• 2020 conflicts

    The Council on Foreign Relations has asked policy experts to rank thirty ongoing or potential conflicts based on how likely they are to occur or escalate in the next year, and their possible impact on U.S. interests. For the second year in a row, a highly disruptive cyberattack on critical infrastructure, including electoral systems, was the top-ranked homeland security–related concern. A mass-casualty terrorist attack was a close second. A confrontation between the United States and Iran, North Korea, or with China in the South China Sea remain the biggest concerns overseas.

  • Soleimani killing

    Iran’s attacks on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops as Tehran announced it will no longer comply with restrictions on uranium enrichment may encourage North Korea to perfect its nuclear and missile technologies, experts said.

  • Soleimani killing

    Immediately after news broke on 3 January 2020, that a U.S. drone strike had killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist conspiracy theories began circulating online and in public statements in the region. 

  • Argument

    The consequences of the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, several U.S. intelligence officials say privately, will be clear: more deaths, and some of them American. Zach Dorfman writes that Iran’s noisy Tuesday attacks were only the beginning. Suleimani understood that, unlike Russia or China, Iran was not, and would never be, powerful enough to challenge the United States head-on. Suleimani instead developed a network of proxies which showed that a state could forgo traditional means of power projection and nevertheless powerfully assert its suzerainty outside its own borders. Those same tools will now be brought to bear by Iran on enacting vengeance for Suleimani—in the Middle East and beyond.

  • Terrorism

    The Iranian general who was killed last week in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, along with several Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leaders, was instrumental in expanding Iran’s influence and reach beyond its borders through various proxy groups in the region.

  • Argument

    The 3 January drone strike against Qasem Soleimani marks a significant escalation in the U.S. use of force against external security threats as it has evolved in the years since September 11, 2001. Anthony Dworkin writes that there is nothing new or remarkable in a state carrying out the targeted killing of a military commander of another state in wartime, as the United States did in 1943 when it brought down the plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. But the attack against Yamamoto took place in the context of an all-out war between the United States and Japan, while the killing of Soleimani which ended with the complete surrender of Japan. looks less like a wartime military operation, and more like the targeted killings that the United States, Israel, and other countries have carried out to remove individual members of non-state groups.

  • Considered opinion: France’s jihadists

    In 2012, Mohamed Merah, a French self-proclaimed jihadist, and friends killed seven people, including three Jewish children outside their school, in several shootings in southwestern France. Since then, more than 260 people have died in France at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Many of the killers came from what what Bernard Rougier, in his book The Conquered Territories of Islamism, called “Islamist ecosystems.”

  • Argument

    David Petraeus, the former American army general who served as the commander of the Central Command and later as director of the CIA, said that the killing of Qassem Suleimani was “more consequential” than the killing of Osama bin Laden or of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Economist writes that while few bemoaned the demise of the jihadist leaders of al-Qaeda and Islamic State, the killing of Suleimani on 3 January has sparked a debate over the legality, effectiveness, and impact of his assassination.

  • Iran

    The Pentagon confirmed the killing of Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani in an elaborate missile strike in Baghdad. Soleimani, a cunning and ruthless military commander, was the mastermind behind Iran’s relentless drive to achieve a regional hegemony in the Middle East. His major achievements include securing Bashar al-Assad’s victory in the Syrian civil war; turning Iraq into an Iranian satellite; making Hezbollah into a potent and well-equipped military force; igniting the Houthi rebellion in Yemen; overseeing the development of sophisticated drones and cruise missiles which, in a massive September 2019 attack on Saudi oil facilities, showed they can evade U.S. dense air-defenses; and accelerating Iran’s march to the bomb since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

  • Extremism

    New Year’s violence between left-wing extremists and police in the eastern Germany city of Leipzig has created a heated political debate. “It is right and important to fight far-right extremism with all means, but that doesn’t mean we should disregard the left,” said Rainer Wendt, head of one of the two largest German police unions.

  • 2019: Looking back: Terrorism

    The 26 October 2019 killing in northwest Syria of ISIS (later: Islamic State) founder and leader Abu Bar al-Baghdadi by U.S. Special Forces brought deserved justice to a brutal terrorist leader, but his killing is not likely to have much of an effect on IS and its appetite for perpetrating acts of violence.

  • 2019: Looking back: Terrorism

    Five years ago, when U.S. federal and state law enforcement agencies were asked to identify the most serious violent extremist threats they faced in their respective jurisdictions, they all cited far-right, anti-government extremists. Following far-right, white nationalist extremists on the list of threats the United States was facing, these law enforcement practitioners placed Salafi-Jihadi-inspired extremist violence; radical environmentalists; and racist, violent extremism. Law enforcement agencies in Western Europe reached similar conclusions.

  • 2019: Looking back: Terrorism

    Recent years saw the emergence of different foreign and now domestic extremist movements — whether motivated by Jihadi preaching or white nationalism — which have adopted and actively advocated via social media a strategy which encourages “lone wolves” to engage in individual acts of violence against a large number of designated enemies.

  • 2019: Looking back: Iran

    The year which ends today saw growing tensions between Iran and the United States. The United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, but the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, while causing some economic difficulties inside Iran, has failed to dissuade Iran from pursuing its two related strategic goals: Achieve regional hegemony in the Middle East, and shorten the nuclear weapons break-out time, that is, the time it would take Iran to build a functioning nuclear weapon once a decision to do so has been made.

  • Perspective: Terror financing

    The Islamic State has discovered blockchain. The technology which powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum promises to revolutionize almost all facets of society, from payment processing to online voting. David Gilbert writes that now ISIS is actively testing a blockchain-based messaging app that could provide everything it needs to thrive: secure, anonymous communication, a tamper-proof repository for beheading videos and other ISIS propaganda, and perhaps most ominously, the ability to transfer cryptocurrency anywhere in the world.

  • Perspective: The Troubles

    The Troubles is the name given to the bloody war between Nationalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland, a war which began in the late 1960s and ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. In a tiny country of a million and a half people, over three and a half thousand were killed in the Troubles. Almost fifty thousand were seriously injured. Nick Laird, a Northern Irish novelist and poet who experienced the inter-communal violence as a teenager, writes that unless care is taken, one of the consequences of Brexit might be the resumption of violence.

  • Perspective

    The Washington Post last week released 611 documents as part of an investigative project called “The Afghanistan Papers.” Carrie Lee writes that the revelations “are in many cases shocking”: “The trove — a combination of interview notes, memos, and emails — strongly suggests that the U.S. government systematically misled the American people about military, diplomatic, and economic progress in Afghanistan.”

  • Extremism

    The number of far-right radicals referred to the U.K. government’s Prevent counterextremism program has almost doubled in three years, official statistics show: 1,389 people were directed to Prevent in the year to March 2019 because of concerns about their radical-right activities, an annual increase of 6 percent — and a new record. That number is nearly double the figure from 2015-16. The number of suspected Islamist extremists being referred to Prevent in the year to March 2019 was 1,404, a drop of 56 percent in a year and considerably below the peak of 5,000 in 2015-16.

  • Online hate

    Artificial intelligence is being developed which will allow advisory “quarantining” of hate speech in a manner akin to malware filters – offering users a way to control exposure to “hateful content” without resorting to censorship.

  • Terrorism

    The Turkish government is allowing Hamas operatives to plan attacks against Israel from Turkey. Israel has, on numerous occasions recently, given the Turkish authorities detailed intelligence information that Hamas operative exploit Turkish hospitality to planning, and train for, attacks on Israeli targets. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is reported to have responded: “We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine.”