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LONDON: Iran is continuing to behave as an exporter of terrorism and still sponsors militant activity, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said in London on Friday.

Asked about comments he made in 2012 that the three primary threats the US faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran,” Mattis told reporters that Iran’s behavior had not changed in the years since.

“At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US Central Command and that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today,” Mattis said.

International experts agreed with Mattis’ assertion that Tehran is a key global supporter of terror.

“Iran single-handedly trains, finances, arms and supports a quarter of world-designated terrorist groups. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has also given birth to many powerful militia groups in the region,” Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard scholar and US-based expert on Iranian affairs, told Arab News.

“Many believe that Iran is more dangerous than groups such as (Daesh) because the Islamic Republic is the disease and these groups are the symptoms… To address the underlying issue, the disease should be tackled.”

Despite the recent nuclear deal reached between Tehran and the US and other world powers, the “core pillars” of Iran’s foreign policy have not changed since 1979, Rafizadeh added.

“These pillars are mainly anchored in revolutionary principles, such as exporting its religion or anti-Americanism, and geopolitical landscapes such as pursuing regional hegemonic ambitions, pre-eminence, and superiority,” he said.

On his first visit to Britain as Pentagon chief, Mattis made clear he still worries about Iran’s involvement in what the US sees as destabilizing activities across the Middle East.

He also said North Korea must be stopped on its path toward being able to threaten the US with nuclear attack, emphasizing diplomatic means of changing Pyongyang’s “reckless” agenda.

— With Reuters

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