As the Trump Administration continues with a solid week of escalating rhetoric surrounding Iran, sparked by a single missile test last weekend, Defense Secretary James Mattis joined in, condemning Iran as “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
At the same time, Mattis seemed to downplay the near-term chances of a US attack on Iran, insisting that he saw no need to immediately increase the number of US ground troops deployed in the region surrounding Iran “at this time,” insisting that the US “always have the capability” to do so later.
While the US initially responded to Iran’s missile test by saying it might technically violate a UN ban on nuclear missile tests (Iran denies this, insisting it was a conventional missile), it very quickly escalated, mostly on Trump’s Twitter account, and irrespective of Iran not actually having done anything new. By Thursday, Trump was refusing to rule out attacking Iran militarily.
The “biggest state sponsor of terrorism” claim is a popular one among hawks, but very misleading. Under US law, only three nations can be state sponsors of terrorism at all: Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Given how poor Sudan is, and that Syria is in the middle of a civil war, Iran is pretty much guaranteed to be at the top of the official list every year by default, ensuring this talking point remains intact.
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