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.
Countries currently (in dark green) and formerly (in light green) designated as "State Sponsors of Terrorism" by the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. is in blue.

"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[edit]


Iran was added to the list on January 19, 1984. According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013:[3]


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

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013:[3]


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

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013:[3]

Countries that have been removed[edit]


Cuba was added on March 1, 1982.


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.[4] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that this was due to "...Libya's continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism".[5]

North Korea[edit]

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[6] 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:[7]

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.”[8]

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 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.[9] 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.[9] US State Department spokesman P.J Crowley also said that returning North Korea to the list was under continual review.[9]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she was considering renaming North Korea on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism.[10] 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.[11]

South Yemen[edit]

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[edit]


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.[7]

Terrorist safe havens[edit]

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."[12]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ a b c
  4. ^ Labott, Elise (May 15, 2006). "U.S. to Restore Relations with Libya". CNN. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Powell Names State Sponsors of Terrorism". United States Embassy in Jarkarta. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  6. ^ "State Sponsors: North Korea". Council on Foreign Relations. 
  7. ^ a b "Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview". United States Department of State. 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  8. ^ Martin, Gus (2006). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives and Issues. Sage Publications. p. 83. 
  9. ^ a b c "US: North Korean Ship Attack Violated Armistice, Not Act of Terrorism". Voice of America. June 27, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Clinton Says North Korea Could Return to Terror List". The Boston Globe. June 8, 2009. 
  11. ^ Sullivan, Mark P.; Beittel, June S. (August 15, 2014). Latin America: Terrorism Issues (PDF) (Report). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Chapter 5: Terrorist Safe Havens (7120 Report)". United States Department of State. 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2009.