Course: International Relations at a Turning Point

Department of Political Science and IR,

University of Tampere, 2003

Lecturer: Helena Rytövuori-Apunen

Student: Nina Hiekonen, nh64833@uta.fi


Fighting against International Terrorism: an American Perspective


International Terrorism is an activity which involves violence  and more than one state and affects international legal order. The growth of international and transnational criminal organisation have resulted in their use of violence with financial profit as the driving motivation. The goals which are attained by the terrorist structures are political, religious ideological in nature. On its way to combat International Terrorism, states face a problem of open borders, deregulation and expanded commerce, which complicate the task. However, states use more securitization and close co-operation between each other with deep involvement into state security issues.

There are many terrorist states in the world. All of them contribute to the International Terrorism in a way that their actions are organised and supported by mercenary states. Different actions are taken in respect of fighting International Terrorism. All of them are emphasised by the National Policies of states, including the US. Main problem areas in the world are viewed in perspective of co-operation among states world-wide. The US has its specific position in this issue. The way it brings up the issue to the forefront may be evaluated as strong and co-operative.

In my work, I will touch an issue of International Terrorism. I will give a brief definition of the International Terrorism and describe main problematic zones in the world. I will look on the issue from American perspective. By doing that, I will provide you with main targets of the US policies aimed at fighting against International Terrorism. I will introduce you to the  Middle Eastern Terrorism with a view on US sanctions in the region, and will briefly examine policies on Combating WMD.

International Political Disorder

An international political disorder occurs when one of four conditions exist. First, the aggrieved groups political grievances involve a foreign state. Second, the group seeks or has been forced to seek asylum in a foreign state. Third, the group directs its violence against the nationals or property of a foreign state. Fourth, the group receives, directly or indirectly, financial or military support from a foreign state. If any one of these four elements is present, the group activity may constitute international terrorism. Stated differently, when one or more foreign states are involved directly or indirectly in a given conflict, such a disorder acquires an international dimension. Ali Khan in his theory of International Terrorism (1987) classifies multifaceted international political disorders responsible for terrorism into mutually exclusive categories, two distinct sources of international terrorism are ideological disorders and refugee disorders.

1.   Ideological Disorders

Ideological disorders occur when an aggrieved group rises violence in order to register its ideological disapproval of a perceived menace such as capitalism, communism, nuclear weapons, or United States or Soviet "imperialism." Terrorist actions committed by an ideological group within its own home state do not always constitute a purely domestic matter that does not affect the international legal order. Even indigenous terrorist groups may cause international anguish when, in pursuit of their political objectives, they attack foreign targets within their home state. Thus, ideological terrorism may have international ramifications when aggrieved groups attack foreign targets.

2.   Refugee Disorders

Serious international disorders occur when states fail to resolve the grievances of a refugee group. These refugee groups resort to terrorist activity in order to assert their right to have a home state or return to their home state. The terrorist activity perpetrated by refugee groups poses radically different and far more serious international problems, simply because their activity inevitably brings asylum states into the conflict. If the home state of a refugee group is under foreign occupation, refugee terrorism persists because those elements that have left or have been forced to leave their home state show a determined resolve to use violence in establishing their right to return. When a refugee group has no home state to which it may return, its violence becomes totally unscrupulous.

Definition of International Terrorism

There is no universally accepted definition of international terrorism. One definition

widely used in U.S. government circles, and incorporated into law, defines international terrorism as terrorism involving the citizens or property of more than one country. Terrorism is broadly defined as politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents. The growth of international and transnational criminal organisations and the growing range and scale of such operations has resulted in their use of violence with financial profit as the driving motivation.

The concept of terrorism is defined by the official United States Code:  “act of terrorism” means an activity that — (A) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; and (B) appears to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.  

US sources also provide more succinct definitions of “terrorism.” A US Army manual on countering terrorism defines it as “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature. This is done through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear.”

Another interesting view on Terrorism is presented by  Noam Chomsky. He states that in their desire to combat terrorism in a modern political context, nations often face conflicting goals and courses of action: (1) providing security from terrorist acts, i.e., limiting the freedom of individual terrorists, terrorist groups, and support networks to operate unimpeded in a relatively unregulated environment versus (2) maximising individual freedoms, democracy, and human rights. Efforts to combat terrorism are complicated by a global trend towards deregulation, open borders, and expanded commerce.

