Outgoing CIA Deputy Leader Michael Morrell raised more than a few eyebrows this weekend when in an interview he declared Syria to be the “top current threat to US national security,” a spot usually reserved for someplace the US is directly militarily involved in.
The declaration is even more significant the deeper you get into Morrell’s comments, as he makes clear exactly what about Syria the CIA sees as a threat, saying the risk is that the Assad government “collapses and the country becomes al-Qaeda’s new haven.”
That’s a problematic admission for a US official to make, even one that is heading into retirement, because the US has made the collapse of the Assad government it’s stated goal since the nation’s civil war began.
Indeed, US policy toward Syria is centering on making the threat even greater, as the administration is poised to start arming rebel fighters who are openly cooperating with al-Qaeda to further their goal of ousting Assad, and setting up the exact Sunni-dominated Islamist government the CIA fears.
Morrell warned that a collapse of the Assad government had a similar risk for weapons proliferation as the NATO-imposed regime change in Libya did, and that violence was likely to spill-over into Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Of course the war is already spilling over to some extent in each of these cases, but it seems clear it will only get worse.