Iran and Pakistan: Terrorism States or Victims of Terrorism?
By Ivan Simic
Guyana Journal, February, 2010
For the past few months we had the “honour” to read many articles and news reports in which Iran and Pakistan have been described as major threats and terrorism/terrorist supported states without any sustainable evidence. It is not a secret that these states are facing much political and economical turbulence, but that does not necessarily mean they are the world threats.
The titles like “Pakistan Terrorism Heaven”, “Iran the Most Active Terror Sponsor”, ”Pakistan Supports Terrorism” and “Iran Worst Terror Proliferator”, among others, are very insulting and unfair, as they present sovereign countries and their citizens as terrorists.
Are the attacks and accusations on these and other states work of bad journalism or maybe corrupted journalism, or both, or maybe government propaganda, or failed intelligence?
Let's take a look on some interesting facts concerning these states which are not propaganda, accusations or attacks, but rather information available to all interested in so-called “another side of the story”.
THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN
Iran, a founding member of the United Nation, has a population of over 74 million and is a home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations.
Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran has been accused by a number of states, including the United States, Israel and some European countries, of funding, providing equipment, weapons, training, and giving sanctuary to terrorists.
Particularly, the United States broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1981, after the Iranian students seized the American Embassy in Tehran, where they held 53 Americans hostage for 444 days. According to the US officials, the US Government objects to Iran's sponsorship of terrorism, its nuclear weapons ambitions, and its violations of human rights. The US Department of State lists Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism.
In addition, Iran has been accused of using the Ministry of Intelligence and Security to gather intelligence to plan terrorist attacks, of giving weapons and support to the Iraqi insurgency, of giving weapons and support to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, for murder and kidnapping of the US Colonel William Higgins in Lebanon, among other things.
We are more or less aware of accusations against Iran and current public opinion concerning Iran, but there are many things about Iran which are less known to the public.
We can sum the reasons of Iran's isolation from the rest of the world, and Iran's classification as a terrorist state through Iran's defying policy and Iran's ties with Hezbollah. Other reasons, like links to the Islamic Jihad (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) are more or less speculations, rather than the real deal. Concerning links with Hamas, the Hamas is not politically tied to Iran and it is mostly financed from Saudi Arabia. Hamas and Iran's connections are subjected to deeper debate.
Iran's Defying Policy
Iran's post revolution challenges have included the imposition of embargo and suspension of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States because of the Iran hostage crisis and other acts of terrorism that the US government and some others have accused Iran of sponsoring. To overcome foreign embargo, Iran has developed its own military industry, produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, submarines, military vessels, radar systems, helicopters and fighter planes.
Iran's foreign policy is based on two strategic principles: to eliminate outside influences in the region and to pursue extensive diplomatic contacts with developing and non-aligned countries. The Islamic Republic of Iran accords priority to its relations with the other states in the region and with the rest of the Islamic world. Presidents of Venezuela and Iran have both described themselves on the world stage as opposed to US imperialism. Venezuela and Iran regard each other as close allies.
Iran has been accused by the United States of giving weapons and support to the Iraqi insurgency. Despite these claims, no supportive evidence has ever been made viewable to the public, and while in the past US officials made the claim that the evidence was held in Iraq's possession and it would be up to them to decide whether to reveal it or not, Iraqi officials have claimed on various occasions that no such evidence exists. Nouri Maliki, Iraqi's Prime Minister has praised Iran for its positive and constructive stance on Iraq, including providing security and fighting terrorism.
Iran's nuclear program has become the subject of debate with the Western world due to suspicions that Iran could divert the civilian nuclear technology to a weapons program. This has led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran on select companies linked to this program.
The controversy over Iran's nuclear programs centers in particular on Iran's failure to declare sensitive enrichment and reprocessing activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran asserts that there is no legal basis for Iran's referral to the United Nations Security Council since the IAEA has not proven that previously undeclared activities had a relationship to a weapons program, and that all nuclear material in Iran (including material that may not have been declared) had been accounted for and had not been diverted to military purposes. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, and has enriched uranium to less than 5 percent, consistent with fuel for a civilian nuclear power plant.
There are nearly 8,000 active nuclear warheads and about 23,300 nuclear warheads in the world. Since 1945, nuclear weapons have been detonated on over two thousand occasions for testing purposes and demonstration purposes. Countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons are: the United States, the Soviet Union (Russia), the United Kingdom, France, the People's Republic of China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, though it has refused to confirm or deny this. South Africa produced six nuclear weapons in the 80s, but disassembled them in the early 90s. Iran has no nuclear warheads.