One leading Israeli specialist observes that “state-sponsored terrorism is a form of low-intensity conflict that states undertake when they find it convenient to engage in ‘war’ without being held accountable for their actions”

Terrorism in the World

There are many terrorist states in the world, but the United States is unusual in that it is officially committed to international terrorism, and on a scale that puts its rivals to shame. Thus Iran is surely a terrorist state. Its major known contribution to international terrorism was revealed during the Iran-Contra inquiries: namely, Iran’s perhaps inadvertent involvement in the US proxy war against Nicaragua. Some states employ individual terrorists and criminals to carry out violent acts abroad.

During the 1980s, the primary locus of international terrorism has been Central America. In Nicaragua the US proxy forces left a trail of murder, torture, rape, mutilation, kidnapping, and destruction, but were impeded because civilians had an army to defend them. In El Salvador, tens of thousands were slaughtered in what Archbishop Rivera y Damas in October 1980, shortly after the operations moved into high gear, described as “a war of extermination and genocide against a defenseless civilian population.” This exercise in state terror sought “to destroy the people’s organizations fighting to defend their fundamental human rights”.

In the same years, a massacre of even greater scale took place in Guatemala, also supported throughout by the United States and its mercenary states. Here too, terror increased after the Esquipulas II peace agreement in order to guard against steps towards democracy, social reform, and protection of human rights called for in the accords. As in El Salvador, these developments were virtually ignored.

International terrorism is, of course, not an invention of the 1980s. In the previous two decades, its major victims were Cuba and Lebanon.

In the Middle East, the main center of international terrorism according to the canon, the worst single terrorist act of 1985 was a car-bombing in Beirut on March 8 that killed 80 people and wounded 256.

In 1986, the major single terrorist act was the US bombing of Libya — assuming, again, that we do not assign this attack to the category of aggression. This was a brilliantly staged media event, the first bombing in history scheduled for prime-time TV, for the precise moment when the networks open their national news programs.

Israel is the source of the 1980s “terrorism industry” (then transferred to the US for further development), as an ideological weapon against the Palestinians. Palestinian violence has received worldwide condemnation.

In the next chapters, I will observe International Terrorism as a threat of the US security. I will highlight challenges and aims of the US security policy towards fighting against International Terrorism and means to resolve this problem. 

International Terrorism as a Threat for the US Security.

What is done by the US towards fighting against International Terrorism? Available policy options range from diplomacy, international co-operation, and constructive engagement to economic sanctions, covert action, physical security enhancement, and military force.

How does the US tackle International Terrorism? U.S. policy toward international terrorism contains a significant military component, reflected in current U.S. operations in Afghanistan and (on a smaller scale) the Philippines and in planned deployments of U.S. forces to Yemen and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

A modern trend in terrorism is toward loosely organised, self-financed, international networks of terrorists. Another trend is toward terrorism that is religiously- or ideologically motivated. Radical Islamic fundamentalist groups, or groups using religion as a pretext, pose terrorist threats of varying kinds to U.S. interests and to friendly regimes. A third trend is the apparent growth of cross- national links among different terrorist organisations, which may involve combinations of military training, funding, technology transfer or political advice.

A main trend is toward proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For instance Iran, seen as the most active state sponsor of terrorism, has been aggressively seeking a nuclear arms capability. Iraq is thought to be stockpiling chemical and biological agents, and to be rebuilding its nuclear weapons program. North Korea recently admitted to having a clandestine program for uranium enrichment. The Al Qaeda organisation attempted to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. As a result, stakes in the war against international terrorism are increasing and margins for error in selecting appropriate policy instruments or combinations of them to prevent terrorist attacks are diminishing correspondingly.

How to fight against International Terrorism? Good Intelligence is the Best Weapon against International Terrorism. Obtaining information about the identity, goals, plans, and vulnerabilities of terrorists is extremely difficult. Yet, no other single policy effort is more important for preventing, pre-empting, and responding to attacks.

The United States is said to continue to work with its allies to disrupt the financing of terrorism by identifying and blocking the sources of funding for terrorism, freezing the assets of terrorists and those who support them, denying terrorists access to the international financial system, protecting legitimate charities from being abused by terrorists, and preventing the movement of terrorists’ assets through alternative financial networks.

