Iran and state-sponsored terrorism

Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the government of Iran has been accused by members of the international community of funding, providing equipment, weapons, training and giving sanctuary to terrorists.[1]

Iran has been accused of training, financing, and providing weapons and safe havens for non-state militant actors, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and other Palestinian groups (Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)). These groups are designated as terrorist groups by a number of countries and international bodies; however, Iran considers such groups to be "national liberation movements" with a right to self-defense in the face of Israeli military occupation.[2]

The United States State Department has also accused Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias of terrorism against US troops, and Iran of cyberterrorism, primarily through its Quds Force.[3]

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps[]

After the fall of the Shah, the Islamic Republic of Iran established the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC – Pasdaran-e Inqilab) to domestically promote the government's social policy. The organization is accused of spreading its ideology in neighboring regions by training and funding "terrorist organizations". By 1986, the group had 350,000 members and had acquired a small naval and air force. By 1996, the ground forces numbered 100,000 and the naval forces numbered 20,000. They are believed to use the Quds Force to train the Islamic militants.[4]

In 1995, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard held a conference with worldwide organizations accused of engaging in terrorism including the Japanese Red Army, the Armenian Secret Army, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Iraqi Da'wah Party, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain and Hezbollah in Beirut for the sole purpose of providing training to these organizations supposedly to help in the destabilization of Gulf States and aid assistance to militants in these countries to replace the existing governments with Iran-like regimes.[5]

The United States State Department states that this organization provides support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in Israel. They also say that Pasdaran has given much support and training to terrorists supporting the Palestinian resistance. They are also accused of aiding the Iraqi insurgency in southern Iraq.[5] On September 26, 2007, the United States Senate passed legislation by a vote of 76-22 designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.[6] U.S. President George W. Bush and Congress labeled the group under the guidelines established by Executive Order 13224 issued after the September 11, 2001 attacks.[7]

Capture of American hostages[]

On November 4, 1979, 500 Iranians stormed the American Embassy and took 90 employees and visitors captive. They later released non-Americans, women and African-Americans, and held the 52 remaining Americans hostage for 444 days. The Americans held an embargo against Iran and demanded that the hostages be freed. Iran demanded unblocking of Iran's frozen assets in the United States ($24 billion) to release the hostages. Iran also demanded U.S. based Shah of Iran to be arrested and given back to Iran. They would later agree to accept $8 billion in frozen assets in exchange for the release of the hostages. They released the hostages after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan.

In 2000, the former hostages sued the Iranian government for state sponsored terrorism under the 1996 Antiterrorism Act. They would win the suit but would not be awarded damages because of a 2002 judgment that the terms of their release barred awarding any damages.[8]

Specific countries[]


On the evening of September 30, 2015, Bahraini security forces discovered a large bomb-making factory in Nuwaidrat and arrested a number of suspects linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The next day, October 1, Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Iran and asked the Iranian acting charge d’affaires to leave the kingdom within 72 hours after he was declared persona non-grata. Bahrain's decision to recall its ambassador comes "in light of continued Iranian meddling in the affairs of the kingdom of Bahrain in order to create sectarian strife and to impose hegemony and control.[9][10]

On January 6, 2016, Bahrain said it had dismantled a terrorist cell allegedly linked to Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah. Bahraini interior ministry said the cell was planning to carry out a “series of dangerous bombings” on the kingdom, and that many members were arrested including the group's leaders, 33-year-old twins Ali and Mohammed Fakhrawi.[11]


In July 2012, The Times of India reported that New Delhi police have concluded that terrorists belonging to a branch of Iran’s military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, were responsible for an attack on 13 February 2012, during which a bomb explosion targeted an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi, India, wounding one embassy staff member, a local employee, and two passers-by. According to the report, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards may have planned other attacks on Israeli targets around the world as well.[12][13][14]


Iran does not recognize Israel as a state,[15] and provides support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.[16][17][18]


Iran supplies political support and weapons to Hamas,[19] an organization classified by Israel, the United States, Canada, the European Union, Egypt, Australia and Japan as a terrorist organization. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, has said "Hamas is funded by Iran. It claims it is financed by donations, but the donations are nothing like what it receives from Iran".[20] From 2000 to 2004, Hamas was responsible for killing nearly 400 Israelis and wounding more than 2,000 in 425 attacks, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 2001 through May 2008, Hamas launched more than 3,000 Qassam rockets and 2,500 mortar attacks into Israel.[21]


President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy show respect to the victims of 1983 barracks bombing.

