The Iranian regime’s 40-year campaign of assassinations

Iran’s regime has conducted assassinations and sponsored terrorism throughout its 40-year history, targeting Iranian dissidents and foreign officials worldwide.

The violence dates back to 1979, soon after the regime seized power. Iranian students attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking American diplomats and embassy employees hostage in a gross violation of international norms. Fifty-two hostages were held for 444 days.

Since then, Iran’s regime has killed and maimed hundreds in targeted assassinations and bombing attacks in more than 40 countries, according to the U.S. State Department. The U.S. Institute of Peace says the Iranian regime’s assassinations include at least 21 political opponents abroad killed between 1979 and September 2020.

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have carried out attacks, though Iran’s leaders also work through proxy forces such as Hizballah.

Here are a few of the Iranian regime’s assassinations, bomb attacks and foiled plots:


December 7, 1979: Months after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (pictured below) founded the Islamic Republic of Iran, an assassin shot and killed the former ruler’s nephew Shahriar Shafiq in Paris. An Iranian official claimed responsibility, according to news reports.

Ruhollah Khomeini seated (© AP Images)
An official with the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, seen in Tehran on February 1, 1979, claimed responsibility for the killing of a nephew of the former ruler. (© AP Images)


October 23, 1983: Hizballah attacked the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 American service members who were on a peacekeeping mission.

People wearing Red Cross emblems and cranes near rubble at blast site (© Jim Bourdier/AP Images)
The Hizballah bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut killed 241 American service members. (© Jim Bourdier/AP Images)


June 14, 1985: Members of Hizballah hijacked TWA Flight 847 over Greece. Iran’s regime provided support for the hijackers, who killed a U.S. Navy diver and threatened to kill Jewish passengers.

Man and child hugging (© Dennis Cook/AP Images)
Victor Amburgy returns home to the United States after surviving the Iran-backed hijacking of TWA Flight 847. (© Dennis Cook/AP Images)


July 13, 1989: Iranian officials shot and killed the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, and two aides after meeting them under diplomatic pretenses in Vienna, according to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

People marching in street with large poster and flags (© Hans Punz/AP Images)
Hundreds protest the killing of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in a July 13, 2006, demonstration in Vienna. (© Hans Punz/AP Images)


August 6, 1991: Iranian intelligence agents assassinated former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar at his home near Paris. The assassins posed as businessmen to access Bakhtiar’s residence, then beat and stabbed him to death, according to news reports.

Large crowd at gravesite (© Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images)
Mourners surround the gravesite of former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar during his funeral August 14, 1991 in Paris. (© Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images)


March 17, 1992: A suicide bomber attacked the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killing 20 people and wounding 252 others. Islamic Jihad, an organization tied to Hizballah, claimed responsibility. Israeli investigators say Iranian regime officials ordered the attack.

People examining destroyed building (© Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)
The March 17, 1992, bombing destroyed Israel’s embassy in Argentina and killed 20 people. (© Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)


June 25, 1996: Hizballah detonated a truck packed with explosives at the Khobar Towers complex that housed U.S. Air Force members in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. federal judge ruled in 2006 that Iran was responsible for the attack that killed 19 Americans.

Multi-story building with front wall blasted off (© Saleh Rifai/AP Images)
The Iran-backed bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killed 19 and injured 260. (© Saleh Rifai/AP Images)


September 29, 2011: The Iranian regime plotted to kill Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, in an attack on U.S. soil. The United States has sanctioned four Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members in connection with the failed plot.

Close-up of Adel Al-Jubeir (© Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP Images)
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir speaks to the media in Washington in March 2017. (© Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP Images)


June 2012: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force plotted bomb attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya, targeting U.S., Israeli, Saudi and British nationals. Authorities foiled the plot. A Kenyan court later sentenced two Iranian agents, caught with 15 kilograms of explosives, to life in prison.

Two men trying to hide their faces (© Billy Mutai/Nation Media/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Iranian agents appear in court in Nairobi in June 2012 on charges related to a foiled bomb plot. (© Billy Mutai/Nation Media/Gallo Images/Getty Images)


October 30, 2018: Iranian intelligence agents plotted to kill Habib Jabor, the leader of an Iranian separatist group, in Denmark, according to Danish officials. Swedish authorities arrested a man said to have monitored Jabor’s home and extradited the suspect to Denmark.

Police officer with weapon standing near building (© Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer guards a courthouse in Roskilde, Denmark, in June, where a Norwegian-Iranian man was convicted in connection with a plot to kill the leader of an Iranian separatist group. (© Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images)