President Donald Trump lashed out at the US intelligence community on Wednesday, a day after its leaders contradicted his administration’s views on the threats facing the country.
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump tweeted, adding: “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 the terrorist group ISIS’s “Caliphate will soon be destroyed.”
Senior intelligence officials testified before Congress on Tuesday about their assessments of certain global threats, often contradicting the president’s statements on those issues, according to CNN and others.
Director of Intelligence Dan Coats said ISIS “is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” adding that the group “has returned to its guerrilla-warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide.”
Coats said ISIS “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.”
Trump proudly declared last month that ISIS had been defeated.
While the physical caliphate is on the verge of collapse, as Trump suggested in his tweets, the terror group maintains a presence in both Iraq and Syria. Intel officials have stressed that ISIS “remains a terrorist and insurgent threat.”
Of North Korea and its ambitions for weapons of mass destruction, Coats said, “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 capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”
“The capabilities and threat that existed a year ago are still there,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
On Iran, the president has insisted it is clear that “we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure” of the Iran nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, from which Trump withdrew the US last year.
His national security adviser, John Bolton, said in January, “We have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons.”
Coasts said on Tuesday that “we do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”
The intelligence officials present did 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.”
CIA Director Gina Haspel said on Tuesday that intel officials assessed that while Iran is technically in compliance with the nuclear deal, “we do see them debating amongst themselves as they fail to realize the economic benefits they hoped for from the deal.”
Coats added 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 ISIS remains a threat, that North Korea is not planning to get rid of its nukes, and that Iran is still complying with the nuclear deal, they made no mention, as The Associated Press noted, of the US’s southern border, where Trump has said he’s considering declaring a national emergency to get funding for his long-promised wall.
From the start of his administration, the president has had a rocky relationship with the US intelligence community, often challenging its views and criticizing its assessments.