In the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, it is stated that the US will disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations by:

·    direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power;

·      denying further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities;

·      using the full influence of the United States, and working closely with allies and friends, to make clear that all acts of terrorism are illegitimate so that terrorism will be viewed in the same light as slavery, piracy, or genocide

·      supporting moderate and modern government, especially in the Muslim world, to ensure that the conditions and ideologies that promote terrorism do not find fertile ground in any nation;

·      focusing its efforts and resources on areas most at risk; and

·      using effective public diplomacy to promote the free flow of information and ideas ;

·      continue to work with international organizations such as the United Nations, as well as non-governmental organizations, and other countries.

What is the US anti-terrorist policy based on?

Generally, US anti-terrorism policy from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s focused on deterring and punishing state sponsors as opposed to terrorist groups themselves. Since the 1980s, the United States has based its counterterrorism policy on four pillars:

1.   Make no concessions to terrorists and strike no deals;

2.   Bring terrorists to justice for their crimes;

3.   Isolate and apply pressure on states that sponsor terrorism to force them to change their behaviour; and,

4.   Bolster the counterterrorism capabilities of countries that work with the United States and require assistance.

The government uses multiple tools to pursue this strategy. Diplomacy is an important instrument, both in gaining the assistance of other nations in particular cases and convincing the international community to condemn and outlaw egregious terrorist practices. Law enforcement is often invaluable in the investigation and apprehension of terrorists. Military force and covert action can often pre-empt or disrupt terrorist attacks. But meeting the changing terrorist threat requires more aggressive use of these tools and the development of new policies and practices.

Preparing to prevent or respond to catastrophic terrorist attacks is another important issue. Law enforcement and public health officials have the authority to conduct investigations and implement measures that temporarily exceed measures applicable under non-emergency conditions. These may include cordoning off of areas, vehicle searches, certain medical measures, and sweep searches through areas believed to contain weapons or terrorists.

Main Targets

The first one is common fight against Al Quaeda group. Second, in addition to the 7,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have been dispatched to Yemen, the Philippines and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to train local militaries to fight terrorists.

An encouraging sign in the anti-terrorism struggle has been the evident willingness of certain state sponsors of terrorism to distance themselves from extremist groups that they had supported in the past or from international terrorism generally.

Trends in International Terrorism

International terrorism is recognised as a threat to U.S. foreign and domestic security.

Some analysts believe that radical Islamic groups seek to exploit economic and political tensions in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Jordan, Pakistan and other countries. Because of their avowed goal to overthrow secular regimes in certain countries with large Moslem populations, such groups are seen as a particular threat to U.S. foreign policy objectives.

There are 7 state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Libya. Of the 7, Libya and Sudan were closest to being taken off the terrorism list. Iran, North Korea, and Syria have “made limited moves to co-operate with the international community’s campaign against terrorism.”

Today the U.S. policy focus is on terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda and affiliated networks, and state supporters. But in the future, it may be that new brands of terrorists will emerge. All of the 7 officially designated state sponsors of terrorism, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, also have known or suspected programs for the development of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Middle Eastern Terrorism

 Next, my specific interest laid on the issue of Middle Eastern Terrorism. It’s important how the US tackles this issue and which sanctions it uses in fighting against terrorism.

There is no universally agreed strategy, either within the United States or between the United States and its Middle Eastern and European allies, for countering Middle Eastern terrorism. It is provided by several forces.

First, unilateral military force is an effective tool against Middle Eastern terrorism. Although the U.S. allies have often been the victims of Middle Eastern terrorism, they continue to maintain that military retaliation could inspire a cycle of attack and reaction that might be difficult to control. On some occasions, U.S. allies have provided some logistic and diplomatic support for U.S. retaliatory attacks. The U.S. military actions against terrorists have almost always enjoyed strong congressional support.

Second, the United States has been willing to apply economic sanctions unilaterally to state sponsors of terrorism, even though there is substantial disagreement among experts about their effectiveness. The listing of a country as a state sponsor of terrorism alone triggers a wide range of U.S. economic sanctions. Countries on the list are prohibited from receiving U.S. foreign aid, Export-Import Bank guarantees, and sales of items on the U.S. Munitions Control List.

Third, in concert with U. S. unilateral sanctions, the United States has sought to develop multilateral approaches to combating Middle Eastern terrorism, recognising that U.S. allies still prefer dialogue and economic engagement with terrorism sponsors to policies of isolation and economic sanctions. In May 1998, in exchange for a waiver of sanctions under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, the United States obtained pledges from the European Union and Russia of greater anti-terrorism co-operation with the United States. This agreement has been implemented through greater exchanges of information, joint efforts to counter terrorist fundraising, and the development of improved export controls on explosives and conventions against nuclear terrorism.

