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"State Sponsors of Terrorism" is a designation applied by the United States Department of State to countries which the Department alleges to have "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism". Inclusion on the list imposes strict unilateral sanctions.
The State Department is required to maintain the list under section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act.
The list began on December 29, 1979, with Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, and Syria. Cuba was added to the list on March 1, 1982, and Iran on January 19, 1984. Later North Korea in 1988 and Sudan on August 12, 1993, were added. South Yemen was removed from the list in 1990, Iraq was removed twice in 1982 and 2004, Libya was removed in 2006, and Cuba was removed in 2015. North Korea was removed in 2008, but was re-added to the list again in 2017.
|“||Overview: Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and for Hizballah. It has also increased its presence in Africa and attempted to smuggle arms to Houthi separatists in Yemen and Shia oppositionists in Bahrain. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its regional proxy groups to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.
Iran views Syria as a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route to Hizballah, its primary beneficiary. In 2013, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of Iraqi Shia fighters to the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown, a crackdown that has resulted in the death of more than 100,000 civilians in Syria. Iran has publicly admitted sending members of the IRGC to Syria in an advisory role. There are reports indicating some of these troops are IRGC-QF members and that they have taken part in direct combat operations. In February, senior IRGC-QF commander Brigadier General Hassan Shateri was killed in or near Zabadani, Syria. This was the first publicly announced death of a senior Iranian military official in Syria. In November, IRGC-QF commander Mohammad Jamalizadeh Paghaleh was also killed in Aleppo, Syria. Subsequent Iranian media reports stated that Paghaleh was volunteering in Syria to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque, which is located in Damascus. The location of Paghaleh’s death, over 200 miles away from the mosque he was reported to be protecting, demonstrated Iran’s intent to mask the operations of IRGC-QF forces in Syria.
Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war. Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has also assisted in rearming Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. These trained fighters often use these skills in support of the Assad regime in Syria.
Despite its pledge to support Iraq’s stabilization, Iran trained, funded, and provided guidance to Iraqi Shia militant groups. The IRGC-QF, in concert with Hizballah, provided training outside of Iraq as well as advisors inside Iraq for Shia militants in the construction and use of sophisticated improvised explosive device technology and other advanced weaponry. Similar to Hizballah fighters, many of these trained Shia militants then use these skills to fight for the Assad regime in Syria, often at the behest of Iran.
On January 23, 2013, Yemeni authorities seized an Iranian dhow, the Jihan, off the coast of Yemen. The dhow was carrying sophisticated Chinese antiaircraft missiles, C-4 explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and a number of other weapons and explosives. The shipment of lethal aid was likely headed to Houthi separatists in Northern Yemen. Iran actively supports members of the Houthi movement, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region.
In late April 2013, the Government of Bosnia declared two Iranian diplomats, Jadidi Sohrab and Hamzeh Dolab Ahmad, persona non grata after Israeli intelligence reported they were members of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. One of the two men had been spotted in India, Georgia, and Thailand, all of which were sites of a simultaneous bombing campaign in February 2012, according to Israeli intelligence. Both diplomats were subsequently expelled from Bosnia.
On December 29, 2013, the Bahraini Coast Guard interdicted a speedboat filled with weapons and explosives that was likely bound for Shia oppositionists in Bahrain, specifically the 14 February Youth Coalition (14 FYC). Bahraini authorities accused the IRGC-QF of providing opposition militants with explosives training in order to carry out attacks in Bahrain. The interdiction led to the discovery of two weapons and explosives cache sites in Bahrain, the dismantling of a car bomb, and the arrest of 15 Bahraini nationals.
On June 26, 2008, President George W. Bush announced that he would remove North Korea from the list. On October 11, the country was officially removed from the list for meeting all nuclear inspection requirements.
The North was initially added because it sold weapons to terrorist groups and gave asylum to Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction members. The country is also responsible for the Rangoon bombing and the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858.
