- Feb 16, 2012
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
- Libertarian - Left
CIA Official Calls Syria Top Threat to U.S. Security - WSJ.comThe Central Intelligence Agency's second-in-command warned that Syria's volatile mix of al Qaeda extremism and civil war now poses the greatest threat to U.S. national security.
Michael Morell says the risk is that the Syrian government, which possesses chemical and other advanced weapons, collapses and the country becomes al Qaeda's new haven, supplanting Pakistan.
The threat from al Qaeda in Yemen in recent days—which shut down embassies across the Middle East—highlights the dangers for the U.S. as the terrorist organization tries to establish new beachheads. "It's not so much that al Qaeda has fallen as a threat," but that the threat from Syria has escalated, he said.
Mr. Morell's stark assessment shows how much the U.S. has at stake as it reluctantly prepares to arm Syrian rebels in the coming weeks while continuing to confront an al Qaeda that has dispersed across the globe. His forecast is all the more worrisome because it comes from a top official who other officials say is skeptical of current administration plans to arm the rebels.
Mr. Morell detailed his strategic assessment of Syria and al Qaeda in an outline of the top threats facing the U.S. in an interview in his office at Langley as he prepares to end his 33-year tenure at the agency on Friday. Second on his list was Iran, followed by the global al Qaeda threat, North Korea, and cyberwarfare.
Still, Syria is his top concern. "It's probably the most important issue in the world today," he said, "because of where it is currently heading." Its current track is toward the collapse of its central government, he said.
He said there are now more foreign fighters flowing into Syria each month to take up arms with al Qaeda-affiliated groups, than there were going to Iraq to fight with al Qaeda at the height of the war there.
The Syrian government's weapons, Mr. Morell said, "are going to be up for grabs and up for sale" as they were in Libya. The violence in Syria has the potential to spill over into Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
So in other words, Syria is one helluva bees nest that is going to need to be cleaned up sooner than later.