By now, the idea that Iran is the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism is fairly common knowledge. Even so, the State Department's annual survey of global terrorism trends provides a useful glimpse into the breathtaking scope of Tehran's regional troublemaking. According to the latest edition of Country Reports on Terrorism, released on April 30th by State's Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Iran "remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism" in 2008, responsible for violence and instability that thwarted "international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy."
Iran, the study details, continues to serve as a logistical and financial lifeline for Lebanon's terrorist powerhouse, Hezbollah - to the tune of "more than $200 million in funding" and the training of "over 3,000 Hizballah fighters at camps in Iran" annually. Last year, the Islamic Republic also continued to provide major support in the form of "weapons, training, and funding" to Palestinian rejectionist groups such as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), expanding the capability of those groups to target the state of Israel.
The study also makes particular note of the Islamic Republic's pernicious influence in Iraq. "Terrorism committed by illegal armed groups receiving weapons and training from Iran continued to endanger the security and stability of Iraq" in 2008, albeit with less severity than in previous years, it says. "Many of the groups receiving ideological and logistical support from Iran were based in Shia communities in Central and Southern Iraq." And while "[t]he Iraqi government pressed senior Iranian leaders to end support for lethal aid to Iraqi militias," Iran's ongoing sponsorship of instability in the former Ba'athist state led the Iraqi government to launch a military campaign "to combat extralegal Iranian-supported militias." That offensive has paid major dividends since its start in April 2008, most notably the neutering of firebrand Shi'a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Still, the study warns, "Shia militant groups' ties to Iran remained a challenge and threat to Iraq's long term stability."
The list does not end there. "Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa'ida members it has detained, and has refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody," the report notes. And the Qods Force, the paramilitary arm of Iran's feared clerical army, the Pasdaran, "provided training to the Taliban on small unit tactics, small arms, explosives, and indirect fire weapons" in Afghanistan, with major detrimental effects on stability there.
Damning documentation indeed. But one has to wonder whether it will have any impact at all the Obama administration's concerted efforts to engage Iran's ayatollahs. Chances are that it will not; White House officials have made it abundantly clear that they are committed to pursuing "dialogue" with the Iranian regime. These unwelcome revelations, however, should serve as a timely reminder that the current regime in Tehran is in fact far from a constructive diplomatic partner.