State sponsors of terrorism provide critical support to non-state terrorist groups. Without state sponsors, terrorist groups would have much more difficulty obtaining the funds, weapons, materials, and secure areas they require to plan and conduct operations. Most worrisome is that some of these countries also have the capability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and other destabilizing technologies that could get into the hands of terrorists. The United States will continue to insist that these countries end the support they give to terrorist groups.
As a result of the historic decisions taken by Libya's leadership in 2003 to renounce terrorism and to abandon its WMD programs, the United States rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsors of terrorism on June 30. Since pledging to renounce terrorism in 2003, Libya has cooperated closely with the United States and the international community on counterterrorism efforts.
Sudan continued to take significant steps to cooperate in the War on Terror. Cuba, Iran, and Syria, however, have not renounced terrorism or made efforts to act against Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Iran and Syria routinely provided safe haven, substantial resources, and guidance to terrorist organizations.
Venezuela was certified by the Secretary of State as "not fully cooperating" with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The designation, included in Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, was based on a review of Venezuela's overall efforts to fight terrorism. Effective October 1, the decision imposed sanctions on all commercial arms sales and transfers. It remains in effect until September 30, 2007, when it may be renewed by a determination by the Secretary. (Venezuela is the only nation certified as "not fully cooperating" that is not a state sponsor of terrorism.)
State Sponsor: Implications
Designating countries that repeatedly provide support for acts of international terrorism as state sponsors of terrorism imposes four main sets of U.S. Government sanctions:
The Cuban government continued to permit U.S. fugitives to live legally in Cuba and is unlikely to satisfy U.S. extradition requests for terrorists harbored in the country. The United States periodically requested that the government return wanted fugitives1, and Cuba continued to be non-responsive. The Cuban regime publicly demanded the return to Cuba of five of its agents convicted of espionage in the United States. The five were variously accused of being foreign intelligence agents and infiltrating U.S. military facilities, but the Cuban government continued to refer to these individuals as heroes in the fight against terrorism. One was accused of conspiracy to murder for his role in the Cuban Air Force's shooting down of two small civilian planes. Cuba has stated, however, that it will no longer provide safe haven to new U.S. fugitives who may enter Cuba.2
Although Cuba did not extradite suspected terrorists during the year, the government demanded that the United States surrender Luis Posada Carriles, whom it accused of plotting to kill Castro and bombing a Cubana Airlines plane in 1976, which resulted in more than 70 deaths. Posada Carriles remained in U.S. custody. Cuba also asked the United States to return three Cuban-Americans implicated in the same cases.
Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) were directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts and continued to exhort a variety of groups, especially Palestinian groups with leadership cadres in Syria and Lebanese Hizballah, to use terrorism in pursuit of their goals.
Iran maintained a high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli terrorist activity, rhetorically, operationally, and financially. Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadi-Nejad praised Palestinian terrorist operations, and Iran provided Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups - notably HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command - with extensive funding, training, and weapons.
Iran continued to play a destabilizing role in Iraq, which appeared to be inconsistent with its stated objectives regarding stability in Iraq. Iran provided guidance and training to select Iraqi Shia political groups, and weapons and training to Shia militant groups to enable anti-Coalition attacks. Iranian government forces have been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-Coalition attacks by providing Shia militants with the capability to build IEDs with explosively formed projectiles similar to those developed by Iran and Lebanese Hizballah. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard was linked to armor-piercing explosives that resulted in the deaths of Coalition Forces. The Revolutionary Guard, along with Lebanese Hizballah, implemented training programs for Iraqi militants in the construction and use of sophisticated IED technology. These individuals then passed on this training to additional militants in Iraq.
Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior AQ members it detained in 2003, and it has refused to publicly identify these senior members in its custody. Iran has repeatedly resisted numerous calls to transfer custody of its AQ detainees to their countries of origin or third countries for interrogation or trial. Iran also continued to fail to control the activities of some al-Qaida members who fled to Iran following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
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."
The Sudanese government was a strong partner in the War on Terror and aggressively pursued terrorist operations directly involving threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan. In recent months, Usama Bin Laden and other senior al-Qaida leaders have called for the expansion of AQ's presence in Sudan in response to possible deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur. This has led to speculation that some individuals with varying degrees of association with AQ have taken steps to establish an operational network in Darfur, but there were no indications that AQ affiliated extremists were active there.
