US 'foreign terrorist' designation is more punishment than threat detector

A terrorism expert marks up the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, exposing the quirks, inconsistencies and foreign policy strategy behind this ignominious US directory.

By Eric Fleury Published on May 09, 2019.

The Trump administration in April designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, a branch of Iran’s military and intelligence services, as a terrorist group. Any groups designated this way are cut off from potential U.S. funding, communications with Americans, travel to the U.S. and other American “material support.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian political party founded on Islamic ideals, may be next.

The IRGC is the first government agency to receive such a designation, which calls attention to the political purposes that often prompts additions and removals from the list. Since its creation in 1997, the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list has been used to punish enemies, appease allies and advance discrete U.S. foreign policy interests.

My annotated version of this list exposes the quirks, inconsistencies and strategic logic behind the “terrorist” designation, revealing why it’s hardly a master directory of the militant groups most likely to target Americans.

This document was edited using Genius. To see an annotation, click or tap the gray-highlighted part of the transcript. Go here to view the annotations – or add your own – on the Genius website. Common spellings of group names are in parentheses.

Eric Fleury does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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