US intelligence chiefs contradict Trump on N. Korea, Iran, IS threats
A new U.S. intelligence assessment of global threats has concluded that North Korea is “unlikely to give up” all of its nuclear stockpiles and that Iran is not “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity” needed to make a bomb, directly contradicting two top tenets of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, also challenged Trump’s insistence that the Islamic State group had been defeated, a key rationale for his decision to exit from Syria. The terrorist group, the annual “Worldwide Threat As- sessment” report to Congress concluded, “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” and maintains eight branches and a dozen networks around the world.
Trump is expected to meet next month with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, in a second round of direct nego-
tiations aimed at ridding Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons.
But Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that “we currently assess North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capability and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability.”
“Its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” Coats said.
Gina Haspel, the CIA director, said the North Korean government “is committed to developing a long-range nucleararmed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.”
Under questioning by Sen. Kamala Harris, DCalif., Haspel said it was encouraging that North Korea had engaged in dialogue with the United States. But, she said, ultimately the diplomatic objective had to be to persuade Pyongyang to fully disclose its program and dismantle its weapons.
Former intelligence officials have expressed a degree of skepticism about the upcoming meet- ing, given the relatively modest steps North Korea has taken toward throttling back its nuclear program.
On Iran, Coats cited the nation’s continued support of terrorism in Europe and the Middle East, including sponsoring Houthis in Yemen and Shiite militants in Iraq. He also said that he believed that Iran hard-liners would continue to challenge centrist rivals.
“We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Coats said, but he added that Iranian officials have “publicly threatened to push the boundaries” of the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 if it did not see the benefits it expected.
Trump withdrew the United States from that agreement last year. He called it “defective at its core” and said if the deal remained in place, Iran would “be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.” The agreement still stands, largely with support from European capitals.