With the exception of HAMAS, the Sudanese government did not openly support the presence of extremist elements in Sudan. The Sudanese government took steps to limit the activities of these organizations. For example, Sudanese officials welcomed HAMAS members as representatives of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but limited their activities to fundraising. The Sudanese government also worked to disrupt foreign fighters from using Sudan as a logistics base and transit point for Jihadists going to Iraq. There was some evidence to suggest that individuals who were active participants in the Iraqi insurgency have returned to Sudan and were in a position to use their expertise to conduct attacks within Sudan or to pass on their knowledge.
The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) continued to be a threat to Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Southern Sudan. The Government of Southern Sudan worked to mediate peace between the LRA and the Government of Uganda and sought to curb LRA raids, but achieved little tangible progress. Although LRA attacks declined significantly, renewed violence remains a threat. Formal negotiations commenced in Juba in July 2006. The LRA continued to stall the talks, however, most recently with demands for a change of venue and a halt to all Ugandan People's Defense Forces activity in southern Sudan. Both parties signed a Cessation of Hostilities agreement in August 2006 identifying areas where the LRA could assemble for the negotiations without fear of being attacked by the Ugandan People's Defense Forces.
The Syrian government continued to provide political and material support to Hizballah and political support to Palestinian terrorist groups. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), HAMAS, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), among others, base their external leadership in Damascus. The Syrian government insisted that the Damascus-based groups undertake only political and informational activities, but Palestinian groups with leaders in Syria have claimed responsibility for anti-Israeli terrorist acts.
Syria's public support for the Palestinian groups varied, depending on its national interests and international pressure. In April, visiting PA Foreign Minister Zahar (HAMAS) met with Damascus-based Palestinian leaders and attended a rally at the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp alongside HAMAS Political Bureau Chief Khalid Mish'al and representatives of other terrorist groups and Hizballah. In July, Mish'al held a highly publicized press conference under tight security at a Damascus hotel, expressing gratitude for Syria's unconditional support to the Palestinian cause.
The Government of Syria has not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986, although preliminary findings of a UN investigation into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri indicated a strong likelihood of official Syrian involvement. That investigation remains in process.
On September 12, four Syrian nationals with alleged Islamist ties used grenades, guns, and a small truck bomb to launch an attack against the U.S. embassy in Damascus. All four of the assailants were killed as was a Syrian security officer who responded to the attack. In the incident's aftermath, the Syrian government enhanced security for the embassy and American personnel in Syria, although it declined to provide the embassy with the findings of its internal investigation into the attack. Damascus repeatedly assured the United States that it will take every possible measure to protect U.S. citizens and facilities in Syria, but at the same time has not taken the measures considered necessary by the United States.
In 2004-2005, Syria upgraded physical security conditions on the border and began to give closer scrutiny to military-age Arab males entering Syria. (Visas are still not required for citizens of Arab countries.) It also highlighted the repatriation of more than 1,200 foreign extremists and the arrest of more than 4,000 Syrians trying to go to Iraq to fight. In November, Syria's foreign minister announced the resumption of diplomatic relations with Iraq after a 25-year rupture, and, a month later, the Syrian and Iraqi Ministers of Interior signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to boost, among other things, joint efforts to control the borders and combat terrorism.
As in recent years, Damascus highlighted in Syrian government-controlled press, information about clashes on Syrian territory with terrorist groups, particularly with the Jund a-Sham group. Separately, in November, security agents on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon engaged in a gun battle with a Syrian Islamic militant from the Tawhid and Jihad group. The militant, who was trying to use fake documents to cross into Lebanon, subsequently blew himself up with a hand grenade.
2 During September, a U.S. fugitive sequestered his son, stole a plane at a local airport in the Florida Keys, and landed illegally in Varadero, east of Havana. American Interests Section efforts resulted in a visit to the male individual and his son in Varadero. After several meetings between the aforementioned USINT Offices and Cuban government officials, the son was returned in October to his mother in Mexico, who had legal custody. Simultaneously, the father was returned to the United States via charter flight to Miami, where he is being prosecuted. The stolen private plane was later returned to the United States. This was the first instance in which the Cuban government permitted the return of a fugitive from U.S. justice.