AMU Homeland Security Intelligence Original Terrorism

The Increasing Threat of Foreign and Domestic Terrorism

The United States is facing significant threats, both outside and inside the U.S. The turmoil in the Middle East, sparked by the ruthless attack by Hamas on Israel last October, set off a series of events that has created security threats around the world. Tensions are high between the United States and its adversaries, including Iran, Russia, and China.

Similar to Russia and China, Iran seeks to participate in a multi-front, multi-dimensional war against Israel and the United States, according to The Hill. The Minister of Defense in Iran, Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, said “our advice to the Americans is to immediately stop the war in Gaza and implement a ceasefire, otherwise they will be hit hard,” according to Reuters. As Israel defends its sovereignty following last October’s attacks that took the lives of approximately 1,200 Israelis, a ceasefire seems unlikely.

Related: Hamas and Israel at War: What Motivated the Surprise Attack?

Rising Threats Inside the US

While military bases and servicemembers are targeted by hostile forces in the Middle East, the threat of an attack has increased in the United States. In a Congressional Committee on Homeland Security hearing called “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said that “given those calls for action, our most immediate concern is that individuals or small groups will draw inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home. We are keeping a close eye on what impact we have on those terrorist groups intentions here in the United States and how those tensions might evolve.”

Wray’s concerning words reflect the real possibility that sympathizers of Hamas, other Iran-backed militia groups, or groups sympathetic to the Palestine cause may resort to a violent attack in the U.S.

Domestic terrorist incidents have often occurred in the past due to the radicalization of followers and their belief in the ideology of terrorist organizations. These followers have been willing to commit acts of mass public violence to demonstrate their commitment to a terrorist organization.

For instance, terrorists Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted bombs that went off during the 2013 Boston Marathon, according to History. The bombs killed three people and injured 281 people, and the Tsarnaev brothers considered their attack as a protest against the U.S. wars in Muslim countries.

Similarly, the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016 was the deadliest attack on American soil since September 11, 2001, injuring 53 people and killing 43 others. The attacker, U.S. citizen Omar Mateen, claimed that he carried out the attack to support the terrorist group ISIS.

During the shooting, Mateen placed a 911 call where he professed his “allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State,” according to Britannica. Baghdadi was a leader of ISIS and was one of the most wanted people in the world.

Britannica also notes that Mateen claimed solidarity with Iran-backed Hezbollah, the Nusrah Front (associated with al-Qaeda in Syria), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, Mateen’s statement made no sense; these terrorist organizations were in conflict with one another, a fact that Mateen did not seem to understand. In any case, his warped ideology led to a major loss of life.

In a December 2023 Senate hearing, FBI Director Wray said that he had never seen a period during his career when so many threats against the United States were as elevated as they currently are. He warned U.S. senators that he sees “blinking lights everywhere.”

Some Illegal Migrants Are on the Terrorism Watchlist

The crisis at the southwest border of the U.S. may also contribute to the increased threat level of domestic terrorism in the United States. According to CBS 8 News, U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that the number of migrants apprehended at the southwest border who are also on the terrorism watchlist is at an all-time high. For example, 151 migrants on the terrorism watchlist were arrested after they illegally crossed into the United States between October 2022 and September 2023.

Related: Controlling Illegal Immigration at the Southwest Border

Everyone Can Help to Mitigate Domestic Terrorism by Contacting Law Enforcement Agencies When Necessary

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, I do not recall a time where the threat of domestic terrorism was as high as it is today. Everyone has a role in staying aware of potential threats in their community and reporting to law enforcement anyone or anything that could be a potential threat in terms of radicalization or domestic terrorism.

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. For more information on Jarrod and links to his social media and website, check out

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