THE WEST is facing a new “War on Terror” as bloodthirsty fanatics will exploit the chaos in the Middle East, experts have warned.
With the US and UK focused on tackling Iran-backed extremists like the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah – the shadow of even more savage groups is growing in the region.
ISIS – the blood-curdling terrorists whose attacks sparked horror around the world for years – are feared to be firing up for a return.
And security experts told The Sun that the Israel-Hamas conflict means a terrorist attack on UK soil is “absolutely possible”.
They warned a larger “war is coming” – which could mean a return to the days of War on Terror even worse than we have seen before.
Former US General Ben Hodges and security expert Professor Anthony Glees spoke to The Sun about how the West needs to steel itself for the bloodshed that may be coming in the Middle East.
Professor Glees told us Hamas’ brutal massacre on October 7 was the spark that lit the fuse on a new powderkeg – and warned the UK is not prepared.
And meanwhile, General Hodges said: “The UK is in a pre war environment. That means war is coming.”
US, UK and allied forces have been launching daring operations to strike the Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
But in the background – it is feared more extreme groups, such as the savage ISIS, are gathering strength.
US General Joel Vowell – who leads America’s efforts abroad to squash ISIS – warned that the threat of a suspected attack has risen 200 per cent in the last three months.
Vowell recently warned the world that the ongoing war in Gaza – and the melting pot of fanatical groups in the Middle East – has made ISIS a bigger threat than it was before.
He has headed the ten year US-led coalition Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS, which saw Western troops stationed in Iraq and Syria – two hotbeds of the terror group’s activity.
In January he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani to talk about removing US troops from Iraq – but instead issued a disturbing message.
The Middle East expert explained that ISIS cells have been rallying their forces in the background, “in Syria and Iraq in the last 60 days in particular”.
The ‘spark’ of Israel’s war with Hamas
Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist extremist movement, launched a brutal attack on Israel’s border in the early hours of October 7 2023 dubbed Israel’s “9/11” – killing over 1200 people.
Extremist Islamist groups including the Houthis and Hezbollah have aimed attacks at the US and the UK, citing support of Israel – because of their war against Hamas.
Glees told The Sun that the Western world now faces threats “from all sides”, and that the fight against Hamas, the Houthis and Hezbollah shouldn’t detract from efforts to protect ourselves from older terrorist threats like ISIS.
“I absolutely think we are being assailed from all sides. That makes us vulnerable. And when you’re vulnerable, you get bullied and attacked.”
The security expert also told The Sun that he “absolutely” thinks it’s possible that we could be looking at a new wave of a terrorist threat like those seen over the last 20 years.
The raging threat of terror groups like Hamas, the Houthis and Hezbollah could be combined with attacks by organisations like ISIS on UK soil.
When the free democracies of the West, particularly America, when they’re engaged in fighting one enemy, the other enemies come out of their holes and also try and have a go at them
Professor Anthony Glees
General Hodges said: “The UK is in a pre war environment. That means war is coming.”
Met Police commissioner Mark Rowley warned this time last year that Britain that the UK has tens of thousands of potential terrorists hiding in plain sight.
Sir Rowley warned that they were on the security services radar, and would need just a “spark” to act on their extremist beliefs.
Glees told The Sun that the events of October 7 and the ensuing war has “provided that spark”.
He said: “I think what has happened since the seventh of October, has, in a sense, provided a spark.”
Glees “absolutely” thinks the threat of a terror attack on British soil has been increased.
He warned that while we have a nuclear deterrent, which could be used to ward off certain enemies, it won’t prevent more conventional attacks like those that might come from a terrorist organisation like ISIS.
“I think we are in a very difficult position because the whole of our defence and defending our values has been built around our nuclear deterrent.
“And, you know, it’s good that we have it. However, the nuclear deterrent deters from nuclear attack. It doesn’t deter from conventional attack. It doesn’t deter from terrorism.”
Speaking of Britain’s forces, and capabilities for defence, Glees told the Sun that resources need to be funnelled into counter terror police as well as the armed forces.
“And I think wherever you look because it’s not just about our armed forces. It’s also about our police forces,” he said.
“I think we’ve got better in dealing with terrorism. I think our counter terrorist cops, they’re the best cops we have in the UK.
“So we’ve learned the lessons from the past. The problem is that the ongoing war in Gaza… what has happened since the seventh of October, has, in a sense, provided a spark.
