One of the recurring big lies being pushed in the media–by Republicans and Democrat as well as some of our allies–is that Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the World.

The chutzpah award on this point goes to Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, who declared in October 2015:

. . .that Iran “is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it is working on destabilizing the region. If it wants to build good relations with its neighbors, it ought to deal with them based on the good neighborliness principle and not to interfere in their affairs. We [would] welcome such a step.” (Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2015/10/saudi-arabia-yemen-syria-crisis-relations-disputes-agreement.html#ixzz3yMmotxLV)

The Saudi Foreign Minister conveniently ignored the fact that 15 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes and attacked America on 11 September 2001 were Saudis not Iranians.

Let me be clear–in the 1980s Iran was the major sponsor of terrorism. Iran is no innocent on the issue of terrorism. The Revolutionary Guard and their agents, following the ordres of the Mullahs, were responsbile for the deaths of thousands from hundreds of terrorist attacks since the early 1980s.

When Iran fell under the rule of the Ayatollah, it routinely relied on terrorism—bombings, hijackings and kidnapping—to pursue its goals. They were directly involved in the taking of U.S. hostages in Lebanon and the bombings of the US Embassy in Beirut and the Marine barracks. But Iran’s actions were not just blind hatred. There was a strategic context to Tehran’s use of terrorism. Iran was at war with Iraq, which had the full support of the United States and other western countries. For Iran terrorism was a way to punch back against a more powerful military foe. The pragmatism on the part of Iran was further evidenced by the fact that it had a secret arrangement with Israel in acquiring weapons to use against Iraq.

But it is wrong to insist that Iran continues to be the major force driving the terrorist violence seen in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and America. In contrast to the period 1982 thru 1989, which was the high water mark of Iran reliance on terrorism as a key component of its foreign policy, Iran has shifted towards more conventional political and military methods for achieving its national goals.

The terrorism that marked Iran twenty years ago is no longer its calling card. The role of chief terrorist has been taken over by a legion of radical Sunni groups. Starting with the Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, DC in September of 2001, the identity of the terrorist attacks has shifted dramatically, with the vast majority of the violence attributable to radical Sunni Islamists. According to the latest edition of the Global Terrorism Index (http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2016.2.pdf) , a publication of the Institute for Economics and Peace, four groups accounted for 74% of all fatalities from terrorism in 2015—Boko Haram, Al-Qaida, the Taliban and ISIS.

Consider the list of Muslim Groups presently actively hostile to the US:

– The Islamic State (Sunni)

– The Al-Nusra Front (Sunni)

– Al-Qa’ida Central (Sunni)

– Al-Qa’ida in Magheb (Sunni)

– Al-Qa’ida in Arabian Peninsula (Sunni)

– Boku Haram (Sunni)

– Al-Shabbab (Sunni)

– Khorassan Group (Sunni)

– Society of the Muslim Brothers (Sunni)

– Sayyaf Group in the Philippines (Sunni)

– Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan (Sunni)

– Lashgar i Taiba (Sunni)

– Jemaa Islamiya (Sunni)

– Houthis (Shia)

Of the 14 groups on this list, only the Houthis are tied to Iran.

The last significant terrorist attack that is believed to have been carried out with Iran’s support was the July 2012 bombing of the bus hauling Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. But that was not just gratuitous violence to kill Jews for the sake of killing Jews. It was classic retaliation for what Iran perceived as Israel’s backing of a terrorist campaign in Iran.

The attack on the bus followed an 18-month series of attacks in Iran resulting in the murder of engineers and scientists believed to be involved with Iran’s Nuclear program. Iran blamed Israel (and to a lesser degree the United States) for the following murders:

January 12, 2010 Masoud Alimohammadi Iranian Physicist

KILLED IN A CAR BOMB. MAJID JAMALI FASHI REPORTEDLY CONFESSED TO AN IRANIAN COURT HE HAD BEEN RECRUITED BY MOSSAD TO CARRY OUT THE EXECUTION

November 29, 2010 Majid Shahriari Iranian nuclear scientist

KILLED IN A CAR BOMB. ACCORDING TO THE GERMAN NEWSPAPER DER SPIEGEL ISRAEL WAS BEHIND THE KILLING.[223]

November 29, 2010 Attempted killing of Fereydoon Abbasi. Iranian nuclear scientist

WOUNDED IN A CAR BOMB.[224][225]

July 23, 2011 Darioush Rezaeinejad Iranian electrical engineer

KILLED BY UNKNOWN GUNMEN ON MOTORCYCLE. REZAEINEJAD WAS INVOLVED IN DEVELOPMENT OF HIGH-VOLTAGE SWITCHES, WHICH ARE USED IN A KEY COMPONENT OF NUCLEAR WARHEADS. SUCH SWITCHES MAY ALSO HAVE CIVILIAN SCIENTIFIC APPLICATIONS.[230] THE GERMAN NEWSPAPER DER SPIEGEL CLAIMED MOSSAD WAS BEHIND THE OPERATION. HE IS THE THIRD IRANIAN NUCLEAR SCIENTIST KILLED SINCE 2010.[231]

November 12, 2011 Major General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam

THE MAIN ARCHITECT OF THE IRANIAN MISSILE SYSTEM AND THE FOUNDER/FATHER OF IRAN’S DETERRENT POWER BALLISTIC MISSILE FORCES WAS KILLED IN A BOMB BLAST. HE WAS ALSO THE CHIEF OF THE “SELF-SUFFICIENCY” UNIT OF THE ARMY OF THE GUARDIANS OF THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION KILLED ALONG WITH 17 OTHER MEMBERS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS KNOWN AS BID KANEH EXPLOSION. THOSE WHO DIED ARE KNOWN AS THE “SHAHIDAN GHADIR”.

