Threat Assessment Report: US Vision

A few days ago US Director of National Intelligence (DNI), General James Clapper, accompanied by the chief of the CIA, General David Petraeus and FBI director Robert Mueller, gave Congress their annual assessment of the world’s security situation.

The report on the world threats is a result of many months of work carried out by 16 intelligence services. The 30-page unclassified review of the state of the world presented the vision of global trends along with threats and challenges the USA faces in 2012. The core idea is that there is no single major adversary, the treats are multiple and versatile.

Mr. Clapper also noted the rising volatility in the Middle East and North Africa after the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring, increasing threats of cyberattacks against government and private business computer systems, continued tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program and rising drug-fueled violence in Mexico and Central America that threatens to spill over the border. 


Much said about the Afghan situation (the report never mentioned the sudden decision to withdraw from combat mission a year earlier than planned – in 2013 instead of 2014), it is hard to say exactly how the war is going, the assessment is rather murky.

For instance the report says “We assess that the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan has lost ground in some areas,” but later the General makes precise that the gains are limited by “areas where the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) surge forces are concentrated,” only, that is in southwestern Afghanistan (Helmand and Kandahar Provinces).

Hardly anything is said about the security situation in the rest of the country. The report admits that Afghan military and police forces are still dependant on support from U.S. and NATO forces. It logical to construe it as tacit admission that the Afghans government forces are still incapable to stand alone to the challenge.

James Clapper’s statement did not address the publicly-reported sharp disagreements between the U.S. intelligence community and the Pentagon over whether progress is being made in Afghanistan at all. He also failed to mention that the Taliban made battlefield gains in northern and eastern Afghanistan in 2011. And there was no discussion whatsoever of the premise or rationale for the negotiations now taking place between the U.S. and the Taliban.

Al Qaeda continues to be a major threat, though it is far weaker since Osama bin Laden’s death. It will have to resort to “smaller, simpler attacks” as it suffers losses from U.S. drone strikes and special operations attacks. The intelligence top officials predict al Qaeda’s regional affiliates will try to pick up the slack for the weakened core group in Afghanistan and Pakistan (AFPAC). 

General Clapper tacitly admits that the Pakistanis have done very little in recent times to combat al Qaeda and other militant groups based in their country, stating “Pakistani military leaders have had limited success against al Qaeda operatives.” Reading the report it strikes an eye that the US-Pakistani relations dramatic deterioration is somehow not reviewed

Central Asia’s ability to cope with violent extremist organizations is put in doubt, particularly in light of the planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan. In 2011, Kazakhstan experienced labor unrest and minor clashes with militants, including the country’s first-ever suicide attack in May. Tajikistan is particularly important due to its extensive border with Afghanistan and its history of internal and cross-border violence. 

It throws in the eye the report is optimistic about that the level of violence in Iraq. It says “The Iraqi Government is positioned to keep violence near current levels through 2012, although periodic spikes are likely.” Not much is said about the ongoing strife between the Shi’ite-dominated government and the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

There is no mention of the fact that the Syrian government is actually complying with the requirements of Arab League monitoring mission to Syria (as concluded in the report of general al-Dabi, head of the Arab league Syrian Mission) or armed gangs provocative activities in the country. The blame for the situation deterioration is put solely on the Syrian government. 


A major part of the report is devoted to Russia. Of course General Clapper’s statements are not mainly about the Russian threat. It definitely not the way it was in the times of the “Cold war” when the USSR was in focus throughout. Russia appears first on page 7 as a state-based cyber threat and page 8 as an economic espionage threat. Then it retires to page 20 where a mainline discussion of the country finally begins. 

The stress is on the prospects of Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin after the election on March 4. As DNI sees it it’s not worth to expect reforms and “liberalization” from President Putin and it would be more complicated for the U.S. to develop relations with Moscow. It says he is likely to retain the existing political and economic system despite the growing problems, which may pose serious challenges for the system. 

No major changes in Russia’s foreign policy are expected. The report says that development of genuine partnership between Moscow and Washington is impossible as Russia continues to consider the reset politics to be the U.S.’ own initiative. The differences on the situation in Iran and Syria will hardly contribute to the improvement of relations. 

