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America is facing a number of serious threats from around the world and they aren’t going to get any better by ignoring them, according to testimony in the annual hearing on worldwide threats before the House Intelligence Committee.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said there is a “rising tide of isolationism” that involves both sides of the aisle, where members of Congress” are fearful of American interventionism around the world.
Among the top threats are terrorists, cyber attacks and the ongoing conflicts in Syria and North Korea, the hearing was told.
Rogers said it’s clear America sometimes must take action.
“We must not simply watch events unfold,” he said, but must take action to get a desired international outcome.
National Intelligence Director James Clapper echoed the call for more involvement, especially in Yemen. He called al-Qaida there “very active” and said globally the threat from al-Qaida may be diminished but the terror group’s infrastructure is “more diffused” and now features “lone wolves” and smaller cells.
He also warned of the threat of sequestration, that the cutbacks, furloughs and lack of new hires creates a situation where terrorist assets can “take advantage” of the nation.
In terms of specific threats against the United States, Clapper spoke about Syria, expressing a belief President Bashar al-Assad will fall, but the U.S. doesn’t know when.
When pressed by the committee to identify what a post-Assad Syria would look like, Clapper said that “factionalization… along geographic and sectarian lines” will be the most likely outcome “if Assad falls.”
Clapper made note of the strong Alawite and Kurdish presence in the North which “will divide along sectarian lines” and as well the heavy push by the prevailing Sunni majority which may try to impose its will on the rest of the country.
He also was pressed by U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., on what Clapper thinks of the “moderate rebels” taking control of the country versus the more radical factions “which have al-Qaida elements.”
“The moderate Islamists are getting wise” to the growing ideological presence and “it is hard to say” what will happen in regards to the future establishment, he said.
He also said, “It would be difficult to render an assessment on whether or not we can secure all the WMDs in Syria,” when Rogers asked him about that potential danger.
The current threat from North Korea also got attention, with Clapper advising working with China on a resolution – “If anyone has real leverage over the North Koreans it is China.”
He said, “China is frustrated with the behavior and belligerent rhetoric of North Korea.”
Clapper said that Kim Jong-un’s motivation for rattling sabers and making threats is to “solidify his domestic position” among his upper military staff and even among the people as the North Korean economy continues to falter.
“If there was ever a time to be worried it is now,” as Kim has “broken with the traditional pattern of behavior that is father and grandfather have possessed,” Rogers said.
Clapper elaborated on how Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung and father, Kim Jong Il, followed a traditional and practical pattern of foreign policy so as to gain some sort of political or economic concession.
The only major discussion on the threat from Iran came from Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., who pressed Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan on what the “red line is” for Iranian weapons development.
Brennan didn’t respond directly, saying only “that is a policy question.”
Russia and China also were cited as potential sources of cyber attacks.