IRANIAN OFFICIALS SAID THAT THE BLAST AT THE MISSILE BASE WAS AN ACCIDENT, AND RULED OUT ANY SABOTAGE ORGANIZED BY ISRAEL. AGIR SAID THAT THE EXPLOSION “HAD TAKEN PLACE IN AN ARMS DEPOT WHEN A NEW KIND OF MUNITIONS WERE BEING TESTED AND MOVED”. HOWEVER, TIME MAGAZINE CITED A “UNNAMED WESTERN INTELLIGENCE SOURCE” AS SAYING THAT MOSSAD WAS BEHIND THE BLAST. ISRAEL NEITHER CONFIRMED NOR DENIED ITS INVOLVEMENT.[233] [234] [235]

January 11, 2012 Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan Iranian nuclear scientist

THE BOMB THAT KILLED AHMADI-ROSHAN AT THE NATANZ URANIUM ENRICHMENT FACILITY, AND ANOTHER UNIDENTIFIED PERSON WAS A MAGNETIC ONE AND THE SAME AS THE ONES PREVIOUSLY USED FOR THE ASSASSINATION OF THE SCIENTISTS, AND THE “…WORK OF THE ZIONISTS [ISRAELIS],” DEPUTY TEHRAN GOVERNOR SAFARALI BARATLOO SAID.[236] [237][238]

One can easily imagine the outrage and demands for revenge that would sweep America if we believed that Iran was sending operatives into the United States to murder engineers and scientists working on projects, such as drones.

But these facts do not matter. The popular and persistent meme in the US media is that Iran is an unrepentant terrorist state. Iran, if you listen to the pundits, is using its special operations military forces to train and equip terrorists. But in an ironic twist, it is the United States that has been implicated in facilitating terrorist attacks against Iran.

Author Sean Naylor’s latest book, Relentless Strike, which provides stunning details about the history of operations and missions carried out by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command aka JSOC over the last 30 years, sheds light on the uncomfortable truth about our past support to terrorists. To quote an old cartoon, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

“JSOC personnel also worked with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian exile group that had based itself in Iraq after falling afoul of the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran. The State Department had placed the MEK on its list of designated terrorist organizations, but that didn’t stop JSOC from taking an attitude of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” toward the group. “They were a group of folks that could transit the border, and they were willing to help us out on what we wanted to do with Iran,” said a special operations officer.”

The MEK were classified as a terrorist group until the United States decided that as long as the MEK would help kill Iranians rather than Americans that they were no longer terrorists. The MEK’s history of terrorism is quite clear:

  • During the 1970s, the MEK killed U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
  • In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier’s office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar.
  • Near the end of the 1980-1988 war with Iran, Baghdad armed the MEK with military equipment and sent it into action against Iranian forces.
  • In 1991, the MEK reportedly assisted the Government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north.
  • In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas.
  • In April 1999, the MEK targeted key military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff.
  • In April 2000, the MEK attempted to assassinate the commander of the Nasr Headquarters, Tehran’s interagency board responsible for coordinating policies on Iraq.
  • The normal pace of anti-Iranian operations increased during “Operation Great Bahman” in February 2000, when the group launched a dozen attacks against Iran. One of those attacks included a mortar attack against the leadership complex in Tehran that housed the offices of the Supreme Leader and the President.
  • In 2000 and 2001, the MEK was involved regularly in mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids on Iranian military and law enforcement units and government buildings near the Iran-Iraq border, although MEK terrorism in Iran declined toward the end of 2001.

Prominent U.S. political and military leaders from both parties have been quite willing to excuse the terrorism of the MEK

In 2011, several former senior U.S. officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, three former chairmen of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, two former directors of the CIA, former commander of NATO Wesley Clark, two former U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, the former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, a former White House Chief of Staff, a former commander of the United States Marine Corps, former U.S. National Security Advisor Frances Townsend, and U.S. President Barack Obama‘s retired National Security Adviser General James L. Jones called for the MEK to be removed from its official State Department foreign terrorist listing on the grounds that they constituted a viable opposition to the Iranian government.

As long as a group of terrorists will back the U.S. cause then we have seen the willingness of politicians to ignore their terrorist past. With respect to the MEK it was Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that ultimately gave the group with a record of killing Americans a pass.

The current state of U.S. Iranian relationship is best described as similar to that of couple trying to find common ground after a bitter divorce. The fall of the Shah in 1979 caused a rancorous, deadly split between Washington and Tehran, with each partner believing they had been betrayed and humilitated by the other.

In both Iran and the United States there are prominent people always ready to recite the litany of wrongs their country has suffered at the hands of the other country. These grievances justify continued feelings of hatred and disgust. Yet, the focus should be on who is doing what now. It is on that point with respect to the issue of terrorism that Americans must acknowledge that the Iran of 2016 is not the Iran 0f 1986. The vast majority of terrorism that is shaking the world today is conceived and nutured by radical Sunnis bent on destroying Iran. That is a fact that is largely ignored in the United States.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.