The US missile defense is the major problem in the bilateral relations. General Clapper warned that Russia’s concern about further deployment and upgrade plans may make it abstain from further mutual endeavors in the field of arms control. Maintaining the positive momentum of the reset will also be harder because several areas of mutual interest, such as the new START agreement and cooperation on Afghanistan, have already been addressed.

Russia continues to view the reset largely as a US initiative and believes that the onus is on the United States to demonstrate flexibility and make compromises to advance the relationship.

And there’s an intriguing mention of “Eurasian organized crime” in the “Transnational Organized Crime” section: The increasingly close link between Russian and Eurasian organized crime and oligarchs enhances the ability of state or state-allied actors to undermine competition in gas, oil, aluminum, and precious metals markets, potentially threatening US national and economic security. No prove or example to support this assertion is adduced. 

DNI paid special attention to the modernization program of Russia’s Armed Forces. The reform and modernization programs will yield improvements that will allow the Russian military to more rapidly defeat its smaller neighbors and remain the dominant military force in the post-Soviet space, but will not — and are not intended to — enable Moscow to conduct sustained offensive operations against NATO collectively.

The general prediction is stalling of the U.S.-Russia reset, but not necessarily a rollback. 

As experience shows the US intelligence usually reports what it is wanted to report, just remember the so called “Iraqi weapons of mass destruction” scoop to justify the intervention that had no justification at the time.

Naturally the report says nothing about US outright attempts to intervene into Russian internal affairs, US ambassador meeting Russian out of parliament opposition leaders the second day he comes to the country, the blatant efforts to exert pressure on Russian government to make it join the USA in throwing away the international law to justify intervention in world hot spots, construction of missile defense near Russian borders openly ignoring its justified concern, criticizing Russian elections while the president Bush’s win in 2000 is the most known example of wrong voting when the majority of US population gave votes to Albert Gore but the injustice of electoral college system made Mr. Bush take office.

There were substantiated doubts the 2004 elections were fair (Ohio votes rigging 2). As one can see the USA is a country that is in serious trouble with election fairness. 


Of course, the major part of the repot was devoted not to Russia but Iran. Even a cursory look at the world map is enough to understand Iran is a key to establishment of control over the “Greater Middle East”, the proclaimed goal of US foreign policy.

The report says Iran is “keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons” and is “technically capable” of producing enough highly enriched uranium to fuel a nuclear weapon”. General Clapper said: “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” The General actually fudged on the question of whether Iran intends to build nuclear weapons and tacitly admitted that previous U.S.-sponsored economic sanctions against Iran have not worked, still he endorses new ones.

If the U.S. intelligence community still does not know if Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, or even has the capabilities to do so then why Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta does threatening statements by warning that the U.S. will use military force if Iran goes ahead with the nuclear program?

“If they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon,” Panetta said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program on January 29 20121. Quite a different assessment, as one can see. 

Mr. Clapper also said the United States was also concerned about plotting by Iran against American or allied interests overseas, adding that “Iran’s willingness to sponsor future attacks in the United States or against our interests abroad probably will be shaped by Tehran’s evaluation of the costs it bears for the plot against the ambassador as well as Iranian leaders’ perceptions of U.S. threats against the regime.”

The statement did not provide any details on what types of attacks were possible, and senators never asked him about it. Besides the report says nothing about the mysterious murders of Iranian nuclear scientists and mysterious explosions taking place at Iranian missile installations. 


As in Vietnam, and so many other cases, more recently Iraq, for instance, the probability is high the USA may resort to fraudulent casus belli against other states. The report accuses Iran of all crimes without producing any real evidence whatsoever. Even the top US officials differ in assessments of how far Iran gas gone on the way of going nuclear, if that is its intention.

Evidently supportive of Arab spring the General still mentioned the risks the situation may lead to. He said: “As the ancient historian Tacitus once observed, the best day after a bad emperor is the first,” Mr. Clapper said. “After that, I would add, things get very problematic.” Something we clearly see after Muslim fundamentalists swept election victories in Tunisia and Egypt and going strong in Libya, Yemen and Syria.

It never made precise what exactly “liberalization and reforms” Russia needs according to Mr. Clapper’s view. It gives no explanation what caused Russia’s response to US missile defense or doubts about sincerity of the “reset” policy. As well as it never mentions the reasons Russia takes a different stand on Syria.

Of course the “closed door” part of the report may be quite different from the “open to public one”, still evidence to support allegations is what the document lacks. 


Andrei AKULOV,





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