State-Sponsored Terrorism: In Decline, Yet Still a Potent Threat


Political Science and International Affairs

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State sponsorship has played a significant facilitating role in terrorist violence. The scope and impact of state support has not, however, remained fixed; nor has its threat potential. This article identifies and depicts three distinct phases of state sponsorship: the peak (1970s-80s), intermediate (1990-2001), and low (2001-present) phases. The causal factors behind the steady pattern of decline in the number of states sponsoring terrorism and the intensity of support provided to terrorist clients are analyzed here. Despite this clear contraction, state sponsorship continues to merit close attention as the salience of state-sponsored terrorism relates not only to the number of sponsors and level of support, but also to the threat potential of the support sponsors can provide. Therefore, paradoxically, at a time when the number of state sponsors is at its nadir, the threat potential of terrorism is at its apex, as the proliferation of nuclear technology to terrorist sponsors has significantly elevated the potential consequences of state sponsorship.