How do rebel and paramilitary groups get international support?

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I know that countries governments communicate with each other using embassies, but how would a non-state actor make diplomatic communications with another country?

If an armed paramilitary group was emerging, and had decent enough manpower and support within the country it operated in (say, they were trying to overthrow the government) and needed weapons, how would they make contact with a foreign source willing to supply them, and how would the weapons arrive into the country from whatever foreign source was supplying them?

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If the rebel or paramilitary group is somehow already recognized as a government, it might even have some kind of semi-official representative to which a government can talk without too many issues.

Otherwise, it’s probably up to special forces or intelligence agencies (which in turn would likely have to get the OK from their own political authority… this kind of stuff is a big deal).

Answer. Somebody knows somebody who knows somebody…

Let’s use the old IRA as an example. A dozen Chicago men decide they want to send Cousin Sean in Belfast a few pounds of C4. They talk to the local bookie, who knows the drug dealer, who knows a smuggler…

It’s like any other criminal enterprise, there’s always going to be someone willing to supply whatever you demand.

It depends on what sort of organization and who is supporting them.

You might have an official government in exile sort of thing going on where a group of people claiming to represent an old overthrown or deposed government officially do business in a foreign country and are treated more or less as if they were actually representing a country even though they don’t.

That is the most official side of things.

On the far end of it it gets a lot more unofficial and there is naturally a lo of room for abuse there, when you have to take someone word that they represent a movement or group.

In some cases the act of picking a contact as a go between a supporter and a movement, legitimizes the contact and the parts of the movement they are in contact with as official.

A lot of it is based on trust and personal connections.

When your agency trained a guy in how to do the whole terrorism/freedom fighting thing or at least used them in some way before, they can be used as a known and trusted contact to whatever movement they either join or build up around themselves.

Looking from the outside it seems this sort of thing worked a lot better during the cold war than in more recent conflicts where in places like Syria, support seemed at times a bit undirected.

Thanks to Hollywood, people assume that CIA agents are out there assassinating bad guys and disarming bombs. But really, the primary job of an intelligence agency is to gather information for policy makers to use when making decisions.

In fact, there’s really no difference between intelligence agents and reporters: they both want to learn things that some people would prefer to keep secret and they want to learn them before the competition. You’d even find that they use a lot of the same methods.

So, outside powers find out about rebel groups through their intelligence agents (or diplomats, who also keep their eyes and ears open).

And as far as shipping in weapons? Smuggling has been done literally since the beginning of human history. Weapons come in the same way that drugs and illegal immigrants do.