Commander of Iran's Quds Force greets Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in January 2020.

Commander of Iran's Quds Force greets Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in January 2020.

US Report Says Iran Harbors Al Qaeda Leaders, Sponsors Terrorism

12/17/2021

The US State Department says Iran continues to harbor al Qaeda leaders and sponsor terrorism acts, in its 2020 Country Reports on Terrorism published Thursday.

“There has been facilitation of them that allows them to remain active as leaders within the al-Qaida global enterprise,” the acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism John T. Godfrey said Thursday at a briefing introducing the 2020 report. “No secret, I think, that Iran is a longstanding state sponsor of terrorism, and I think the fact that they have enabled that leadership cadre to safely reside in Iran is a reflection of their use of terrorism as an adjunct of their foreign policy goals.”

Godfrey also said that Iran continued to support terror acts in the region “and further afield in 2020”, supporting proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, including Hezbollah and Hamas.

The United States also continued high-level diplomatic contacts to counter Hezbollah’s presence in Central and South America and in Europe, resulting in nine countries taking “significant steps” in 2020 “to designate, ban, or otherwise restrict” Hezbollah.

In response to a question as to how the Biden Administration is cooperating with Saudi Arabia to counter Iranian proxy forces Godfrey said, “I think Saudi Arabia has faced a particular threat in recent years from the Houthis in Yemen, and obviously that’s a group that has enjoyed quite a bit of support from Iran, and we’ve been public about our concerns about that. And that’s something that we’ve continued to work with them on.”

However, the Biden Administration removed the Houthis from a terror designation list almost as soon as it took office in early February and since then has repeatedly condemned their missile and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia.

In the report itself, the State Department says, “The Houthis continue to receive material support and guidance from Iranian entities, including to enable attacks against Saudi Arabia. These attacks have utilized armed drones and ballistic missiles, which damaged airports and critical infrastructure.”

The report highlights the role of IRGC’s Qods (Quds) Force saying that Iran continued to acknowledge the active role the military-intelligence unit plays in regional conflicts from Iran and Syria to Yemen and elsewhere. It also says that Hezbollah “remained Iran’s most dangerous terrorist partner and the most capable terrorist organization in Lebanon, controlling areas across the country. Iran’s annual financial backing to Hizballah — which in recent years has been estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars — accounts for most of the group’s annual budget.”

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