US: Iran still supporting terrorism, U.S. reports

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The State Department report paints a picture of an aggressive Iranian foreign policy that has often been contrary to the interests of the United States.

Iran continued its “terrorist-related” activity last year and kept providing broad military support to President Bashar Assad of Syria, the State Department said Friday in its annual report on terrorism.

The State Department’s assessment suggests that neither the election of President Hassan Rouhani nor the prospect of a nuclear accord with the United States and its negotiating partners has had a moderating effect on Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

[quote]“In 2014, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training and the facilitation of primary Iraq Shia and Afghan fighters to support the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown,” the report said.[/quote]

The report does not contend that Iranian officials are conspiring to kill Americans. Nor does it accuse Iraqi militias backed by Iran of plotting to attack U.S. advisers in Iraq. The report also does not provide specific figures on Iranian operations, which might indicate whether they are increasing or decreasing.

But it paints a picture of an aggressive Iranian foreign policy that has often been contrary to the interests of the United States. Even when the United States and Iran share a common foe, as they do in the Islamic State group, the Iranian role in Iraq risks inflaming sectarian tensions. Some of the Shiite militias that Iran has backed in Iraq, including Kataib Hezbollah, have committed human-rights abuses against Sunni civilians, the report said.

Although the report covers 2014, U.S. officials said that the Iranian policies described in the report have continued this year, including its support of the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen who took control of the capital, Sanaa, this year.

[quote]“We continue to be very, very concerned about IRGC activity as well as proxies that act on behalf of Iran,” said Tina Kaidanow, the State Department’s senior counterterrorism official, using the acronym for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. “We watch that extremely carefully.”[/quote]

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has suggested Iran sees its regional and nuclear policies as proceeding on separate tracks, an approach that might be intended to placate hard-liners at home but may also reflect his own foreign-policy strategy.

In a survey of terrorist trends, including a country-by-country assessment, the report notes that the threat from the al-Qaida leadership that has sought sanctuary in Pakistan has diminished even as the group continues to be a source of inspiration for militants elsewhere. Meanwhile, the threat from the Islamic State group, which has established a self-styled caliphate in much of Iraq and Syria, has grown.

The report said that as of December, the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL, could muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters. The group derives most of its funding from smuggling oil, kidnapping for ransom, robbing banks and selling stolen antiquities.

The number of foreign fighters who have traveled to Syria — more than 16,000 as of late December and thousands more since — is greater than the number of foreign militants who have gone to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years, the report said.

[quote]“The ongoing civil war in Syria was a significant factor in driving worldwide terrorism events in 2014,” the report states.[/quote]

An annex to the report indicates terrorism has grown, although many of the figures reflect militant attacks in the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The number of terrorist attacks in 2014 grew by 35 percent compared with 2013, while the number of deaths from those assaults increased by 81 percent.

The number of exceptionally lethal attacks has also grown. In 2014, there were 20 attacks that killed more than 100 people. There were only two such attacks in 2013.

The statistics, which are appended to the State Department report, were prepared by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, at the University of Maryland.

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