Attack on US Embassies

There has been a rash of incidents at American embassies that indicates that American embassies are now easy targets for bad actors. The United States has dealt with multiple attacks on its embassies and consulates for decades but the number of attacks has begun to skyrocket. These attacks come in many forms but the voraciousness of the incidents shows an escalation of violence. Some attacks include rockets launched at US consulates, attacking government officials and their families, or throwing grenades in US consulate compounds.

It would have been unimaginable to attack any country’s consulate or embassy just a few decades ago. Criminals and bad actors respected countries’ embassies as sovereign territory and refused to attack government officials. This international norm was respected until Iranian protestors stormed the American embassy in 1979. Americans were taken hostage for months and relations between the countries deteriorated. After this incident, countries have launched a growing number of complex attacks on US embassies.

While it’s true that the US goes to extreme lengths to protect its embassies, American embassies are struggling to contain security threats across the world. Bad actors have been making staff sick, firing rockets at consulates, and are openly shooting at buildings.


An American consulate was attacked on March 14th, 2022 after Mexican authorities arrested a suspected cartel operative named Juan Gerardo Trevino Chavez. After his arrest, hundreds of well-armed narcos attacked Nuevo Laredo. Laredo is split by the US/Mexican border. The US side is fairly quiet but the Mexican side has been racked with violence since the Zeta cartel took over the city over a decade ago.

Nuevo Laredo looked like a gruesome warzone with tractor-trailers burning and the streets littered with spent casings after these armed narcos fought to get their leader back. The Northeast Cartel was trying to replicate the success the Sinaloa Cartel had in 2019 when the son of El Chapo was arrested. In October of 2019, Mexican president Lopez Obrador was allegedly the person who ordered the release of Ovidio Guzman after the Sinaloa Cartel sent hundreds of heavily armed cartel members to destroy the city of Culiacan. While the Mexican president was likely consulted but it was more likely the order of local officials, many of which were probably on the payroll of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The arrest of Trevino Chavez, alias El Huevo, is likely to spark greater unrest in the area. Trevino Chavez was arrested in Nuevo Laredo by Mexican authorities as a suspected member of the Northeast Cartel. (CDN). Apart from being a top leader in the CDN, Trevino is also a founding member of the Tropa del Infierno or Hell Troop.

The “Zs” were formed in 1997 to be the militant wing of the Gulf Cartel but broke out on their own in 2010. The Zetas are comprised of mostly former Mexican military forces and were responsible for beating back the Sinaloa Cartel, kidnapping, extortion, drugs, and nearly the theft of over $1 billion in oil stolen from Pemex during their time with the Gulf Cartel. The Zeta Cartel experienced a stunning rise to power after a split with the Gulf Cartel as they gained territory across Mexico. This rapid gain in territory was brought about by their zeal for violence and their thirst for new territory and came at the expense of the Gulf Cartel.

After the split, the Zetas began recruiting former soldiers from across the country and Guatemala. These mercenaries were known for their violent methods that were used to gain the public’s compliance compared to other cartels that gain the compliance of the public through bribes. This allowed the Zetas to compete with an alliance of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel that was designed to blunt the Zeta’s rise to power.

The sudden rise of the Zetas was finally blunted by the deaths of several high-profile members and a dispute between Z40 and Z42. Miguel Trevino (Z40) and his brother Alejandro Trevino (Z42) began jockeying for power which led to the Zetas splitting into the Northeast Cartel and the Old School Zetas. The two brothers were arrested in 2013 and 2015 respectively which caused the organization to splinter even further.

Trevino Chavez’s arrest could lead to an even greater split between the Northeast Cartel which would lead to even greater violence in the area. As a result of Trevino Chavez’s arrest, armed gunmen began shooting at a Mexican army base as well as the US consulate.

The fragmentation of the Zeta Cartel could give another cartel an opening. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has been gaining ground in Mexico and is poised to take over the Zeta’s territory. CJNG has expanded beyond southern Mexico and has even taken larges cities like Veracruz. They will see the opening in the Zetas and take advantage of the loss of leadership. Even if the CJNG sees weakness in the Zetas, the Zetas will spill the blood of cartel members and civilians to maintain their strong grip on power.

