State Sponsorship of Terrorism: A Comparison of Cuba’s and Iran’s Use of Terrorism to Export Ideological Revolutions




Schaeffer, Crystal M

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Since the Vietnam War, the definition of traditional warfare has changed from the military action that was observed in previous wars such as the Korean War, and both World Wars. Traditional warfare included accepted rules of engagement, drawn battlefield lines, and other elements that were generally expected and anticipated during wartime. Currently, the United States is involved in an ‘Overseas Contingency Operation’ (OCO) previously known as the ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWOT), in which soldiers face not a Nation State, but a group of terrorists, who do not claim allegiance to any specific country. In addition to the threat of terrorists acting as individuals, as groups or as organizations, the United States is also dealing with State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST), who utilize terrorist groups to achieve their own political agenda. One method the United States Government uses to confront this challenge by is establishing and maintaining a running list of States that sponsor terrorism. Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Sudan are currently on this list. The list, produced by the U.S. Department of x State, is designed to enable U.S. policy makers to enforce restrictions in the form of embargos and sanctions against State Sponsors of Terrorism as a method to punish States for providing such support. The U. S. Department of State defines SST as those who “repeatedly provide critical support for non-state terrorist groups, who without sponsorship, would have a much more difficult time obtaining the weapons, material, and safe areas to plan, train adherents, and conduct terrorist activities.”1 Various definitions of State Sponsorship exist; however, fulfillment of a political goal remains the underlying constant. The list of State Sponsors highlights the fact that the U.S. views these nations as potential threats. Although knowing who supports terrorism is necessary, this dissertation seeks to provide a method for analyzing the characteristics of SST to provide an opportunity to gain further insight into the justifications why each nation supports terrorist activities. This dissertation will examine the techniques that Cuba and Iran implemented in order to sponsor terrorism for the purpose of globally exporting their own ideological revolution. While analyzing these techniques, the environment that fostered both Cuba and Iran to become leading State Sponsors of Terrorism will become apparent through the examination of the root causes of the Cuban and Iranian revolutions and the conditions that existed that paved the way for Castro and Khomeini to take power. By identifying and examining the phases of State Sponsored Terrorism, an understanding of the similar 1 “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” U.S. Department of State, (accessed January 9, 2007). xi sponsorship techniques that both Cuba and Iran applied during their tenure as State Sponsors will develop, highlighting the commonalities within each, and the results of each phase. Through the study of these phases of terrorism, a pattern of exploitation emerges that will enable a stronger appreciation for the history of SST and a capability to conduct tread analysis that could better establish the prediction of future actions of similar State Sponsors. Terrorism threatens the lives of numerous innocent people on a daily basis. It is inherently successful because it fosters the fear that safety is never guaranteed; Americans learned that on September 11th as three planes collided into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and a fourth crashed en route to D.C. in Pennsylvania. State Sponsorship of Terrorism has greatly increased the lethality of terrorist acts which is why the United States has focused efforts on putting political and economic pressure on states that choose terrorism as a main component of it’s foreign and domestic policy. These two states, Iran and Cuba, represent only two threats facing the United States; they have the strongest history in recent years of SST. The study of these states may shed light on how to develop a better predictive model of SST behavior benefiting the U.S. in developing policy for combating terrorism.



State Sponsorship of Terrorism, Ideological Revolution, Iran, Cuba