One of the central elements of United States antiterrorism policy is applying pressure to states that support terrorism, says Ambassador L. Paul Bremmer III. State-supported terrorists are more dangerous than those operating independently, because the official aid they receive makes them harder to track, often better supplied, and provides a place of refuge, he says. The sponsoring state can gain an inexpensive and deniable means of striking external enemies and internal dissidents, he adds.
With respect to specific countries, Mr. Bremmer says:
Syria. US concerns about Syria's support for terrorism continue, despite the return of the US ambassador this fall after an 11-month absence. Last June, the Syrian government closed down the offices of Abu Nidal in Damascus, the Syrian capital, and later transferred several key officials who had played roles in Syrian-sponsored terrorism in Europe. These moves came as a result of heavy pressure, including sanctions by a range of Western countries.
Syria, however, continues to allow Abu Nidal - responsible for many terrorist actions, including the December 1985 attacks in Rome and Vienna airports - to operate bases just across the border in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Syria continues to play host to anti-Turkish terrorists, including the People's Kurdish Party and the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia. It also bears responsibility for security of Beirut International Airport, which its troops control. That airport was the point of departure for the terrorist who carried out a successful international hijacking this year.
As long as these problems remain, Washington cannot conclude that Syria's support for terrorism has fundamentally changed, and US-Syrian relations will be restricted.
Libya. Col. Muammar Qaddafi remains actively involved in terrorism around the world. Although the US air raid in early 1986 reduced Libyan terrorist planning and activities, they never stopped. Libya was involved in the August 1986 hijacking of a Pan Am flight and other attacks on Western interests last year.
Although the war in Chad apparently claimed much of Colonel Qaddafi's attention this year, Libya still assassinated two dissidents in Europe and wounded another. Its agents were expelled from France for plotting terrorist attacks earlier this fall, as were three Libyans from Switzerland several weeks ago. In October, the French intercepted the largest terrorist arms shipment ever discovered going from Libya to the outlawed Irish Republican Army.
Libya's People's Bureau (embassy) in Panama has been actively recruiting and funding radicals in this hemisphere and its equivalent in Australia was closed for such activities. Two weeks ago a Libyan diplomat was expelled from Kenya for terrorist-related reasons.
Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's regime has used terrorism against its perceived enemies ever since it came to power. Though Iran has chosen not to use terrorism recently against US interests, it has assassinated eight of its own dissidents abroad this year and there is good reason for the US to keep its guard up.