I am not an expert or even medium in politic. I want to know: Why did the US add a group to terrorism list and after a while remove it?

My question is because of the following fact:

The United States removed Saddam Hussein from its terrorism list and put Iran on terrorism list. Then again in 1990 Saddam Hussein was put back on the terrorism list. In 1998, the United States put MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq) on the terrorism list, in 2012 they took it off the terrorism list. (link: Munich Security Conference 2019)

And now they called General Suleimani a terrorist while all including US know this fact that the US claimed many months ago that Iran is fighting with terrorists.

  • 4
    There is a valid question here, but I think it needs editing to avoid being closed.
    – Dan Scally
    Jan 9, 2020 at 21:23
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    So your actual question is "why did the US remove these groups/individuals from their terrorism list"?
    – F1Krazy
    Jan 9, 2020 at 21:40
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    It may looks like some CIA games. Especially if you consider amount of terrorists, jailed in the US and then suddenly released. For example, Abu-Bakr Al-Bagdadi was jailed in the US, then suddenly released, and then founded his terorrist state. Jan 10, 2020 at 6:48
  • @C.F.G - the last paragraph does not help with the actual question (which is very interesting btw), so I have removed it. We tend to favor not including person opinions in the questions body because these should contain the question and some neutral overview.
    – Alexei
    Jan 10, 2020 at 8:19
  • Could you site the source you are quoting?
    – user29681
    Jan 10, 2020 at 23:15

2 Answers 2


Why did the US add a group to terrorism list and after a while remove it?

The following is from a report by the Congressional Research service.

Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Updated January 15, 2019.

FTO Designation Criteria

Entities placed on the FTO list are suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activities. By designating an entity as an FTO, the United States seeks to limit the group’s financial, property, and travel interests. Per Section 219 of the INA, as amended via Section 302 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Secretary of State must demonstrate that the entity of concern has met the three criteria to allow the Department to designate it as an FTO. The suspected terrorist group must

  • be a foreign organization,
  • engage in or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorism, and
  • threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests of the United States.

Consequences of Designation

  • It is unlawful for a person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide “material support or resources” to a designated FTO.
  • Representatives and members of a designated FTO, if they are aliens, are inadmissible to, and in certain circumstances removable from, the United States.
  • The Secretary of the Treasury may require U.S. financial institutions possessing or controlling any assets of a designated FTO to block all transactions involving those assets.

FTO designation further

  • supports U.S. efforts to curb terrorism financing and to encourage other nations to do the same;
  • stigmatizes and isolates designated terrorist organizations internationally;
  • deters donations or contributions to and economic transactions with named organizations;
  • heightens public awareness and knowledge of terrorist organizations; and
  • signals to other governments U.S. concern about named organizations.

FTO Revocation Process

The INA sets out three possible bases for revoking an FTO designation:

  • The Secretary of State must revoke a designation if the Secretary finds that the circumstances that were the basis of the designation have changed in such a manner as to warrant a revocation;
  • The Secretary of State must revoke a designation if the Secretary finds that the national security of the United States warrants a revocation;
  • The Secretary of State may revoke a designation at any time.

Isn't this a game. because a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. Terrorists don't change.

Some of them do. A terrorist can become an ex-terrorist, possibly even a repentant ex-terrorist who helps building a more peaceful society. This tends to be a lengthy process with much soul-searching and possibly splits in the terrorist movements between peace and war factions, consider the Irish peace process.

But terrorist designations are a game. Perhaps one should say they have become a game. Terrorist lists these days are more like published enemies lists, both in cases where a country like Iran makes the "official" designation and in cases where the US does.

I'm old enough to remember when the Afghan Mujahideen were freedom fighters against the Soviet invasion. Did they change to become terrorist, or did conditions change and political pawns were no longer useful?

For that matter, remember how Iran helped to fight the IS? Or the Kurds, who are called freedom fighters when they are attacked by the IS, and terrorist when they are attacked by Turkey?

Andrew and C.F.G. asked for sources:

  • Ex-terrorists in Irish peace process (wikipedia).
  • Iran designates US as terrorist (CNN).
  • West supporting Mujahideen (wikipedia).
  • Iran fighting IS (wikipedia).
  • Turkey designates YPG (Kurds) as terrorist, US supports them (BBC).
  • @C.F.G, it isn't just the West who designates people as terrorist. Part of a propaganda tit-for-tat.
    – o.m.
    Jan 10, 2020 at 16:00
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    The best known ex-terrorist is Mandela, who was convicted for ordering bombing civilian targets. While everyone agrees he has done a fantastic job after his jail time.
    – Sjoerd
    Jan 10, 2020 at 16:42
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    "Did they change to become terrorist, or did conditions change and political pawns were no longer useful?" Actually, most of them formed the Northern Alliance and helped the United States when it invaded Afghanistan. Contrary to popular misconception the Taliban and those who would form al-Qaeda had very little to do with the Mujahedeen that fought against the Soviets.
    – Joe
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:21

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