State Sponsors of Terrorism (U.S. list)

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  United States
  State Sponsors of Terrorism according to the U.S. Department of State[1]

"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".[2][3] 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.[3]

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.[4]

Countries currently on the list[edit]


Iran was added to the list on January 19, 1984. According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013:[5]

North Korea[edit]

North Korea was added in 1988, following the 1987 bombing of a South Korean air flight landing near Myanmar and re-listed again in 2017.[6]

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.

North Korea was initially added because it sold weapons to terrorist groups[7] 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:[8]

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."[9]

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 would not do so because the act was conducted by only the North Korean military and was thus not an act of terror.[10] However, following the incident, the Obama administration also stated that it would then closely monitor North Korea for signs for a return to international terrorism.[10] US State Department spokesman P.J Crowley also said that returning North Korea to the list was under continual review.[10]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she was considering renaming North Korea on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism.[11] 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.[12]

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 was placed on the Trump administration to revoke Bush's lifting of sanctions[6] and in April 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.[13] 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.[14] On November 20, 2017, President Trump officially announced re-listing North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.[4]


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

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013:[5]


Syria was added to the list on December 29, 1979. It is the only country from the original 1979 list to remain on the list, following Libya's removal in 2006. According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013:[5]

Countries that have been removed[edit]


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.[15]

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2010: August 18, 2011:[16]

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.[17] President Barack Obama announced on April 14, 2015, that Cuba was being removed from the list.[18] 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.[19] Congress did not act, and Cuba was officially removed from the list on May 29, 2015.[20]


Iraq was added to the list on December 29, 1979, but was removed in 1982 to allow US companies to sell arms to it[citation needed] 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.

Libya, then under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi had been branded a sponsor of terrorism due to its support for several left-wing militant groups, such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty, the Umkhonto We Sizwe, the Polisario Front, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Free Aceh Movement, Free Papua Movement, Fretilin, Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, Republic of South Maluku and the Moro National Liberation Front of the Philippines.[21] On May 15, 2006, the United States announced that Libya would be removed from the list after a 45-day wait period.[22] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that this was due to "...Libya's continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism".[23]

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[citation needed]. 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.[8]
  • From January 2016, some of the countries listed were included in a separate exclusion the Visa Waiver Program. The (VWP) does not apply where a person has previously traveled to these countries on or after 1 March 2011 or for those who remain nationals of those countries in addition to the nationality that would otherwise entitle them to a visa waiver. Instead, they are now required to go through the process to obtain a visa.[24] Certain categories such as diplomats, military, journalists, humanitarian workers or legitimate businessmen may have their visa requirement waived by the Secretary of Homeland Security.[25]
  • Under the Trump administration, citizens of these countries face partial entry restrictions to the United States under Presidential Proclamation 9645 of the Executive Order 13780. The order is partially in force as of December 4, 2017, pending legal challenges.
  • Entry of all North Korean and Syrian nationals into the United States as immigrant and non-immigrant are currently suspended.
  • Entry of all Iranian nationals into the United States as immigrant and non-immigrant are currently suspended unless they have valid student visas (F, M-1, and M-2 visas) or exchange visitor visas (J-1 and J-2 visas), but may be subject to enhanced screening.
  • Travel restrictions imposed by the United States on citizens of Sudan were removed under Presidential Proclamation 9645.
  • Unlike the previous executive order, these restrictions are conditional and can be lifted if those countries meet the required security standards set up by the United States.

Terrorist safe havens[edit]

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".[26]


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.[27][28]

Pakistan was accused by the United States, United Kingdom, France, and India for supporting externally focused groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in 2016, which continued to operate, train, organise, and fundraise in Pakistan.[29][30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "State Sponsors of Terrorism".
  2. ^ 22 U.S.C. § 2656f
  3. ^ a b "State Sponsors of Terrorism". United States Department of State. n.d. Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Michael D. Shear; David E. Sanger (November 20, 2017). "Trump Returns North Korea to List of State Sponsors of Terrorism". The New York Times. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview".
  6. ^ a b Richard C. Paddock, Choe Sang-hun & Nicholas Wade, In Kim Jong-nam’s Death, North Korea Lets Loose a Weapon of Mass Destruction, New York Times (February 24, 2017).
  7. ^ "State Sponsors: North Korea". Council on Foreign Relations.
  8. ^ a b "Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview". United States Department of State. 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  9. ^ Martin, Gus (2006). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives and Issues. Sage Publications. p. 83.
  10. ^ a b c "US: North Korean Ship Attack Violated Armistice, Not Act of Terrorism". Voice of America. June 27, 2010.
  11. ^ "Clinton Says North Korea Could Return to Terror List". The Boston Globe. June 8, 2009.
  12. ^ Sullivan, Mark P.; Beittel, June S. (August 15, 2014). Latin America: Terrorism Issues (PDF) (Report). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  13. ^ "US deploys warships to Korean peninsula". BBC News. April 9, 2017. Retrieved November 5, 2017 – via
  14. ^ "Otto Warmbier's parents break silence on son's death". Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism". United States Department of State. July 31, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  17. ^ "Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba" (Press release). White House Office of the Press Secretary. December 17, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  18. ^ Pace, Julie (April 14, 2015). "Obama Removes Cuba from State Sponsor of Terror List". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  19. ^ Archibold, Randal C.; Davis, Julie Hirschfeld (April 14, 2015). "Obama Endorses Removing Cuba From Terrorism List". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  20. ^ Wall, Katie (May 29, 2015). "U.S. Officially Removes Cuba From State Sponsors of Terrorism List". NBC News. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  21. ^ Sidaway, James D. (1989). "State‐supported terrorism: Libya and the American response". Paradigms. 3: 38–46. doi:10.1080/13600828908442977.
  22. ^ Labott, Elise (May 15, 2006). "U.S. to Restore Relations with Libya". CNN. Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  23. ^ "Powell Names State Sponsors of Terrorism". United States Embassy in Jarkarta. Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  24. ^ "DHS Announces Further Travel Restrictions for the Visa Waiver Program - Homeland Security". February 18, 2016.
  25. ^ "United States Begins Implementation of Changes to the Visa Waiver Program - Homeland Security". January 21, 2016.
  26. ^ "Chapter 5: Terrorist Safe Havens (Update to 7120 Report)". United States Department of State. 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  27. ^ "Country Reports on Terrorism 2016". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on July 20, 2017. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  28. ^ "US lists Pakistan among countries that provide 'safe haven' to terrorists". July 19, 2017. Retrieved July 19, 2017. External link in |work= (help)
  29. ^ "US, UK, France, India voice concern at FATF meet over Pakistan inaction against Terrorism". January 23, 2019. Retrieved February 25, 2019. External link in |work= (help)
  30. ^ "US, UK, France asks UN to blacklist militant leader of Pakistan". July 26, 2019. Retrieved July 27, 2019. External link in |work= (help)