State-Sponsored Terrorism
in Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, State Sponsored Terrorism (New York: Beacham Publishing, 2012)
Terrorism is generally understood as an organized violent act by non-state actors against unarmed civilians to create mass fear in a targeted state. But terrorism is also committed by a sovereign country or a governments, both domestically and internationally. State-sponsored terrorism literally implies a state’s use or support of terrorism against another state or against its own people. Since terrorism has essentially become an international phenomenon over the last three decades, the expression ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ is now commonly used to describe a state’s support of international terrorism. Any country that deliberately employs terrorism or aids and abets terrorist groups as an instrument of its foreign policy against another country is categorized as a state sponsor of terrorism or simply a terrorist state. Before placing state-sponsored terrorism as a specifically international phenomenon in a theoretical perspective and explaining its historical evolution, various forms, practical manifestations and consequences for regional and international peace, it is important to clarify at the outset what the term ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ actually refers to and what it does not in the contemporary literature on terrorism or in its application to inter-state relations as currently perceived by the international community. To start with, state-sponsored terrorism should not be confused with domestic state terrorism, whose implications are internal to a country and are not usually manifested regionally or internationally. Domestically, a regime may overtly engage in terrorist practices against its own population for various reasons—ranging from perpetuating a dictatorial rule to preserving the state’s territorial integrity to victimization of a particular segment of population on ethnic, religious or racial grounds. The “reign of terror” practiced by the Jacobins during French Revolution, the “great terror” campaign during the Stalinist Russia, the holocaust of Jews by the Nazis in Germany, Mao Tse-Tung’s repression in China in the guise of Cultural Revolution, the virtual extermination of Muslim Brotherhood in Syria under Hafez al-Asad, the apartheid policy pursued by the white Pretoria regime in South Africa, the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims in the Balkans and the persecution of Iraq’s Shiite majority and Kurdish minority by the Saddam regime are but some of the most prominent examples of domestic state terrorism.

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