the destruction of Israel.
Iran does not conceal its ties with the Palestinian organizations that oppose the political process, Hamas, the PIJ and Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC. Furthermore, these organizations make public their connections and cooperation with Iran. Most of the Palestinian organizations that oppose the peace process participated in the “Conferences for the Support of the Uprising” organized by Tehran (4-6 December 1990; 19-22 October 1991).
During these highly publicized conferences, the leaders of the Palestinian organizations met with the top political echelons in Iran. A special committee headed by the Iranian Vice President in charge of Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, Attalla Maharjani was formed as a result of Tehran's decision to provide the “Palestinian uprising” with financial, military, political and humanitarian. An Iranian “Fund for the Martyrs” gives financial and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, in support of the “Jihad”. Within the framework of Iran’s efforts to instill its hostility towards Israel into the rest of the Muslim world, Khomeini declared the last Friday of the month of Ramadan as “al-Quds Day”, to mark the Muslims’ aspirations to liberate Jerusalem.
In February 1996 at a meeting in Damascus with the leaders of the ten Palestinian opposition organizations, Iran’s Vice President, Habibi stressed the need to coordinate the struggle against Israel. Iran also justified the terrorist suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Ashkelon (25 February 1996) and described them as the answer to Israel’s “inhumane” policy towards the Palestinians.
Iranian Assistance To Palestinian Terror Organizations
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad
The Palestinian organization most loyal to the Iranian revolutionary ideology is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In spite of it being a Sunni organization, the Iranian revolution sees in it an example to be followed. After the deportation of its leader, Fathi Shqaqi, from the Gaza Strip, the ties between Iran and the organization have been strengthened, particularly in the field of Iranian military assistance. Instructors of the Guardians of the Revolution give regular military instruction courses to the organization's activists from the Territories and abroad, as well as in the Hizballah camps in Lebanon and Iran. Iran also provides the organization’s activists with logistic support, including Iranian identitificatio papers.
As an example, a militant by the name of Khaled Zaqarna of Jenin, was given extensive military training in January 1995 at the Hizballah camp in the Baka’a Valley, as well as at the Guardians of the Revolution’s camp in Ba'albek, Lebanon. There he underwent advanced training in light weapons, the handling of mines and Lau anti-tank rockets. He was then infiltrated into the Territories to establish an extensive network in support of suicide bombings.
Iran also aided The PIJ in laying the groundwork for terrorist attacks abroad. At the beginning of 1996, the organization’s representative in Iran visited Turkey to prepare for the training in Iran of several of the organization’s activists. These activists were due to infiltrate back into Israel in order to carry out terrorist attacks. The Turkish security authorities arrested some of the PIJ militants and one of them, Khalil 'Atta, was arrested in Israel. 'Atta was one of nine PIJ militants who underwent training in Iran in the period of July - September 1995.
Since 1992, Iran has drawn closer to Hamas, which it perceives as the leading Islamic movement in the Territories. At the foundation of their relationship lies their common interest in the disruption of the political process, and their efforts to undermine the PLO. These common goals transcend the ideological variance between them due to religious differences between the Sunni Hamas and the Shi’ite Iran. These ties are manifest themselves in frequent high-level meetings between the two sides, and the relative importance of the Hamas representative in Tehran. For example, a Hamas delegation headed by two top activists, 'Imad 'Alami (Chairman of the Internal Committee) and Mustafa Qanu' (the representative in Syria) visited Iran in October 1995 and met with high ranking Iranian officials.
In addition to political ties, Iran also provides Hamas with military assistance. The movement’s activists train on a regular basis at the camps of Hizballah and the Guardians of the Revolution in Lebanon, as well as in Iran. This includes training for suicide attacks. Several Iranian-trained militants succeeded in infiltrating back into the Territories under Palestinian Authority control. Israel has arrested Hamas activists who admitted that they were trained by Iranian instructors in the Beka’a Valley, in Lebanon, and in Iran. The training included the use of light weapons, photography and sabotage.
Iran also gives Hamas financial assistance. In 1992, several million dollars were transferred to Hamas’ account, including money originating from the Iranian “Fund for the Martyrs”, which grants assistance to victims of the “Palestinian Uprising”.
Assistance to Hizballah
The Hizballah organization is the spearhead for Iran in its use of terrorism in general, and in its fight against Israel in particular. The organization began its large-scale terror acts in 1982, when its militants blew up the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 61 people and wounding more than 120. Later, it was behind a series of terror attacks against Western targets, among them: the suicide bombing of the Marines Headquarters in Beirut (23 October 1983) and the French Military Headquarters in Beirut, in which 241 Americans and 56 French soldiers were killed. In the 1980s, Hizballah activists were involved in the kidnapping of Western citizens in Lebanon whom they held as hostages. In some cases, this was done on Iranian orders, for the purpose of obtaining economic or political concessions from Western governments, such as the release of Iranian or Lebanese terrorists imprisoned in Western Europe.
