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CRS — State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief (February 27, 2015)

April 23, 2015 Comments off

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the U.S. government as countries with governments that support acts of international terrorism. As the 114th Congress is sworn in and begins its first session, U.S. foreign policy and national security policies toward Cuba, Iran, and North Korea are in a state of close scrutiny, with an eye to easing sanctions, including removing Cuba and Iran from the terrorist lists, and with an eye to returning North Korea to the same lists. While it is the President’s authority to designate, and remove from designation, terrorist states, Congress is likely to weigh in as the reviews proceed.

This brief report provides information on legislation that authorizes the designation of any foreign government as a state sponsor of acts of international terrorism. It addresses the statutes and how they each define acts of international terrorism; establish a list to limit or prohibit aid or trade; provide for systematic removal of a foreign government from a list, including timeline and reporting requirements; authorize the President to waive restrictions on a listed foreign government; and provide (or do not provide) Congress with a means to block a delisting. It closes with a summary of delisting in the past.

CFR Backgrounder: Islamic State

April 8, 2015 Comments off

CFR Backgrounder: Islamic State
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a militant movement that has conquered territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, where it has made a bid to establish a state in territories that encompass some six and a half million residents. Though spawned by al-Qaeda’s Iraq franchise, it split with Osama bin Laden’s organization and evolved to not just employ terrorist and insurgent tactics, but the more conventional ones of an organized militia.

When Jihadis Come Marching Home: The Terrorist Threat Posed by Westerners Returning from Syria and Iraq

April 2, 2015 Comments off

When Jihadis Come Marching Home: The Terrorist Threat Posed by Westerners Returning from Syria and Iraq
Source: RAND Corporation

Although the numbers of Westerners slipping off to join the jihadist fronts in Syria and Iraq are murky, U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that those fighters pose a clear and present danger to American security. This Perspective seeks to examine the scope of the threat posed by Western fighters who return to their homes after fighting in Syria and Iraq; what can be done to reduce the threat, and whether military action is necessary in combating it, as well as whether a more ambitious American military intervention in Iraq and Syria is required.

Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

January 13, 2015 Comments off

Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq
Source: Brookings Institution

Many U.S. and European intelligence officials fear that a wave of terrorism will sweep over Europe, driven by the civil war in Syria and continuing instability in Iraq. Many of the concerns stem from the large number of foreign fighters involved.

Despite these fears and the real danger that motivates them, the Syrian and Iraqi foreign fighter threat can easily be exaggerated. Previous cases and information emerging from Syria suggest several mitigating effects that may reduce—but hardly eliminate—the potential terrorist threat from foreign fighters who have gone to Syria. Those mitigating factors include:

• Many die, blowing themselves up in suicide attacks or perishing quickly in firefights with opposing forces.
• Many never return home, but continue fighting in the conflict zone or at the next battle for jihad.
• Many of the foreign fighters quickly become disillusioned, and a number even return to their home country without engaging in further violence.
• Others are arrested or disrupted by intelligence services. Indeed, becoming a foreign fighter—particularly with today’s heavy use of social media—makes a terrorist far more likely to come to the attention of security services.

The danger posed by returning foreign fighters is real, but American and European security services have tools that they can successfully deploy to mitigate the threat. These tools will have to be adapted to the new context in Syria and Iraq, but they will remain useful and effective.

CRS — The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (December 8, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Islamic State is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. It threatens the governments of both countries and potentially several other countries in the region. The emerging international response to the threat is multifaceted and includes coalition military strikes and assistance plans. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region.

CRS — A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (November 20, 2014)

December 9, 2014 Comments off

A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report presents statistics regarding U.S. military casualties in the active missions Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR, Iraq and Syria) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan), as well as operations that have ended, Operation New Dawn (OND, Iraq) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF, Iraq). This report includes statistics on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, evacuations, and the demographics of casualties. Some of these statistics are publicly available at the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) website and others have been obtained through contact with experts at DOD.

This report will be updated as needed.

CRS — The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (October 22, 2014)

November 3, 2014 Comments off

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Islamic State is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. It threatens the governments of both countries and potentially several other countries in the region, and has drawn increased attention from the international community. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region.

See also: Turkey-U.S. Cooperation Against the “Islamic State”: A Unique Dynamic?, CRS Insights (October 21, 2014) (PDF)

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