Iran as a planner and supporter of global terror

Since the declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the government of Iran has been accused by members of the international community for funding, providing equipment, weapons, training and giving sanctuary to terrorists. The United States State Department describes Iran as an “active state sponsor of terrorism.”US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice elaborated stating, “Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hezbollah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian Territories, and we have deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq. 
World attention on Iran centers on the threats to international security posed by the country’s nuclear program. As Iran persistent to become a nuclear power, the regime in Tehran also employs an aggressive foreign policy that relies heavily on the deployment of clandestine assets abroad to collect intelligence and support foreign operations. The world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, Tehran relies on terrorism to further Iranian foreign policy interests. Today, Iran feels itself under increasing pressure from the international community by both diplomatic and economic sanctions.
From the Stunt virus to the assassination of Iranian scientists and the defection of Iranian agents, Iran feels increasingly targeted by Western intelligence services in general and Israel and the United States in particular. Hezbollah and Iran each have their own reasons for executing terrorist attacks targeting Israeli or other Western targets. Iran seeks to avenge attacks on its scientists and sanctions targeting its nuclear program, and Hezbollah seeks to avenge Mughniyeh’s death. This convergence of interests strengthens their long-standing and intimate relationship, making their combined operational capabilities that much more dangerous.
In the past, major acts of Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism have ultimately been linked back to the most senior elements of the Iranian leadership. When such cases have led to major law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, the links have been made public. For example, in June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex that was home to American, Saudi, French, and British service members in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province—the last time Iranian agents carried out an attack targeting both U.S. and Saudi interests. In that case, Iranian agents teamed up with Saudi and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives to carry out the attack. According to the testimony of a former CIA official, arrangements for the Khobar Towers attack began around 1994, including planning meetings likely held in Tehran and operational meetings held at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. It was in 1994, according to this account, that the criminal Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khomeini, gave the order for the attack on the Khobar Towers complex.


In April 2008, Gen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the flow of sophisticated Iranian arms to Shia militants in Iraq. The military’s understanding of Iran’s support for such groups crystallized, Petraeus explained, with the capture of a number of prominent Shia militants and several members of the Qods Force operating in Iraq as well. In case it was not already clear to General Petraeus that Qods Force Chief Gen. Qasem Soleimani was calling the shots for Iran in Iraq, the head of the Qods Force reportedly sent the commander of coalition forces a message in early 2008 to make the point. Conveyed by a senior Iraqi leader, the message came just as Iraqi and coalition forces initiated Operation Charge of the Knights, a concerted effort to target Iraqi Shia militias in Baghdad and Basra. Iran’s use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy, however, goes back as far as the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Writing in 1986, the CIA assessment which is now de-classified report titled “Iranian Support for International Terrorism” that while Iran’s support for terrorism was meant to further its national interest, it also stemmed from the clerical regime’s perception “that it has a religious duty to export its Islamic revolution and to wage, by whatever means, a constant struggle against the perceived oppressor states. According to CIA reporting in the late 1980s, “Iranian leaders view terrorism as an important instrument of foreign policy that they use both to advance national goals and to export the regime’s Islamic revolutionary ideals. Tehran’s capability to carry out global terror attacks rests on its ability to call upon a group of Middle East–based terror groups willing to act at Iran’s behest, a network that would almost certainly be called upon to execute the kind of asymmetric terror attacks that can be carried out with reasonable deniability and therefore make a targeted response more difficult.

Muhammad Hejazi, the deputy head of Iran’s armed forces, hinted that Tehran could order proxy militant groups in Gaza and Lebanon to fire rockets into Israel. He even implied such a strike could be used preemptively, before an attack on Iran. “We are no longer willing to wait for enemy action to be launched against us,” he told Iran’s Fars News Agency. “Our strategy now is that we will make use of all means to protect our national interests.”16 Hezbollah leaders have also stated they would stand by Iran and any other entity that has stood up to the “Zionist regime.

Of all the terrorist groups that Tehran has sponsored over the past twenty-eight years, none is more important to Iran than Hezbollah. Iran helped to create Hezbollah in the early 1980s, funding, training, and indoctrinating new members of the fledgling movement. This support created a completely loyal proxy group ready to engage in terrorist activities at Iran’s behest. As one senior Hezbollah official noted in the early 1980s, “Our relation with the Islamic revolution is one of a junior to a senior of a soldier to his commander.
In Africa, where Hezbollah’s support networks are well entrenched, the group need not rely on Iranian operational support as much as it does elsewhere. It is said that said, the sponsor and its proxy do cooperate closely on two key agenda in Africa: proselytizing and recruitment, and arms smuggling. Committed to its constitutional directive to export the Islamic Revolution, the Revolutionary Guard proactively recruits Shia in Africa by the efforts of Iranian and Lebanese missionaries proselytizing across the continent. As early as 1985, the CIA was aware that Iran had long been known to “promote subversive activity” in far-flung countries with Shia populations, including Nigeria. Three years later, a CIA report acknowledged the phenomenon was far more widespread than just in Nigeria. Moreover, the agency highlighted Hezbollah’s participation in efforts to spread Iran’s Islamic revolutionary vision in Africa.


