TerrorismGrowing Terrorism Threats: Iran-backed groups, IS in Africa, and White Supremacists: State Dept. Report

Published 25 June 2020

The Trump administration, noting significant victories against global terrorism, says Iran continues to increase its support for extremists, while IS is increasing its presence in Africa and Southeast Asia. Attacks by white supremacists are on the rise, and the terrorism threat posed by white nationalists is of particular concern.

The State Department on Wednesday released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, detailing key developments in 2019 in the global fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda, Iranian proxies, and other international terrorist groups.

The report notes that the United States and its partners made significant strides to defeat and degrade international terrorist organizations in 2019. Along with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the United States completed the destruction of the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria in March. In October, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi died following a U.S. military raid on his compound in Syria. In April, the Secretary of State designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including its Qods Force, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization – the first time part of a foreign government has been so designated. In September, President Trump ordered the most significant update of U.S. terrorism designation authorities since the aftermath of 9/11. And throughout the year, a number of governments in the Western Hemisphere and Europe announced the terrorist designations of Hezbollah.

The report also discusses U.S. efforts to address new and ongoing challenges, including the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters, particularly to Western Europe; the expansion of ISIS branches and networks in Africa; and the threat of racially or ethnically motivated terrorism.

The report also touches on the growing threat posed by far-right extremists and white nationalists, noting:

The threat posed by racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT), particularly white supremacist terrorism, remained a serious challenge for the global community.  Continuing a trend that began in 2015, there were numerous deadly REMT attacks around the world in 2019, including in Christchurch, New Zealand; Halle, Germany; and El Paso, Texas.

The September 2019 updating and expansion of the U.S. government’s terrorism designation led, in April 2020, to the United States designating the ultranationalist Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), along with three of its leaders, as terrorists, marking the first time the classification has been applied to a white supremacist group.