Iran’s support of international terrorism has reached levels unseen since the 1990s, but the top cadre of al Qaeda leaders have largely been decimated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the State Department said Thursday in its latest report on worldwide terrorism.
“Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism and [its ally Hezbollah‘s] terrorist activity have reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa,” the State Department said in its analysis, pointing to attacks last year in India, Thailand, Georgia and Kenya in which Iran was implicated.
The report also said the Islamic Republic “provided financial, material, and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups in the Middle East and Central Asia” and outlined how the Tehran-based Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force is the Iranian “regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.” Tehran’s considerable support for Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite Islamist militia, was also noted.
The State Department’s designation of “state sponsors of terrorism” — one of the highlights of the annual analysis, known formally as the “Country Reports on Terrorism” — was otherwise largely unchanged from 2011, with Cuba, Sudan and Syria named alongside Iran, which has been on the list since 1984.
While Cuba continued during 2012 to offer safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty, a group seeking an independent Basque state in northern Spain, it also “began hosting peace talks” between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the analysis says.
Obama too optimistic?
Regarding al Qaeda and the activities of Islamist terrorists worldwide, the analysis broadly — but not entirely — backs up claims President Obama made during a speech May 23 at the National Defense University that al Qaeda’s 9/11-era leadership “is on the path to defeat.”
During the speech, Mr. Obama described the “future of terrorism” being rooted in the activities of “lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates” making “threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad,” as well as ideologically nurturing “homegrown extremists” in the U.S. and other non-Muslim countries.
The administration has cited the 2011 killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as an unquestionable success in the greater global war on terrorism. But concern about the changing face of ongoing threats facing the U.S. were amplified last month when, according to authorities, two Chechen-born brothers became radicalized and killed three people and wounded more than 250 at the Boston Marathon.
Some of the finer points in analysis released by the State Department on Thursday offer a notably more sober assessment than that presented last week by Mr. Obama.
During his speech, the president said the “remaining operatives” of al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan now “spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.” Mr. Obama said al Qaeda “did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston” and has “not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.”
The State Department analysis, however, maintains that “the AQ core still has the ability to inspire, plot, and launch regional and transnational attacks from its safe haven in Western Pakistan, despite its leadership losses.”
While the analysis describes al Qaeda’s core as “significantly degraded” and calls bin Laden’s death “the most important milestone” in the fight against al Qaeda, it adds that “leadership losses have also driven AQ affiliates to become more independent.”