Iraqi Shia extremists feature prominently in Iran’s arsenal of regional proxies. On their own, and in cooperation with the Qods Force, local Hezbollah affiliates and groups like the Iraqi Dawa Party have engaged in terrorism and political violence in support of their own and Iranian interests. In time, evidence of Hezbollah’s presence in Iraq would be plentiful. Indeed, Hezbollah would create an outfit, Unit 3800, dedicated to aiding the Shia insurgency in Iraq. Iraq became a core issue for Hezbollah, however, not because it had anything to do with Lebanon but because gaining influence over Iraq and hegemony in the region is of primary concern to its Iranian sponsors. Of course, Iran has long sought to push the United States out of the Gulf region. “Iranian-sponsored terrorism is the greatest threat to U.S. personnel and facilities in the Middle East.” So read the opening statement of a CIA memo written in mid-February 1985 on terrorism in the Middle East. So it was that Hezbollah, at Iran’s behest, helped develop a sophisticated training program for Shia militants from Iraq. Some training occurred in Iraq, reportedly at the Deir and Kutaiban camps east of Basra near the Iranian border. In Iran, Hezbollah and Qods Force instructors ran a well-organized training program in which Daqduq was directly involved, “helping Qods Force in training Iraqis inside Iran.”

Over time, Hezbollah operatives trained enough Iraqi Shia militants—in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon—to significantly improve the Special Groups’ paramilitary capabilities. Hezbollah provided the Iraqi insurgents “with the training, tactics and technology to conduct kidnappings, small unit tactical operations, and employ sophisticated improvised explosive devices, incorporating lessons learned from operations in Southern Lebanon,” according to an April 2010 Pentagon report. Indeed, it would not take long before Hezbollah operatives would begin directing Iraqi militants in the execution of exactly such operations.
Also Washington reported in The Jerusalem Post that : Iran continues to arm and finance a terrorist network that extends from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, from Iraq to Yemen, and across the Palestinian territories, the US State Department reported on Wednesday, acknowledging US willingness to nevertheless engage directly in talks with the state over its nuclear program. Much of the report, released annually by the State Department to outline threats of terrorism around the world, focuses on Iran’s expansive efforts to fund and funnel arms to Islamist organizations, including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon but operates worldwide.“Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups,” the report details, “although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war.” In its efforts to bolster Hezbollah, Iran considers Syria “a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route” and has taken an active role in supporting embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, the US report claims.
Consider that Iran’s intelligence penetration of South America has expanded significantly since the AMIA bombing. Testifying before Congress in the weeks following that 1994 attack, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism expressed concern that Iranian embassies in the region were stacked with larger than necessary numbers of diplomats, some of whom were believed to be intelligence agents and terrorist operatives:“We are sharing information in our possession with other States about Iranian diplomats, Iranian terrorist leaders who are posing as diplomats, so that nations will refuse to give them accreditation, or if they are already accredited, to expel them. We have had some success in that respect, but we have not always succeeded.

Acknowledgements: Akam Assadi

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19th Century Hausa & Fulani Jihadi’s inspire Boko Haram

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a Muslim cleric and Wahhabi theologian who created a school promoting radical Islamic principles (United States Institute of Peace, 2012). The derivation of Boko Haram translated means “Western education is a sin” (Owolade, 2014). 

Under Yusuf’s leadership, Boko Haram furthered its radical agenda with a bloody campaign of violence against rural communities. (Ndege & Essa, 2013). After Yusuf died in police custody in 2009, Abubakar Shekau rose to power and continued to spread the sect’s extremist philosophies. (Dorrell, 2014).


Violence increased after the 2010 election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Southern Christian (Owolade, 2014). The Boko Haram sect waged war against the presiding political leadership and sought to create a “pure Islamic state ruled by strict shari’a law” (United States Institute of Peace, 2012).

Pre-colonial Nigeria

In the early 1800s, a jihad, demanding Islamic principles and opposing political oppression by Hausa rulers, was joined by both Hausa Muslims and Fulani soldiers. Following the success of the jihad, the Fulani and Hausa replaced the ruling dynasty and the “emirate system” was created. The assimilation of culture and tradition proved to be influential in shaping the Islamic identity of Hausaland during the colonial period and continuing to present day in Northern Nigeria (Turaki, 1993).

Colonial Nigeria

During the late 19th century, both the British and the French sought to extend their empires to Hausaland. By the early 20th century, the British controlled Nigeria and divided the state into northern and southern Nigeria; a short while later, both protectorates were combined to form the Protectorate of Nigeria (Bah, 2005). The southern region was eventually occupied by Christian missionaries at the behest of the British and remains predominately Christian today (Chidi, 2003).

Post-Independence Nigeria

Since Nigerian independence in 1960, clashes between the northerners and southerners have persisted. The ongoing tension between the predominately Muslim North and the predominately Christian South has fostered a growth in extremist sects like Boko Haram that have adopted radical ideologies rejecting Western culture and education. Boko Haram’s attacks against Christian institutions and local Nigerian authorities has garnered international attention and the sect is acknowledged to be an international terrorist threat (BBC News, 2014) with alleged if tenuous links to IS.

