Counterterrorism Czar Juan Zarate

In a forthcoming brief, counterterrorism and security expert Juan Zarate and DCFR’s keynote holiday dinner speaker, offers his five emergent security threats, based on an interview at the end of November. Not ranked in order of importance, they are:

1) The changing face of terrorism;

2) The direction of the Middle East;

3) Iran;

4) How the U.S. handles warzones; and

5) Two interesting regional wildcards: the power shifts and potential rivalry that happens in Asia because of China and the South Asian powder keg, particularly Pakistan.

Zarate also discusses how counterterrorism has evolved over the last ten years and its prospects ahead. He believes a vision in this area has not been fully addressed or articulated, certainly not for the American people or internally within the U.S. government in terms of strategy.

With a changing face of terrorism — from the nationalist-driven type of the ’70s and ’80s to a transnational threat and other morphed manifestations thereof— more monitoring, diplomatic outreach and capacity building are vital. He says, “Our counterterrorism strategy is not just about finding and hunting down al-Qaeda leaders or stopping plots. It should also be about trying to affect and influence the environment, so these groups don’t gain in strength and have either the notion or the ability to strike the United States. If they’re going to be a problem, they need to be a local problem.” Zarate suggests that the shifting landscape of terrorism has influenced the nature of the threat itself, and the fractured and metastasized ideology behind al-Qaeda has embedded itself and manifested in a multitude of ways. The activities in Syria are a case in point. It is like the Wild, Wild, West of terrorist activities.

In the interview upcoming, Zarate also covers China, “following the money” to deter criminal and terrorist networks, and counterterrorism in the context of foreign policy. Countering terrorism should not be driving foreign policy, though it is an important piece of the mosaic. He also mentions that, “the nature of power itself is shifting to economic power, social network power, power of media and the general dynamics of globalization. These are the elements that form power in addition to the classic elements of power,” [such as military might].

Juan C. Zarate is a former deputy assistant to the President and deputy national security adviser, the senior national security consultant and analyst for CBS News, a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and visiting lecturer of law at Harvard Law School. He advises companies and organizations on national, homeland, and finance-related security, technologies, and investments. 


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