Yesterday, the Department of State notified Congress that Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba were certified under Section 40A(a) of the Arms Export Control Act as “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts in 2019. This is the first year that Cuba has been certified as not fully cooperating since 2015. This certification prohibits the sale or license for export of defense articles and services and notifies the U.S. public and international community that these countries are not fully cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Iran: In 2019, Iran continued to be the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, supporting Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups, and other terrorist groups operating throughout the Middle East. In 2019, Iran maintained its support for various Iraqi Shia terrorist groups, including Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), Harakat al-Nujaba (HAN), and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH). Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, has been directly involved in terrorist plotting and has killed U.S. citizens. The IRGC – most prominently through its Qods Force – has the greatest role among Iranian regime actors in directing and carrying out a global terrorist campaign.
North Korea: In 2019, four Japanese individuals who participated in the 1970 hijacking of a Japan Airline flight continued to live in the DPRK. The Japanese government also continued to seek a full account of the fate of 12 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities in the 1970s and 1980s.
Syria: Syria has continued its political and military support for terrorist groups, including the provision of weapons and political support to Hizballah. The Assad regime’s relationship with Hizballah and Iran grew stronger in 2019 as the regime became more reliant on external actors to fight opponents and secure areas. The IRGC and IRGC-backed militias remain present and active in the country with the permission of President Bashar al-Assad.
Venezuela: In 2019, Maduro and members of his former regime in Venezuela continued to provide permissive environments for terrorists in the region to maintain a presence. While Maduro was not the recognized President of Venezuela during this period, his control within Venezuela effectively precluded cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism efforts. Individuals linked to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents (who remain committed to terrorism notwithstanding the peace accord) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) were present in the country. The U.S. Department of Justice has criminally charged Maduro and certain other former regime members with running a narco-terrorism partnership with the FARC for the past 20 years.
Cuba: Members of the ELN, who travelled to Havana to conduct peace talks with the Colombian government in 2017, remained in Cuba in 2019. Citing peace negotiation protocols, Cuba refused Colombia’s request to extradite ten ELN leaders living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people and injured more than 60 others. As the United States maintains an enduring security partnership with Colombia and shares with Colombia the important counterterrorism objective of combating organizations like the ELN, Cuba’s refusal to productively engage with the Colombian government demonstrates that it is not cooperating with U.S. work to support Colombia’s efforts to secure a just and lasting peace, security, and opportunity for its people.
Cuba harbors several U.S. fugitives from justice wanted on charges of political violence, many of whom have resided in Cuba for decades. For example, the Cuban regime has refused to return Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted of executing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. The Cuban Government provides housing, food ration books, and medical care for these individuals.