During the 1980s and 1990s, a wave of kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations of Western targets, particularly American and Israeli, occurred in Lebanon and other countries. The attacks, attributed to Hezbollah, have included:

Islamic Jihad is widely believed to be a nom de guerre of the Lebanese Islamist political movement and social service agency Hezbollah, which was founded in 1982 with many millions of dollars of aid and considerable training and logistical support from the Islamic Republic. Many believe the group promotes the Iranian agenda and that its goal is to overthrow the moderate governments in the area and create Islamic Republics based on that of Iran as well as the destruction of Israel.[1] Iran has supplied the militant organization Hezbollah with substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons (including long range rockets), explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid while persuading Hezbollah to take an action against Israel.[36][37][38] Hezbollah's 1985 manifesto listed its four main goals as "Israel's final departure from Lebanon as a prelude to its final obliteration"[39] According to reports released in February 2010, Hezbollah received $400 million from Iran.[37]

Its methods include assassinations, kidnappings, suicide bombings, and guerrilla warfare. It is believed to be one of the Islamic resistance groups that made suicide bombings common use. Other attacks cred to Hezbollah include:

Shi'ite Militias in Iraq[]

Iranian proxies killed an estimated 1,100 US troops in Iraq.[41] In addition, insurgents supported by Iran reportedly committed acts of terrorism.[35][42][43] The United States State Department states that weapons are smuggled into Iraq and used to arm Iran's allies among the Shiite militias, including those of the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army.[44]

During his address to the United States Congress on September 11, 2007, Commanding officer for the United States forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus noted that the multinational forces in Iraq have found that Iran's Quds force has provided training, equipment, funding, and direction to terrorists. “When we captured the leaders of these so-called special groups … and the deputy commander of a Lebanese Hezbollah department that was created to support their efforts in Iraq, we’ve learned a great deal about how Iran has, in fact, supported these elements and how those elements have carried out violent acts against our forces, Iraqi forces and innocent civilians.”[42]

In 2015, Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent accused Shi'ite militias backed by Iran of committing extensive atrocities against Sunni civilians in the course of their war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, including "burning people alive in their houses, playing soccer with severed human heads, and ethnically cleansing and razing whole villages to the ground." Weiss and Pregent even suggested that "Iran's Shi'ite militias aren't a whole lot better than the Islamic State."[45]


Aggrey Adoli, police chief in Kenya's coastal region, said on 22 June 2012 that two Iranians, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, believed to members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force,[46] were arrested and suspected of being involved in terrorism. One of the Iranians led counter-terrorism officers to recover 15 kilograms of a powdery substance believed to be explosive.[47] The two Iranians allegedly admitted to plotting to attack United States, Israeli, Saudi, or British targets in Kenya.[46] In court, Police Sgt. Erick Opagal, an investigator with Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, said that the two Iranians had shipped over 100 kilograms of powerful explosives into Kenya.[48]

It was later revealed that the targets included Gil Haskel, Israel's ambassador to Kenya. During a visit to Kenya in August, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon praised Kenya for its efforts in stopping Iranian terror threats against Israeli and Jewish targets. Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya all expressed concern with Ayalon regarding Iran's attempts to increase terror activity in Africa.[49]


The AMIA bombings was an attack on Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building. It occurred in Buenos Aires on 18 July 1994, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. It was Argentina's deadliest bombing ever. Argentine justice accused Tehran in 2006 of being behind the attacks, and indicted several senior Iranian officials, including Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmad Vahidi, as well as Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyah


Bangkok bombings were a series of explosions that occurred in Bangkok, Thailand on 14 February 2012. Thai authorities said that the bombings were a botched attempt by Iranian nationals to assassinates Israeli diplomats. Several Iranians were arrested and charged for the attacks, one of whom was badly injured.


In October 2018 the French government froze Iranian financial assets in response to an alleged bomb plot to be carried out against an opposition group at a rally in Paris. The plot was said to be against the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which styles itself as Iran’s government-in-exile.[50]

Alleged Al-Qaeda ties[]

Al-Qaeda leaders regard Shia Muslims as heretics and have attacked their mosques and gatherings.[51] In Iraq it considers Shi'i civilians to be legitimate targets for acts of violence.[52] The group has been designated as terrorist organization by Iran and many other countries, and Iran has a hostile relationship with the group.[53] However, allegedly Al-Qaeda and Iran formed an alliance during the 1990s in which Hezbollah trained al Qaeda operatives.[54] Iran detained hundreds of al Qaeda operatives that entered the country following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan; even though "the Iranian government has held most of them under house arrest, limited their freedom of movement, and closely monitored their activities," U.S. officials have expressed concerns that Iran has not fully accounted for their whereabouts, culminating in accusations of Iranian complicity in the 2003 Riyadh compound bombings.[55][53]

