Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2003. Its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security were involved in the planning of and support for terrorist acts and continued to exhort a variety of groups that use terrorism to pursue their goals.
Iran's record against al-Qaida remains mixed. After the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, some al-Qaida members fled to Iran where they have found virtual safehaven. Iranian officials have acknowledged that Tehran detained al-Qaida operatives during 2003, including senior members. Iran's publicized presentation of a list to the United Nations of deportees, however, was accompanied by a refusal to publicly identify senior members in Iranian custody on the grounds of "security." Iran has resisted calls to transfer custody of its al-Qaida detainees to their countries of origin or third countries for further interrogation and trial.
During 2003, Iran maintained a high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli activity, both rhetorically and operationally. Supreme Leader Khamenei praised Palestinian resistance operations, and President Khatami reiterated Iran's support for the "wronged people of Palestine" and their struggles. Matching this rhetoric with action, Iran provided Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian rejectionist groups -- notably HAMAS, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command -- with funding, safehaven, training, and weapons. Iran hosted a conference in August 2003 on the Palestinian intifadah, at which an Iranian official suggested that the continued success of the Palestinian resistance depended on suicide operations.
Iran pursued a variety of policies in Iraq aimed at securing Tehran's perceived interests there, some of which ran counter to those of the Coalition. Iran has indicated support for the Iraqi Governing Council and promised to help Iraqi reconstruction.
Shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, individuals with ties to the Revolutionary Guard may have attempted to infiltrate southern Iraq, and elements of the Iranian Government have helped members of Ansar al-Islam transit and find safehaven in Iran. In a Friday Prayers sermon in Tehran in May, Guardian Council member Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati publicly encouraged Iraqis to follow the Palestinian model and participate in suicide operations against Coalition forces.
Iran is a party to five of the 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.
Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement
By mid-2004 there was an ongoing program in Iran to recruit volunteers for martyrdom operations in Iraq. It is organized by the Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement. Some observers believe it is a media campaign, and not a real one, noting there is a difference between the media world and real world. The Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), began enrollment of volunteer suicide bombers in May 2004. Registration forms for suicide bombers are available all over Tehran, and the government did not seem to be trying to halt this phenomenon. By mid-2005 the effort had reportedly culled 40,000 volunteers to undergo special training to become suicide bombers for serving the Palestinian cause against the Israeli occupation.
A number of high-ranking individuals defended the registration of suicide bombers. At a late summer 22004 ceremony in the southern Iranian city of Bushehr organized by the Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, parliamentarian Shokrollah Atarzadeh registered as a martyrdom volunteer. Hussein Shariatmadari, the Supreme Leader's representative at the Kayhan Institute, said Iranians must be ready to use "martyrdom-seeking operations." He said Israel is vulnerable and added, "You don't know that the wish of martyrdom-seekers is to send the Israelis to hell. You don't know what a fury and vengeance burns in the hearts of each and every Muslim when they see you destroy the houses of Muslims over their heads or when you commit genocide." Shariatmadari asked, "Why should they be in peace and security in European cities while the people of Iraq, Palestine, and other Muslim countries have no security?"
Tehran parliamentary representative Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, military officials, and scholars spoke about topics such as "Martyrdom Operations and Military and Security Strategies" and "Martyrdom Operations -- The Last Weapon" at an 02 June 2004 meeting in Tehran. Enrollment forms for volunteers were distributed after the meeting.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also defended the practice. According to a state radio report, he said during a 1 May 2002 speech that "It is the zenith of honor for a man, a young person, boy or girl, to be prepared to sacrifice his life in order to serve the interests of his nation and his religion. This is the zenith of courage and bravery.... martyrdom-seeking operations demonstrate the pinnacle of a nation's honor." In a 2 May 2003 sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said that the Iraqi people "have no option but to resort to Intifadah [uprising] and martyrdom-seeking operations. That is the only solution. They are learning from the Palestinian experience."
Shi'a Islam's top scholars have spoken out on the issue, too. In April 2002 the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's representative in Tehran, Abu Jihad, met in Qom with Grand Ayatollahs Mohammad Fazel-Movahedi-Lankarani, Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, Mohammad-Taqi Bahjat, Yusef Sanei, and Abdol-Karim Musavi-Ardabili, as well as Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini-Qomi. Abu Jihad asked these religious scholars about the permissibility of "martyrdom operations," state radio reported on 12 April 2002. In the words of state radio, "the grand ayatollahs reiterated the views that they had already expressed, saying that martyrdom operations were permitted in occupied Palestine." Fazel-Lankarani said, "The Palestinians have no choice but to carry out martyrdom operations."
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