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Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1997
Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism
 

Department of State Publication 10535
Office of the Secretary of State
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Released April 1998


Introduction

Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism
...
The Secretary of State has designated seven governments as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. These governments support international terrorism either by engaging in terrorist activity themselves or by providing arms, training, safehaven, diplomatic facilities, financial backing, logistic and/or other support to terrorists.

The US policy of bringing maximum pressure to bear on state sponsors of terrorism and encouraging other countries to do likewise has paid significant dividends. There has been a marked decline in state-sponsored terrorism in recent years. A broad range of bilateral and multilateral sanctions serves to discourage state sponsors of terrorism from continuing their support for international acts of terrorism, but continued pressure is essential.
...
Notwithstanding some conciliatory statements in the months after President Khatami's inauguration in August 1997, Iran remains the most active state sponsor of terrorism. There is no evidence that Iranian policy has changed, and Iran continues both to provide significant support to terrorist organizations and to assassinate dissidents abroad.



Iran

Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 1997. Tehran continued to be involved in the planning and execution of terrorist acts by its own agents and by surrogates such as the Lebanese Hizballah and continued to fund and train known terrorist groups throughout 1997. Although the August 1997 accession of President Khatami has resulted in more conciliatory Iranian public statements, such as public condemnations of terrorist attacks by Algerian and Egyptian groups, Iranian support for terrorism remains in place.

Tehran conducted at least 13 assassinations in 1997, the majority of which were carried out in northern Iraq. Iran's targets normally include, but are not limited to, members of the regime's main opposition groups, including the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Elsewhere in Iraq, in January 1997 Iranian agents tried to attack the Baghdad headquarters of the MEK using a "supermortar" of a design similar to that discovered aboard the Iranian ship "Kolahdooz" by Belgian customs authorities in early 1996. The attack was unsuccessful, resulting in the death of one person and some damage to an Iraqi hospital building.

April 1997 witnessed the conclusion of the trial in Germany of an Iranian and four Lebanese for the 1992 killing of Iranian Kurdish dissidents, one of whom was then Secretary General of the KDPI, in Berlin's Mykonos restaurant. A German judge found the Iranian and three of the Lebanese guilty of the murders. Two defendants, Kazem Darabi and Abbas Rhayel, were sentenced to life in prison. Two others, Yousef Amin and Muhammad Atris, received sentences of 11 years and five years and three months, respectively. The fifth defendant, Aatollah Ayad, was acquitted. The court stated that the Government of Iran had followed a deliberate policy of liquidating the regime's opponents who lived outside Iran, including the opposition KDPI. The judge further stated that the Mykonos murders had been approved at the most senior levels of the Iranian Government by an extra-legal committee whose members included the Minister of Intelligence and Security, the Foreign Minister, the President, and the Supreme Leader. As a result of elections in May, however, the positions of Minister of Intelligence and Security, Foreign Minister, and President are now held by individuals other than those who were involved in the "Mykonos" murders. In March 1996 a German court had issued an arrest warrant in this case for Ali Fallahian, the former Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security.

In September 1997, Iran's new leadership affirmed the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, which has been in effect since 1989, stating once again that revocation is impossible since the author of the fatwa is deceased. There is no indication that Tehran is pressuring the Fifteen Khordad Foundation to withdraw the $2.5 million reward it is offering for executing the fatwa on Rushdie.

Iran continued to provide support--in the form of training, money, and/or weapons--to a variety of terrorist groups, such as Lebanese Hizballah, HAMAS, and the PIJ. The Iranian Government continues to oppose recognition of Israel and to encourage violent rejection of the Middle East Peace Process. In the fall of 1997, Tehran hosted numerous representatives of terrorist groups--including HAMAS, Lebanese Hizballah, the PIJ, and the Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiya--at a conference of "Liberation Movements." Participants reportedly discussed the jihad, establishing greater coordination between certain groups, and an increase in support for some groups. In October, the Algerian Government accused Tehran of training and equipping Algerian terrorists.

Iran still provides safehaven to elements of the PKK, a Turkish separatist group that has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Turkey and on Turkish targets in Europe. Following a late 1997 Turkish incursion into northern Iran in pursuit of PKK cadres, Tehran protested the violation of its territory but in 1997 made no effort to remove the PKK from Iranian territory.

In November, Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Kamal Kharrazi, publicly condemned the terrorist attack by the Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya on tourists at Luxor, Egypt. Similarly, in early January 1998 the Foreign Ministry's official spokesman, Mahmud Mohammadi, also condemned the vicious attacks on civilians during the Muslim month of Ramadan (late December 1997 to early January 1998) "no matter who was responsible."

(President Khatemi, in a 7 January 1998 CNN interview, agreed that terrorist attacks against non-combatants, including Israeli women and children, should be condemned.)

 

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