Daniel W. Drezner

The super-scary threats of 2012

I see the Eurasia Group has published their top ten risks for 2012.  Given arguments by some about proliferating security risks and the necessity for bombing Iran, I’m assuming that it’s going to be a pretty threatening year security-wise, right?  The most important macro theme for 2012: The world’s key political decision-makers will be focused ...

I see the Eurasia Group has published their top ten risks for 2012.  Given arguments by some about proliferating security risks and the necessity for bombing Iran, I’m assuming that it’s going to be a pretty threatening year security-wise, right? 

The most important macro theme for 2012: The world’s key political decision-makers will be focused heavily on questions of domestic economic stability at the expense of international security concerns at a moment when politics is having unprecedented impact on the global economy. This conflation of global politics and markets defines the formal end of the 9/11 era, a moment when decision-makers sought to isolate globalization from international security concerns….

The war on terror is being subsumed by fears for the global economic balance. This is not a conventional or unconventional weapons threat. It’s not a balance of terror or an individual terrorist. The new nightmares are of spiraling deficits, the eurozone crisis, and economic relations with China. These have become the primary risks to national security, though there are clearly other ongoing security concerns for the US.

But… but… Al Qaeda and Iran!  Iran and Al Qaeda!!  Surely these are important multidimensional threats, yes? 

Say, what’s in this Newsweek story by Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau?

Is it still too soon to write al Qaeda’s obituary? Over the past two years, the group’s ranks have been ravaged by America’s unmanned-aerial-vehicle attacks and by a steady exodus of demoralized jihadis fleeing Pakistan’s tribal areas. When Newsweek interviewed Hanif (his nom de guerre) for our Sept. 13, 2010, cover story, “Inside Al Qaeda,” he estimated that the group had roughly 130 Arabs in Waziristan, along with dozens more Chechens, Turks, Tajiks, even recruits from Western Europe. But little more than a year later, he estimates there are no more than 40 to 60 al Qaeda operatives of any nationality on either side of the border. “Al Qaeda was once full of great jihadis, but no one is active and planning opera-tions anymore,” he complains. “Those who remain are just trying to survive.”….

[B]y all accounts, al Qaeda has been practically wiped out in its former Afghan and Pakistani strongholds. Although America has suspended its drone attacks inside Pakistan since mid-November—the program’s longest hiatus in three years—the respite seems to have come too late for bin Laden’s old associates. “The drone attacks may have ended, but only after the near ending of al Qaeda in the tribal areas,” says a senior Taliban intelligence officer who has been in contact with surviving members of the group. “As far as I can tell, the operational command of al Qaeda has almost been eliminated.” Hanif’s uncle, a Taliban operative, tells Newsweek he’s been in contact with a few al Qaeda members who have taken refuge outside the tribal areas. “All of al Qaeda’s assets who had a strategic vision have been eliminated,” they’ve told him.

Well, surely Iran is on the rise, right?  Right

Iran’s ailing currency took a steep slide Monday, losing 12 percent against foreign currencies after President Obama on Saturday signed a bill that places the Islamic republic’s central bank under unilateral sanctions.

The currency, which economists say was held artificially high for years against the dollar and the euro, has lost about 35 percent of its value since September. Its exchange rate hovered at 16,800 rials to the dollar, marking a record low. The currency was trading at about 10,500 rials to the U.S. dollar in late December 2010.

The slide Monday came as Iran tested a domestically produced cruise missile during continuing naval drills near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, sending a message to the West that the country would not tolerate increased sanctions against its profitable oil industry.

But in Tehran, people said they were bleeding money….

"It is clear that there is lack of cohesion within the government on how to fix this,” said a prominent Iranian economist, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The market has lost all confidence in a solution.”

Look, I’m not saying that these actors are not threats.  Test-firing cruise missiles sounds a wee bit disconcerting.  But let’s get real here — these are supposed to be the actors that, combined, create a more threatening environment than the Cold War?  That dog won’t hunt. 

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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