The US and British officials have accused Iran of giving weapons and support to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. The US Time Magazine described Iran as: "implacably hostile to the Taliban over that movement's extremist theology and over its killing of Afghan Shiite Muslims. In 1999, Iran almost went to war against the Taliban after its militia killed eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist after capturing a predominantly Shiite town, and has worked together with Russia to support anti-Taliban opposition forces." The Islamic government of Iran has a hard-line policy against drugs. This has often brought the government of Iran into direct conflict with the Taliban, which controls the drug trade in neighboring Afghanistan.
Iran's new foreign policy has had a dramatic effect on its global standing. Relations with the European Union have dramatically improved to the point where Iran is a major oil exporter and trading partner in countries such as Italy, France and Germany. China, India, Sudan, Senegal, Morocco have also emerged as friends of Iran. Next to the well known relations with Venezuela, Iran has close relations with Brazil, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
There has also been some low-level cooperation between the US and Iran on anti-drug policies, counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11 attack, and anti oil smuggling efforts in Iraq. It was said that Iran was willing, under the right conditions, to improve its chilly relations with the US. A number of US experts, who include academics and former US ambassadors, warned against a military attack on Iran and called for unconditional negotiations with the Iranian Government. Even President Barack Obama spoke directly to the Iranian people in a video saying: "The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right - but it comes with real responsibilities."
Iran now is leading manufacture in the Middle East; industries include car-manufacture and transportation, construction materials, home appliances, food and agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, power and petrochemicals. Iran holds 10% of the worlds proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas. It is OPEC's (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) second largest exporter and the world's fourth oil producer. Iran ranks seventh among countries in the world with the most archeological architectural ruins and attractions from antiquity as recognized by UNESCO.
Iran is an example of a country that has made considerable advances through education and training, despite international sanctions in almost all aspects of research during the past few decades. Despite the limitations in funds, facilities, and international collaborations, Iranian scientists remain highly productive in several experimental fields as pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, organic chemistry, and polymer chemistry.
Iran has been widely accused of supporting and financing Hezbollah for years. The US Government estimates that Iran was giving Hezbollah about $60-$100 million per year in financial assistance but that assistance declined as other funding was secured, primarily from South America. Besides financial, Hezbollah also receives political assistance, as well as weapons and training from Iran. As of July 2009 it was reported that Iran is helping Hezbollah rebuild Lebanon.
What is Hezbollah?
Hezbollah is a Shi'a Islamist political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon. Some western governments consider Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; some, however, do not.
Hezbollah is believed to be a major provider of social services, which operate schools, hospitals, and agricultural services for thousands of Lebanese Shiites, and plays a significant force in Lebanese politics. Hezbollah holds seats in the Lebanese government, and has a radio and a satellite television station, and programs for social development. Lebanon's new Cabinet unanimously approved a draft policy statement which secures Hezbollah's existence as an armed organization and guarantees its right to liberate or recover occupied lands. Lebanon continues to reject the US-Israeli demands that they freeze Hezbollah's bank accounts and force it to stop providing social services.
Since the Supreme Leader of Iran is the ultimate clerical authority, Hezbollah's leaders have appealed to him for guidance and directives in cases when Hezbollah's collective leadership was too divided over issues and failed to reach a consensus. After the death of Iran's first Supreme Leader, Khomeini, Hezbollah's governing bodies developed a more independent role and appealed to Iran less often.
Governments disagree on Hezbollah's status as a legitimate political entity, a terrorist group, or both. In 1999, Hezbollah was placed on the US State Department terrorism list. After Hezbollah's condemnation of the September 11 attacks, it was removed from the list, but it was later returned to the list when Dick Cheney opined that a "presumed Hezbollah operative" probably met with an Al Qaeda representative in South America in 2001.
At the urging of the US and Israel, Canada classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which limits the group's ability to raise funds and travel internationally. A Canadian peace coalition called Tadamon Montreal is working to remove Hezbollah from the Terrorism list in Canada.
Australia and the UK distinguish between Hezbollah's security and political wings, and other countries like China, Russia, and member states of the European Union and the United Nations have refused the US-Israel demands to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization at all.
It appears Iran is doing the world a favor by financing Hezbollah. If not, Hezbollah would be desperate for funds, and would be engaged in numerous illegal activities to reach them.
