Threat Analysis

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Researchers collaborate across disciplines at RAND to evaluate terrorist, military, nuclear, cyber, and other threats to U.S. national security — identifying emerging threats, scrutinizing known risks, and evaluating potential strategic and tactical responses. Recent studies have included examinations of al Qaeda, the Afghan insurgency, and Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates meets with the other NATO Ministers of Defense and of Foreign Affairs, photo by Jerry Morrison

    Multimedia

    Rethinking Russia's Threat to NATO

    Sep 30, 2016

    A series of wargames examined the probable outcome of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states. The wargames showed that a near-term Russian invasion could reach the Estonian and Latvian capitals in less than 60 hours.

  • The Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, and the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, October 10, 2006, photo by Eliana Aponte/Reuters

    Commentary

    Hidden Dangers of Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

    Dec 28, 2016

    Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would antagonize partners in the Islamic world who are key to fighting ISIS and other extremists. And any potential cooperation that might have developed between Israel and Arab states over common concerns about Iran could suffer.

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  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, July 5, 2014

    Commentary

    Is ISIS Leader Baghdadi Still Alive?

    The Russian military announced that it might have killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in an airstrike in Raqqa. Would his death weaken the group or will ISIS continue to adapt, evolve, and expand like al Qaeda did?

    Jun 22, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile in this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on March 15, 2016

    Blog

    Conversations at RAND: Security Tensions in Northeast Asia

    The increasing tempo of developments in North Korea is of growing concern not only to South Korea but also to the U.S., Japan, and even China. At a RAND event, senior researcher Bruce Bennett discussed how complex the situation is and what options the U.S. has going forward.

    Jun 8, 2017

  • Suitcase with microbiological weapon

    Commentary

    A Countering Bioterrorism Facility Worth a Second Look

    President Trump's proposed budget would close a laboratory dedicated to countering bioterrorism and providing the science behind bioterrorism response and recovery. Policymakers should assess whether the lab's capabilities are worth the price when weighed against the potential cost of a bioterror attack.

    Jun 7, 2017

  • The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, left, along with ships from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, transit the East China Sea, March 9, 2017

    Commentary

    U.S.-China Tensions Are Unlikely to Lead to War

    The U.S.-China relationship today may be trending towards greater tension, but the relative stability and overall low level of hostility make the prospect of an accidental escalation to war extremely unlikely.

    May 1, 2017

  • Estonian and U.S. soldiers conduct live-fire training during a combat exercise near Tapa, Estonia, April 6, 2017

    Commentary

    How Trump Can Deter Russia and All of America's Other Enemies

    There is no such thing as blanket deterrence. Rather, one must deter a specific adversary from taking a specific action. A holistic approach should include ramping up U.S. capabilities to anticipate emerging threats, including events that are unlikely to happen.

    Apr 26, 2017

  • The 24-hour Operations Room inside GCHQ, Cheltenham, UK, November 17, 2015

    Commentary

    Five Eyes at 70: Where to from Here?

    The Five Eyes intelligence alliance of the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand began in the Cold War to meet the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Today, the nations' intelligence communities must contend with domestic terrorism and cyber threats while remaining ahead of Russia and China.

    Apr 21, 2017

  • An Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service convoy moves towards Mosul, Iraq, February 23, 2017

    Commentary

    Assessing U.S. Terrorism Challenges Around the Globe

    For the United States, countering terrorism saw both progress and setbacks in 2016. The U.S. will need to keep pace with terrorist abilities to adapt to its countermeasures while maintaining a high operational tempo punctuated by aggressive counterterrorism strikes.

    Apr 13, 2017

  • U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017

    Commentary

    Five Dead-Ends — and One Risky Opportunity — When Trump and Xi Talk North Korea

    Among President Trump's options, proposing a deal that gives the North Korean elite an alternative to its murderous and unstable leader could be the safest and most realistic way to sheath North Korean nuclear weapons and safeguard the American people.

