State Sponsors of Terrorism

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This article is about the political designation by the United States Department of State. For other uses, see state-sponsored terrorism (not to be confused with state terrorism).
Countries currently (in dark green) and formerly (in light green) designated as "State Sponsors of Terrorism" by the U.S. Department of State

"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."[1][2] Inclusion on the list imposes strict unilateral sanctions.

The countries currently on the list are Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

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. President Obama announced on April 14, 2015, the intention to remove Cuba from the list.

Countries currently on the list


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.[3]

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2010: August 18, 2011:[4]

As a result of the December 17, 2014 agreement to restore relations with Cuba, the President has 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.[5] Obama announced on April 14, 2015, that Cuba was being removed from the list.[6] Cuba would not come off the list until after a 45-day review period, during which the US Congress could try blocking Cuba's removal via a joint resolution.[7]


Iran was added to the list on January 19, 1984. According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2010: August 18, 2011:[4]


Sudan was added to the list on August 12, 1993.

Unlike the other three designated sponsors of terrorism, the US State Department acknowledges that Sudan has fully cooperated with the United States to reduce the threat of terrorism. However, citing concerns that the nation's security gaps have allowed terrorists to remain in the country, the US State Department decided to keep Sudan on the list in 2011.

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2010,[4] Sudan remained a cooperative partner of the USA in global counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda (AQ) in 2010. During that year, the Government of Sudan worked actively to counter AQ operations that posed a potential threat to US interests and personnel in Sudan. Sudanese officials indicated that they viewed continued cooperation with the United States as important and recognized potential benefits in US training and information-sharing.

2010 Terrorist Incidents: The Sudanese government has taken steps to limit the activities of foreign terrorist groups within Sudan and has worked hard to disrupt foreign fighters' use of Sudan as a logistics base and transit point for violent extremists going to Iraq. Nonetheless, elements of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including al-Qa'ida-inspired terrorists, remained in Sudan, as gaps remained in the Sudanese government’s knowledge of and ability to identify and capture these individuals as well as prevent them from exploiting the territory for smuggling activities. Some evidence suggested that individuals who actively participated in the Iraqi insurgency have returned to Sudan, and may be in a position to use their expertise to conduct attacks within Sudan or to pass on their knowledge. Sudanese officials continued to view Hamas members as representatives of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas members conducted fundraising in Sudan, and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) maintained a presence in Sudan.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continued to operate in the region, though there was no reliable information that corroborated allegations that the Government of Sudan provided support to the LRA. Operating in small cells, the LRA carried out attacks in areas where the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Southern Sudan intersect. The UN estimated that in 2010, LRA attacks displaced 25,000 southern Sudanese. In October, the African Union (AU) announced that Uganda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic will form an AU-backed joint brigade to pursue the LRA.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: On June 11, four Sudanese men sentenced to death for the January 1, 2008, killing of two U.S. Embassy staff members escaped from Khartoum's maximum security Kober prison. One police officer was reportedly killed and another was injured in an exchange of fire at a checkpoint following the breakout. Police subsequently intercepted the get-away car and arrested the driver, but the four fugitives escaped on foot. On June 22, Sudanese authorities confirmed that one of the four convicts was recaptured. The whereabouts of the other three convicts remained unknown at year’s end. The Sudanese government cooperated with the United States in efforts to bring the four to justice.

Countering Terrorist Finance: The Central Bank of Sudan and its financial intelligence unit circulated to financial institutions a list of individuals and entities that have been included on the UN 1267 al-Qa’ida and Taliban sanctions committee's Consolidated List. Through increasing cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Sudan took steps in 2010 to meet international standards in combating money laundering and terrorist financing. The most significant achievement was passage of the Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Act of 2010, approved by the Council of Ministers in January 2010 and ratified by Parliament in June 2010. Sudan continued its cooperation with the U.S. government in investigating financial crimes related to terrorism.

Regional and International Cooperation: Sudanese officials regularly discussed counterterrorism issues with U.S. counterparts. Sudan was generally responsive to the international community’s concerns on terrorism and was generally supportive of international counterterrorism efforts.


Syria was added to the list on December 29, 1979.

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2010: August 18, 2011:[4]

Countries that have been removed


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 put back 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.


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.[8] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that this was due to "...Libya's continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism".[9]

North Korea

North Korea was added in 1988.

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[10] 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:[11]

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.”[12]

The U.S State Department said it made the decision as Pyongyang had agreed to verification of all of its nuclear programs, etc.

April 13, 2009 Pyongyang agreed to dismantle the rocket 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.[13] 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.[13] US State Department spokesman P.J Crowley also said that returning North Korea to the list was under continual review.[13]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she was considering renaming North Korea on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism.[14] As of 2011, 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.[15]

South Yemen

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 list


The sanctions which the US imposes on countries on the list are:

1. A ban on arms-related exports and sales.
2. Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country's military capability or ability to support terrorism.
3. Prohibitions on economic assistance.
4. Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions, including:
Requiring the United States to oppose loans by the World Bank and other international financial institutions;
Lifting diplomatic immunity to allow families of terrorist victims to file civil lawsuits in U.S. courts;
Denying companies and individuals tax credits for income earned in terrorist-listed countries;
Denial of duty-free treatment of goods exported to the United States;
Authority to prohibit any U.S. citizen from engaging in a financial transaction with a terrorist-list government without a Treasury Department license; and
Prohibition of Defense Department contracts above $100,000 with companies controlled by terrorist-list states.[11]

Terrorist safe havens

The U.S. Country Reports on Terrorism also describes "Terrorist safe havens" which "are defined in this report as ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed areas of a country and non-physical areas where terrorists that constitute a threat to U.S. national security interests are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, political will, or both. Physical safe havens provide security for terrorist leaders, allowing them to plan acts of terrorism around the world."[16]

See also


  1. ^ 22 U.S.C. § 2656f
  2. ^ "State Sponsors of Terrorism". United States Department of State. n.d. Archived from the original on June 10, 2009. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Mark P. (May 12, 2005). Cuba and the State Sponsors of Terrorism List (PDF) (Report). Congressional Research Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 24, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism". United States Department of State. July 31, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  5. ^ Office of the Press Secretary (December 17, 2014). "Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba" (Press release). The White House. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  6. ^ Pace, Julie (April 14, 2015). "Obama Removes Cuba from State Sponsor of Terror List". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ Archibold, Randal C.; Davis, Julie Hirschfeld (April 14, 2015). "Obama Endorses Removing Cuba From Terrorism List". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  8. ^ Labott, Elise (May 15, 2006). "U.S. to Restore Relations with Libya". CNN. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Powell Names State Sponsors of Terrorism". United States Embassy in Jarkarta. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  10. ^ "State Sponsors: North Korea". Council on Foreign Relations. 
  11. ^ a b "Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview". United States Department of State. 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  12. ^ Martin, Gus (2006). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives and Issues. Sage Publications. p. 83. 
  13. ^ a b c "US: North Korean Ship Attack Violated Armistice, Not Act of Terrorism". Voice of America. June 27, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Clinton Says North Korea Could Return to Terror List". The Boston Globe. June 8, 2009. 
  15. ^ Sullivan, Mark P.; Beittel, June S. (August 15, 2014). Latin America: Terrorism Issues (PDF) (Report). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Chapter 5: Terrorist Safe Havens (7120 Report)". United States Department of State. 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2009.