Iran’s extremist militias and their proxies were behind a recent string of terrorist attacks against Israeli diplomatic targets around the globe and might seek to strike the United States, U.S. counterterrorism officials said Wednesday.
“Quds Force, Hezbollah and others have shown they both have the capability and the willingness to extend beyond that [Middle East] region of the world and likely here into the homeland itself,” Kevin L. Perkins, associate deputy director of the FBI, told a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“We look at it as a serious threat,” he added, saying the bureau is “focusing intelligence analysts and other resources on that on a daily basis to monitor that threat.”
Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said “Iran remains the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism in the world. We have seen an uptick in operational activity by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Quds Force over the last year or so.”
The Quds Force is the elite division of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responsible for operations abroad, and Mr. Olsen cited the federal prosecution last year of a foiled Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by bombing a Washington restaurant.
A senior official of the Quds Force, Gholam Shakuri, was indicted in October for his involvement in the plot, which actually was an elaborate sting by a Drug Enforcement Administration informant. He remains at large in Iran.
The Treasury Department later sanctioned both the Quds Force and its commander, Brig. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, for their roles in the plot.
Iran has denied the charges.
The Quds Force and the Lebanese Shiite extremist militia Hezbollah, which the Iranians have used as a proxy for terrorist attacks in the past, have been “reaching outside of their normal areas of operation in the Middle East and conducting attacks elsewhere,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and committee chairman.
Quds Force operatives had been involved in anti-Israeli attacks and plots as far afield as India and Georgia, Mr. Olsen said.
Adding to concern about Hezbollah is an article in the Times of London on Wednesday based on an interview with a major general in the Syrian army who recently defected. Gen. Adnan Sillu told the paper that the Syrian regime had plans to provide chemical weapons to Hezbollah for use in rocket attacks against Israel.
The regime now has “nothing to lose” in sharing the weapons, he added. “If a war starts between Hezbollah and Israel, it will be only good for Syria.”