According to Country Reports on Terrorism: April 30, 2007:
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987. The DPRK continued to harbor four Japanese Red Army members who participated in a jet hijacking in 1970. The Japanese government continued to seek a full accounting of the fate of the 12 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities; five such abductees have been repatriated to Japan since 2002. In the February 13, 2007 Initial Actions Agreement, the United States agreed to "begin the process of removing the designation of the DPRK as a state-sponsor of terrorism.
Terrorology specialist Gus Martin, writes in his university-level textbook, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, perspectives and issues that “it is important to note that the State Department’s list includes countries that have significantly reduced their involvement in terrorism, such as North Korea and Cuba. For example North Korea was at one time quite active in attacking South Korean interests. In November 1987, North Korean operatives apparently destroyed Korean Airlines Flight 858, which exploded in Myanmar (Burma), The North Korea government has since renounced its sponsorship of terrorism.”
The U.S State Department said it made the decision as Pyongyang had agreed to the verification of all of its nuclear programs, etc.
On April 13, 2008, Pyongyang agreed to dismantle the Yongbyon facility as part of an aid-for-disarmament deal, and in response, the US removed North Korea from its terrorism blacklist. Despite requests from the South Korea government to put North Korea back on the list after it sunk the Navy ship the ROKS Cheonan in 2010, the Obama administration stated that it will not do so because the act was conducted by only the North Korean military and was thus not an act of terror. However, following the incident, the Obama administration also stated that it would now closely monitor North Korea for signs for a return to international terrorism. US State Department spokesman P.J Crowley also said that returning North Korea to the list was under continual review.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she was considering renaming North Korea on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism. As of 2011[update], North Korea, unlike the other countries removed and the designated state sponsor of terrorism Sudan, is still listed as not fully cooperating with the United States to reduce terrorism.
In February 2017, following the alleged state-sponsored murder of Kim Jong-nam (Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother) using the nerve agent VX (banned under the international Chemical Weapons Convention, a convention which the North Korean government has not signed), pressure has been placed on the Trump administration to revoke Bush's lifting of sanctions but in April, the US politicians backed a bill to reinstate North Korea as a state sponsor of terror following the 2017 Shayrat missile strike in Syria, which North Korea viciously condemned. In August of the same year, the nation launched a missile that flew over Hokkaido, Japan, promoting severe condemnation from other states. In September, the parents of Otto Warmbier, who had died after being imprisoned in the nation, stated that they want North Korea to be relisted for his apparent murder. On November 20, 2017, President Trump officially announced re-listing North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
Sudan was added to the list on August 12, 1993.
According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013:
|“||Overview: Sudan was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1993. In 2013, the Government of Sudan remained a generally cooperative counterterrorism partner and continued to take action to address threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan.
Elements of al-Qa’ida (AQ)-inspired terrorist groups remained in Sudan. The Government of Sudan has taken steps to limit the activities of these elements, and has worked to disrupt foreign fighters’ use of Sudan as a logistics base and transit point for terrorists going to Mali, Syria, and Afghanistan. However, groups continued to operate in Sudan in 2013 and there continued to be reports of Sudanese nationals participating in terrorist organizations. For example, regional media outlets alleged one Sudanese national was part of an al-Shabaab terrorist cell that attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September. There was also evidence that Sudanese violent extremists participated in terrorist activities in Somalia and Mali.
In 2013, Sudan continued to allow members of Hamas to travel, fundraise, and live in Sudan.
The UN and NGOs reported in 2013 that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is likely operating in the disputed Kafia Kingi area, claimed by Sudan and South Sudan, in close proximity to Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). At year’s end, the United States continued to engage the Government of Sudan, the AU, and the UN to evaluate these reports.
The kidnapping of foreigners for ransom in Darfur continued, although no U.S. citizens were kidnapped in 2013. These kidnappings have hindered humanitarian operations in Darfur. Abductees have been released unharmed amid rumors of ransoms having been paid.
