For now the list of "official" sponsors of terrorism remains static Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Sudan although in many cases "qualifying" for the list (and the harsh sanctions that come with it) is somewhat of a stretch. "North Korea may have a couple of old-time Japanese Red Army terrorists from the '70s still kicking around there, but it's not considered an active sponsor of terrorism," says TIME Washington correspondent Massimo Calabresi. "But the U.S. is actively using North Korea's presence on that list as a bargaining chip in negotiations to get Pyongyang to back off on proliferating its missile systems." The State Department report suggests that North Korea might eventually be taken off the list, in light of its "positive statements condemning terrorism in all its forms" although most other countries on the list would likely be more than happy to endorse the same statements. While Cuba may be a retirement home for a handful of former Black Panthers and Latin American urban terrorists of the '70s, it's not generally regarded as an active sponsor of terrorist activities, and its continued presence on the list may be primarily designed to placate its critics in the U.S.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is an immediate problem area. It plays host to at least one group designated a terrorist organization by the State Department (the Kashmiri Harkat al Mujahedeen, implicated in last December's Indian Airlines hijacking) and has refused to close the organization down despite pressure from Washington. But adding Pakistan to the list would mean closing the door on an already unstable nuclear power, and that remains an unlikely scenario. While castigating its record on terrorism, State Department counterterrorism coordinator Michael A. Sheehan made clear that Pakistan "is a friendly state that is trying to tackle the problem." Washington would simply like Pakistan to try a little harder.