Over the past two centuries terrorism has been used for various reasons to achieve various goals. Terrorism has been used by a variety of social, religious and political zealots and ideologues and the historical development of terrorism shows that it is a tool mostly manipulated for a change. So far, and despite extensive academic and non-academic studies to examine the reasons behind the formation of terrorist groups, little has been done to investigate the role of the states in either the emergence of terrorist groups or sponsoring them. It can be examined at least from two perspectives; first, the role of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in the emergence of violent underground and terrorist groups, and second, the catalyst role the terrorist groups play for some states.
Authoritarian and repressive governments and regimes are themselves a cause of terrorism since they routinely stifle civil liberties in order to maintain their hold on power and keep society in check. These regimes instigate public discord and cause the emergence of violent underground groups to fight for a change. As they are also corrupt governments, resources, privileges, and advantages are reserved for a select group of the people or ruling elite and thus, corruption encumbers the fair distribution of social services and adds another layer to the resentment caused by the lack of political participation. To combat the authority of the repressive regimes, the emergence of campaigners and groups, some already committed to pursuing their goals through nonviolent means, proves to be a necessary. At least in the past century it has been the cause behind emergence and formation of violent groups in Iran. Hardly can we distinguish between the political groups whose main approach is armed warfare and the terrorists because the very same political groups end to terrorism due to their infrastructural ideology of armed and militant struggle. Of course, there are few that make a revision and adapt to the made change and get advantages of their democratic potentialities to secure their political interests through peaceful means. We have the example of the both groups in Iran’s history of the past century; the People’s Devoted Guerrillas and the Mujahedin Khalq.
The People’s Devoted Guerrillas, the majority, made a thorough revision in the principles of its political and strategic struggle after a fairly realistic analysis of the Iranian post-revolution situation and became a political process. However, a few of the survivors remained loyal to the armed policy, but because of their extremist inclination to Leninist ended to the abyss of terrorism and, for several reasons like weakness in organizational structure and the like, accepted the hegemony of Mujahedin Khalq. Thus, a militant group formed to fight the ousted Pahlavi’s regime divided into two branches each dedicating itself to a separate path of struggle.
The second group surviving pre-revolutionary armed warfare was Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO, MEK, PMOI, NCR, NLA). Mujahedin insisted to continue their armed strategy and rejected new rules as they had their own interpretation and analysis of the post-revolution era. They refused to deliver their weapons over to the newly formed regime and instead opened a front of controversy that led them to pursue their goals through violent means that eventually culminated to terrorism. The role of Pahlavi’s authoritarian and repressive regime for the birth of the two challenging groups, among many other armed groups, was inevitable and the shaping of all these groups, because of the regime’s non-flexibility and quashing of the scattered opposition and opponents, could in some way counterpoise the draconian pressure of the regime. Here, we can well see the connection between dictatorial governance and the formation of an armed movement that was wholeheartedly transformed into a global terrorist group.
The catalyst role the terrorist groups play for some states has to be also explored. That is, some imperialist and colonizing states facilitate the formation of terrorist groups and provide for them under a variety of freedom fighting names in different part of the world in an attempt to secure their long-term strategic interests and objectives. While some counter-terrorist theoreticians highlight the need to understand the organizational, ideological, and financial aspects of a global threat as al Qaeda in order to defeat this global network of terror, little is said about the powers that fed it to become the notorious al Qaeda. There are proven evidences that the US government was funding and working with Al-Qaeda up to September 11, 2001. However, as these collaborator groups have their own expiry date, they are soon in disgrace with their sponsors. The outcome will be nothing but to turn them into global threats and become claimants of some power and authority.
Regardless of the manipulation of al-Qaeda by the US, terrorism is the outcome of both regional or global power imbalance and authoritarian influence. But what is of significant importance is that along with the birth of these purposeful terrorist groups other forms of violent groups pop out of the created chaotic situations. These parallel violent groups well fill the created social and political gaps and are even manipulated as puppet terrorists by rival political campaigners and the mafia-like criminal networks for a variety of purposes.
Natural enough, they can be also manipulated and sponsored by behind-the-curtain controlling powers that get their benefit from the terrorist-infected regions and countries.
Similarly, we can observe such an engagement in global relations. In an initiative to counter terrorism, some states arrange a blacklist of groups that are considered to have posed a threat not only against their nations but also against the global peace and security while the very same groups are proclaimed by some other states as freedom-fighters and even counter-terrorists. The duality before anything benefits the terrorists themselves who enjoy the support of their sponsors to survive. That is the present condition of MKO; it is a blacklisted terrorist group on the US terrorist list and considered a global threat while it is removed from the EU terror list believing to be a pro-democratic and freedom-seeker group. And MKO owes its survival much to these states, claiming to be policymakers of combating against terrorism that have made a compromise with the group under a multifaceted contract to advance their political goals. Words and policies are of no use and can help in no way to curtail terrorism unless there is a universal willingness to stop compromising with terrorists.