Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation, International Cooperation, and Terrorism

International Interactions, Forthcoming

42 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2018

See all articles by Brian J. Phillips

Brian J. Phillips

University of Essex - Department of Government

Date Written: December 3, 2018


How does branding militant groups as “foreign terrorist organizations” affect them? Beyond its obvious policy importance, this question speaks to debates about counterterrorism, terrorism financing, and organizational dynamics of subnational violence. This article analyzes Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation, a key policy used by the U.S. government since 1997 to impose costs on foreign terrorist groups and those who might support them. Contrary to arguments that sanctions are ineffective and that terrorism is too “cheap” to be affected, it is argued that designation should weaken terrorist groups, reducing their attacks over time. However, the effect is probably conditional. FTO designation should be especially effective against groups operating in U.S.-aligned countries, given the importance of international cooperation in counterterrorism. Global quantitative analyses suggest that FTOs operating in U.S.-aligned countries carry out fewer attacks over time than other groups, taking many other factors into consideration.

Keywords: terrorism, counterterrorism, sanctions, international cooperation, foreign terrorist organizations

JEL Classification: F50, F51, F55, H56, D74

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Brian J., Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation, International Cooperation, and Terrorism (December 3, 2018). International Interactions, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Brian J. Phillips (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Government ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

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