The term “state-sponsored terrorism” is a controversial and problematic one. One of the reasons the term is so problematic is that different states view different actions as terrorism. One state may believe that funding a particular militaristic action is a legitimate course of action, while another state might see the same act as an act of terror. Pakistan and India, for instance, see certain actions very differently. Collaborative actions between China, Russia and Pakistan, for instance, involving the Taliban, were seen by India as acts of terror. George W. Bush gained much support for his war on terror after 9/11. But Bush’s view of state-sponsored terror differed from others’. G. Parthasarathy of The Hindu suggests that President Obama did not denounce Pakistan’s support of the Taliban as state-sponsored terror, because Obama’s political agenda involved bringing American troops back home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Donald Trump, notes Parthasarathy, did not share Obama’s agenda. He was more interested in combatting the Taliban than his predecessor. Therefore, writes Parthasarathy, “Indian diplomacy persuaded the American establishment and Trump himself that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism had to be tackled.”
Different players in conflicts tend to define the actions of their enemies as state-sponsored terrorism. For instance, while the US has declared Iran to be the foremost state-sponsor of terror, and scholars have condemned it as such — pro-Iranian activists hail Iran as instrumental in halting state-sponsored terrorism.
When the political agendas of different leaders cause them to ignore acts that might otherwise be labeled as terrorism, the firmness of concept of state terror becomes questionable. Furthermore, because different nations view different actions as legitimate or illegitimate – actions which one nation believes are legitimate may be labeled as terrorism by other nations. If Iran’s actions can be seen as both the sponsorship of terrorism and the prevention of terrorism, defining state-sponsored terror becomes more difficult.
- Hoye, W. (2002). FIGHTING FIRE WITH . . . MIRE? Duke J. Comp. & Int’l Literature, 105.
- Obama, B. (2008, July 14). My plan for Iraq. Retrieved from Ne York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinion/14obama.html
- Parthasarathy, G. (2017, December 17). The US and its anti-terrorism narrative. Retrieved from The Hindu: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/the-us-and-its-antiterrorism-narrative/article9992204.ece
- Roberts, G. B. (1987). Self-Help in Combatting State-Sponsored Terrorism: Self Defense and Peacetime Reprisals. Case Western Reserve Journal of Law, 255.
- Tasnim. (2017, December 2017). Iran Played Pivotal Role in anti-Terror Campaign. Retrieved from Tasnim News: https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/12/13/1599175/iran-played-pivotal-role-in-anti-terror-campaign-in-region-british-activist