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Trump lashes out at intel chiefs over global threat assessments

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President Donald Trump lashed out at his own intelligence community after they contradicted his administration’s views on the threats the US currently faces.

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump tweeted Wednesday, “Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” The president also insisted there is a “decent chance of denuclearization” with North Korea and that ISIS’ “caliphate will soon be destroyed.”

Senior intelligence officials testified before Congress Tuesday, reporting their assessments of certain global threats, often contradicting the president’s previous statements on these particular issues, according to CNN and others.

An Islamic State flag hangs amid electric wires over a street in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near the port-city of Sidon, southern Lebanon January 19, 2016.
Reuters/Ali Hashisho

On ISIS, the group “is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats explained, adding that ISIS “has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide.”

He further stated that ISIS “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.”

The report on the intelligence assessment comes just a few weeks after Trump proudly declared that “ISIS has been defeated.”

While the physical caliphate, as Trump suggested in his tweets Tuesday, is on the verge of collapse, the terror group clearly still maintains a presence in both Iraq and Syria. Intel officials stressed that ISIS “remains a terrorist and insurgent threat.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) guides the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017.
KCNA via REUTERS

On North Korea, Coats explained that “we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”

“The capabilities and threat that existed a year ago are still there,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said.

A man looks at Iranian-made missiles at Holy Defence Museum in Tehran on September 23, 2015.
Reuters

On Iran, the president previously insisted that it is clear that “we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the” Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump decided to withdraw last year.

White House National Security Advisor John Bolton explained in January that “we have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons.”

Coasts said Tuesday that “we continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

The intelligence officials present did, however, express concern about Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and continued support for regional militias and terrorist organizations.

In his tweets, Trump argued that the Iranian “economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back.”

Intel officials assessed that “at the moment, technically, they are in compliance but we do see them debating amongst themselves as they fail to realize the economic benefits they hoped for from the deal.” Coats explained that “Iranian officials have publicly threatened to push the boundaries of JCPOA restrictions” if they don’t see economic gains.

While intel officials argued that the Islamic State remains a threat, that North Korea is not planning on getting rid of its nukes, and that Iran is technically still in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, they made no mention, as Stars and Stripes first noted, of the southern border, where Trump is reportedly considering declaring a national emergency.

From the start of his administration, the president has had a rocky relationship with his intelligence community, often challenging their views and criticizing their assessments.

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