DHS and the FBI released the following threat memo over the weekend, as reported at ABC News:
Escalation of Arab-Israeli Conflict Could Impact the Homeland
“The abduction of Israeli soldiers by the Palestinian terrorist group HAMAS and the militant Shiâ€™a group Hizballah and the subsequent Israeli military response have escalated the already volatile situation in the region. ……… While DHS and the FBI have no information indicating an imminent threat of attack in the Homeland, it is possible that individuals residing in the United States, who sympathize with the various parties to the conflict, could act on their grievances.
DHS and the FBI have no indicators that individuals are preparing to conduct such action at the current time, but we urge vigilance during this heightened state of tension in the Middle East. DHS and the FBI will continue to keep recipients advised of any change in the threat situation.”
There’s no doubt that Hezbollah maintains a significant international reach. This NY Post story from May 2006 discusses current FBI investigations into potential Hezbollah sleeper cells in the United States. Canada is reputed to have a similar Hezbullah presence, and the State Department and numerous other sources note the presence of cells around the world.
But is there intent to carry out attacks in the U.S. or elsewhere in the west? This is the question that government analysts are likely trying to answer right now. This threat warning is perhaps something of a ‘CYA’ as they investigate and monitor activity.
The Washington Post reported in April that Iran would activate terrorist cells around the world, including Hezbollah cells, if it were attacked by the United States. Could the conflict between Israel and Lebanon, if it continues to escalate, lead to the same outcome? Right now, I find this unlikely, because I don’t think it would be to Hezbollah’s tactical advantage to draw the United States more deeply into this conflict. In a post yesterday at the Counterterrorism Blog, Dennis Lormel suggests that Hezbollah would not want to endanger its North American fundraising activities. But these tactical calcuations could change quickly as events unfold. And we shouldn’t necessarily assume that groups or individuals will act rationally in situations like this.
Given this evolving and uncertain threat environment, I would not be surprised to see DHS raise the threat level to Code Orange (High) by the end of July, if the conflict in the Middle East continues to escalate.