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Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors

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Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors by Research Service Congressional Research Service
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The Al Qaeda terrorist network founded by Osama bin Laden is believed to pose a continuing, although diminished, threat to the United States at home and to U.S. interests and allies abroad following the network's defeat in its base in Afghanistan. As stated in taped appearances by its leaders since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the goal of Al Qaeda is to destroy high profile U.S. targets in order to end what Al Qaeda claims is U.S. suppression of Islamic societies. In these appearances, bin Laden virtually claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks. Throughout its history, Al Qaeda has sought to oust pro-U.S. regimes in the Middle East and gain removal of U.S. troops from the region. Before September 11, signs pointed to a decline in state sponsorship of terrorism. Since the attacks, some countries that are designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism, including Iran and Sudan, have cooperated to an extent with the U.S.-led war against Al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. In spite of its cooperation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Iran is still considered a major sponsor of radical Islamic groups that conduct terrorism against Israel. The Arab-Israeli peace process is a longstanding major U.S. foreign policy interest, and the Administration and Congress are concerned about any terrorist groups or state sponsors that oppose the process. Possibly because of a breakdown in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in September 2000, Palestinian organizations such as Hamas, as well as older groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that have been inactive for years, havestepped up operations against Israelis. Following several major terrorist attacks against Israelis since December 2001, the United States has strongly criticized Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat for failing to exert sufficient efforts to constrain these and other groups. Some analysts assert that Israel's actions against the Palestinians have been provocative and have contributed to increased Palestinian support for violence against Israel. U.S. differences with other governments on the strategies for countering terrorism in the Near East have to some extent narrowed since September 11. The United States, in the past, differed with its allies, particularly on how to deal with state sponsors of terrorism; most allied governments believe that engaging these countries diplomatically might sometimes be more effective than trying to isolate or punish them. The United States has generally been more inclined than its European allies to employ sanctions and military action to compel state sponsors and groups to abandon terrorism. Post-September 11 developments seem to have validated the importance of both diplomacy and, in certain circumstances, more forceful responses in dealing with terrorism. Differences with allies have begun to reemerge as the Bush Administration expands its "war on terrorism," indicating it will seek to prevent the emergence of threats by regimes-some of which also have ties to terrorist groups-that are developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Release date NZ
April 1st, 2005
Country of Publication
United States
University Press of the Pacific
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