Unfortunately, today Iran is known to the public for “bad things”; however, the truth is Iran gave us so many good and useful things.
Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC. Iran is a founding member of the United Nations, and host of the Tehran Conference in 1943. Persian scientists contributed to the current understanding of nature, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy. Persians made important contributions to algebra and chemistry, invented the wind-power machine, and the first distillation of alcohol. Ethanol (alcohol) was first identified by Persian alchemists Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi is widely hailed as the father of algebra.
Iran is the ninth country in the world capable of both producing a satellite and sending it into space from a domestically-made launcher. Iran's Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics is a UNESCO chair in biology. Stem cell research in Iran is amongst the top 10 in the world. Iran is the 7th country in production of Uranium Hexafluoride. Iran is ranked 15th in the world in nanotechnologies. Iran is the birthplace of polo, and Varzesh-e Pahlavani (traditional Martial art and a style of Wrestling). There are currently between 70-80 Iranians working for NASA, making up approximately 43% of NASA's researchers. Iran has a vast number of professors and scientist working around the world in most prestigious institutions and Universities, among others.
Terrorist attacks and mass car bombings in Iran
On January, 12, 2010, Tehran University professor, particle physics scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was killed in a remote control bomb explosion in the Iranian capital and at least two people were lightly wounded in the explosion. No organization has yet reliably claimed responsibility.
On May 28, 2009, an explosion at a prominent Shi'ite Muslim mosque in the southeast Iranian city of Zahedan killed 25 people and wounded 80. On June 20, 2009, a suicide bomb reportedly exploded at the shrine of the former Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leaving 1 dead and 2 injured. In October 2009, 42 people died in the suicide attack in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan, and dozens more injured.
On April 12, 2008, a bomb exploded inside of the Shohada Hosseiniyeh mosque leaving 13 dead and over 200 injured. The same year, a suicide bomber belonging to the Sunni militant group Jundallah killed 4 and wounded 12 civilians.
On June 12, 2005, bombs exploded in the cities of Ahvaz and Tehran, leaving 10 dead and 80 wounded days before the Iranian presidential election. On October 15, the same year, two bombs exploded at a shopping mall in Ahvaz, Khuzestan leaving 6 dead and over 100 injured. The list goes on.
Numerous civilians, including women, children, government officials, activists, intellectuals and clerics have been victims of terrorism over the course of modern Iranian history.
Therefore, the questions are: Does Iran really present a threat to the world? Is Iran a victim of political or deadly terror, or both?
THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN
Pakistan has been accused by many countries like India, Poland, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan, the United States and the United Kingdom of persistent involvement in terrorism in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been accused by Human Rights Watch of sheltering and training the Taliban, bankrolling Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support for Taliban, arranging training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and on several occasions apparently directly providing combat support. Pakistan is also said to be a haven for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Sipah-e-Sahaba.
Many consider that Pakistan has been playing both sides in the US "War on Terror". The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI, the largest intelligence service in Pakistan) has often been accused of playing a role in major terrorist attacks across the world including the September 11 attacks, terrorism in Kashmir, Mumbai Train Bombings, 2005 London Bombings, Indian Parliament Attack, Varnasi bombings, Hyderabad bombing and Mumbai terror attacks. The ISI is also accused of supporting Taliban forces and recruiting and training Mujahedeen to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Satellite images from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and India's Research and Analysis Wing suggest the existence of many terrorist camps in Pakistan.
The government of Pakistan has come under the fire for the alleged involvements in terrorist bombings in India, which killed thousands over the last decade. India alleged that the recent 2008 Mumbai attacks originated in Pakistan, and that the attackers were in touch with a Pakistani colonel and other handlers in Pakistan. In July 2009, President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari admitted that the Pakistani government had "created and nurtured" terrorist groups to achieve its short-term foreign policy goals. In fact, the US has stated that the next attack on the US could originate in Pakistan.
Knowing this entire story about Pakistan, why did the US in 2004 recognize closer bilateral ties with Pakistan by designating Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally, making it eligible, among other things, to purchase advanced American military technology? Why did the US and Pakistan conclude the sale of F-16 aircraft in late 2006 to Pakistan Army, further reflecting their deepening strategic partnership? Why does the US shelter Pakistan nuclear development and warheads, when Pakistan has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)?
