The United States said 2012 saw a marked resurgence of Iran's state-sponsored terrorism, including its aid to the Syrian regime during its two-year crackdown on the Syrian people. The U.S. State Department makes the accusation in its annual report
to Congress on the global state of terrorism.
The report said both Iran and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah were exceptionally active in plotting terrorist activities last year, and provided a broad range of support to Syria's regime in its crackdown on the Syrian people.
A spokeswoman for the State Department, Jennifer Psaki, said Thursday that Washington is concerned about the involvement of foreign fighters in the Syrian conflict.
"We are very concerned about foreign fighters, whether they're in Syria, or the overflow of violence into neighboring countries. And that's something we've expressed frequently here. And we've been very clear about our concerns over the regional instability caused by this crisis in Syria," Psaki stated.
The report also said al-Qaida's central leadership in Pakistan and its affiliate in Yemen weakened in 2012. But as a result, some groups in the network became more independent.
U.S. President Barack Obama made a similar observation in a major speech on counterterrorism last week.
"That means we will face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or at the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives - perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks - launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats," Obama said. "Companies and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations."
The State Department report said terrorist attacks occurred in 85 countries in 2012, most of them in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
Middle East analyst Matthew Duss at the Center for American Progress links the recent increase of violence in Iraq with the unrest in Syria.
"The movement of fighters, the movement of goods, the reopening of smuggling routes through which fighters traveled through Syria into Iraq - in some cases are now moving in the opposite direction," he said. "But still, any time you have a situation like this where you essentially have ungoverned spaces in an environment of conflict, it is going to give rise to situations like this.
Duss said the violence in Iraq is primarily a reflection of continuing political divisions, which are not addressed through appropriate political channels. He said giving voice to opposing groups, even some militants, can weaken terrorist organizations.
The State Department report said any long-term effort to fight terrorism must include building the capabilities worldwide to counter ideology that fuels terrorism.