Should Israel be classified as a state sponsor of terrorism? That question is being debated in the wake of a story that NBC News broke late last week.
Citing unnamed US officials, NBC reported that Israel has used an Iranian opposition group to carry out those much-publicized assassinations of Iranian scientists. The group in question is the M.E.K. (Mojahedin-e Khalq, or People's Mujahedin of Iran), which since 1997 has been designated a terrorist group by the United States because of its alleged assassinations of US citizens.
The argument for considering Israel a supporter of terrorism comes in two varieties:
1) According to NBC, Israel gives the M.E.K. the funding, training, and weapons to carry out the assassinations--and that would seem to constitute support for a terrorist group.
2) Leaving aside the M.E.K. involvement, there's the argument that the assassinations inherently constitute terrorism. Andrew Sullivan and Kevin Drum had previously suggested that whoever is behind the assassinations is committing terrorism, but this NBC story is the first mainstream media corroboration of the widespread suspicion that Israel is behind them.
After the NBC story broke, Paul Pillar, a former CIA official who teaches at Georgetown, dusted off the definition of terrorism used by the US government for purposes of keeping statistics: "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents." That, says Pillar, is what these assassinations are.