Americans have heard a lot about Iran lately. The news coverage is partly related to the Biden administration’s negotiations with the Iranian regime over a mutual return to the Obama-era nuclear deal, which President Trump wisely exited. The reporting is also tied to Iran’s support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Palestinian terrorist groups that attacked our ally Israel. Then again, perhaps you’ve heard about the Islamic Republic of Iran because of its pathological hostage taking, which has continued unabated since the 1979 hostage crisis. Or, its chants of “Death to America!” Or, its genocidal anti-Semitism.
The truth is the radical regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran has had an impact on Americans for the last four decades, but most of us don’t appreciate the magnitude of its threat. Here’s what you should know about the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the theocratic regime in Iran has instituted a policy to carry out terrorism worldwide. In fact, the “continuation of the revolution at home and abroad,” is part of the Iranian regime’s constitution.
As part of its terrorist mission, the Iranian regime has specifically targeted Americans, whom it considers “The Great Satan.” Iran’s brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its extra-territorial unit, the Quds Force (IRGC-QF), is responsible for the deaths of 603 soldiers in Iraq, 241 service members in the Marine barracks suicide attack in Beirut, 19 troops in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and many others.
Through the IRGC’s funding, training, and arming of terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq to name a few, the Islamic Republic of Iran has set out to violently impose its brand of Islamic extremism on the Middle East and beyond. Since the regime seized power in 1979, it has planned and executed terrorist plots, assassinations, and attacks in more than 35 countries worldwide. The regime also provides a safe haven for al Qaeda.
These are just some of the reasons the State Deparment has designated the Islamic Republic of Iran as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism since 1984.
Iran is trying to obtain a nuclear weapon
In 2002, satellite imagery confirmed the existence of a secret nuclear program in Iran. Over the following decade, the existence of a military dimension of this program became undeniable. The possibility of the world’s top terrorist regime, which regularly calls for “Death to America,” attaining the world’s deadliest weapons was unthinkable.
The Obama administration entered into an agreement with the Iranian regime in 2015 called the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) aimed to restrain its nuclear program, but the so-called Iran nuclear deal was fatally flawed. It not only paved the way for this radical regime to get nuclear weapons in a few short years, it provided the world’s top sponsor of terrorism $150 billion to sponsor terrorism. We just witnessed the byproduct of Obama’s generosity when Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two of Iran’s Palestinian puppets, attacked Israel with more than 4,300 rockets.
President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the disastrous Iran deal in 2018, because it failed to protect the American people. His administration then imposed a “maximum pressure” campaign, which brought the regime in Tehran to the weakest point since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But now, President Biden and his team are trying to re-enter the JCPOA, despite knowing that the regime can not be trusted to abide by the agreement. This would harm U.S. national security and grant international approval for Iran to become a nuclear-armed state. This would undoubtedly lead to a nuclear arms race in one of the world’s most combustible neighborhoods.
Iran continues to take American hostages
When most Americans think about Iran, they probably flash back to 1979 when Islamic radicals stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. They were eventually released on the day of President Reagan’s inauguration after 444 days in captivity, but would not be the last U.S. hostages taken by the Iranian regime.
The Islamic Republic has taken Americans and other dual nationals hostage every decade since its founding—because it’s profitable. A senior IRGC thug admitted as much: “Look how the IRGC generates income for its budget. We grab a spy, Jason Rezaian. America begs to get him back, but we say no, you have to pay for him. Then the government receives $1.7 billion in exchange for that spy. By catching a single spy, the IRGC earns the money that the government is supposed to allocate for it.”
In recent years, Americans like Bob Levinson, Xiyue Wang, Michael White, Baquer and Siamak Namazi have been grabbed by the regime. Wang and White were freed during the Trump administration, but Levinson died in Iranian custody and the Namazis are still imprisoned by the regime.
Iran is one of the world’s top human rights abusers
In November 2019, the Iranian people took to the streets across the country to protest against the ruling regime’s corruption and gross indifference to their welfare. Ayatollah Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, ordered his minions to do “whatever it takes” to put down the protests. They did, killing 1,500 demonstrators, including at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women.
Tragically, such disregard for human life is not unusual in Iran under the revolutionary regime. It has been targeting women, the LGBT community, political activists, journalists, religious and ethnic minorities, and environmentalists for more than four decades.
Since 1979, several thousand Iranians have been executed for homosexuality. They have been hanged from cranes, thrown off cliffs, and stoned to death. Just within the last couple of years, a dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam was forced into a televised confession and executed, a champion wrestler Navid Afkari was tortured and hanged, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, and six environmentalists were imprisoned for up to 10 years for “collaborating with the enemy state of the United States.” In 2020, Iran executed at least 246 people—the second-most worldwide after China—for “crimes” like “insulting the prophet” and “spreading corruption on Earth.” It’s also among the world’s worst executioners of minors.
You’ll hear more about Iran in the coming days as the Biden administration announces its re-entry into the Iran nuclear deal. That misguided plan has serious implications for the American people.
We encourage you, the American people, to learn more and to start raising your voice(s). You can start by reading the State Department’s summary of the full scope of Iran’s destructive activities, which includes the topics we discussed above, plus the Iranian regime’s long-range missile development, financial fraud, piracy, and cyber crime. There’s a reason the Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s top sponsor of terrorism and antisemitism.
Bryan E. Leib is the Executive Director of Iranian Americans for Liberty. Formerly, he served as the National Director for Americans Against Antisemitism and in 2018, he was a GOP Endorsed Congressional Candidate (PA-03). He tweets at @Bryan_E_Leib.
Len Khodorkovsky is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Digital Strategy and Senior Advisor to the U.S. Representative for Iran. He tweets at @MessageFromLen.
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