    Apr 10, 2017

  • Armed police officers stand at the Carriage Gates entrance to the Houses of Parliament, following the attack in Westminster earlier in the week, in London, Britain March 25, 2017

    Commentary

    Two Very Different Views of Terrorism and What to Do About Them

    Does the public want fewer government initiatives aimed at fighting terrorism, or more? The answer could lie in the type of attack involved as well as in individual perceptions of risk and how much inconvenience people are willing to accept in the name of public safety.

    Apr 6, 2017

  • People leave candles in memory of victims of a blast in the St. Petersburg metro, Russia, April 4, 2017

    Commentary

    Attacks on Russia Will Only Increase

    As Russia gets more involved with the Syrian civil war, it's likely that Sunni militants will intensify their campaign against Russia. But the key reason why Sunni attacks on Russia proper will increase is the fallout between Sunni jihadists in the Caucasus.

    Apr 4, 2017

  • Emergency services attend the scene outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia

    Commentary

    How Russia Became the Jihadists' No. 1 Target

    Russia is fast replacing the United States as the number-one enemy of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Sunni jihadist groups motivated by violent and puritanical Salafist ideology. This shift is rooted in recent Russian actions in the Middle East.

    Apr 3, 2017

  • Fighters of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham cheer on a pickup truck after a Russian helicopter was shot down in the north of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, August 1, 2016

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda in Syria Can Change Its Name, but Not Its Stripes

    Al Qaeda in Syria, by any name, remains a dangerous and capable terrorist organization with the ability to conduct attacks in the West. Those seeking to grapple with the threat the group poses should focus less on its names and more on its actions.

    Mar 23, 2017

  • Report

    Knowing the Enemy: Understanding the Islamic State and Principles for Defeating It

    RAND researchers outline general principles that U.S. policymakers must consider when conceiving and weighing appropriate strategies to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    Mar 21, 2017

  • Members of the NYPD's Counterterrorism Bureau stand watch at the Union Square Holiday Market in Manhattan, December 20, 2016

    Commentary

    Taking the 'Terror' Out of Terrorism Requires Outsmarting Fear

    Terrorism aims to create terror. Building an effective counterterror strategy could help society understand how terrorism works, then work together toward a psychologically more resilient and less vulnerable mindset.

    Mar 16, 2017

  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) greets Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi at the State Department in Washington, February 28, 2017

    Commentary

    What Are the Chances of the U.S. and China Going to War?

    War between the United States and China seems far-fetched. But complacency would be a mistake. Washington and Beijing should keep a direct channel open between their defense ministers to defuse any potential crises or escalation.

    Mar 14, 2017

  • A member of the counterterrorism task force stands guard in Times Square, New York City, December 31, 2016

    Testimony

    No Easy Solutions to the Persistent Terrorist Threat

    Jihadist terrorism isn't the most dangerous threat to the United States. But it is the most prominent. There are no clear solutions to this problem, and all America's counterterrorism options entail risks.

    Feb 14, 2017

  • A girl dances while women pray at a protest against the Trump administration's travel restriction at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas, January 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Why a Travel Restriction Won't Stop Terrorism at Home

    It's not unreasonable to seek a review of immigration, and refugee-vetting procedures make sense. But America's jihadist terrorists are not imported from abroad. They are mostly homegrown.

    Feb 10, 2017

  • Multimedia

    Will Banning Travelers and Refugees Make Us Safer?

    In this Call with the Experts, RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, one of the nation's leading experts on terrorism and homeland security, discusses what we know about the perpetrators of terrorism in the United States.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Somali government soldiers secure the scene of an explosion in front of Dayah hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 25, 2017

    Commentary

    U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy Must Be About More Than ISIS

    ISIS is a worthy candidate for eradication, but failing to also target its franchises, al-Qaida splinters, and other non-aligned groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia could allow other threats to metastasize.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Iraqi army gather during a fight with Islamic State militants in Rashidiya, North of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017.

    Commentary

    The Need for a Targeted Counter-ISIL Strategy

    Defeating ISIL is only possible if political conditions change in the Middle East, North and West Africa, and South Asia, and in ways that are exceedingly unlikely. The coalition should focus on reducing ISIL's ability to conduct attacks and on removing the underlying conditions that feed Sunni grievances.

    Feb 5, 2017