Iran Terrorism Highlighted by U.S. as Nuclear Deadline Looms
by Indira Lakshmanan
June 19, 2015 — 8:28 AM PDT Updated on June 19, 2015 — 10:50 AM PDT
With a June 30 deadline looming for an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. State Department said the Islamic Republic’s terrorist activities continue “undiminished,” a finding sure to inflame opponents of any deal with the regime in Tehran.
Asked if Iran can be trusted to abide by a nuclear deal while it continues terrorist activities that destabilize the Middle East, a senior State Department official on Friday said that the nuclear negotiations are important to curb Iran’s actions.
If Iran agrees to nuclear curbs in exchange for relief from economic sanctions, the U.S. won’t lift sanctions on any Iranians cited for terrorism, Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, said at a press conference.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, notorious for its involvement in terrorist activities and its control of major sectors of Iran’s economy, will remain under U.S. sanctions, Kaidanow said.
Asked if entities controlled by the IRGC, including the state-run National Iranian Oil Company, would be taken off the sanctions list, Kaidanow said, “It is not being contemplated.” She added: “We aren’t going to remove any of the sanctions related to terrorism.
U.S. and European Union oil sanctions imposed in mid-2012 have reduced Iran’s primary source of revenue, trimming its exports to about 1.1 million barrels a day from 2.5 million barrels a day and denying Iran billions of dollars, according to the U.S. government. In addition to congressional sanctions penalizing any country that doesn’t reduce its imports of Iranian crude, the U.S. listed NIOC as an entity of the IRGC.
It’s unclear if buyers of Iranian oil could still face penalties if oil sanctions are suspended but Iran’s state-owned oil company remains on the U.S. sanctions list,
The U.S. has designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism every year since 1984, citing a litany of efforts to destabilize the Middle East and aid foreign terrorist groups. In its annual report on worldwide terrorism released Friday, the department said Iran continues to support militant groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, and also continues “subtle efforts at growing influence” in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Iran used the elite arm of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, “to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East,” according to the 2014 report. The unit is Iran’s “primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
The State Department cited media reports that Quds Force soldiers have taken part in combat operations supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, in his bloody four-year campaign to put down a domestic uprising.
In response to the advance of Islamic State terrorists into neighboring Iraq, Iran has increased training and funding to Iraqi Shia militias, the U.S. said. While critics of President Barack Obama have expressed fears that the U.S. military — which is aiding the Iraqi government — would coordinate with Iran in the common fight against the Islamic State, the administration denies doing so.
The State Department said Friday that the Iranian-backed militias fighting Islamic State have worsened sectarian tensions in Iraq and are guilty of human rights abuses against Sunni civilians.
Iran is unwilling to bring senior al-Qaeda members it detains to justice, and refuses to publicly identify those in its custody, the State Department said. Previously, Iran had allowed al-Qaeda facilitators to move funds and fighters through Iran to South Asia and Syria, the report said.
The report also accuses Iran of supplying weapons, financing and training to Lebanese Hezbollah, which the U.S., the European Union and Israel consider a terrorist group, and seeking to arm Palestinian militants in Gaza, citing Israeli seizures of rockets, mortar and ammunition hidden in crates of cement labeled “made in Iran”.
Despite numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that Iran suspend illicit nuclear activities, the Islamic Republic’s atomic program remains in “noncompliance,” the State Department said.
At the same time, the report concludes that Iran has complied with its commitments under an interim agreement to curb its nuclear activities that took effect in January 2014. Iran says its atomic program is for civilian energy and medical research.