US targets Iran and its proxy groups in new counterterror blueprint
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US targets Iran and its proxy groups in new counterterror blueprint

DC calls Tehran the ‘world’s central banker of international terrorism’ for supporting Hezbollah, Hamas and others; strategy urges sharing burden of fighting terror with allies

Iranians raise anti-US and anti-Israel signs during a demonstration following the weekly Muslim Friday prayer in the capital Tehran on September 28, 2018. (AFP / STRINGER)
Iranians raise anti-US and anti-Israel signs during a demonstration following the weekly Muslim Friday prayer in the capital Tehran on September 28, 2018. (AFP / STRINGER)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Thursday unveiled the administration’s long-awaited counterterrorism strategy, delivering it with harsh words for Iran.

Calling Iran the “world’s central banker of international terrorism,” Bolton said the strategy will rely on traditional military action to fight terrorists, but also seek increased emphasis on non-military means to battle not only Islamic State militants but those backed by Iran and other groups.

“We recognize that there’s a terrorist ideology that we’re confronting, and I think it’s long been the president’s view that without recognizing that we’re in an ideological struggle, that we can’t properly address the terrorist threat,” Bolton said.

The document calls Iran “the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, through its global network of operatives and its ongoing support to an array of terrorist groups.”

It specifically lists Hezbollah and Hamas as two terror groups supported by Iran that could pose a threat to the US.

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon’s
Shiite terrorist movement Hezbollah, addresses the crowds through a giant screen at a rally agains US President Trump decision to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem, on December 11, 2017 in a Beirut southern suburb. (AFP PHOTO)

“Hizballah fields powerful military and intelligence elements, possesses large stocks of sophisticated arms, and maintains extensive networks of operatives and sympathizers overseas, including individuals in the homeland,” the document reads.

Bolton said radical extremists represent a “pre-eminent transnational terrorist threat” to the US and its interests abroad. The new strategy is broader than those released by previous administrations, he said.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks during a briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on October 3, 2018. (AFP / Mandel NGAN)

“We’re looking at all of the threatening ideologies that we face, including not just Sunni ideologies” espoused by IS militants, but Iran-sponsored terrorist groups, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad, Bolton said.

He noted that the Treasury Department issued sanctions earlier Thursday to disrupt Hezbollah’s financial support networks.

The strategy’s goals are far-reaching: pursue terrorists all the way to the source of their support, modernize counterterrorism tools, counter radicalization, protect US infrastructure, strengthen borders and limit militants’ ability to recruit online.

It’s the first US strategy on counterterrorism since President Barack Obama released his approach in 2011, but it has similar themes to those released by previous administrations.

In line with the Trump administration’s “America First” policy, the strategy also calls for sharing the burden and expense of fighting terrorism with allies.

“The strategy also places greater emphasis on protecting the homeland, preventing attacks, and mitigating the impact of an attack, should one occur,” Bolton said.

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