Jun 20, 2015 – HNGN – By Taylor Tyler – Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad were among the groups who continued to receive Iranian backing, according to the report. Even with international talks underway to limit Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran continued to sponsor terrorism groups around the world in 2014, the State Department said in its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism” released Friday.
Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad were among the groups who continued to receive Iranian backing, according to the report.
Tehran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds force was identified as “the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
“Iran also attempted to smuggle weapons to Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza,” the report said. “While its main effort focused on supporting goals in the Middle East, particularly Syria, Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Iran used the [Quds force] to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East.”
The report noted that Iran continues to play a key role in bolstering Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. That support has significantly contributed to his ability to retain power during the four-year civil war.
“In 2014, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training and the facilitation of primarily Iraq Shia and Afghan fighters to support the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown,” the report said.
“Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qaida members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody,” the report added.
“Iran previously allowed [al-Qaida] facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling [al-Qaida] to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”
It also suggests that neither the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, widely regarded as a moderate willing to mend relations with the West, nor the looming nuclear deal which would include an easing of economic sanctions, has deterred Iran from supporting conflicts in the Middle East.
World powers and Iran hope to reach a nuclear accord by the end of the month, which would see 15 years of restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions, according to the Associated Press.
The Obama administration has repeated numerous times that it wishes to keep nuclear negotiations separate from other geopolitical matters involving Iran.
“Our very serious and grave concerns about Iran’s support for terrorism remains unabated. And the negotiations that Iran has agreed to with the P5+1, our international community, is solely focused on making sure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday, according to The Washington Examiner. “So our view is, because of their support for terrorism, that is all the more reason that we need to make sure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon. And so that’s where our focus is right now.”
The report does not, however, suggest that Iranian officials are working to kill Americans, The New York Times noted. Nor does it contend that Iraqi militias backed by Iran have conspired to attack U.S. advisers in Iraq, and the report does not measure whether Iran has increased or decreased its support of terrorism.
Tina Kaidanow, ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, further emphasized on Friday the Obama administration’s position on Iran’s continued support of terrorism in the face of the international nuclear accord.
“I think we’ve been very clear that we consider [the negotiations] important. It has a context – a specific context. We think it’s essential that we pursue those negotiations,” Kaidanow said in a briefing for reporters. “But that said, none of that implies that we would be, again, in any way taking our eye off the ball with respect to what Iran is doing as a supporter of terrorism. We have sanctions in place against Iran specifically related to the terrorism issue. That’s not going to change … I would just feature that as a going concern and it’s not going to change as a function of the nuclear discussions that we have with them.”
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., expressed skepticism with the administration’s position and demanded answers.
“Now that the Administration admits nuclear talks haven’t diminished Iran’s support for terrorism, to what extent has Iran used the interim nuclear deal’s $12 billion in sanctions relief payments to fund terrorists or other terror-supporting regimes?” he asked.
“As we move closer to the June 30th deadline for a final nuclear deal that could return as much as $140 billion in frozen funds to Iran, the White House remains silent on this critical question,” Kirk said on Friday.