The State Department on Friday released its Annual Report on Terrorism, and we can read all about it in the Washington Post. We learn that there was a 35 percent increase in terrorist attacks around the world, “driven by extremist groups in the Middle East and Africa.” In Iraq, these “extremist groups” have declared “a caliphate.” For our State Department—and its propaganda arm—Islam is the religion that dare not speak its name.
Iran is tied to much of the increase in terrorism. In what the Post describes as a “particularly sensitive section,” Iran retains its designation as an active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran continues its support for Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of which are dedicated to the destruction of our ally, Israel. In Iraq, Iran supports a “Shiite militia designated as a terrorist group.” This Shiite militia puts the United States in an awkward position. On the one hand, we rely on it to fight the Islamic State, even giving it air cover while it does so. On the other, once it has driven the Islamic State out of a village, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia proceeds to burn down the village and slaughter whatever people have somehow managed to survive. Does that make us a state supporter of terrorism?
We learn from the Report that in Syria Iran supports “the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of at least 191,000 of [its] people.” Assad has very few troops of his own, so Iran has sent some of the Iraqi Shiite militia, which it has financed, armed, and trained, to help out.
The Report acknowledges that Iran has also sent its own forces to help Assad, but one must be careful not to conflate the duties of the Iranian Shiaa with the Iraqi Shiia forces. It’s the latter that are helping Assad to use chemical weapons on Syrian civilians. To the Iranian Shiaa is reserved the role of participating “in combat operations against Islamic State fighters” in Syria. Think of it as a Chinese Wall, and that, in Syria, nary a Persian assault will be directed at a non-Islamic State fighter. In which case, it’s OK that we’ve been showering Iran with money for the privilege of allowing us to sit at a negotiating table with them; that money has been used to fight the Islamic State, a common enemy. Never mind that fighters are fungible, and that to the extent the Iranian militias are fighting the Islamic State, the Iraqi militias are freed up to help murder the Syrian people.
A similar conundrum requiring the help of a Chinese Wall arises with respect to the upcoming lifting of sanctions against Iran. Tina S. Kaidanow is the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, and she explains that “even if some sanctions are ultimately eased as a part of a nuclear deal, sanctions related to terrorism will remain in place.” Weren’t all of the sanctions related to terrorism? Or were some related to the atrocities perpetrated by the Iranians upon their own people? And we’ll lift the latter but not the former? Will we be able to tell which is which? Lifting sanctions—whether or not related to terrorism—will bring lots of money to the Iranian regime. And money is as fungible as fighters. The money, if any, used to ease the plight of the Iranian people will simply free up funds with which to support terrorism.
The distinction between terror groups (e.g., IS) and armed insurgents (e.g., the Taliban) is without a difference and made for purposes of convenience only: the U.S. will negotiate with the latter but not the former. Thus, for purposes of the Report, the Shiaa Houthis creating mayhem in Yemen are a jihadist rather than a terrorist group. Nonetheless, they are another terrorist group supported by Iran, who supplies them with money, weapons, and training.
Hopefully, when Ms. Kaidanow says that the nuclear arms deal shouldn’t imply “that we will in any way be taking our eye off the ball with respect to what Iran is doing as a supporter of terrorism,” she has our Chinese Wall in mind. Under her watchful eye, not one penny of the billions the Iranian regime will reap from the deal will go to support the Houthis in their efforts to destabilize Yemen.
The question is whether, in our support for Iran, we are not also a state supporter of terrorism. Is our Chinese Wall sufficient to protect us from such a designation?
Meanwhile, a few days ago Kerry appeared to execute yet another retreat from a red-line issue: that Iran disclose to the IAEA its past activities related to nuclear weapons research so that we can tell if there have been any sanctions violations. “We’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another,” Kerry said. “We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in.”
What does this even mean? What do we know? The IAEA still has a lot of questions. And the Daily Mail reports that a UN sanctions-monitoring panel has suggested that “Washington may be keeping silent about Iranian sanctions violations to avoid disrupting the nuclear talks.”
Early this month Kerry underwent a 4.5 hour surgery on his femur, which he’d broken by falling off his bicycle at the end of the last set of the nuclear weapons talks. This coming week, he heads off to Europe for the final stage of the talks. Hopefully, he’ll be off his pain meds by then.