The former No. 2 man at the CIA says the Obama administration needs to ramp up the support it is currently providing Syrian rebel groups. Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, in his first television interview, says just the right amount of extra support could increase the chances of a controlled conclusion to the civil war that avoids sectarian chaos. He also tells CBS News Senior Correspondent John Miller that a U.S. military strike on Syria could possibly result in a cyberterror response from Syrian ally Iran. The interview with Morell will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.
Morell, who retired recently from the CIA after 33 years at the agency, spoke to 60 Minutes on Monday. He wants the fighting in Syria to stop to avoid a drawn out struggle that could result in the rebel groups winning and a bloody, chaotic power struggle with their al Qaeda-affiliated allies, who have been the most effective fighters. But right now, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad feels he is winning and has no incentive to stop fighting. "Enough support has to be provided to the opposition-- to put enough pressure on Assad-- to bring him to the negotiating table," Morell tells Miller. "But not enough support provided to the opposition so that they feel that they don't need to go to the negotiating table. It's a very difficult balance to strike."
If America were to strike Syria, Morell says it would not be in their interest to retaliate, but Iran or its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, might do it for them. "What I think you're likely to see from Iran and Hezbollah would be asymmetric attacks. So terrorist attacks, cyberattacks-- that's what you're likely to see," says Morell.
A recent cyberattack believed to have been orchestrated by Iran heavily damaged the computers of Saudi Arabia's largest oil company. But do they have the wherewithal to do the same against U.S. companies or infrastructure? "No. But I think they are working on it," Morell tells Miller.
Successfully handling the Syrian situation is crucial, says Morell. "I'm concerned because where we're headed right now is toward, I fear, the breakup of the state of Syria. Collapse of the central government sectarian warfare, opportunity for al Qaeda to have a safe haven in Syria that is not dissimilar to the safe haven that it once enjoyed in Afghanistan..."