U.S. Fears Syria’s Violence Will Spread to West

Director of National Intelligence nominee James Clapper testifies during the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on his nomination on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 20, 2010.
Sara Sorcher
Jan. 29, 2014, 5:57 a.m.

Ex­trem­ists are tak­ing ad­vant­age of the chaos cre­ated by the Syr­i­an civil war — and might leave the war-torn coun­try to carry out at­tacks in the West.

That’s a big worry for the In­tel­li­gence lead­ers testi­fy­ing be­fore the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day.

“Syr­ia has be­come a huge mag­net for ex­trem­ists,” Dir­ect­or of Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per said.

The hodge­podge of some 1,600 rebel fac­tions op­er­at­ing in Syr­ia in­cludes groups with ex­trem­ist ties, in­clud­ing Qaida af­fil­i­ate Jabhat al-Nusra, which Clap­per said does as­pire to carry out at­tacks on the U.S. home­land. More than 7,000 for­eign fight­ers have traveled to Syr­ia for the battle against em­battled Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad. They’re com­ing from some 50 coun­tries, many of them in Europe and the Middle East.

Ex­trem­ists, Clap­per said, are also get­ting train­ing and weapons as they join with these groups in Syr­ia. “We’re see­ing now the ap­pear­ance of train­ing com­plexes in Syr­ia to train people to go back to their coun­tries and con­duct more ter­ror­ist at­tacks,” Clap­per said. “This is a huge con­cern to all of us.”

With this “per­missive en­vir­on­ment” for ex­trem­ists, Na­tion­al Coun­terter­ror­ism Cen­ter Dir­ect­or Mat­thew Olsen said, the U.S. is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the “po­ten­tial for ter­ror­ist at­tacks em­an­at­ing from Syr­ia to the West.” Olsen told Na­tion­al Journ­al pre­vi­ously that deal­ing with Syr­ia would be the primary coun­terter­ror­ism fo­cus of 2014.

The com­mit­tee’s top Re­pub­lic­an, Saxby Cham­b­liss, wanted to know if the ter­ror­ist threat against U.S. in­terests over­seas has in­creased or di­min­ished — but the an­swer he got was not simple. While the ideo­lo­gic­al cen­ter of the Qaida move­ment re­mains in the FATA, or fed­er­ally ad­min­istered tri­bal areas along the por­ous Pakistan-Afgh­anistan bor­der, Clap­per said, its “locus for op­er­a­tion­al plan­ning” is dis­persed throughout a dozen coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ye­men, Somalia, and now Syr­ia.

In Syr­ia, Clap­per said, there’s a pos­sib­il­ity the un­rest could turn the war-torn coun­try in­to a “new FATA” — which he said is “very, very wor­ri­some.”

What We're Following See More »
Libertarians Getting a Second Look?
3 hours ago
Trump Floats Gingrich, Kasich as Running Mates
3 hours ago

Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.

House Dems Push on Puerto Rico, Citing Zika
5 hours ago

"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.

Clapper: ISIS Can Stage Attacks in U.S.
5 hours ago

"ISIS has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict dozens of casualties, according to the Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official." Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen that such a scenario is "something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels."

Trump to Name VP Search Committee
6 hours ago

"Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he expected to reveal his vice presidential pick sometime in July—before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland—but added that he would soon announce a committee to handle the selection process, which would include Dr. Ben Carson." He said he's inclined to name a traditional political figure, unlike himself.