WASHINGTON — The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2015 note that Iran got cozier with Hamas last year while the U.S. admittedly “cannot certify” that Syria complied with the chemical weapons disposal deal that the Obama administration forged to avert acting on the president’s red line.
Cuba was removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list a year ago as part of President Obama’s rapprochement with the communist island. “While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said on May 29, 2015.
So the state sponsors of terrorism section of the department’s annual report was whittled to three this year: Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Iran has been on the list since 1984, and “continued its terrorist-related activity in 2015, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.”
“In addition to its ongoing support for Hizballah in Syria, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of primarily Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani Shia fighters to support the Asad regime’s brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of more than 250,000 people in Syria,” the report states. “Iran more openly acknowledged the deaths of Iranian personnel in Syria in 2015, including several senior commanders, and increased Iranian troop levels, while continuing to claim publicly that Iranian forces had only deployed in an advisory role.”
The State Department also noted Tehran’s provision of weapons, funding, and training to Shiite forces in Bahrain, including a bomb-making facility discovered by Bahraini authorities last September stocked with 1.5 tons of high-grade explosives.
“Although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war, both sides took steps in 2015 to repair relations. Iran continued to declare its vocal support for Palestinian terrorist groups and its hostility to Israel in 2015,” the report added. “Supreme National Security Council Secretary Admiral Ali Shamkhani sought to frame a series of individual Palestinian attacks on Israeli security forces in the West Bank as a new ‘Intifada’ in a speech on November 25.”
Tehran has also been rearming Hezbollah in violation of a UN Security Council resolution at the end of the 2006 conflict with Israel, pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars” into arms and training of fighters who have “carried out isolated attacks along the Lebanese border with Israel.”
“Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and refused to publicly identify the members in its custody. Iran previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”
Syria has been on the list since 1979, and the regime continues its three-way relationship with Hezbollah and Iran.
“The Asad regime’s relationship with Hizballah and Iran grew stronger in 2015 as the conflict in Syria continued. President Bashar al-Asad remained a staunch defender of Iran’s policies, while Iran has exhibited equally energetic support for Syrian regime efforts to defeat the Syrian opposition,” the report continues. “Statements supporting terrorist groups, particularly Hizballah, were often in Syrian government speeches and press statements.”
“Over the past decade, the Syrian government has played an important role in the growth of terrorist networks in Syria through the Asad regime’s permissive attitude towards al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups’ foreign fighter facilitation efforts during the Iraq conflict. Syria has served for years as a hub for foreign terrorist fighters; the Syrian government’s awareness and encouragement for many years of violent extremists’ transit through Syria to enter Iraq, for the purpose of fighting Coalition troops, is well documented.”
The environment established by the regime “has also allowed ISIL to plot or encourage external attacks in Libya, France, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United States.”
Extensive use of cash and the black market has made terrorist financing from Syria hard to track, the report adds.
“The United States cannot certify that Syria is in compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The United States assesses that Syria has used chemical weapons systematically and repeatedly against the Syrian people every year since acceding the Convention, and is therefore in violation of its obligations under Article I of the CWC,” it states. “In addition, the United States assesses that Syria did not declare all the elements of its chemical weapons program, required by Article III of the CWC and that Syria may retain chemical weapons as defined by the CWC. The process of verifying the accuracy and completeness of the Syrian declaration and the resolution of these matters is ongoing.”
On Sudan, the report states that the country’s “support to al-Qa’ida has ceased but elements of al-Qa’ida and ISIL-linked terrorist groups remained active in Sudan in 2015.”
It didn’t mention the Obama administration’s release of Guantanamo detainees to Sudan, which is run by a president indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity for the Darfur genocide, and the return of one of those to jihad.
Al-Qaeda paymaster Ibrahim al Qosi, 55, was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 and released to the Sudanese government by the Obama administration in July 2012. Al Qosi, now going by Sheikh Khubaib al Sudani, joined AQAP in 2014 and appeared last year in a video encouraging lone jihad. He gave an extensive interview in the May issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine.
“We cannot establish an Islamic state until total meltdown of America, the head of the snake – if it falls then its tail, and the regimes it backs, will fall too. America is standing like a brick wall in front of us in fighting the Jews who occupy Palestine,” he said.
At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in February, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) propped up a photo of the terrorist and told Secretary of State John Kerry, “Now that he’s out, I would hope we would end the policy of issuing terrorists to terrorist nations, where they can get out.”
“Well, Senator, he’s not supposed to be doing that,” Kerry responded. “And there are consequences for that, and there will be.”
“But apart from that, the fact is that we’ve got people who’ve been held without charges for 13 years, 14 years in some cases,” he added. “That’s not American, that’s not how we operate.”