The Arab Spring and Homeland Security
by Nadav Morag, Ph.D., CTU University Dean for Security Studies
The recent sectarian violence in Egypt between Muslims and Coptic Christians as well as the ongoing instability in Syria and Yemen underscore a trend with possible homeland security implications for the United States: increased lawlessness in the Middle East may provide more operational space for Al Qaeda-affiliated groups.
Yemen is already known to be a hotbed of Al Qaeda activity. US military aid to Yemen has been on the rise for a number of years and the US relies on the support of the Yemeni government and security forces to operate against Al Qaeda cells in the country. Unfortunately, that country is on the verge of civil war and significant swaths of its territory are no longer under the control of the Yemeni government.
Egypt, which is the largest Arab country with the strongest military, has been in limbo since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in February of this year. Peripheral areas of the country, particularly the Sinai Penninsula, have seen an upsurge in activity by a range of radical organizations including Al Qaeda affiliates, Hamas and Hizbullah.
While anti-Qaddafi fighters in Libya have succeeded in overruning virtually all of the strongholds of the old regime, there are significant questions as to whether the new Libyan government can effectively control the country's territory. Moreover, Libya reportedly had an active non-conventional weapons program and it is not clear as to what might have happened to Libyan chemical and biological weapons (Libya had in its possession an estimated 9.5 tons of mustard gas) and whether or not such weapons could end up in the hands of Al Qaeda affiliates.
Finally, the growing unrest in Syria may eventually lead to a long and bloody civil war in that country that could lead to large parts of it being ungoverned and ungoverened spaces are a natural incubator for groups such as Al Qaeda. Syria too, possesses significant quantities of chemical and biological weapons that could potentially end up in the hands of terrorist organizations.
In short, the United States will need to gear up to ensure that the process of halting liberalization occurring in much of the Arab World will not translate into attacks here at home.
*The the views expressed in this article are the views of Dr. Morag, and do not represent the views of CTU, or any other organziation.