“And that’s why people like me are very apprehensive of how this might develop.”
Who is ISIS and why are they resurfacing?
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is a murderous terrorist network that officially formed in 2004.
The group, known for its barbaric public executions and beheadings, was originally part of al-Qaeda – the terrorists responsible for 9/11 which sparked the decades-long global War on Terror.
They took advantage of instability in Iraq and Syria after 2000 to rule with an iron fist.
After an injection of American troops into Iraq in 2007, ISIS lost some of its power grip in the region.
But it began to reemerge in 2011 and by 2014 the US had formed Operation Inherent Resolve.
The mission involved putting American boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria – as well as other regions in the Middle East.
In 2014, ISIS was the most powerful, best-equipped and wealthiest Islamic extremist group the world had ever seen.
By 2015 it had branches operating in at least eight other countries.
That October, their Egypt network bombed a Russian plane and killed over 220 people.
In November 2015, 130 were murdered and over 300 injured during one of their most brutal attacks on the West in Paris.
And in June 2016, a gunman who pledged himself to the murderous organisation killed at least 48 people at a nightclub in Florida.
By December 2017, ISIS had lost 95 per cent of it’s stolen territory.
But its core ideologies, which included a burning hatred for the Western way of life, continued to inspire countless terrorist attacks around the world.
While American combat in Iraq was officially axed in December 2021, 2,500 troops were left stationed there to work as advisers and trainers for Iraqi security forces trying to fend off extremist forces.
There are believed to be less than 1,000 still stationed in Syria.
Three of those American troops were killed in Jordan on January 28 – in a drone attack at a US military base near the Syrian and Iraq borders.
Is history repeating itself?
Professor Anthony Glees, an intelligence expert from the University of Buckingham, told The Sun why the West should be considering terror threats like ISIS more.
While the US, UK and other Western countries are focused on fighting the Houthis and Hezbollah – an opportunity is carved out for ISIS to make a comeback.
He said: “When the free democracies of the West, particularly America, when they’re engaged in fighting one enemy, the other enemies come out of their holes and also try and have a go at them.
“What’s important is that we in the West are properly able to defend ourselves against all the people who might come at us.”
Glees said the current climate is comparable to the volatile moment our world found itself in during the early days of the War on Terror.
We now are in a situation where I think we’re much more vulnerable. And we know from history that the best way to prevent a war is to demonstrate that you’re prepared for it
Former US General Ben Hodges
The War on Terror was a global response led by America in the wake of Al Qaeda’s horrific attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11 2001.
On the morning of 9/11, 19 Islamic suicide terrorists hijacked four different planes filled with passengers travelling across America.
The first two hijacked planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing over 2,750 people.
The third plane – aimed at Washington DC, crashed into the US Defence HQ, the Pentagon, and the fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania – killing 220 more.
The 9/11 horror, masterminded by al Qaeda, sparked the War on Terror – which saw decades of fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
Stepping up UK defences
General Hodges told The Sun that war is coming – and Western attempts to keep the threat of extremist Islamic organisations under control, which have not worked for years, are lacking.
He said: “The UK is in a pre war environment. That means war is coming.
“The various strikes that have been happening over the last few days against Houthis, against Islamic organisations.
“They’re in retaliation. But clearly these are not having the deterrent effect of what needs to be done. We’ve been doing this for years,” he said.
“When I hear the Administration say, these strikes are just the beginning. That’s fine, but I don’t hear What’s the ending? What are we trying to get to?”
Hodges also worries about the lack of resources at our disposal to fight a war.
He told The Sun: “We now are in a situation where I think we’re much more vulnerable. And we know from history that the best way to prevent a war is to demonstrate that you’re prepared for it.”
He thinks the public should be made fully aware that we could spend a decade or more fighting the raging threats in the Middle East.
“I think that part of the problem is communication to our populations.
“You know where our leaders speak to us like we are adults and say, this is gonna take minimum 10 years for this strategy to take effect, or 15 years… there is no quick solution.”
Speaking of the UK, US, and parts of Europe, Hodges said: “None of us have the resources to do it alone.
“So, having alliances and coalitions that are able to provide, that buy into it, that are willing to be a part of this. That’s part of getting the resources together.”
But it will have to be different to the last time the Western world banded against the extremist threat with America’s War on Terror.
Hodges said we need a cohesive strategy, where priorities are established and resources carefully allocated with an end goal in mind.