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State Department Terrorism Report: Iran, ISIS Remain Top Terror Concerns | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Car burnt in Mosul – Reuters

Washington, London – US State Department’s annual report on global terrorism released Wednesday stated that Iran remains on top of the list of countries sponsoring terrorism all over the world.

The report added that groups affiliated with Tehran, such as Hezbollah, are a threat to global US and its allies’ interests despite financial and legal sanctions.

The State Department stated that al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates exploited the absence of credible and effective state institutions in some states and regions to remain a significant worldwide threat despite sustained pressure by the United States and its partners.

Whereas al-Nusra Front continued to exploit ongoing armed conflict to maintain a territorial safe haven in select parts of northwestern Syria.

The report praised Saudi Arabia and its efforts along with Washington in fighting terrorism. It added that the kingdom is an important and active participating member of the international coalition against ISIS.

Regarding Qatar, the report considered that terrorist financiers within the country are still able to exploit Qatar’s informal financial system despite the government’s progress on countering the financing of terrorism (CFT).

The report stated that Iran has been designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984 and it continued its terrorist-related activity in 2016, through its support for Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East.

“Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East,” pointed out the State Department.

Commenting on the report, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that Iran remains one of the most dangerous threats against the US and regional stability. She added that Iran’s malign activity include developing ballistic weapons, supporting terrorism, colluding with Bashar al-Assad, and threatening freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Iranian regime continues to detain US citizens and citizens of other nationalities based on false accusations pertaining to national security, according to Nauret.

Justin Siberell, Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism, in a media briefing on the release of the Country Reports on Terrorism by the US State Department, stated that Hezbollah has contributed significant numbers of its fighters to support the Assad regime in Syria and carried out several attacks against Israeli Defense Forces in 2016 along the Lebanese border with Israel.

“Iran and Hezbollah create instability in the Middle East,” said Siberell.

The report considered that Hezbollah, with support from Iran, remained the most capable terrorist group in Lebanon. In addition, Hezbollah justified its stockpile of “arms for its “resistance” to Israel, and increasingly to protect Lebanon from extremist Sunni groups, including ISIS.”

Global Coalition Against ISIS included 72 members and succeeded in 2016 in regaining control over large territories and the operation continued during the first half of 2017.

With regard to Sudan, the ongoing discussions US is having with the government include ensuring that there is an effective cooperation in addressing terrorism threats, and there has been some positive response in that regard, said Siberell.

“But as I also noted, there are specific criteria that need to be met in order for Sudan to be removed, or at least its designation rescinded as a state sponsor of terrorism. And those issues continue to be a feature of the discussions we have with the Sudanese Government,” he reiterated.

With regard to Yemen, the Yemeni Government does not have the ability to extend its own capabilities into areas where terrorism exits, however, Siberell pointed out that it is doing its best in that regard.

The annual report stated that worldwide terror attacks fell by nine percent from 2015 to 2016, while the number of deaths dipped 13 percent.

More than 100 countries were victims of terror attacks, but the majority of 55 percent took place in just five, including Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, the report said.

When asked about the travel ban imposed by US on six countries, Siberell pointed out that number of terrorists in those countries is increasing, stressing that these countries should work on fighting terrorist activities and their sources.