The list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is serious because it makes funding them into a crime. Not every terrorist organization in the world is on there.
As I recently wrote in, “A Christmas Genocide in Nigeria”, the Obama administration had resisted adding Boko Haram to the FTO list despite their horrifying massacres of Christians and bombings of churches. Obama’s people had argued that the Islamic terrorist group was a local problem and there was no reason to add it.
Similar debates took place over Jihadists in Somalia.
The Trump administration added the Houthis in Yemen to the FTO list only to have Biden take them off. In response to the Red Sea attacks, the administration still won’t put the Houthis on the FTO list only on the much weaker SDGT list which doesn’t criminalize funding them.
But here’s something funny. Jaysh al-Adl is on there.
Jaysh al-Adl may not ring any bells. And it shouldn’t. Until recently it hardly ever showed up in the news.
And with good reason.
Jaysh al-Adl is a Sunni Jihadist group that focuses all of its energies on attacking Iran. It was recently in the news because Iran decided to bomb what it claimed were some of its bases in Pakistan. (And Pakistan then responded by bombing some other Baloch nationalist groups operating out of Iran. There’s a lot of backstory to this, but frankly it doesn’t matter all that much to us.)
I’m not proposing that we throw Jaysh al-Adl a birthday party and bake a cake, but why is it on our FTO list when terrorists who actually are attacking Americans aren’t?
Jaysh al-Adl was added in 2010 during the Obama administration. Obama had begun secret backchannel talks with Iran in 2009 which included demands for “confidence-building measures”.
In November 2010, the State Department sanctioned a Pakistan-based militant group, called Jundullah, which had attacked Shiite mosques and military installations in eastern Iran, killing hundreds.
Iranian officials, including Mr. Khamenei, had accused the Central Intelligence Agency of supporting the organization, which Washington denied. Blacklisting Jundullah was a way to confront a terrorist organization and signal positive intentions by the White House, current and former U.S. officials said.
“We wanted to say, ‘If there’s openness on your part, there’s openness on ours,’” said a former senior administration official involved in the decision.
Jundullah is Jaysh al-Adl.
The confidence-building measures have failed badly. So why Jaysh al-Adl still on there? If we’re going to list every Islamic terror group in the world, great. But right now the Biden administration still refuses to list the Houthis but is keeping a group on there only as a favor to Iran.
Much like the battles over listing Boko Haram, it feels like the FTO list has been used to offer gestures to terror states while refusing to list actual dangerous terrorist groups.
The terror list is being abused to do favors for Iran rather than to protect America.