Essential Reading on Iran and Terrorism

I’ve written twice in the past month on terrorism and Iran. See my first article, “New Details Should Give Skeptics Pause,” and this week’s article, “How Far Can Iran Push Its Luck?” I admit some plots may never be tied to Iran. But given the staggering number of schemes associated with Lebanese and Iranian nationals, it seems very likely that many if not most of these plots originated in Tehran. New evidence increasingly points to the regime, while more and more reporters and experts are addressing what appears to be an aggressive Iranian campaign.

Two pieces from the last week stand out. The most recent is Sebastian Rotella’s overview of this year’s plots, which was published by Foreign Policy on July 30. My posts explored many of these episodes but Rotella offers new details that tie many of them together. It is probably the most thorough and exhaustive piece written this year on the recent surge in activity. The title is appropriate too: “Before Deadly Bulgaria Bombing, Tracks of a Resurgent Iran-Hezbollah Threat.” Rotella writes:

Yet the modus operandi [for Iranian plots] so far has veered between agility and clumsiness, precision and improvisation. Most of the attempted strikes have failed, often hampered by hasty execution and unreliable operatives, according to counterterror officials and experts around the world. In some ways the apparent opportunism and erratic behavior make the menace worse, increasing the chances of conflict with the West, experts say.

If you want more essential reading on these plots—and the strategic logic that inspires them—read Daniel Byman’s July 25 testimony, which he delivered to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Iran’s Support for Terrorism in the Middle East” (in PDF format) is a 10-page brief exploring Iran’s motivations, the purpose and function of terrorism from Iran’s perspective, and how the nuclear issue could possibly embolden Iran’s support for terrorists, much like Pakistan. As Byman argues:

Tehran also sees Israel and the United States as on the offensive. The killing of Iranian nuclear scientists, explosions that destroyed Iranian missile facilities, the cyber attack that set back Iran’s nuclear program, and other aggressive, but covert, measures are considered part of a low-level but nevertheless real war that the United States and Israel are engaged in – one that has escalated in recent years. From Iran’s point of view, its own violence is a response to the war that is already being waged against the clerical regime.

Byman has also written about Iran’s complicated relationship with Al Qaeda. Check out his newest article for the July 2012 edition of IHS Defense, titled “Unlikely Alliance: Iran’s Secretive Relationship with Al-Qaeda” (also in PDF format).

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