Iraq And State Dept

Iraq and State Dept. Terrorism Watch List

Intrepid readers write about the checkered history of the US designation of Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism:


‘Here is some info on Iraq and the State Sponsored Terror List.

As far as I can tell Iraq was removed from the list 1982 as thanks for going against Iran, added in 1990 and removed in 1991 in conjunction with a $80 bn. emergency bill for military operations and reconstruction efforts. Language in the 1991 bill evidently had to remove Iraq from the terror list although I could not find that particular clause. The clause was used to deny POW’s from collecting a judgment against Iraq as allowed by 1996 legislation granting the right to sue any countries on the State Terror List. Also, Iraq was removed in 2004, which may be connected to reconstruction allocations earmarked for Haliburton

Whole PDF
. Excerpt: “Iraq. On September 13, 1990, Iraq was placed once again on the terrorism list, after having been removed in 1982. Iraq’s ability to support terrorist activities has been limited by U.S. and U.N. sanctions which were imposed after the Kuwait invasion.”

From: this article:

Zelikow: “Notably, 2004 was also marked by progress in decreasing the threat from states that sponsor terrorism – state-sponsored terrorism. Iraq’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was formally rescinded in October 2004.

In April 2002, the Washington law firm of Steptoe & Johnson filed suit on behalf of the 17 former POWs and 37 of their family members. The suit, Acree vs. Republic of Iraq, sought monetary damages for the “acts of torture committed against them and for pain, suffering and severe mental distress of their families.”

Usually, foreign states have a sovereign immunity that shields them from being sued. But in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996, Congress authorized U.S. courts to award “money damages … against a foreign state for personal injury or death that was caused by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage [or] hostage taking.” On July 7, 2003, the judge handed down a long opinion that described the abuse suffered by the Gulf War POWs, and he awarded them $653 million in compensatory damages. He also assessed $306 million in punitive damages against Iraq. Lawyers for the POWs asked him to put a hold on some of Iraq’s frozen assets.

No sooner had the POWs celebrated their victory than they came up against a new roadblock: Bush administration lawyers argued that the case should be thrown out of court on the grounds that Bush had voided any such claims against Iraq, which was now under U.S. occupation. The administration lawyers based their argument on language in an emergency bill, passed shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, approving the expenditure of $80 billion for military operations and reconstruction efforts. One clause in the legislation authorized the president to suspend the sanctions against Iraq that had been imposed as punishment for the invasion of Kuwait more than a decade earlier.

The president’s lawyers said this clause also allowed Bush to remove Iraq from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and to set aside pending monetary judgments against Iraq.


‘ Not sure if this is what you are looking for, but the pre-911 US State
Department “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report for 2000 can be found here.

The section on “State-sponsored Terrorism”
does include a mention
of Iraq as being a state sponsor of terrorism, though it “focused on antidissident activity overseas”. Significantly, it mentions several
terrorist organizations maintaining offices in Baghdad including Abu Nidal.
The Iranian terrorist group MEK merits a mention.

Arguably, according to the pre-911 US definition, Iraq was a state that actively sponsored terrorism, primarily against overseas dissidents, but also Israel and Iran. That cannot, however, be used as a justification for the invasion of Iraq, since it has not been demonstrated that other means were attempted to pressure Iraq to stop sponsoring terrorism. Military means should be a last resort, both from a humanitarian and a cost point-of-view. ‘


‘ It appears, unfortunately, that your critics were correct that Iraq remained on the State Department’s list through the late 1990s. However, the text on Iraq is quite mild during that period; the 1997 report says that they had not actually done anything in the West since 1993, for example. So a fair reading is probably that your critics are technically correct, but that from a practical perspective the State Department probably did not see Iraq as creating a terrorism problem for the U.S. during that period.

Here are the relevant sites that I found:





‘ In response to your question about controversy over designation of Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism: I went to this site:

and in a statement dated April 2001, found this:

“Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan continue to be the seven governments that the US Secretary of State has designated as state sponsors of international terrorism”.

This report refers to terrorist activities in 2000 — before Mr. Bush came to office — although presumably it was prepared after the election.

It may be that you remember statements like this, which appear later in the same report:

“Iraq planned and sponsored international terrorism in 2000. Although Baghdad focused on antidissident activity overseas, the regime continued to support various terrorist groups. The regime has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack since its failed plot to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait.”

To me, it’s pretty clear that, by the time of the 2001 report, Iraq was no longer at least an active terrorist threat to the US. The State Department designation remained, nonetheless. ‘

Another reader pointed to this piece by John Pilger on statements of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice in spring of 2001:

“An investigation of files and archive film for my TV documentary Breaking The Silence, together with interviews with former intelligence officers and senior Bush officials have revealed that Bush and Blair knew all along that Saddam Hussein was effectively disarmed.

Both Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s closest adviser, made clear before September 11 2001 that Saddam Hussein was no threat – to America, Europe or the Middle East.

In Cairo, on February 24 2001, Powell said: “He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.”

This is the very opposite of what Bush and Blair said in public.

Powell even boasted that it was the US policy of “containment” that had effectively disarmed the Iraqi dictator – again the very opposite of what Blair said time and again. On May 15 2001, Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to “build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction” for “the last 10 years”. America, he said, had been successful in keeping him “in a box”.

Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided and militarily defenceless Iraq. “Saddam does not control the northern part of the country,” she said. “We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”

So here were two of Bush’s most important officials putting the lie to their own propaganda, and the Blair government’s propaganda that subsequently provided the justification for an unprovoked, illegal attack on Iraq. The result was the deaths of what reliable studies now put at 50,000 people, civilians and mostly conscript Iraqi soldiers, as well as British and American troops. There is no estimate of the countless thousands of wounded. ‘

In sum: My statement that Iraq was not on the State Department list of state sponsors of terror in the late 1990s was incorrect. It was based on something I had read more than once but appear to have misunderstood.

What is correct is that Iraq was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism by the Reagan and first Bush administrations, and apparently again briefly in the early 1990s by the Clinton administration (for technical legal reasons). It was on the list in the late 1990s and early zeroes, however it was explicitly noted that it was on the list for its persecution of Iraqi dissident expatriates abroad, and not because it had the habit of getting up terrorism against the United States, which it had not done for a decade at the time of the Iraq War.

The person who originally wrote me snarkily seemed to assume I would have difficulty acknowledging this error. I don’t know why in the world, except maliciousness, he would come to that conclusion. I am always glad to set the record straight, and since I’m such an inquisitive person, get real joy from getting to the bottom of things. I am deeply grateful to the readers who dug up the record on this one.

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