In 2013, the United States continued to pursue justice for the January 1, 2008 killing of two U.S. Embassy employees. At the end of the year, the Sudanese Supreme Court was deliberating on an appeal filed by defense attorneys of the three remaining men convicted of the two murders, requesting that their death sentences be commuted. In February 2013, one of five men convicted of aiding the 2010 escape attempt by the four convicted killers received a presidential commutation of his remaining sentence. Government of Sudan authorities explained his release was part of a broad administrative parole affecting 200 other prisoners who had served some portion of their sentences with good behavior. U.S. officials protested the commutation and urged the Government of Sudan authorities to imprison the convicted accomplice for the full 12 years of his sentence.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of State designated three of the individuals who participated in the January 1, 2008 killings – Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhasan Haj Hamad, Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim Mohamed, and Abd Al-Ra’Ouf Abu Zaid Mohamed Hamza – as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224.
In 2013, Sudanese authorities continued to prosecute 25 individuals detained during a raid in December 2012 on what the Government of Sudan described as a terrorist training camp operating in Dinder National Park. The so-called “Dinder cell” as of December was still awaiting trial on charges of terrorism and murder stemming from the deaths of several police involved in the December 2012 raid. At least one fringe party, Just Peace Forum, has called upon President Bashir to pardon members of the “Dinder Cell,” but the court cases were still ongoing at the end of the year. One trial judge from the country’s terrorism court remanded several cases back to the attorney general for additional interrogations.
The Government of Sudan has made some progress in opposing terrorist financing, although members of Hamas are permitted to conduct fundraising in Sudan. The Central Bank of Sudan and its financial intelligence unit circulate to financial institutions a list of individuals and entities that have been included on the consolidated list of the UNSC 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) Sanctions Committee, as well as the U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations and E.O. lists. The financing of terrorism per UNSCR 1373 (2001) was criminalized in Sudan pursuant to Sudan’s Money Laundering Act of 2003.
Sudan is generally responsive to international community concerns about counterterrorism efforts. Sudan’s vast, mostly unmonitored borders with Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea hampered counterterrorism efforts. Nonetheless, in recent years Sudan has forged increasingly stronger relations with its neighbors. For example, in December 2013, Government of Sudan law enforcement authorities hosted a regional workshop on counterterrorism initiatives under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s program for security sector reform.
|“||Overview: Designated in 1979 as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Assad regime continued its political support to a variety of terrorist groups affecting the stability of the region and beyond, even amid significant internal unrest. The regime continued to provide political and weapons support to Hizballah and continued to allow Iran to rearm the terrorist organization. The Assad regime’s relationship with Hizballah and Iran continued to grow stronger in 2013 as the conflict in Syria continued. President Bashar al-Assad remained a staunch defender of Iran's policies, while Iran has exhibited equally energetic support for Syrian regime efforts to defeat the Syrian opposition. Statements supporting terrorist groups, particularly Hizballah, were often in Syrian Government speeches and press statements.
The Syrian Government had an important role in the growth of terrorist networks in Syria through the permissive attitude the Assad regime took towards al-Qa’ida’s foreign fighter facilitation efforts during the Iraq conflict. Syrian Government awareness and encouragement for many years of violent extremists’ transit through Syria to enter Iraq, for the purpose of fighting Coalition Troops, is well documented. Syria was a key hub for foreign fighters en route to Iraq. Those very networks were the seedbed for the violent extremist elements that terrorized the Syrian population in 2013.
As part of a broader strategy during the year, the regime has attempted to portray Syria itself as a victim of terrorism, characterizing all of its armed opponents as "terrorists".
Assad’s government has continued to generate significant concern regarding the role it plays in terrorist financing. Industry experts reported that 60 percent of all business transactions were conducted in cash and that nearly 80 percent of all Syrians did not use formal banking services. Despite Syrian legislation that required money changers to be licensed by the end of 2007, many continued to operate illegally in Syria's vast black market, estimated to be as large as Syria's formal economy. Regional hawala networks remained intertwined with smuggling and trade-based money laundering, and were facilitated by notoriously corrupt customs and immigration officials. This raised significant concerns that some members of the Syrian Government and the business elite were complicit in terrorist finance schemes conducted through these institutions.
