Obama Working to Make the Already Short ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ List Even Shorter

There is one huge problem with the U.S. State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism; it’s too short. And Barack Obama wants to make it shorter. The list consists of four countries – Cuba, Sudan, Iran and Syria. With the recent announcement that relations with Cuba are being normalized (despite that country’s harboring of Jessica Chesimard, who was convicted of murdering a New Jersey State Trooper), phase two appears to be finding a politically navigable path to getting Cuba off the list.

Screenshot of U.S. State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

Screenshot of U.S. State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

According to a BBC report:

One of the paradoxes of the first round of negotiations between Cuba and the US is that Washington is hoping to establish diplomatic relations with a country it considers to be a sponsor of international terrorism.

Since March 1982, Cuba has been on a US state department list of countries that “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”.

The list is short – Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba.

The US believes Cuba has long provided a safe haven for members of the Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia’s Farc guerrilla group, according to its 2013 Report on Terrorism.

But the Caribbean nation has frequently rejected its presence on the list, describing it as unfounded.

And now officials are stressing that it should be removed if negotiations with the United States are to move forward.

In Cuba’s defense, other countries that sponsor international terrorism include Turkey (shockingly a NATO ally), Qatar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and a whole host of others. Egypt should have been put on the list when the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power there but instead, the Obama administration embraced the group and has continued supporting it. This hits on another country Obama has been working on getting off the list for some time, which borders Egypt and also has a Brotherhood leader at the helm – Sudan.

As Shoebat.com has reported, the Obama administration has had multiple diplomats and envoys argue that Sudan should be taken off the list. Getting Cuba off the list would certainly aid in this effort; it would also create a path for the administration to argue for a more politically charged case. Sudan harbored Osama bin Laden; it has strong connections to the first World Trade Center attack; its Muslim Brotherhood President is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity; and perhaps providing the most incentive for Obama is the fact that Barack’s brother Malik has strong connections to the Sudanese government as Shoebat.com has reported.

Malik Obama and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir: at same 2010 Islamic Da'wa Organization Conference in Khartoum, Sudan (split screen).

Malik Obama and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir: at same 2010 Islamic Da’wa Organization Conference in Khartoum, Sudan (split screen).

Getting Cuba off the list could very well be a test case designed to generate some inertia to get countries like Sudan and Iran off as well.

The state department has sanctioned the four countries on the list by banning certain exports or restricting US foreign assistance.

In Cuba’s case, this does not change much, because the country is already affected by the embargo.

But unlike the embargo, which can only be lifted through an act of Congress, this decision is ultimately in the president’s hands.

Mr Obama has used his executive authority to reduce the power of the embargo wherever he has been able to, and he recently unveiled a series of new travel and trade rules between the two countries.

Now it is possible that his next executive actions could include removing Cuba from the list.

He has asked the state department to complete a review process and present a recommendation to him within six months.

Once he receives it, he would have to submit a report to Congress 45 days before the new decision would take effect.

That report would have to first ensure that Cuba had not provided any support for international terrorism in the preceding six months, and then offer guarantees that it would not do so in the future.

Regarding the first element, even the state department has acknowledged that Cuba has made progress.

Buried in the BBC article is a claim that the reason Obama did not want to move on taking Cuba off the list for political reasons, to include the release of American Alan Gross:

The Caribbean island has remained on the list despite these actions, mainly because of political considerations, according to Geoff Thale, a Cuba analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America (Wola).

“With Alan Gross still in prison, the US administration wasn’t willing to pay the political price of taking Cuba off the list,” Mr Thale told the BBC.

With many of those political considerations out of the way, the main issue lies in finding a way for Cuba to guarantee that it will not support any acts of terrorism in the future.

Why doesn’t the harboring of a cop killer rise to the level of political considerations? Well, as Shoebat.com reported, Chesimard was sprung from prison in the U.S. by members of the Weather Underground, founded by Obama pal Bill Ayers. Again, though, Obama likely wants Sudan off the list – based on other political considerations – perhaps more than Cuba. In fact, getting Cuba off the list very well could be the beta test before turning to Sudan.


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