1998 United States embassy bombings[]

On November 8, 2011, Judge John D. Bates ruled in federal court that Iran was liable for the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. In his 45-page decision, Judge Bates wrote that "Prior to their meetings with Iranian officials and agents Bin Laden and al Qaeda did not possess the technical expertise required to carry out the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam."[56]

USS Cole bombing[]

In March 2015, U.S. federal judge Rudolph Contreras found both Iran and Sudan complicit in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole by al Qaeda, stating that "Iran was directly involved in establishing Al-Qaeda's Yemen network and supported training and logistics for Al-Qaeda in the Gulf region" through Hezbollah. Two previous federal judges had ruled that Sudan was liable for its role in the attack, but Contreras's "ruling is the first to find Iran partly responsible for the incident."[57]

September 11[]

The U.S. indictment of bin Laden filed in 1998 stated that al-Qaeda "forged alliances ... with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies."[54] On May 31, 2001, Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "Officials of the Iranian government helped arrange advanced weapons and explosives training for Al-Qaeda personnel in Lebanon where they learned, for example, how to destroy large buildings."[58]

The 9/11 Commission Report stated that 8 to 10 of the hijackers on 9/11 previously passed through Iran and their travel was facilitated by Iranian border guards.[54][59] The report also found "circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000."[59] After the commission called for "further investigation" into a possible Iranian role in the attacks, President George W. Bush demanded that Iran sever its ties with al-Qaeda, while saying that in his view, "There was no direct connection between Iran and the attacks of September 11."[60]

Judge George B. Daniels ruled in a federal district court in Manhattan that Iran bears legal responsibility for providing "material support" to the 9/11 plotters and hijackers in Havlish, et al. v. Osama bin Laden, Iran, et al.[61][62] Included in Judge Daniels' findings was that Iran "used front companies to obtain a Boeing 757-767-777 flight simulator for training the terrorists", Ramzi bin al-Shibh traveled to Iran in January 2001, and an Iranian government memorandum from May 14, 2001 demonstrates Iranian culpability in planning the attacks.[61] Two defectors from Iran’s intelligence service testified that Iranian officials had "foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks."[63] By contrast, the 9/11 Commission "found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation." In addition, both bin al-Shibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed denied "any relationship between the hijackers and Hezbollah" and "any other reason for the hijackers' travel to Iran" besides "taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports."[59]

Riyadh compound bombings[]

According to Seth G. Jones and Peter Bergen, the 2003 Riyadh compound bombings were planned by al Qaeda operatives in Iran, with apparent Iranian complicity.[55][64] In May 2003, then-State Department official Ryan Crocker provided information on the upcoming attack to Iranian officials, who apparently took no action.[35]

Opposing view[]

A West Point study based on documents uncovered in Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad found that the Iran-al Qaeda "relationship is not one of alliance, but of indirect and unpleasant negotiations over the release of detained jihadis and their families, including members of bin Laden's family." According to longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst Bruce Riedel: "Rather than being secretly in bed with each other as some have argued, al Qaeda had a fairly hostile relationship with the Iranian regime. To get members of his family out of Iran, for example, bin Laden had an Iranian diplomat kidnapped and then traded. The Iranians released some of his family members in the deal but then double crossed al Qaeda by not letting one of his daughters, Fatima, free."[53]

Taliban insurgency[]

U.S. and British officials have accused Iran of giving weapons and support to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.[65][66][67][68]


In October 2012, a former United States government official said that American authorities believe that Iranian hackers, who were likely supported by the Iranian government, were responsible for cyberattacks against oil and gas companies in the Persian Gulf. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called the cyberattacks the most destructive cyberattacks in the private sector. Another American official said that the Obama administration knows that a government was responsible for the cyberattacks, which was confirmed by American agencies investigating the cyberattacks.[69]

US court judgements[]

On multiple occasions, US courts have awarded damages to the victims of terrorism; deemed payable by Iran on the basis that although the attacks were not directly controlled by Iran, evidence shows Iranian payments supporting these terrorist groups. There has been controversy over how to enforce these decisions in order to make Iran pay reparations.[70]

Other allegations[]

Along with the above allegations, Iran is also accused of other acts of terrorism. Including:

See also[]


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