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News / Nation & World

State Department calls Iran top state sponsor of terrorism

Iran denies charge, accuses the U.S. of destabilizing region

By Carol Morello, The Washington Post
Published: September 19, 2018, 7:01pm

WASHINGTON — The State Department released a report Wednesday identifying Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism with a “near-global reach” and accusing it of sending suspected operatives to the United States.

The annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017 said Iran and the proxy groups it finances were responsible for attacks or attempted attacks in the Middle East, Europe, South America and Africa.

“It brings to its terrorist activities the resources of a state,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism, said by phone.

“Iran uses terrorism as a tool of its statecraft,” he added. “It has no reservations about using that tool on any continent.”

The Iranian mission to the United Nations issued a statement denying it supports terrorists and accused the United States of destabilizing the region.

“Iran has fought ISIS, al-Qaida, their various associate and affiliated terror groups and other terrorist groups in our region for decades,” the statement said. “The U.S., meanwhile, has destabilized the region at every turn by invading countries under false pretenses, supporting brutal invasions and occupations by its proxy states, and by supporting terrorists across the region.”

Since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in May, the administration has taken an increasingly tough stance on Iran. In November, it will reimpose oil sanctions, which were suspended under the deal in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

In anticipation of the sanctions, U.S. officials have been pressuring other countries to halt or drastically reduce their purchases of Iranian oil, the chief source of foreign revenue. They have threatened to impose secondary sanctions on businesses and countries that keep buying oil from Iran.

After abandoning the nuclear deal, the administration seeks to negotiate a treaty with Iran that will cover both its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, said Brian Hook, the special envoy for Iran.

In a speech at the Hudson Institute on Wednesday morning, Hook said the goal is to reach a “new deal” with Iran that ends in a treaty.

Hook acknowledged that Iranian leaders have shown no interest in talks with U.S. officials, although both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said they would be willing to meet with Iranians.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are expected to be in New York next week for the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. The Iranians are not scheduled to meet with U.S. officials.