Top 12 Threats to Watch in 2012
by RYAN MAURO
December 27, 2011
12. The Ron Paul Effect
No, I’m not calling Ron Paul anti-American, but his views on national security and naïve belief in the reasonableness of the Iranian regime do threaten our national security. Ron Paul’s eagerness for minimal government has led him and his supporters to reflexively embrace the argument that will excuse them from foreign action and bigger spending. In the last debate, Paul even claimed that there’s no evidence that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon (false) and said terrorists only attack us because we’re the initial aggressors, claiming that terrorists don’t target neutral countries like Sweden and Switzerland (also false).
Ron Paul has a real chance of being the big story of the 2012 campaign for the Republican nomination and, if he runs as an Independent, the general election. His movement has the potential to influence politicians to embrace national security positions so irresponsible that they make President Obama look like Genghis Khan.
11. Sudan’s Sharia Transformation
Dictator Omar Bashir of Sudan vowed to turn his country into a 100% Sharia-based state after the secession of South Sudan. His government is already allied to Iran and allows the Revolutionary Guards to ship arms to Hamas through its territory. Bashir says he’ll make Arabic the official language and all legislation will be based on Sharia and only Sharia. Don’t be surprised if Sudan becomes the new Iran and its sponsorship of terrorism skyrockets.
10. Chaos in Europe
Civil strife will increase next year, and there are all sorts of extremists ready to riot, protest and incite. From anarchists to neo-Nazis to Islamists to anti-Muslim extremists to people who are just plain angry, there is no shortage of groups ready to bring about chaos to get their point across.
Greece, Sweden and France have suffered from huge riots in Muslim-majority areas, some of which have been dubbed "No Go Zones." These riots showed us that it only takes a single match to be lit for a wildfire to spread and with Europe’s economic problems and social tensions, there are plenty to go around.
9. Russia Goes Soviet
Vladimir Putin, the guy who called the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” is now facing the Russian version of the Arab Spring. The country is facing its largest protests since the Soviet Union fell. Putin isn’t the type of guy to try to find the middle ground. His strong-arm tactics and KGB impulses are going to come out as they never have before and with them, his Cold War mindset.
One possible Russian action would be to wage war to overthrow the Georgian government, a U.S. ally. Ever since Russia ripped Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia in 2008, it has been eager to overthrow the Saakashvili government. Russia tried engineering a coup to accomplish this in 2009 but it failed. Since then, Russia has made the case for the government’s removal by accusing it of sponsoring terrorism.
8. The Mexican Drug War
Far more Mexicans have died since 2007 than all American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan combined since 2001. It is hard to overstate the level of barbarism, anarchy and bloodshed that is happening to the south, and there is no indication that it will stop any time soon. Islamist terrorists are linking up with the Mexican drug cartels, and the Colombian FARC is cashing in on the action.
In September 2010, the government had to put up signs along 60 miles of Interstate 8 in Arizona, more than 100 miles from the Mexican border, warning that the area is unsafe. Sooner or later, the violence will spill over the border in a way that will force Americans to finally pay attention.
7. Sectarian War in Iraq and Syria
Right after U.S. forces left Iraq, Shiite Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Sunni politicians were at eachother's throats. A sharp increase in terrorism followed. Once again, Iraq is looking at the possibility of sectarian violence. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iranian-backed militia leader, has vowed to attack any remaining U.S. forces in Iraq starting January 1, 2012. That includes the soldiers guarding the embassy and the thousands of contractors that remain. If the U.S. agrees to send 800 to 1,000 trainers back to Iraq as is being discussed, each will have a target on their back.
In Syria, the possibility of civil war is quickly increasing and with it, sectarian bloodletting. The minority Allawites, about 10-13% of the population, are sticking by the Assad regime. This is the minority that his regime and its vicious security forces draw its most important personnel from.
Going into 2012, sectarian warfare in Iraq and Syria is a distinct possibility and foreign powers will be actively backing opposite sides.
6. AfPak Goes Back to 2001
President Obama is bringing home the remaining 23,000 troops sent as part of the “surge” in Afghanistan by September. The remaining 68,000 will then start coming home until Afghanistan is put in charge of security in 2014. General John Allen opposes bringing down the number of troops below 68,000, though I’m concerned about the loss of that 23,000 as well. We’ll know in the coming months if this is a safe plan or not, as the Taliban and its terrorist allies will return or they won’t. The key question is whether President Obama will be willing to adjust his timeline if it is necessary. Given Vice President Biden’s comment that the Taliban is not an enemy, I’m not too hopeful.