Iran provides financial assistance on a large scale to Hizballah, reaching, according to some estimates, millions of dollars a year. It also gives tactical assistance in terror attacks against Israel, through the Guardians of the Revolution units posted in the Baka’a Valley. The Hizballah General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, made public Iranian support in an interview given to al-Wast (11 March 1996), where he stated that his organization receives financial and political assistance to continue, in his words, "the legitimate struggle against Israel".
Weapons and Ammunition
Iran has been Hizballah's main weapons supplier since its establishment. Iranian assistance includes a wide range of weapons and ammunition, such as mortars, Sagger anti-tank rockets, mines, explosives and small arms. As far as is known, the largest arms consignment sent by Iran to Lebanon was in February/March 1992 in the wake of the incidents between Israel and the Hizballah. Since then, there have been no significant arms consignments dispatched by air, probably due to Syrian objection. However, six trucks carrying arms from Iran to Lebanon, were apprehended in Turkey in mid- January 1996. Thus it can be assumed that Iran is now making extensive use of the land route to transfer arms to Hizballah.
Iranian assistance to Hizballah in this field is mostly advice and supervision of the Hizballah's training program, since the basic instruction is carried out by the organization’s militants themselves. The Guardians of the Revolution (more explicitly the training arm of the al-Quds Forces) provides higher level training in Iran mainly at the al-Quds Force training base “Imam Ali” in northern Tehran). These include courses for officers, company commanders, commandos, and courses in communications and powered-gliders.
Elimination Of Opposition Activists
Since the Islamic regime came to power in 1979, it has consistently acted to eliminate Iranian opposition activists outside the country and has invested considerable intelligence efforts in surveillance and tracking-down of anyone conceived as a threat to the regime. Examples of this activity became glaringly obvious in the wake of the following trials in which Iran was implicated:
Since Rasfanjani's rise to power in 1989, scores of Iranian opposition members have been liquidated worldwide, among them:
As a rule, Iran, in an effort to improve its relations with the West and to appear in a more positive light, refrains from carrying out terror attacks in Western Europe. However, should an occasion present itself, Iran does not hesitate to rise to the occasion - mostly through deniable emissaries, to prevent the attacks being traced directly to their source. For proof one need look no farther than the specially built Howitzer mortar intercepted on an Iranian vessel on its way from Iran to Antwerp port (14 March ’96). This mortar, addressed to a shop with Iranian intelligence connections in Germany, and ready for activation, was probably intended for a future terror attack against Iranian opposition members or Israeli/Jewish targets in Europe.
The Rushdie Affair
Within the framework of Iranian terror, it is worth mentioning the obsessive and unrelenting pursuit and incitement campaign which Iran is conducting against the writer Salman Rushdie (author of “The Satanic Verses”), whom they perceive to be the symbol of the degradation of Islamic values. Khomeini’s "fatwa" or religious ruling (February 89) permits the shedding of his blood and calls for his liquidation, and also of anyone who knowingly helped to publish his novel. The Iranians are continuing to persecute Rushdie in spite of the strong criticism voiced by the West against them, which continues to overshadow the improvement in relations between the West and Iran. The Iranians have placed a large reward on Rushdie’s head and their intelligence apparatus has spared no efforts in trying to locate him, as well as trying to prevent the distribution of his book by eliminating publishers and translators. On 11 July 93, the Japanese scholar, Hitushi Igarashi, who translated the book into Japanese, was murdered. And in Norway William Nygaard, the local publisher of “The Satanic Verses”, was badly injured in an assassination attempt (11 Oct.93). In spite of Iranian pragmatic officials’ efforts to find a solution to the “Rushdie Affair” by giving him a written commitment that he would not be harmed, the religious establishment insists on adhering to Khomeini's ruling and refuses any compromise.
Ayatollah Hassan Sanei offered $2 million for Salman Rushdie's head, and extended the threat of murder to include all supporters of Rushdie, meaning the rushdie support committees in the West. These groups became increasingly vocal around the February 14 anniversary of the fatwah. One of the latest authoritative pronouncements on the Rushdie affair was that of Mohammad Yazdi, the head of Iran's judiciary, who said (April 1996), "[the fatwah] will finally be carried out someday". Two days later, the Majlis speaker, Ali Akbar Nouri, reaffirmed his support for the fatwa, saying that he "regretted that Rushdie is still alive".
Terror against Western Targets
During the 1980s, Iranian and pro-Iranian agencies were involved in the planning and execution of attacks against Western targets, particularly in Lebanon. In the context of opposition to Western Influence, the Islamic Jihad and Hizballah, under instructions from Iran, carried out a series of attacks against Western representatives. Among them:
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