State Sponsors of Terrorism - Iran

Iran remained the premier state sponsor of terrorism in 1996. It continued to be involved in the planning and execution of terrorist acts by its own agents and by surrogates such as Lebanese Hizballah and continued to fund and train known terrorist groups.

Tehran conducted at least eight dissident assassinations outside Iran in 1996. In May 1996 Reza Mazlouman, a government official under the Shah, was murdered in Paris by an Iranian resident of Germany with alleged ties to Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). The suspect was extradited to France by Germany. Seven other dissidents were assassinated by Iran in 1996 in Turkey and northern Iraq. Iran's primary targets are members of the regime's main opposition groups, the Mujahedin­e Khalq (MEK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), as well as former officials of the late Shah's government who speak out against the clerical regime.

Iran continued to provide support­including money, weapons, and training­to a variety of terrorist groups, such as Hizballah, HAMAS, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ). It continued to oppose any recognition of Israel and to encourage violent rejection of the Middle East peace process. For example, Iranian Vice President Habibi met with HAMAS leaders in Damascus and praised their successful efforts immediately following the February bombings in Israel. HAMAS claimed responsibility for two more bombings in Israel the following week.

During a routine customs inspection of an Iranian vessel in Antwerp in March, Belgian authorities discovered a disassembled mortar­like weapon hidden in a shipment of pickles. The shipment was consigned to an Iranian merchant living in Germany. Iranian dissidents claim that the mortar was intended for use in an assassination attempt against Iranian exiles in Europe.

Testimony in the three­year­long trial of an Iranian and four Lebanese for the Iran­sponsored killing of Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin's Mykonos restaurant in 1992 concluded in late 1996. German authorities issued an arrest warrant in March for Ali Fallahian, Iran's Intelligence Minister. In the fall, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr and two other witnesses testified against Iran. In final statements in late November, German prosecutors charged Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and Iranian President Rafsanjani with approving the operation. (Guilty verdicts for four of the accused were announced in April 1997.)

Iranian leaders have consistently denied being able to revoke the fatwa against Salman Rushdie's life, in effect for nearly eight years, claiming that revocation is impossible because the author of the fatwa is deceased. There is no indication that Tehran is pressuring the 15 Khordad Foundation to withdraw the $2 million reward it is offering to anyone who will kill Rushdie.

In addition, Iran provides safehaven to elements of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Turkish separatist group that has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Turkey and throughout Europe. Although Turkey and Iran agreed to a joint operation in mid­October to remove the PKK from the border region, Iran reportedly failed to cooperate in a meaningful way.

Iran's terrorist network in the Persian Gulf remained active in 1996. The Government of Bahrain announced in June the discovery of a local Hizballah group of Bahraini Shiites who had been trained and sponsored by Iran in an effort to overthrow the ruling al­Khalifa family.

Source: Excerpted from Patterns of Global Terrorism 1996, U.S. State Department