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Trump says US intelligence ‘naive, should go back to school’ after contradicting his claims

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, joined by top intelligence officials, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a hearing focusing on global threats on February 13, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
January 30, 2019

After Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Tuesday contradicted some of what the Trump Administration has said regarding global threats – including ISIS, North Korea, Russia and China – President Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to say U.S. intelligence is “extremely passive and naive” about Iran, and he also weighed in on North Korea and ISIS.

In one tweet, Trump even noted that “perhaps Intelligence should go back to school.”

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran,” Trump tweeted. “They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but….”

“….a source of potential danger and conflict,” he continued. “They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Committee report, Coats addressed ISIS, North Korea, Russia and China threats, as well as Iran.

Regarding Iran, Coats said U.S. intelligence doesn’t believe Iran is trying to create a nuclear device. However, he did note that Iran has the Middle East’s largest stockpile of ballistic missiles.

“While we do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device, Iranian officials have publicly threatened to push the boundaries of [the Iran nuclear deal] restrictions if Iran does not gain the tangible financial benefits is expected from the deal,” Coats said, Politico reported.

“The Iranian regime will continue pursuing regional ambitions and improved military capabilities even while its own economy is weakening by the day,” Coats said.

Regarding North Korea, Coats issued a stern warning that differs from the President’s past outlook.

Coats said the current intelligence assessment finds that North Korea is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and will try to keep its weapons of mass destruction, contradicting Trump’s stated goal of “complete denuclearization” on the Korean Peninsula.

“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its [weapons of mass destruction] 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,” Coats said, Politico reported.

Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un are slated to meet for their second summit at the end of February. The location has not yet been announced.

And regarding ISIS and the ongoing 18-year war in Afghanistan, Coats said ISIS “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.”

“ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria. … [ISIS] will seek to exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term,” Coats said.

Trump tweeted late last year that the United States has “defeated ISIS,” and that the U.S. would be withdrawing all troops from Syria, a process that has reportedly begun, although mostly equipment at this point.

There are approximately 2,000 U.S. service members in Syria who mainly help train local soldiers, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to fight against ISIS. U.S. troops have been in Syria fighting ISIS for more than four years. There are more than 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, which neighbors Syria to the east.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said in the past that ISIS’ caliphate, or physical property, has been “99 percent taken down.”

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant. Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting..”

“….Fighting continues but the people of Afghanistan want peace in this never ending war,” he continued. “We will soon see if talks will be successful? North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization…”

“…Time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen. Now a whole different story,” Trump added. “I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made-big difference!”

Meanwhile, Russia and China are “more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s, and the relationship is likely to strengthen in the coming year,” Coats told the Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, adding that, “At the same time, some U.S. allies and partners are seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions of changing U.S. policies on security and trade.”