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Worldwide Threat Assessment Contradicts Trump's Views On Iran, North Korea, ISIS

FBI Director Christopher Wray; CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats arrive to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "worldwide threats". January 29, 2019

The latest global threat assessment by U.S. intelligence chiefs indicate that Iran is not currently developing nuclear weapons. The assessment also concludes that North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear stockpile.

Instead, U.S. intelligence chiefs told senators on Tuesday that China and Russia pose the biggest risks to the United States and are more aligned than they have been in decades. According to various reports, U.S. intelligence leaders' testimony repeatedly contradicted President Donald Trump's statements on global threats.

Director of national intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran continued supporting terrorism in Europe and the Middle East, including sponsoring Houthis in Yemen and Shiite militants in Iraq. He also said that he believed Iran hard-liners would continue to challenge centrist rivals, reported the New York Times on Tuesday January 29.

“We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Mr. Coats said. However, he added that Iranian officials have “publicly threatened to push the boundaries” of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, if it did not see the benefits it expected.

The U.S. withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed a series of crushing sanctions on Tehran which have paralyzed its ailing economy. While withdrawing from the deal, President Donald Trump said Iran would “be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons” if the deal stayed in place.

Asked if Iran remained in compliance with the nuclear deal, CIA Director Gina Haspel said it was, but added that Iranian leaders were considering steps that would “lessen their adherence” to the agreement.

“They are making preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back if they make that decision,” Ms. Haspel said, adding however, that “At the moment, technically they are in compliance, but we do see them debating among themselves because they haven’t seen the economic benefits from the deal.”

Iranian officials have recently said the country's nuclear facilities were ready to enrich uranium at 20% level.

Meanwhile, Coats who was accompanied by the directors of the CIA, FBI and other top intelligence officials at the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual hearing on worldwide threats, said "China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways - to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure."

Coats also said some U.S. allies are seeking more independence, responding to their perceptions of Washington's changing policies on security and trade, and "are becoming more open" to new partnerships, Reuters reported.

On North Korea, while Trump has said the country no longer poses a threat, Coats said North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons.

The remarks by intelligence chief came only a month before Trump's planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, in a second round of direct negotiations aimed at ridding encouraging Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons stockpile .

Marking yet another contrast between the views of U.S. intelligence chiefs and President Trump, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats challenged Trump's view about the defeat of ISIS, which was used to justify the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.

According to the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” report to Congress , ISIS “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” as well as maintaining several branches and a dozen networks around the world.