History in the Making

Document Type



Following the post-September 11 United States reconfiguration of foreign policy, the use of the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) lists and related news media coverage dramatically increased. Considering the gravity of such designations, both because of the potentially devastating economic ramifications in the form of sanctions and as negative P.R., it is imperative to examine the historical use and application of these lists. This paper seeks to help better determine the legitimacy of being designated on either of these lists through the analysis of two entities that have experienced listing: the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) and the country of Iraq. Examination of these two cases reveals the role of strategic relationships with the U.S. government in terrorism designations and exposes the reality that, in these particular instances, the FTO and SST have been wielded as mechanisms of U.S. foreign policy rather than applied as legitimate safeguards. In the context of current U.S.-Iran relations, and U.S. foreign policy as a whole, it is essential to better understand the validity of the U.S. State Department terrorism designation based on the history of the circumstances surrounding previous applications.