(CNSNews.com) – Just weeks before presidential elections in Iran set the course of Iran-U.S. relations for the next four years, the State Department in a report Thursday accused Tehran of escalated terrorist activity around the world.
The 2012 Country Reports on Terrorism highlighted terror plots involving Qods Force – the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – the Iranian ministry of intelligence and security, and Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon.
It also accused them of “providing a broad range of critical support to the Assad regime, as it continues its brutal crackdown against the Syrian people” and said Hezbollah had “played a substantial role in efforts to expel Syrian opposition forces from areas within Syria.”
“Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism and Hezbollah’s terrorist activity have reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa,” the report said.
It cited in particular a series of suspected Qods Force-directed attacks or planned attacks in Thailand, India, Kenya and Georgia; and implicating Hezbollah in Bulgaria and Cyprus. All targeted – or were allegedly intended to target – Israeli tourists or diplomats.
Other Iranian-linked terror activity referred to in the report included:
--The March 2012 arrests in Azerbaijan of 22 Azerbaijani citizens, who were “accused of working with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to carry out terrorist attacks against Western embassies and other groups with Western ties.”
--Iranian arms smuggling, via Egypt, to Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
--The continued Iranian transfer of arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
--Yemeni government officials accused Iran of arming and funding violent groups in the country, and “also accused Iranian elements of raising political and sectarian tensions through disinformation that promoted and encouraged violent extremism.”
--Qods Force training of Taliban elements in Afghanistan in small unit tactics and the use of small arms, explosives, mortars, artillery, and rockets.
--Qods Force and Hezbollah training of militant Iraqi Shia groups, including training in the making and use of sophisticated improvised explosive devices.
Along with Syria, Sudan and Cuba, Iran is designated as a state-sponsor of terror under U.S. law.
The report released on Thursday covers 2012, but it also recalled a 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The man at the center of that plot, an Iranian-American from Texas named Manssor Arbabsiar, was sentenced Thursday to 25 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty of conspiracy and murder for hire.
The indictment filed in federal court said members of the Qods Force were co-conspirators in the plot. It involved the planned bombing of a Washington, DC restaurant and if carried out would likely have harmed others besides the Saudi target.
“Manssor Arbabsiar was an enemy among us – the key conduit for, and facilitator of, a nefarious international plot concocted by members of the Iranian military to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and as many innocent bystanders as necessary to get the job done,” Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said after his sentencing Thursday.