Dismantling BH is an International Imperative

In the wake of the recent large scale kidnappings, the Nigerian government has been forced to take action against Boko Haram. It is unclear as to the progress, if any, the security forces have made in apprehending members of Boko Haram. Most independent communication sources have been disconnected but authorities report that they are succeeding in their fight against the extremist sect (Ndege & Essa, 2013).

Presently, securing the release or achieving the rescue of large numbers of innocent kidnapped children and reducing future extremist violence lies solely within the current Nigerian government’s remit as they have resisted external offers of help, save for sending (allegedly) 1500 military personnel abroad for counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist training. The need to dismantle Boko Haram and impose severe opposition to their terrorist agenda is an international imperative which is currently not being facilitated by the Nigerian incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.

References

Bah, A. (2005) Breakdown and Reconstitution, Democracy, the Nation-State, and Ethnicity in Nigeria. Lanham: Lexington Books.

BBC News. (2014) Nigeria: Boko Haram now major threat says Wole Soyinka. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27264748 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

BBC News (2014) More Nigerian girls abducted by suspected militants. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27289924 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Chidi, I. (2003) Nigeria’s Religious and Cultural Conflict. [Online] Available from: http://web.stanford.edu/class/e297a/Nigeria’s%20Religious%20and%20Cultural%20Conflict.doc [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Ndege, Y. and Essa, A. (2013) The rise of Nigeria’s Boko Haram: An in-depth look at the shadowy group as violence continues to wrack the West African country’s northeast. [Online] Available from: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/09/201397155225146644.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Dorrell, O. (2014) Boko Haram: Facts, History, Leaders, And Origins Of The Terrorist Group. [Online] Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/boko-haram-facts-history_n_5295563.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Ochonu, M. (2008) Colonialism within Colonialism: The Hausa-Caliphate Imaginary and the British Colonial Administration of the Nigerian Middle Belt. [Online] Available from: http://asq.africa.ufl.edu/ochonu_fall08/ [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Owolade, F. (2014) Boko Haram: How a Militant Islamist Group Emerged in Nigeria. [Online] Available from: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4232/boko-haram-nigeria#_ftn14 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Tertsakian, C. (2004) Political Shari’a? Human Rights Watch 16(9A), 9.

Turaki, Y. (1993) The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria: A Social Ethical Analysis of the Colonial and Post-Colonial Society and Politics in Nigeria. Nigeria: Challenge Press.

United States Institute of Peace (2012) “Special Report: What is Boko Haram?” United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available from http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR308.pdf [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Boko Haram are out of control in Northern Nigerian states

The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad (Arabic: جماعة اهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد‎ Jamāʻat Ahl as-Sunnah lid-daʻwa wal-Jihād) better known by its Hausa name BOKO HARAM (pronounced [bōːkòː hàrâm], “Western education is sinful”) is an Islamic jihadist and takfiri militant and terrorist organization based in the northeast of Nigeria, north Cameroon and Niger. 





Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, the organisation seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law, putting a stop to what it deems “Westernization”. The group is known for attacking Christians and government targets, bombing churches, attacking schools and police stations, kidnapping western tourists but has also assassinated members of the Islamic establishment. Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013. 


The group exerts influence in the following Nigerian states:
  • Borno; 
  • Adamawa; 
  • Kaduna; 
  • Bauchi;  
  • Yobe; 
  • Kano. 

In this region, a state of emergency has been declared. The group does not have a clear structure or evident chain of command and has been called “diffuse” with a “cell-like structure” facilitating factions and splits. It is reportedly divided into three factions with a splinter group known as Ansaru. The group’s main leader is Abubakar Shekau. Its weapons expert, second-in-command and arms manufacturer was Momodu Bama.


Above is Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a still from a video taken 06.05.2014

Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls from a village near one of the Islamists’ strongholds in northeastern Nigeria overnight on 5th May 2014, while the United States made plans yesterday to help search for more than 200 schoolgirls seized by the militant group last month. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video released to the media on Monday to sell the girls abducted from a secondary school on April 14 “on the market”. The kidnappings by the Islamists, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, have shocked a country long inured to the violence around the northeast.




They have also embarrassed the government before a World Economic Forum meeting on Africa, the annual gathering of the wealthy and powerful, in Abuja from May 7 to 9. Nigerian officials had hoped the event would highlight their country’s potential as Africa’s hottest investment destination since it became the continent’s biggest economy from a GDP recalculation in March. The forum has instead been overshadowed by the crisis over the girls, whose whereabouts remain a mystery.



That has thrown the government’s failings on national security into the spotlight just when it sought to parade its achievements such as power privatisation and economic stability to top global business people and politicians. Police and residents said the eight girls kidnapped overnight were aged 12 to 15.

Boko Haram, the main security threat to Africa’s leading energy producer, is growing bolder and appears better armed than ever. In a separate attack early on Monday, suspected Boko Haram gunmen shot or hacked to death at least 13 people in a raid on a market town in the northeast, a survivor said.


April’s mass kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast, also claimed by Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja, the first attack on the capital in two years. Another bomb in roughly the same place killed 19 people last week.