NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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The 1996 bombing of the Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen, has been traced to the Iranian-backed Saudi Hizballah.
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The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps facilitates much of the Iranian regime’s terrorist activities around the world.
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The intended target of the recently revealed Iranian plot was the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir.

The Constant Menace of Iranian-
Sponsored Terrorism

From the 1983 bombing of the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut to recent attacks on American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has a long history of sponsoring international terrorism. Its proxies have actively undermined peace efforts in the Middle East, threatened the stability of neighboring countries, and attempted to eliminate any opposition to the mullah regime. The foiled plot revealed earlier this month to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington was just another chapter in this violent history.

Brazen Terror Plot on U.S. Soil

The Justice Department announced on Oct. 11 that it had charged two Iranian men, Manssor Arbabsiar and General Gholam Shakuri, with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The two had tried to hire a member of a Mexican drug cartel who also serves as a U.S. informant to carry out the assassination. Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding Iranian and U.S. passports, offered $1.5 million for the death of the ambassador and had wired $100,000 to the informant as a down payment. The plot also included plans to pay the cartel to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina.

Following his arrest, Arbabsiar confessed to prosecutors, saying he was recruited and funded by Shakuri, a commander of Iran’s Quds Force, who remains at large. The Quds Force is the external operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian regime’s primary mechanism for supporting terrorist activities around the world.

The plot was “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior members of the Quds Force,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “High-up officials in those agencies, which is an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot.”

Members of Congress called for strong action after the disclosure of the plot. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), said the Obama administration should expel Iranian diplomats. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters that the plot “may be” an act of war.

In addition to filing criminal charges against those directly involved in the plot, the United States took various steps to hold the Iranian regime accountable. U.S. representatives met with members of the U.N. Security Council to present the evidence against Tehran and coordinate an international response. The Treasury Department sanctioned five Iranians for their involvement in the plot, as well as an airline linked to the Quds Force.

“We’re going to continue... to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and pays a price for this kind of behavior,” President Obama said.

A History of Supporting Terrorism

Iran has been described for years by the State Department as the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.” Its support for terrorist activities ranges from the supply of funding and weaponry to Hizballah in Lebanon to its direct involvement in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 29 people and wounded another 242 and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

In recent months, Tehran has become a serious threat to American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. By providing weapons, financing and training to Iraqi insurgents and the Taliban, Iran has been able to target U.S. troops while denying any responsibility for their deaths.

Iraqi Shiite militias aligned with the Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of 13 of the 15 U.S. soldiers killed in June, the most deadly month for the United States in Iraq in the past three years. “Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups, which are killing our troops,” said former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen.

As U.S. forces prepare to leave Iraq, Iran has aimed to weaken the country by severing its relations with the United States, so it is even more dependent on Iran. “Anything they can do to cause separation between us and Iraq helps achieve their greater aims,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the United States military’s spokesman in Iraq. “Anything they can do to cause dissent or attack our forces and cause us to leave.”

Another way in which Iran has extended its global terrorist reach is via al-Qaeda. In July, the Treasury Department accused Tehran of helping al-Qaeda funnel cash and recruits into Pakistan for its international operations. A Syrian national operating in Iran oversees a support network that transfers large amounts of cash from Middle East donors to al-Qaeda’s top leadership in Pakistan’s tribal region.

“By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al-Qaeda, allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” said David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Growing Aggressiveness

The most recent plot orchestrated by the Quds Force points to Iran’s growing aggressiveness in sponsoring attacks on targets belonging to the United States and its allies. U.S. officials believe the force, which is active throughout the Middle East and elsewhere either directly or via various proxies, is involved in additional covert operations. “These are not merely aspirational plots dreamed up by the Quds Force. In fact, there is active planning around them,” said a senior U.S. official. BACK TO TOP