Authoritarian governments almost always use a culture of terror and violence to intimidate or eliminate their opponents. The Islamic Republic of Iran is no different in this regard, no matter who might be the "face" of the regime as president. Real power has always been held by the Supreme Leader of the Council of Ayatollahs who run the president, and they use murder as an instrument of governance and statecraft.
The assassination of political dissidents inside and outside Iran has two major objectives for the Supreme Leader. Because the heart of the Iranian government is the Council of Islamic Jurists, opposition means one is both "anti-revolutionary" and an apostate -- literally "corrupted on earth." Therefore, the murder of opponents is justified on both grounds.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has a significant role in pursuing the Iranian government's terrorist goals. The IRGC is an armed force that was formed by Ayatollah Khomeini to preserve the "Revolution" and its "achievements." The two major organizations involved in assassination of Iranian political activists were the IRGC and Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Lebanon's Hezbollah organization was originally created and trained by the IRGC, which armed it as well. Accordingly, Iran bears responsibility for all the terrorism committed by Hezbollah over the last 30 years, in addition to its own appalling human rights record.
The IRGC is not just a political paramilitary group like Hitler's SS or Stalin's NKVD; it also has its own economy and runs contraband activities to help fund itself. It consists of:
1. 31 Paramilitary "Corps" distributed close to the cities, which get first call on conscripts and new military equipment
2. The Basij Militia: a paramilitary police force of 90,000 that are the ideological police of the Iranian Revolution.
3. The Ansar ol Mahdi Force: It provides bodyguards for senior members of the regime and controls the nuclear program and the rocket force
4. The Qods Force which plots and cooperates with terrorists around the world.
Iranian officials claim terrorism is strange to them but they have facilitated a lot of it. Victims include Shahriar Shafigh, the Shah of Iran's nephew, assassinated in 1979 in Paris; and Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a former Iranian press attaché in the U.S. under the Shah of Iran, assassinated in 1980 in Washington. In 1984, General Gholam Ali Oveisi, the former military governor of Tehran, and his brother Hossein Oveisi were assassinated in Paris. Dr. Abdol Rahman Ghassemlou, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, along with two party members, Abdollah Ghaderi and Fazel Rasoul, were killed in 1989 in Vienna. The assassins were sent by the former Iranian President, Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Dr. Kazem Rajavi, Iran's first ambassador to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva after the 1979 Revolution and a member of Iran's National Council of Resistance was killed in 1990 in Switzerland. The Swiss investigators discovered that 13 Iranian embassy officials were involved.
In 1991, Dr. Abdol Rahman Boroumand, a founder of the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance, was stabbed to death in the lobby of his apartment by agents of the Iranian government in Paris. Three months later, former Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar and his assistant Soroush Katibeh were also stabbed to death in Paris. Ali Vakili Rad, one of the assassins of Bakhtiar and Katibeh was given a life sentence by a Paris court but the French government released Rad in 2006 and let him to return to Iran.
During the early 1980s, Bakhtiar was unsuccessfully targeted by a Lebanese terrorist group led by Anis Naghash. Naghash is currently one of the commanders of the IRGC. In 1992, Fereydoun Farrokhzad, the Iranian poet and singer who used to criticize the Iranian government and Ayatollah Khomeini, was stabbed to death in Germany.
Another terrorist attack by Iranian government agents occurred in a Berlin restaurant in Berlin in 1992; Sadegh Sharafkandi (the Secretary General of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran), Fattah Abdoli, Homayoun Ardalan, and Nouri Dehkordi were murdered. In April 10, 1997, a Berlin court announced the assassination was plotted by Ali Khamenei (Iran Supreme Leader), Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (then Iran's president), and Ali Fallahian (Iran's former minister of intelligence). This attack was coordinated by Iran's secret services in Bonn -- which were instrumental in enabling terrorist attacks against Iranian dissidents across Europe during the late1980s and1990s.
Iran might have a new president today, but sponsorship of terrorism will remain as one of the key tools of the state.
Special thanks to Parviz Dastmalchi, the survivor of Berlin Mykonos Restaurant assassinations of 1992.
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