Threats to the U.S. as viewed by the country’s intelligence

Por • 12 feb, 2012 • Sección: Internacionales

Leonid SAVIN

On January 31, James Clapper, chief of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), presented a report on the threats America is to face in the future

The United States Intelligence Community is not a single organization but a cooperative federation of agencies which alongside with the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency includes the Office of Intelligence and analysis, the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Drug Enforcement Administration, about ten agencies of Pentagon (from the army to military space intelligence to geospatial intelligence) services of other departments and independent agencies. 

The IC’ report is interesting first of all because apart from real threats it also mentions the states, which do not tolerate the US unilateral hegemony in the world such as Russia, China and Iran, which proves an evident political subtext of the report. If before the aggression in Iraq despite of an unambiguous position of neo-Conservators the intelligence honetsly reported to George Bush that Saddam Hussein did not have chemical weapons, now there is an obvious trend to draw a certain picture with the new enemies of the US. 

The 30-pages report has seven parts, which differ in their volume. The first part deals with the terrorism threat. According to the report, in the next 2-3 years the terrorism threat will enter a critical stage with such organizations as Al Qaeda uniting into more centralized movements. It will require the involvement of all partners and a sound strategy to withstand such a terrorist threat, the report states. 

Nevertheless, terrorist groups and forces, which support the global Jihad movement will receive broader access to the financing, weapons and explosives reliable hiding places and will recruit new members. Such inauspicious statements infer that even the US most successful counterterrorist operations won’t bring peace. 

The second part deals with proliferation of the nuclear weapons and here the US has two classical outcasts – Iran and North Korea. 

The third part is about the cyberspace security. Apart from mentioning vulnerability of the communication networks and data bases the report names certain countries which pose danger to the US. First of all China and Russia arouse the main concern. The IC’s report refers to the earlier report on espionage published in October 2011 which stated that regular hack attacks of the US computer networks aimed at theft of intellectual property were carried out from the territory of those countries. The report does not elaborate on the attacks. 

But in the fourth part which deals with espionage, Russia and China come to the fore again, this time the duo is expanded to a trio including Iran. In the report the three countries are accused of aggressive and successful economic espionage against the US. In particular, Iran has become an expert in this field in recent years and strikingly increased its cyber potential. 

The fifth part on mass murders is only half page long and restricted to the list of the regions. These regions and countries are Sudanese region of Darfur, eastern Congo, Nigeria, Libya and Syria. Mentioning Syria is fully biased: the neighboring Iraq accounts for more murders but is not on the list. 

The sixth part, which is the largest one, is dedicated to global changes. But the cases which are mentioned there concern domestic problems of specific states as well as their relations with the neighbors. In Afghanistan “appeasement” of Taliban continues. Regardless of the fact that the country produces a record number of drugs for the global market the report is very uncertain about the future of the country – it only points at the co-relation between the level of security in some regions and possibilities for the access to the market of legal agricultural products. Considering that Central Asian countries and Russia suffer from the drug trafficking from Afghanistan such evasiveness of the IC leads to the conclusion that the US is not interested in the war on drugs. 

As for Pakistan and India the situation won’t drastically change there, the report read. China will be concerned with the regional stability and the army modernization. The authors predict that in the long standing dispute around Taiwan the advantage will drift to China. The “Arab Spring” has influenced most of all Egypt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia, the report read. At the same time the situation in Bahrain where peaceful citizens were killed during the suppression of protests has not been covered at all. Drawing a conclusion on the troubled Arab countries the report states that the leaders of these countries will continue to cooperate with the US on security issues in order to restrict the regional ambitions of Iran and to have an opportunity to ask for economic aid. 

The authors of report predict problems within Iran which are cause by the actions of the systemic opposition and the struggle for power. According to them, Iran is trying to influence the course of the “Arab Spring” through its allies and stronger ties with Iraq and the Kurdish regional government. As a separate issue the report points at Teheran’s undermining activities in Afghanistan aimed against the strategic partnership between the US and the Afghan government. The report predicts that the level of violence in Iraq will remain almost the same. 

A part of the report dealing with Russia and Eurasia is of particular interest. The authors predict Vladimir Putin`s victory in the March 4 presidential election, which, they say, will cause ‘disappointment and anger within opposition circles’. They, however, expect no major changes to Russia’s domestic and foreign policies. The report suggests that “Putin will likely try to keep the political and economical system unchanged instead of promoting liberal reforms…He will focus on restoring the unity of the elite, on protecting its assets and on searching for new sources of enrichment for the elite.” 

It is stressed, however, that Mr. Putin won`t ignore the need to improve the country’s standard of living. As far as foreign policy is concerned, here Mr. Putin is expected to maintain the course of bilateral cooperation with the US, relying on the ‘reset’ process. The authors of the report believe that Putin has ‘instinctive distrust’ of US intentions, which will probably result in periods of diplomatic chill between the two countries.

The report states that the ‘reset’ has already brought some achievements, such as the US-Russia strategic arms reduction treaty and bilateral cooperation in Afghanistan. The U.S. missile plans in Europe, sanctions against Iran and the crisis in Syria remain the most sensitive issues for Moscow. Besides, the report predicts the Kremlin to remain suspicious about the U.S. ties with the former Soviet republics. 

 Unsettled conflicts in the Caucasus and unstable situation in some Central Asian states are described as possible hotbeds of tension in Eurasia. The term ‘occupation’ is used in some parts of the report dealing with Moscow`s relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Now that Georgia has had its constitution amended, offering broader powers to the prime minister, after the 2013 presidential elections Mikhail Saakashvili is believed to regain power as prime minister, which is likely to keep the relations between Moscow and Tbilisi as strained as before. 

Concerning other CIS states, the report first of all deals with Belarus and Russia`s assistance to Lukashenko`s regime. Next comes Ukraine, its leader Vladimir Yanukovitch criticized for authoritarian methods, which include selective punishment for opposition members, pressure on mass media and election fraud. 

Russia is mentioned again in the next part dealing with transnational criminal organizations. “Links between organized crime and oligarchic circles in Russia and Eurasia increase the likelihood of some government-related factors undermining the potential for competitiveness while trading gas, oil, aluminum and precious metals, thus putting the US national and economic security at risk…Competition between US and European companies is affected by corrupted business abroad.” It is also emphasized that transnational criminal organizations undermine stability in some countries put on the rails of democracy.

Security in space is another issue of concern for the US. “A growing interest for space exploration in the decades to come poses a threat to the U.S. space industry…” The report, however, contains not a single reference to Russia`s space law initiative, previously ignored by Washington. 

Generally, Mr. Clapper`s report offers a true picture of Washington’s major enemies. Terrorists and states supporting terrorism regain their No. 1 position on the US list of threats. Judging from the frequency of mention, we may conclude that Iran is now the No. 1 enemy for the US, while Russia is ranked second.

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