If all concerning Pakistan is true, why did the following countries form the “Friends of Pakistan” group: Britain, France, Germany, the United States, China, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Turkey, Australia and Italy, plus the United Nations and the European Union? Why did the US congress approve $7.5 Billion non-military aid to Pakistan over the next 5 years?
Despite all this, Pakistan stands strong in international community, and it appears Iran has much to learn from Pakistan when it comes to bilateral relations with the United States.
Actually, Pakistan and Iran are much more than so called “Terrorist States”. Pakistan and Iran are two out of eleven countries classified as “the Next Eleven - N-11”. Goldman Sachs investment bank identified the two for having a high potential of becoming the world's largest economies in the 21st century along with the BRIC's (fast-growing developing economies) countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Terrorist attacks and mass car bombings in Pakistan
On February 5, 2010, a motorbike laden with explosives targeted a bus carrying a group of Shias to a religious festival. A second bomb exploded outside the entrance to the emergency ward of the Jinnah hospital where the victims of the first attack were being treated. More than 33 people were killed and 170 injured. On February 3, a blast near a school hits a Pakistani Frontier Corps convoy. The attack killed several children and 3 US Marines attached as trainers to the Pakistani frontiersmen.
On January 30, 2010, a suicide bomber detonated at a checkpoint in Khar, the main town in the troubled Bajaur tribal region, killing 16 and injuring 20 people. On January 23, a car bomb exploded against a Police Station in South Waziristan, killing 4 people. On January 12, a rocket struck a two storey building in the city of Peshawar resulting in the building collapsing. Emergency services were able to evacuate five people to hospital with various injuries but one person was reported trapped in the building as was presumed dead from the terrorist incident. On January 6, a suicide bomber targeted a Pakistan army patrol in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, killing four Pakistani soldiers and injuring eleven other soldiers. Pakistan officials blamed the attack on the Pakistani Taliban. On January 3, a bomb attack hit the north-western Pakistani town of Hangu, killing a former provincial minister and two other people.
On January 1, 2010, At least 105 people died and over 100 were injured, many of them critically, when the suicide bomber blew up his sport utility vehicle filled with explosives in the middle of a crowd that had gathered to watch a volleyball game. As of 3 January 2010, it was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan since the Peshawar bombing in October 2009 when more than 110 people died.
On December 28, 2009, a suicide bomber detonated at a crowded Shia Muslim parade, killing 43 and injuring 60. On December 27, a suicide bomber detonated at a checkpoint outside a local Shia Muslim gathering point in the town of Muzaffarabad, killing 5 injuring 62. On December 27, Pakistan Militants blow up the house of local official Sarbraz Saddiqi, killing him, his wife and four children. On December 24, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a checkpoint, killing 4 and injuring 12. On December 22, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a press club, killing 3 and injuring 17. On December 18, a suicide bomber detonates near a mosque, killing 12 and injuring 28. On December 15, a bomb blast hit a market in the central Pakistani town of Dera Ghazi Khan, killing 33 and injuring 50. On December 8, suicide attackers raided an Inter-Services Intelligence office in the city, killing 12 and injuring 25. On December 7, two bomb blasts ripped through a busy market crammed by shoppers. The attack, which injured some 100 people, sparked a huge blaze at the city's Moon Market. The blasts came just hours after a suicide bomber killed 10 and injured 44 people in Peshawar. On December 7, two anti-Taliban tribal elders were assassinated by a remotely controlled bomb near a mosque. On December 4, four gunmen attacked a mosque which was frequented by Pakistani military personnel, killing 38 and injuring 80. Security forces responded to the incident and a gun battle erupted, followed by three of the attackers detonating themselves. On December 2, Suicide bomber detonated at entrance to the Pakistani Naval HQ, killing 2 people. On December 1, a Pakistani government official was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack at his residence. And the list goes on.
Looking at this, we can say without a doubt that Pakistan is “the world's largest magnet for terrorist attacks”.
Just in 2009 Pakistan had around 60 terrorist attacks in which more than 1,000 people lost their lives and more than 2,400 were injured. In 2008 Pakistan had around 45 terrorist attacks in which more than 750 people lost their lives and more than 1,400 were injured. And the list of attacks continues.
Pakistan and Iran are not the only major victims of terrorist attacks. A report of terrorist incidents shows that Afghanistan, Iraq, India, Somalia, Yemen, Israel, Lebanon, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Philippines are as well major victims of terrorism.
In the end, the question is: how come the countries which are accused of supporting and protecting terrorism are in fact the main victims of terrorism?