Iranian influence can be found around the world. It’s not ubiquitous as U.S. influence, but it is powerful. The Iranian global projection network has been in place and growing since before 9/11 and through recent tensions. The media has been focused on Sunni terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda as of late. But, if you have the time and patience, a quick reading of Will Fulton’s, of the American Enterprise Insitute, testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade

The testimony is long but worthwhile read. Below is the testimony transcript:

The Islamic Republic of Iran is first and foremost concerned with regime preservation, and its strategic calculus and behavior are deeply influenced by this concern. It is therefore essential that Iran’s global terror campaign is considered within this context. Iran’s global force projection network, to include the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Force, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iran’s proxies in Iraq and Gaza, is primarily a deterrence and retaliatory force, nested within a strategy designed to protect the regime from external threats. By demonstrating a capability to strike U.S. and Israeli interests anywhere in the world, or creating a perception of this capability, Iran’s leaders hope to stave off a military strike, or at least make it extremely costly for their foes.

This has been a component of Iran’s strategic thinking since the earliest years of the Iranian Revolution. In 1980, while the regime was still in its infancy and officials were debating the direction of Iran’s foreign policy, the official organ of the IRGC published an editorial describing why Iran’s global terrorist network is fundamental to regime survival. It reads in part:

In order to achieve ideological, political, security and economic self-reliance we have no other choice but to mobilize all forces loyal to the Islamic Revolution, and through this mobilization, plant such a terror in the hearts of the enemies that they abandon the thought of an offensive and annihilation of our revolution…. If our revolution does not have an offensive and internationalist dimension, the enemies of Islam will again enslave us culturally, politically, and the like, and they will not abstain from plunder and looting.”

This, in my view, is an accurate reflection of Iranian strategic thinking still today. In order to understand the Iranian global terrorist activity that we see currently, it is important to bear in mind the strategic thinking out of which this behavior has emerged.

It is noteworthy that this sentiment was articulated by the IRGC, as this is the organization that is primarily responsible for managing Iran’s global force projection network.

The IRGC is a revolutionary, ideological military organization and an economic and political powerhouse within Iran. The IRGC’s self-described primary mission is to defend Iran’s Islamic Revolution; in other words, to preserve the regime. To accomplish this mission, the IRGC is tasked with internal security, conventional deterrence and defense, internal and external intelligence collection, and foreign military operations.