ISIS “has become the preeminent terrorist threat because of its self-described caliphate in Syria and Iraq, its branches and emerging branches in other countries, and its increasing ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world.” ~ James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (DNI)
DNI Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on February 10, 2016 that the Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment states the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become the “preeminent terrorist threat.” Furthermore, ISIS and its emerging branches in at least eight other countries are increasing their “ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world.”
At the same hearing Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart testified that ISIS likely will “attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016,” and that the caliphate is infiltrating the refugees fleeing the ISIS mayhem in Iraq and Syria. (Remember that FBI Director Janes Comey informed us that they cannot vet these refugees. Hmmmmmm….)
On Sunday’s CBS Sixty Minutes, CIA Director John Brennan in a rare public appearance confirmed this looming threat to the U.S. homeland, including with chemical weapons that can be delivered by artillery. Click here for key excerpts from this important interview.
So, according to these leading U.S. Intelligence Community officials on the “preeminent threat” to our homeland, we could see a jihadi attack in 2016 involving weapons of mass destruction – i.e., chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. As has been known for decades, chemical and biological weapons could be created within the United States . . . they do not need to be imported from abroad. Nukes are a bit more difficult, but they might be purchased in some troubling scenarios.
So, an ISIS 9/11-like event with “weapon of mass destruction” might be in the cards this year?
Bill Gertz reported last Monday in the Washington Free Beacon that ISIS recently captured several Syrian air defense missiles, raising concerns the weapons could be used against U.S. and allied aircraft, according to defense officials. Gertz provided the below photo of a captured SA-6, posted by an ISIS social media account on Jan. 20.
Gertz reported that the weapon is an unlikely threat to aircraft, but that ISIS might use its missile warheads in suicide vehicle bombs.
Alternatively, might not ISIS use the SA-6 rockets to launch weapons of mass destruction to kill people?
What about simply to launch a weapon of mass destruction from off our coasts to attack Americans within range? An SA-6 with a chemical warhead might work just fine.
Today, we have little if any defense against this threat, which may be developing while we continue to ignore such possibilities.
Not plausible, you say? Really???
Consider that in July 2013, the Panamanians caught a North Korean vessel smuggling two SA-2s under a ton or so of sugar, as summarized by the figure below from a July 17, 2013 Washington Times article by Shaun Waterman. Click here for my discussion at the time.
The SA-2 was used by the Soviets in 1960 to shoot down Gary Powers as he piloted his U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union. It was designed to carry a nuclear warhead. And remember similarly ancient SCUDs can be purchased for a few million dollars – and ISIS is reported to be flush with funds, while North Korea has the reputation of being willing to sell most anything to anyone with money.
Is it too great a stretch to imagine that ISIS might obtain a nuclear weapon to employ in one of these ways? Short- or medium-range ballistic missile (like the SCUDs used by Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War) might be launched from an off-shore vessel – say from within the Gulf of Mexico? We have no ballistic missile defense against this threat today.
Then there’s the Iranian connection. As several well informed colleagues and I wrote in National Review Online last week, we assess that North Korea probably has nuclear weapons, and that North Korea’s ally, Iran, is not far behind, if at all.
Which brings me back to another unpleasant but possible connection – between Sunni ISIS and Shia Iran.
While they may disagree on “End Times Eschatology” and about who will prevail in the ultimate Caliphate, they share a common hatred for America. I would not rule out their cooperation in attacking us.
While the Obama administration continues to pursue its ill-begotten gameplan for “Strategic Patience” or “Leading from Behind” or whatever they call it these days, the threat to Americans and our friends around the world continues to grow-and ISIS is hardly the “JV Team” that President Obama claimed in early 2014.
Moreover, Secretary of State Kerry’s latest set of initiatives in Syria will likely end no better than the debacle that led to the terrible Nuclear Deal with Iran. Iran openly ridiculed America as the Great Satan while it was being finalized, quickly launched two ballistic missiles in violation of its agreements with the United Nations and began spending the funds released by that lousy deal.
All this is of a sad pattern set when President drew a “Red Line” on Syria’s chemical weapons, then reneged and turned over the Middle East to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. While claiming Syria’s President Bashar Assad must go and looking the other way while he has used chemical weapons and Putin has propped him up, President Obama now also finds himself confronting a resurgent Russia. And it seems clear that Putin is not impressed that Obama will offer much resistance, if any.
Russia is expanding its interests by invading Georgia and Ukraine – and casting an eye on other elements of Russia’s near abroad, especially troubling is Putin’s wandering eye toward our NATO Baltic State allies, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
So, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter seeks more money to increase our military support to NATO and block Putin’s initiatives. Remember our North Atlantic Treaty Article 5 commitment requires that we be prepared to respond to an attack on any NATO ally as an attack on all – including the United States. And we are indeed in a weakened state-including our atrophied strategic forces that we have traditionally relied upon to help deter Soviet and Russian aggression.
At the recent Munich Security Conference with a number of world leaders, Russia’s Prime Minister said “We are rapidly rolling into a period of a new Cold War.” Could be . . . and we probably appear to Russia’s leaders as being in a weakened state. A dangerous time. . .
Looks like facts on the ground demand a reset of that famous “Red Reset Button” that then Secretary Hillary Clinton gave to Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov several years ago.
Just one more unkept promise.
One more failure to consider while thinking about the “JV Team” going global . . . including to and within our shores.
Peace in our time??? You think??? Reminiscent of 1939???