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Homeland Security

Backgrounder: State Sponsors: Iran

Council on Foreign Relations

Updated: August 2007


The Islamic Republic of Iran, led by fundamentalists Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, poses a serious security concern to the international community. Iran’s recent declarations that it has successfully enriched uranium and developed new missile technology, along with its continued support for terrorist organizations, lend strength to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s assertion that Iran is a “central banker for terrorism.”

Does Iran sponsor terrorism?

Yes. The U.S. State Department has called Iran the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.” Iran continues to provide funding, weapons, training, and sanctuary to numerous terrorist groups based in the Middle East and elsewhere. In March 2006, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “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.”

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell tells CFR.org there is “overwhelming evidence” that Iran supports terrorists in Iraq and “compelling” evidence that it does the same in Afghanistan. For these reasons, Secretary Rice suggested in August 2007 that the United States would consider adding Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to its list of foreign terrorist organizations.

What sort of government rules Iran?

Since a 1979 revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the American-backed regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the country has been governed by Shiite Muslim clerics committed to a stern interpretation of Islamic law. Iran today has two main leaders: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the popularly elected president and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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