A general view of a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on "Worldwide Threats to the Homeland" on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 15, 2022.

US Officials Warn Of Heightened Terrorism Threat From Iran

Thursday, 03/21/2024

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has informed a House panel that Iran is resolute in its intentions to carry out various attacks on US soil, including assassinations.

During a hearing at the US House of Representatives, the current status of Iran’s 'Axis of Resistance' and its implications for US homeland security and interests worldwide were examined, with a consensus that threats posed by Tehran and its proxies have escalated significantly.

Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Mark Green (R-TN) commenced the hearing by outlining Iran’s threats, which encompassed "assassination plots on former Trump Administration officials, targeting and attacking US service members abroad, disrupting trade and commerce, and endangering Maritime Security in the Red Sea, along with attempting to coordinate external Terror operations in Europe and South America."

He elaborated that the hearing's focal point is on the threats posed by Iran's proxy networks, known as the ‘axis of resistance,' a collection of militia groups employed by Iran to bolster their power projection capabilities and provide plausible deniability for attacks conducted on behalf of the Iranian regime. Notably, these militias include Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the Houthis of Yemen, and various Iraqi and Syrian militia groups.

Robert Wells, assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), informed the committee that "The FBI believes Iran is capable of a variety of attack options against US targets, including cyber operations intended to sabotage public and private infrastructure, and targeted assassinations of individuals who are deemed to be a threat to the regime or its stability."

Several security officials provided testimonies during a hearing at the US House Committee on Homeland Security, March 20, 2024

According to Wells, the Tehran regime is resolute in executing attacks in the United States, whether to avenge the death of former IRGC-Quds commander Qasem Soleimani (such as the plan to murder former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2022), to silence dissidents (like the attempted murder of activist Masih Alinejad in 2023), or to eliminate the ambassador of an ally nation (as seen in the plot to murder the Saudi Ambassador to the US.

He also referred to Iran’s supplying weapons for the Houthis to disrupt global shipping, saying that in January 2024, US military intercepted Iranian-made weapon parts bound for Houthis, “who could have used the weapons to target US forces.”

James Dunlap, deputy undersecretary for analysis at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, highlighted the Iranian government’s cyber threats through a variety of tactics, techniques, and procedures -- “including social engineering, using easily accessible scanning and computer hacking tools, and exploiting publicly known software and hardware vulnerabilities” against the US government and the defense industry. “The Israel-Hamas conflict shows how Iran uses cyber operations to respond to geopolitical events while attempting to maintain plausible deniability.”

Elizabeth Richard, ambassador-at-large, and coordinator for counterterrorism at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, pointed out, “Iran has been designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1984 and has long been directly involved in attack plotting against the US homeland and US personnel and activities, mainly but not exclusively via Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force.”

“Hamas would not have been able to carry out its devastating October 7 terrorist attack without Iran’s long-time assistance, funding, and training,” she stated. “Our defense of the US homeland does not stop at our own physical border.”

Carrie Thompson, chief of intelligence at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), addressed the threat from Iran and its proxies from an economic standpoint. She highlighted the “clear connection” between the drug trade and the financing of terrorist organizations and rogue state actors, including the Iranian regime. She said Hezbollah’s money laundering network collaborates with South American drug cartels to facilitate the smuggling of drugs into Europe and the Middle East. “The Assad regime in Syria has been associated with the production and trafficking of a synthetic drug called Captagon,” she added.

The hearing took place as Israel's war continues with Hamas, the epicenter of the current Middle East conflict ignited after the Islamist group invaded Israel and killed 1,200 mostly civilians and took 240 hostages. Iran’s ‘axis of resistance’ has increased attacks on US and Israeli targets to pressure Israel into a ceasefire.

Many American lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration for its Iran policy, which has not only failed to deter the attacks but also emboldened Tehran to boast about the victories of its ‘axis of resistance’ against the US.

According to David G. Perkins, a retired US Army general, deterrence means changing the minds and behaviors of Iran’s proxy forces, noting that the US should not try to deter the Houthis, but to deter Iran, which gives them “the head nod” for attacks.

More News