United States President Barack Obama signed into law new legislation that prevents visa-free travel to America for those who live in or have visited Iraq, Sudan, Syria, or Iran. Iran lashed out in response, accusing the American government of being the puppet of the “Zionist lobby.” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that it was “absurd” to include Iran on the list, which was prompted by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beruit, Baghdad, and San Bernadino. Pointing out that those terrorist attacks were carried out by Sunni Muslims and not Shi’a Muslims, Zarif said “No Iranian nor anybody who visited Iran had anything to do with the tragedies that have taken place in Paris or in San Bernardino or anywhere else.” United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry promised to waive the law as necessary to maintain Iran’s comfort.
Zarif’s “anywhere else” must be very carefully constructed to preserve the truth of his sentence. It cannot include Kenya, for example, where a recent Iranian plot to target schoolchildren was uncovered by authorities. The Kenyan nationals radicalized into forming this terrorist cell had been brought to Iran for the purpose.
They also visited Iraq, where Iran runs a vast network of Shi’a militias it has radicalized through propaganda, to train with Quds Force-backed militants. Those militants were used by the Quds Force to fight a proxy war with the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which as many as a thousand American servicemembers may have been killed by them. Many of those same militants are now deployed in Syria, where they were recently photographed with Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani before his injury there. Some of these Iraqi militants radicalized by Iranian unconventional warfare operators have pledged to overthrow their own government as soon as the Ayatollah Khamenei gives the word.
Two of these militant groups, one linked to Hezbollah, are implicated in severe war crimes carried out within Iraq against the city of Tikrit. Hundreds of Iraqis including children were “disappeared” by these militias during recent operations in that city, and homes belonging to enemies of Iran were destroyed.
Hezbollah itself is perhaps the most noteworthy example of an organization radicalized by Iran, trained by Iran, and supported by Iran. It is not the only one. Iran has had similar relationships with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and currently maintains such relationships with Houthi militants involved in Yemen’s civil war.
In point of fact, through the Quds Force Iran has for decades made the radicalizing of foreign nationals a key component of its foreign policy. No nation deserves to be on that list more than Iran. That would be true even if we were to recognize the proto-state calling itself the Caliphate, or Islamic State. It has a long way to go before it would be able to match the Iranian record of supporting, nurturing, and projecting terror as an instrument of state power. Iran is implicated in nearly forty years of terror attacks. These run from the bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon to the Khobar Towers, to waging war through proxy groups against American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, to bombing cultural centers in nations such as Argentina or across Africa in order to enforce its will.
Secretary Kerry’s waivers will ignore that heritage at our peril.