Terrorism is a tactic, a function, and a method whose driving force is an ideological and political goal. Without such a driving force, terrorism would dry up and fail. In the 1960s and 1970s, terrorism was based on nationalist, secular views and in many cases was chauvinistic. For reasons that we will not discuss here, it started to decline in the second half of the 1970s. Despite the fact that reactionary religious movements existed throughout the twentieth century, they were never in a position to engage in terrorist activities until recently.
The roots of Islamic fundamentalism go back to the first centuries of Islam. But Islamic fundamentalism in its current context, theory, and power emerged after Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in Iran in 1979. The Khomeini regime transformed the idea of creating a global Islamic rule from an unachievable ideal to an achievable goal by many fundamentalist groups, and it also gave these groups global backing.
In a historical example, in the second half of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, more than a few Marxist parties existed in Europe. But the October revolution victory of Russia’s Bolsheviks, who were much younger than many other European parties, made that movement a global one. Until the demise of the Soviet Union, even those Marxist parties that had ideological differences with Moscow used to get their credibility from it.
Export of Revolution: A Specific Goal
Khomeini institutionalized the "export of revolution" and creation of a global Islamic rule, not only as an ideal but as a specific goal and program within various parts of his constitution. The foreword of the regime’s constitution reads, in part, "Given the context of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which was a movement for the victory of all the oppressed over the oppressors, it provides the ground for continuation of the revolution inside and outside the country, specifically in spreading international links to other Islamic and people’s movements, tries to pave the way for the creation of unique global ummah so the continuation of the struggle for the salvation of deprived and suffering nations can be settled." Another part of the foreword, under the headline "Ideological Army," reads, "The Army of the Islamic Republic and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. . . carry not only the duty of protecting the borders but also ideological duty, i.e., Jihad for God and struggle to spread the rule of God’s law in the world."
The Eleventh Act of the constitution reads, "The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is obligated to base its general policy on the coalition and unity of the Islamic nations and to try to fulfill the political, economic, and cultural unity of the Islamic world."
The Mullahs Call for Terrorism
The regime’s top officials have repeatedly called for criminal acts or have taken responsibility for them. On the seventh anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of the Parliament at the time, said: "They hold us accountable for the blow the Americans received and the humiliation they suffered in Lebanon. We are indeed responsible [for it.]"4
In a Friday prayer sermon on May 5, 1989, Rafsanjani said: "If for every Palestinian martyred by Israeli mercenaries, five American or French citizens are murdered, they would no longer commit such crimes. . . . The Palestinians might say, in that case, the world will call us terrorists. I say, however, do they not label you already?"5
Mohsen Rafiqdoust, the minister of the Revolutionary Guards at the time, said: "In the victory of the revolution in Lebanon and many other places, the United States has felt the impact of our might on its ominous body, and knows that both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 officers, NCOs and soldiers at the Marine Headquarters have been provided by Iran. This is well understood by America: that is why they are so helpless in the Persian Gulf."6
Mohsen Rezai, then commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said: "The Muslims’ fury and hatred will bum the heart of Washington someday and America will be responsible for its repercussions. . . . The day will come when, like Salman Rushdie, the Jews will not find a place to live anywhere in the world."7
Terrorism and Fundamentalism’s Financial and Organizational Backing
The regime leaders’ remarks on exporting terrorism and fundamentalism enjoy a huge financial and organizational backing from vast networks inside and outside the country. The Intelligence Ministry, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Khamenei’s office, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Islamic Culture and Propaganda Organization, the Guidance Ministry, and many other government institutions are involved in exporting terrorism.
A large section of the mullah regime’s intelligence Ministry is focused on terrorist activities and espionage abroad. Many Western intelligence agencies admit this fact. For example, the Qods Force, as the fifth force of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, was formed specifically for terrorist activities outside Iran.
The Islamic Propaganda and Communication Organization is a huge system that is present in dozens of countries and has hundreds of millions of dollars in its budget. Besides laying the groundwork for exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, it is engaged in recruiting Muslims and Arabs for the regime’s terrorist squads. This organization was formed by merging five large organizations on Khamenei’s order, and it operates under his supervision. The regime’s embassies and representative offices abroad, as well as other institutions that are apparently involved in cultural and religious services abroad, serve the purpose of exporting terrorism and fundamentalism.
The dimensions of the mullahs regime’s atrocities have grown to such an extent that despite economic and political implications, the judiciaries of some countries, especially European countries, have stressed the role of the regime’s leaders in those atrocities. Judge Roland Chatelain, the Swiss investigative magistrate, announced in 1990 that the assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi was carried out by thirteen Iranian nationals, all of them holding Iranian regime service passports. He stated in June 1998, however, that this assassination was done by the mullahs’ Intelligence Ministry.
A German federal court in Berlin, after a four-year-long trial regarding the killings at a Mykonos restaurant, asserted in its verdict that a committee of the highest ranking leaders of the Iranian regime-including the supreme leader, the president, the intelligence minister, and the foreign affairs minister-had ordered assassinations outside the country, including those on Mykonos. Earlier, the Berlin court had issued an arrest warrant for mullah Ali Fallahian, the regime’s intelligence minister.
The long arm of Iran’s terrorists stretches to Turkey, Pakistan, and India in Asia; Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in the Middle East; Belgium, France, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Cyprus, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Greece in Europe; and Argentina in Latin America. The extent to which the mullahs enjoy a free rein to maneuver and operate-whether in the framework of diplomatic institutions or business facilities or other suitable cover in any given country – is directly correlated to the frequency and the number of terrorist activities in those countries. One can certainly say that the mullahs’ regime is neither inclined nor able to abandon terrorism as one of the primary instruments of its foreign policy. One Tehran-based foreign diplomat noted, "The difference between now and before is that they do not want to get caught." The mullahs may try to exercise more caution in pursuing their terrorism, but terrorism will remain intertwined with the mullahs’ foreign policy.