They will be less obvious . . . here are the top national security threats to watch in 2017


While 2016 saw an increase in activity from known threats across the globe, the threats the country will face in 2017 are far less obvious.

With a new administration entering the White House and an increasingly turbulent geopolitical landscape, the country could see a national security threat arise from just about anywhere. Here are some of the potential issues to watch out for in 2017:

1. Cyber attacks from new and old enemies

The digital battlefield is no longer relegated to the shadows, and it is likely to become a premier security concern in 2017. Russia’s alleged hacking into various U.S. political institutions put the spotlight on cyber security. China and Iran also continue to develop cyber capabilities aimed at the U.S. Some cyber threats do not operate under a flag whatsoever. In response, the government is spending billions to bolster its cyber capabilities and is fostering partnerships with private entities in Silicon Valley to counter both state and non-state actors.

2. Al-Qaida takes over for ISIS

The Islamic State’s so-called caliphate is under siege on all fronts. The terrorist group’s capitals in both Iraq and Syria are on the verge of being retaken, and its land holdings are a fraction of what they were during its rise in 2014. The eventual downfall of the caliphate will leave behind thousands of jihadis and adherents across the world, all of which will be available to al-Qaida, ISIS’s chief rival.

Al-Qaida waited in the shadows while ISIS’s bravado stole the attention of the U.S. and international community. Meanwhile, it consolidated allies across the globe, particularly in Syria. Al-Qaida could easily regain its prominence as the world’s premier terrorist organization by absorbing ISIS’s remnants.

3. Iran’s dominance in the Middle East

The Islamic Republic of Iran has not wasted any time since it signed a nuclear deal with the U.S. and international community in 2015. It has a hand in every major conflict in the Middle East, including Syria, Yemen and, perhaps most importantly, Iraq.

Iranian naval vessels regularly harassed U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf throughout 2016. Iran also continues to hold its spot as the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. It is quite likely Iran will continue to pose a major threat to U.S. interests with its dominant position in the Middle East secured.

4. Increased Chinese provocations in South China sea

China spent the last several years building islands and engaging in a military build-up in South China sea. It has now moved on to more provocative actions, including the seizure of a U.S. submarine drone, the dangerous interception of a spy plane and the militarization of civilian fishing vessels. With its island building campaign more or less complete, its quite possible the Chinese will continue its aggression against the U.S. in the Pacific.

5. Russia’s military expansion, and not just in Europe

Russia’s military build-up along the NATO border in eastern Europe is well documented, and a legitimate cause for concern, but the Kremlin also has machinations elsewhere. Russia added a significant military presence in Syria, including a full upgrade to its naval base in Tartus, while fighting rebels in support of Bashar al-Assad. It also is expanding in the Arctic, where the military has sent some its most advanced units.

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