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Congressional Testimony: James Clapper on Arab Spring," Islamist Actors...Chief Beneficiaries"

March 20, 2013

March 11, 2013 - San Francisco, CA - - In a rather extraordinary statement, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in testimony delivered today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that the Arab Spring has increased the threat posed to U.S. interests by world-wide Islamism by strengthening its political hand.

Some pull-quotes from his briefing, full document available here, 2013 World Threat Assessment

"...Terrorist threats are in a transition period as the global jihadist movement becomes increasingly decentralized. In addition, the Arab Spring has generated a spike in threats to US interests in the region that likely will endure until political upheaval stabilizes and security forces regain their capabilities. We also face uncertainty about potential threats from Iran and Lebanese Hizballah, which see the United States and Israel as their principal enemies..." pg. 4

"... Although some countries have made progress towards democratic rule, most are experiencing uncertainty, violence, and political backsliding. The toppling of leaders and weakening of regimes have also unleashed destabilizing ethnic and sectarian rivalries. Islamist actors have been the chief electoral beneficiaries of the political openings, and Islamist parties in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco will likely solidify their influence in the coming year. The success of transitioning states will depend, in part, on their ability to integrate these actors into national politics and to integrate—or marginalize—political, military, tribal, and business groups that were part of or benefitted from the old regimes. At the same time, transitions that fail to address public demands for change are likely to revive unrest and heighten the appeal of authoritarian or extremist solutions..." pg. 18

"Mali - In January 2012, after the return of heavily armed Tuareg fighters from Libya, the secular-based National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) and the extremist Islamist Tuareg rebel group Ansar al-Din launched a rebellion against the Malian Government. Following a 21 March military coup, Ansar al-Din—with help from AQIM—and the MNLA quickly drove the Malian military out of the north. After taking control of northern Mali, AQIM worked closely with Ansar al-Din and AQIM-offshoot Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (TWJWA) to consolidate gains in the region and impose a hard-line version of sharia..." pg. 24
Though from the perspective of many national security professionals, Clapper's treatment [admittedly in a public session] of Islamist ideology was brief, the fact that he devoted at least a portion of the report to this central topic, is worth noting.

Though this is a tepid start, merely hearing Mr. Clapper's use of what have been largely verboten terms - Islamist, Shari'a and jihadist, among others - might be evidence that perhaps the U.S. national security apparatus is being forced to deal with reality.

Though a tepid start by an administration which seems to be intentionally misinterpreting the threat posed by Islamic radicalism, Mr. Clapper's testimony represents a departure by an administration which has steadfastly ignored the linkage between Islamism and terrorism, it is nonetheless welcome, albeit long overdue.

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This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at