This article was originally published in Global Security Newswire, produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., has accused Iran of backing terrorist plots around the globe in response to Western pressure aimed at discouraging the nation from developing nuclear weapons (see GSN, July 11).
Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said during a hearing on Wednesday that “we now have the reappearance on a global scale of Iran-backed terrorism,” which he predicted would worsen “barring some shockingly surprising rapprochement with Iran” and a “settlement of the dispute over their nuclear weapons capability program.”
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is strictly peaceful, but Western leaders remain suspicious about the intent of the state’s uranium-enrichment operations and other atomic activities. A series of meetings this year between Iranian officials and representatives from the United States and five other powers has failed to break the impasse.
Rand senior adviser Brian Michael Jenkins testified during the hearing on homeland-security threats that a “recent string of terrorist plots by Iranian-trained operatives in Azerbaijan, Georgia, India, Thailand, Kenya, and the United States” suggest “a resurgence in Iranian-sponsored terrorism.”
Jenkins’ testimony was an apparent reference to recent news reports about alleged terrorist incidents in those countries.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday than Kenyan police had accused two Iranians of shipping more than 220 pounds of explosives in an effort to carry out attacks against government buildings and other targets.
In March, AP reported that Azerbaijani authorities detained 22 people alleged to have been hired to conduct strikes against the U.S. and Israeli embassies. And in February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for bomb attacks aimed at his diplomats in India and Georgia (see GSN, Feb. 14).
U.S. officials, meanwhile, raised concerns last year that Iran might have been involved in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington (see GSN, Oct. 13). Iran has denied involvement in any such plots and has blamed Israel and the United States for a series of attacks on its atomic scientists in recent years (see GSN, June 18).
Jenkins said the “future trajectory” of Iranian-backed terrorism “will depend on Iran’s perceptions of Western intentions and its own calculations of risk.... Their future use of this terrorism is going to depend very much on what they calculate our intentions are about the Islamic republic themselves. If they believe — and there are radical elements within Iran, I suspect, [who] do believe — that the aim of the United States is to ultimately bring about the fall of the Islamic republic, then that is going to affect their risk calculations, and they’re going to basically conclude they don’t have a lot to lose.”
Jenkins predicted “the continuation of a long-term, complicated, shadow terrorist war” involving the United States, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.
“I think the emergence of Iran-backed terrorist acts, or attempted acts over the last year or so, is, obviously, related to the tension that is going on between us and the Israelis and the Saudis and a lot of others in the Arab world with Iran about their nuclear-weapons development program,” the lawmaker said. “They’re sending a message by these acts or attempted acts."