Fourth, the United States has tried to aid some governments facing opposition from groups that conduct acts of terrorism. The Administration has sought to rein in the radical pro-Iranian Hizballah organisation in Lebanon by providing military and law enforcement assistance to the government of Lebanon, including sales of 800 U.S. excess armoured personnel carriers.

Fifth, it is the policy of the United States to apply maximum pressure on states that sponsor and support terrorists. However, the United States does conduct diplomacy with some state sponsors and countries that have influence on them, in order to curb state support for terrorism. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, Iraq, or Libya, but it does have diplomatic relations with Sudan and Syria.

I think that the US provides quite good sanctions in fighting against Middle Eastern terrorism. The most important what was made by the US was made unilaterally, with pressure and with co-operation with other countries, including the EU and Russia.

The US policy on Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction

WMD are a threat which gives fear to humankind. In relation to terrorist organisations it becomes more important to talk about their non-use.  It is interesting to look how the threat of the use of WMD is eliminated by the US. I will stress that the US applies effective means to counter the use of WMD. It uses different means including non-proliferation diplomacy, as well as deterrence and interdiction. I would like to describe these means more precisely.

US military  and appropriate civilian agencies must possess the full range of operational capabilities to counter the threat and use of WMD by states and terrorist against the United States, our military forces, and friends and allies.


Effective interdiction is a critical part of the US strategy to combat WMD and their delivery means. US enhances the capabilities of military, intelligence, technical, and law enforcement communities to prevent the movement of WMD materials, technology, and expertise to hostile states and terrorist organizations.


A strong declaratory policy and effective military forces are essential elements of the US, contemporary deterrent posture, along with the full range of political tools.

Defense and Mitigation

Active defenses disable, disrupt and destroy WMD en route to their targets.  Active defenses include vigorous air defense and effective missile defenses against today’s threats. The United States also provides its allies with an effective defense against  biological weapons. Besides, US military forces and domestic law enforcement agencies must stand ready to respond against the source of any WMD attack. As with deterrence and prevention, an effective response requires rapid attribution and robust strike capability. The primary objective of a response is to disrupt an imminent attack or an attack in progress, and eliminate the threat of future attacks.

Nonproliferation, Active nonproliferation Diplomacy

The United States actively employs diplomatic approaches in bilateral and multilateral setting in pursuit of our nonproliferation goals. The United States will support those regimes that are currently in force, and work to improve the effectiveness of , and compliance with those regimes. Besides, their efforts include:


Strengthening of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International  Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty that advances US security interests, and Strengthening the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Chemical and Biological

Effective functioning of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, strengthening the Missile Technology.

Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Cooperation

The United States pursues a wide range of programs, designed to address the proliferation threat  stemming from the large quantities of Soviet-legacy WMD and missile-related expertise and materials. Maintaining an extensive and efficient set of nonproliferation and threat reduction assistance programs to Russia and other former Soviet states is a high priority.

Different measures may be applied in combating WMD. All of the above described measures have their implications. The most important here is that US uses various kinds of possibilities and political means to achieve the ends, as well as it does it in co-operation with other countries.


In my work, I touched an issue of International Terrorism, which is of most concern in the International Relations. I described it from the perspective of international world disorder and provided you with the US perspective on the issue.

International Terrorism is a great threat world-wide. It is an underground fight for ideological rights and religion. Specifically, it possesses big threat for the US Security. As it was mentioned, the US continues to work with its allies to disrupt the financing of terrorism by identifying and blocking the sources of funding for terrorism  and some other sanctions. Besides, the US policy aims at diplomatic measures dealing with some state sponsors and influencing them. In case of Middle Eastern terrorism, the US develops unilateral economic, political and military sanctions to resist International Terrorism. The US policy on combating WMD is complicated in a way that it involves many political forces to achieve non-proliferation goals. The US co-operative with other states  world-wide trying to achieve its anti-terrorist goals.

In my opinion, the US is capable of the International Terrorism issue and uses effectively its powers. It has a leading role in fighting against International Terrorism. It involves many investments in fighting terrorism and provides ideological fight. It co-ordinated its work in co-operation with the EU, developed programs towards fighting International Terrorism. It has bilateral agreements with Russia. WMD are important. Non-proliferation programs hold back the growth of terrorist behaviours and promote stabilisation and peace between countries.

Course: International Relations at a Turning Point Department of Political Science and IR, University of Tampere, 2003 Lecturer: Helena Ryt&oum

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