CIA Director George Tenet gave the Agency's annual assessment of threats to the US before a Congressional hearing on 2 Feb. He cited the most dangerous problems as:
1.India-vs-Pakistan: The two countries have a bitter long-standing rivalry on political, ethnic, religious, and economic grounds. Both have nuclear weapons and are rapidly building missiles to carry them. The Pakistani government is a military junta; the Indian government is a continually unstable coalition.
2.North Korea: After its curious "satellite launch", North Korea has shown at least a theoretical capability to hit the US with a missile warhead that could presumably be chemical, biological, or nuclear. The North Korean economy is in a shambles and the people are losing faith in their leader Kim Jong IL, widely regarded as a temperamental amateur. Sudden, radical, and dangerous changes could happen at any time.
3.Russia: The faltering Russian economy is steadily eroding Russia's ability to reliably control its nuclear arsenal. The CIA insists that there is no evidence that Russian nuclear weapons are missing despite rampant rumors.
4.The Caucasus and "Soviet" Central Asia: The nations of this region are fighting a desperate struggle against Islamic extremists; their poor economies and often egomaniacal leaders do not make the struggle any easier.
5.Iran remains hostile to US interests and will probably have the capability of hitting the US with a missile within a few years.
6.Iraq: Saddam Hussein has proven to be politically agile enough to survive sanctions, unrest, the No Fly zones, and a worsening economy. Iraq continues to rebuild weapons production sites destroyed during Desert Storm and Desert Fox., and maintains a conventional military that threatens all of its neighbors.
7.Yugoslavia: President Milosevic remains firmly in power and controls the military and the media. His country, however, was reduced to the poorest in Europe by the bombing campaign.
8.China: Chances for a military confrontation with Taiwan this year are very high. The tension focuses on the 18 March elections in Taiwan, which could propel the island to declare outright independence from China.
9.International terrorism: While dozens of groups are active in local or regional disputes, it is Osama bin Laden that the US fears most. All of the information from his inner sanctum convinces the CIA that bin Laden intends to launch more attacks on the US. The bin Laden organization has been training operatives to handle chemical and biological weapons, and has links to Sunni Moslem radical groups in Algeria, Central Asia, and Pakistan. --Stephen V Cole