In 2013, the United States continued to closely monitor Syria’s proliferation-sensitive materials and facilities, including Syria’s significant stockpile of chemical weapons, which the United States assesses remains under the Asad regime’s control. Despite the progress made through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon’s Executive Council and UNSC Resolution 2118 (2013) to dismantle and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program, there continues to be significant concern, given ongoing instability in Syria, that these materials could find their way to terrorist organizations. The United States is coordinating closely with a number of like-minded nations and partners to prevent Syria’s stockpiles of chemical and advanced conventional weapons from falling into the hands of violent extremists.
Cuba was added to the list on March 1, 1982.
According to the United States of America, Cuba has a history of supporting revolutionary movements in Spanish speaking countries and Africa. "Havana openly advocates armed revolution as the only means for leftist forces to gain power in Latin America, and the Cubans have played an important role in facilitating the movement of men and weapons into the region. Havana provides direct support in the form of training, arms, safe havens, and advice to a wide variety of guerrilla groups. Many of these groups engage in terrorist operations." Cuba "encouraged terrorism in the hope of provoking indiscriminate violence and repression, in order to weaken government legitimacy and attract new converts to armed struggle" In 1992, after the Soviet collapse, Fidel Castro stressed that his country’s support for insurgents abroad was a thing of the past.
According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2010: August 18, 2011:
|“||Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1982, the Government of Cuba maintained a public stance against terrorism and terrorist financing in 2010, but there was no evidence that it had severed ties with elements from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and recent media reports indicate some current and former members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) continue to reside in Cuba. Available information suggested that the Cuban government maintained limited contact with FARC members, but there was no evidence of direct financial or ongoing material support. In March, the Cuban government allowed Spanish Police to travel to Cuba to confirm the presence of suspected ETA members. Cuba has been used as a transit point by third-country nationals looking to enter illegally into the United States. The Government of Cuba is aware of the border integrity and transnational security concerns posed by such transit and investigated third country migrant smuggling and related criminal activities. In November, the government allowed representatives of the Transportation Security Administration to conduct a series of airport security visits throughout the island. Regional and International Cooperation: Cuba did not sponsor counterterrorism initiatives or participate in regional or global operations against terrorists in 2010.||”|
On December 17, 2014, an agreement to restore relations with Cuba was reached; the President instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch a review of Cuba's inclusion on the list, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s alleged support for international terrorism. President Barack Obama announced on April 14, 2015, that Cuba was being removed from the list. Cuba would not come off the list until after a 45-day review period, during which the U.S. Congress could try blocking Cuba's removal via a joint resolution. Congress did not act, and Cuba was officially removed from the list on May 29, 2015.
Iraq was added to the list on December 29, 1979, and removed in 1982 to allow US companies to sell arms to it while it was fighting Iran in the Iran–Iraq War; it was re-added following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The State Department's reason for including Iraq was that it provided bases to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and the Abu Nidal organization (ANO). It was again removed following the 2003 invasion and the overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein. Following the invasion, US sanctions applicable to "state sponsors of terrorism" against Iraq were suspended on May 7, 2003, and President Bush announced the removal of Iraq from the list on September 25, 2004. This is due to the fallback of the Iraqi rebels.
Libya was added on December 29, 1979.
On May 15, 2006, the United States announced that Libya would be removed from the list after a 45-day wait period. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that this was due to "...Libya's continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism".
South Yemen was added to the list on December 29, 1979. It had been branded a sponsor of terrorism due to its support for several left-wing terrorist groups. South Yemen was dropped from the list in 1990 after it merged with the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen), to become Yemen.
|Timeline of the "State Sponsors of Terrorism" list|
|North Korea||North Korea|
The sanctions which the US imposes on countries on the list are:
The U.S. Country Reports on Terrorism also describes "Terrorist safe havens" which "described in this report include ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed physical areas where terrorists are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, transit, and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, political will, or both".
In the U.S. Annual report published in July 2017, which was mandated by the Congress titled "Country Report on Terrorism", the State Department listed Pakistan among the nations and regions providing “safe havens” to terrorists. It stated that terror groups like the LeT and JeM continue to operate, train, organise and fundraise inside the country in 2016.