At the same time, the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is in tatters. There is a distinct possibility that Pakistan will sever all counter-terrorism cooperation with the U.S. or reduce it to the bare minimal. This would bring us almost back to the pre-9/11 situation, where Al-Qaeda and other terrorists have free reign in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We all know how that turned out.
5. Homegrown Jihad
The Obama Administration doesn’t deny the fact that homegrown terrorism is increasing. It’s simply a statistical fact. Attorney General Eric Holder says “You didn’t worry about this [homegrown terrorism] even two years ago—about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do.”
The most recent poll found that 5% of Muslim-Americans view Al-Qaeda favorably and 14 percent wouldn’t answer the question. Out of 1.8 million Muslim adults, that’s a lot of people sympathizing with the group that carried out 9/11. One can only imagine how high the support for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood must be. Levels of radicalism are higher among younger Muslims born in the U.S. than they are from older ones born overseas, so this threat is likely to increase, especially as the population quickly grows.
4. Kim Jong-Un Shows What He’s Made Of
The new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, ordered the attack on the South Korean Cheonan warship in March 2010 and, almost certainly, the artillery barrage on a South Korean island in November 2010. Every step in the succession process has been accompanied with a provocation, and now that he’s the leader, Kim Jong-Un is eager to prove himself and solidify his grip. If he doesn’t provoke some kind of confrontation, it’d be really out of character for the North Korean regime. Plus, British intelligence believes he suffers from severe hypertension and an “explosive temper.”
3. The Islamist Tidal Wave in the Middle East Spreads
The Arab Spring isn’t an Islamist revolution, but that doesn’t mean that the Islamists won’t come to power. They are leading the new Tunisian government, are winning a power struggle with the secularists in Libya and are winning landslide victories in Egypt’s elections. And the Islamists have every reason to believe they’ll add a few notches to their belt in 2012.
In Yemen, the largest opposition party is Islah, which is a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate with Salafist backing. One of its leaders was blacklisted by the U.S. State Department for his involvement with Osama Bin Laden. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels benefit from the instability.
Jordan is another prime candidate for the Arab Spring, but there have also been major riots and protests in Oman, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait and other states. In Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef, an ally of the Wahhabists, is bound to become King soon. The youth population is eager for reform and it will be difficult for the Royal Family to play a balancing act that will prevent upheaval.
2. Military Action Against Iran
The Iranian regime will retaliate with its full might if it survives a limited strike on its nuclear facilities. It may even want such a strike. It’s not hard to imagine the horrors that will probably follow an Israeli attack on Iran: Terrorist proxies receiving the green light for whatever they want, the Straits of Hormuz being attacked, full retaliation from Revolutionary Guards missile bases, etc., etc.
Don’t think the U.S. can escape Iran’s response. No matter how hard we try to distance ourselves from Israel, Islamists view the U.S. and Israel as essentially the same. Secretary of Defense Panetta says Iran could get a nuclear bomb within a year. Let’s hope that Iran’s economic stresses, political in-fighting, and ongoing series of unexplained “accidents” buys us some time.
1. Iran Gets the Bomb
It’s often said that the only thing more dangerous than an attack on Iran is letting Iran get the nuke. And it’s true. If you think Iran is a big sponsor of terrorism now, wait until you see what happens when Iran has the protection of a nuclear deterrent. Iran will return to all of its unfinished proxy wars, including those waged against the pro-American Arab governments.
If Iran appears to be on the edge of a having a nuclear warhead, almost every country in the region will follow. The Gulf Cooperation Council countries and those seeking to join the body (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco) will go nuclear, as will probably Turkey and Egypt.
Iran will share its nuclear technology (if not actual weapons) with its allies, so you can add Syria (if Assad survives), Sudan and Venezuela to the list. Once all the mentioned countries go nuclear, their adversaries will also have to reexamine their positions.
Of course, Iran could also use the nuke it obtains. Iran has rehearsed carrying out an EMP strike, which could theoretically disable the U.S. and bring about death and destruction that only a Roland Emmerich film can depict. At the very least, the creation of an Iranian nuke and the subsequent nuclear arms race adds a flammable element into the region best known for catching on fire.
There are many threats facing the Western world in 2012. The economy is the number one issue, but voters must remember that national security can claim the top spot in one instant.
Ryan Mauro is Family Security Matters' national security analyst. He is a fellow with RadicalIslam.org, the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.