Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview
Bureau of Counterterrorism
To designate a country as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of such country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Once a country is designated, it remains a State Sponsor of Terrorism until the designation is rescinded in accordance with statutory criteria. A wide range of sanctions are imposed as a result of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including:
- A ban on arms-related exports and sales;
- 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;
- Prohibitions on economic assistance; and
- Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
This report provides a snapshot of events during 2013 relevant to countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism; it does not constitute a new announcement regarding such designations. More information on State Sponsor of Terrorism designations may be found online at http://www.state.gov/j/ct/list/c14151.htm.
Cuba was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1982.
Cuba has long provided safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Reports continued to indicate that Cuba’s ties to ETA have become more distant, and that about eight of the two dozen ETA members in Cuba were relocated with the cooperation of the Spanish government. Throughout 2013, the Government of Cuba supported and hosted negotiations between the FARC and the Government of Colombia aimed at brokering a peace agreement between the two. The Government of Cuba has facilitated the travel of FARC representatives to Cuba to participate in these negotiations, in coordination with representatives of the Governments of Colombia, Venezuela, and Norway, as well as the Red Cross.
There was no indication that the Cuban Government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.
The Cuban government continued to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States. The Cuban Government also provided support such as housing, food ration books, and medical care for these individuals.
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 Asad 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.
Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria. Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years. Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities. He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.
Iran remains a state of proliferation concern. Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continued to violate its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. For further information, see the Report to Congress on Iran-related Multilateral Sanctions Regime Efforts (November 2013), and the Report on the Status of Bilateral and Multilateral Efforts Aimed at Curtailing the Pursuit of Iran of Nuclear Weapons Technology (September 2012).
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.
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 Asad 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.