Iran is a country of geographical and political importance as it is located in Middle East and central Eurasia. It is the eighteenth largest country in the world. Iran holds a powerful position in its region and also the world economy due to its petroleum and natural gas resources. It has the second largest natural gas reserves and fourth largest petroleum reserves in the world (CIA).
The current constitution of Iran came into being in 1979 and has been enforced since then. The highest authority in the country is the Supreme Leader followed by the President. Currently the Supreme Leader and the President position are held by Ali Hoseini- Khamenei, since 4 June 1989 and Mahmud Ahmadi-nejad, since 3 August 2005, respectively (CIA). The country’s official religion is Shia Islam and its legislature is the Islamic Consultative Assembly. 98% population of the country follows Islam (CIA). Iran’s foreign policy is based on its strategy to mitigate the influence of outsiders in the region and to forge and nourish diplomatic relations with certain developing and non-aligned countries (CIA). I would like to point out has Iran has diplomatic relations with all the members of UN except for Israel and the US. Iran does not have diplomatic relations with the US since the Iranian revolution.
Iran has been repeated declared a state sponsor of international and regional terrorism by US and the western world. The world has also been suspicious about Iran’s nuclear program since 2005. They suspect that Iran might have the hidden agenda of using civilian nuclear technology in their weapons program. This has resulted in the UN Security Council imposing sanctions against Iran on selected companies (Time). This has further isolated the country in the international economic scene. I found during my research that Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and other countries in the world. Iran also remains subject to US, UN, and EU economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and its nuclear weapons ambitions (CIA). The US-Iranian relations have been in trouble since 4 Nov, 1979 when a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran and held it until 20 January 1981 (CIA). During 1980-88, Iran fought a war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and ultimately led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987 and 1988 (CIA). The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions since July 2006 appealing Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities and comply with its IAEA obligations and responsibilities (CIA). Also several, Iranian entities are subject to US sanctions for proliferation activities and designations for support of terrorism (CIA).
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, terrorism is “the use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate especially such use as the political weapon or policy”. The state sponsored terrorism is defined as “international terrorism that is aided and abetted by an established state” (Magstadt). There are four types of terrorism, State terrorism, International terrorism, Domestic terrorism, transnational terrorism (Magstadt). Iran has been suspected to be a sponsor or state sponsored terrorism for a very long time. The Bush Administration linked Iranian government to al Qaeda, one of the biggest Islamic terrorist groups in the world. He branded Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the “axis of evil” because their involvement in terrorist activities (Magstadt).
Iran is also not free of ethnic violence. The leading group of ethnic terrorist is called Kurds in their country. Iran has been trying to acquire the technology for WMDs, the Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was a shock to the world when the leading Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted that he had shared Pakistan’s nuclear secrets with Iran, Libya and North Korea. All of the three countries were on the hot list of terrorist countries and it gave the world a wakeup call. Iran currently runs an active R&D program for proliferation of nuclear weapons. Allegedly, Iran is one of the few nations that have not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty. In 2007, the Bush government brought Iran’s nuclear programs in light and assumed a confrontational stance. It has been a long time since the situation has been pointing towards war. President Obama has vowed to seek a negotiable solution to the problem (Magstadt)
As mentioned before, Iran has been allegedly a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran supports Lebanese group Hezbollah with its primary purpose to be able to exercise its influence in other countries. Hezbollah is said to be a direct protégé of Iran. The (IRGC) Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were created in 1979 who have trained terrorist groups such as Islam Jihad and Hezbollah among other groups (New York Sun). The IRGC has supported Hezbollah many a times in their clashes with Israel, the country that Iran is always in conflict with. Iran also has terms with Palestinian Islamic terrorist Group Hamas. According to Cambridge University Professor George Joffee, “Iran’s relationship with Hamas began in the 1990s; it was around this time that Iran’s interest in exporting revolution coincided with Hamas’ rejection of compromise with Israel. Iran has been alleged to provide funding and training for Hamas since the 1990s, but the extent of either is unknown” (University of Cambridge).