Another factor that could be leading to the demise of the Zetas would be that they attacked the US embassy. In November of 2018, an unidentified attacker threw multiple grenades at the US embassy in Guadalajara. This prompted the CJNG to hang banners from freeways that it was not responsible for the violence on sovereign US soil. The CJNG distanced itself from the attacks on the US embassy in fear of reprisals from Mexican and US authorities. The Zetas may not be able to disassociate themselves from the attack of the US consulate in Nuevo Laredo.

The US will have to respond to this attack the same way it did in 2010 when Barrio Azteca members mistakenly killed US consulate employees in Juarez. The actions taken by the Northeast Cartel will likely lead the US to pressure corrupt Mexican officials to turn in several key members of the Northeast Cartel which will fragment their organization even further.


Iran’s Revolutionary Guards took credit for an attack on an American consulate on March 13th, 2022. The Iranian military fired at least 12 missiles at the US consulate in Kurdish-controlled Iraq. These missiles, which were fired from Iran, landed in the US consulate which is located in Erbil. These missiles were deliberately fired at the US consulate in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes in Syria as well as the US presence in Iraq.

Iran’s cavalier attitude at openly striking a US consulate goes against every international norm. Iran must believe that the Nuclear negotiations were not going as planned or that America was bogged down with the war in the Ukraine. No matter what their reasoning, they have to believe that America is weak enough that it would not be able to respond to such a dramatic escalation.

The missiles were fired from the Seyed Al-Shohada barracks near the Urumieh Lake National park in the northern part of the country. There were no casualties reported but the US is likely playing down the damage to the complex to prevent the need for a reciprocal attack.

The prime minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdish-controlled region, Kurdistan, as well as the prime minister of Iraq, condemned the attack on the US embassy but are unlikely to take any action beyond the condemnation. Iran holds sway over the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) that make up several militias that helped to fight ISIS but refused to lay down their arms after the war. The PMF remains a destabilizing force in Iraq by holding violent demonstrations in Bagdad and even an attempt to assassinate the PM of Iraq.

Iran is unlikely to restrain its behavior after such a bold move against the US. This attack shows that the Iranian revolutionary state does not fear any consequences from openly attacking the US government either directly or indirectly. America has allowed Iran to attack its soil without repercussions which will only embolden Iran and other bad actors in the future. If America wants to secure the safety of its staff and its sovereign territory it must begin to respond to these attacks.

Havana Syndrome

The Havana Syndrome was first observed in 2016 when US embassy officials began to show signs of a mysterious sickness. This sickness came on suddenly and showed signs of dizziness, headaches, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, memory loss, hearing loss, and brain damage.

The symptoms first began to surface as the US was establishing ties with the Cuban government under President Obama. As the two governments began building ties for the first time in over 50 years, the US government dismissed this illness as a form of paranoia or suggesting psychosomatic factors were at play. The government began labeling these incidents as “anomalous health incidents” and declined to study the cause and effects of this illness.

To date, reported attacks have occurred in at least Austria, China, Colombia, Cuba, France, Georgia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Serbia, Switzerland, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Washington DC. Several American officials have been forced to retire, staff have been forced to wear hearing aids, and even show brain damage in medical examinations. Vice President Harris’ trip was even delayed in Vietnam after a suspected Havana Syndrome attack on the embassy in Hanoi.

The LA Times reported that the government is still unclear what causes these attacks 6 years after they first appeared. The current theory is that a is a pulsed electromagnetic energy source in a radio frequency range. Some officials say that Russia is behind the attack while others say it’s still too soon to know who is behind the Havana Syndrome.

Russia is likely one of the top suspects since they worked on a similar tool in the Soviet Union but China could be just as culpable. The Chinese PLA is known for shining lasers in the eyes of pilots in Djibouti to try and crash planes. At least 10 laser incidents were attributed to the Chinese and pilots reported minor eye problems after these incidents. China has been emboldened by America’s reluctance to name them in several unprofessional incidents. They could easily have developed a radio-frequency device to impair American officials overseas.

American officials were also reluctant to come forward at first so its unclear how many of these incidents occurred over the years. These incidents could be related to incidents dating back to the 1990s when officials reported being disoriented or they could be a new phenomenon but it’s still unclear what is causing this sickness.

No matter how long the Havana Syndrome has been occurring, it’s clear that US embassies and consulates have become targets of bad actors. This article does not include the constant attacks on the US embassy in the Green Zone in Bagdad, the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Yemen, Tanzania, Kenya, and everywhere else in the world that have occurred in the last 20 years. If America does not start responding to the attacks on its embassies, it will only embolden bad actors.

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