We don’t know how bad it’s going to be, but the chances for violence are greater than in any recent previous election... [President Trump's comments to the Proud Boys, telling them to "stand back and stand by" is] a message that many counterterrorism analysts perceived as a dog whistle, or maybe just a regular whistle, to the far-right.
Russia wants chaos and violence serves that, violence divides, violence reduces trust in institutions....[In terms of Russia's support for white nationalists,] what happens if we find that there is an individual who was triggered by something Russia-linked? What does that mean? Does it simply get lost in the noise? Or is it that Russia becomes responsible for the deaths of several Americans? I think that Russia is playing with fire, and under Trump that hasn't been a big deal, because he has downplayed it. But under a traditional Republican or someone like Joe Biden it'd be a much bigger deal.
U.S. options are limited. Iran has done such harassment in the past, and the U.S. Navy has a set of procedures to handle it — so making a big issue of it may be a surprise to Tehran.... The United States could sink some ships or take a similar military response, but this would achieve little.
[The US reward for information on Hamza bin Laden] is a bounty for a prominent figure but it’s not a huge bounty compared to his father or previous top-level figures. The thing about him is that there isn’t much to know. He’s very young, he spent a lot of time in hiding in Iran… and he doesn’t have major operational credibility that other figures have. Right now he’s at best a figurehead...while seasoned leaders are trying to recapture their brand, which was much stronger under his father. With that in mind using the Bin Laden name is sensible, the question is can he build on this and go from the son of an important person to an important person in his own right.
If [foreign fighters] aren’t brought home, what happens to them very much depends on who captured them and what their policies are. I understand people are tempted to say these people did something brutal and horrible and they should not be allowed to return, but that is what our justice system is for. There's a real question of whether they'll face justice with a real rule of law. Some might be able to bribe their way out, others may try to find places to flee if they aren't allowed to go back to their home country and spend years in prison. A group of hundreds of people unable to go home hiding out who knows where with links to the Islamic State - that's a very scary possibility... It would leave us with the same question. Say they were tried by an international tribunal and found guilty, where would they be imprisoned? It won’t be an option... [while] Guantanamo is a logical possibility ... I just don't think it's one politically that Trump would want to do.
[The pan-Arab nationalists] see themselves often as critical of religion because religion is ‘backward.’ It’s what’s been holding the Arab world back. That’s kind of the dominant divide, and Islamists of all stripes are pushing back against this... The Saudis really put a lot of money into the ‘Dawah’ machine to try to out-compete Iran around the world. There’s a real panic and concern then.
If you had told officials after 9/11 that in the next 17 years there would be only 104 deaths from terrorist attacks in the United States, they would have raised a glass of Champagne. Back then, we were worried that we’d lose that many people in a week. We could have mass attacks again, we could go 10 years without anything.
The number of counterterrorism investigations has increased over the past decade, in part because technology provides law enforcement with leads, said Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Social media enables the FBI to locate suspects. Court records show that many ISIS probes begin with a review of Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds.
It takes time and resources for the FBI to weed through ominous internet posts and determine whether an individual is bloviating for shock value or if they're making true threats that need to be chased down, said Byman.
"You have a lot of people bragging on social media and that comes to the attention of authorities," said Byman.
Pompeo is likely to come in with the CIA and congressional perspective that the Iran deal was a bad deal. But it doesn't solve the bigger problem of what's going to replace it. And as secretary of state, if he wants to accomplish anything, he's going to have to come up with an answer to that. And he's going to find out that U.S. allies favor continuing the deal, that the Iranians are not likely to budge much. And so he's going to have to grapple with this reality in a way he hasn't before.