According to the US department of State, once a country has been declared a state sponsor of terrorism, there are many sanctions on it, until the title of state sponsor of terrorism has been lifted. These sanctions include:
1. A ban on arms-related exports and sales.
2. Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism.
3. Prohibitions on economic assistance.
4. Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions (State.gov).
According to the country reports on terrorism published by the US Department of State, Iran has been a designated state sponsor of terrorism since 1984. According to the same country report on terrorism, Iran continues to provide financial, material and logistic support to many terrorist and militant groups through the Middle East and Central Asia (State.gov). The country has proved to be a deterrent in promoting peace, democracy and economic progress by its support to terrorist groups, in the region. There are many groups in the Middle East that are prime opponents of establishing peace in the region. Some of these forces are, the Qods Force, which is a branch of IRGC. Qods force is responsible for external operations and one of the main purposes of Qods is to train and support terrorists in other countries. According to this report by US department of State, Iran is an active provider of weapons and funds to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist Groups.
As mentioned before, Iran has been a supporter of Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist group. Iran has allegedly assisted this terrorist group in getting rearmed which was a direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (State.gov) Iran also provided hundreds of millions of dollars to fund and train the terrorist activities of this group. Iran’s Qods force also provided funding and training support to Taliban, the leading terrorist group of Afghanistan. Iran has sent many arms shipments to Taliban to support them against their war with the US with their main purpose of increasing their influence in the country. Iran has proved to be a country not to be trusted because they pledged to support the stabilization of Iraq but did not keep their promise. They provided their support to the Iraqi Shia militant groups by providing funding and advanced weapons that these militants used to attack US forces. They also provided them advice on sophisticated weapons technology (State.gov).
Another evidence of Iran supporting international terrorism is that Iran was unwilling to bring to justice senior al Qaida members in 2010. Iran continued to detain them and also declined to identify those senior members it had in custody (State.gov). Such actions by Iran clearly put the picture into perspective that Iran supports terrorism. This incidence has been repeated many times before. Iran refuses to put them on trial or transfer them to third countries where they would be put on trial.
According to BBC, the UN imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over the issue of nuclear testing. Iran did not take any actions to mend its ways but announced two months later that engineers had begun loading fuel into the Bushehr plant and described this as a milestone in the country’s drive to produce nuclear energy (BBC). These actions of the country clearly indicate that they do not have any regard for the UN and they are particularly not interested in abiding by UN’s sanctions or requests. The long standing nuclear issue has been a source of increased tension with UN, US and European Union through 2011.EU took the major step of announcing a ban over oil imports from Iran in January 2012 (BBC). This could prove to be a significant setback for Iran because EU buys 20% of Iran’s oil exports. Iran retaliated to the news by threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which all Gulf oil tankers pass (BBC).
The UN, US, UK and other countries view Iran as a sponsor of terrorism and a contributor to the unrest in the Middle East. The world also views Iran as a contributor to international terrorism because of its forged relations with various terrorist groups including al Qaeda, Taliban and Hezbollah. The unwillingness to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty also puts a question mark on Iran’s intentions against world peace. The world leaders are concerned about the consequences of nuclear weapons in Iran’s possession. Such WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) can cause massive destruction to the mankind and scar generations. Iran is in a position to support terrorist groups through funding, training and sharing the technological knowledge for destruction only because of their enormous oil reserves. The step taken by EU to announce the ban on oil import from Iran clearly represents the view of EU countries. The power that lies with Iran because of their oil reserves and their unwillingness to sign the NPT to resolve the nuclear issues is becoming a growing concern for the world.
Magstadt, T. M. Understanding politics, ideas, institutions, and issues. 9. Boston: Wadsworth Pub Co, 2011.
“Iran profile.” BBC. BBC, 2 Mar 2012. Web. 17 March 2012.
. “Chapter 3 State Sponsors of Terrorism.” State.gov. US Department of State, 18 Aug 2011. Web. 17 March 2012. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2010/170260.htm
“The Plan for War Against Iran.” Time. 17 September 2006: n. page. Web. 17 March. 2012.