Spy chiefs at odds with Trump | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 31, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:10 AM, January 31, 2019

Spy chiefs at odds with Trump

US intelligence chiefs contradicted some of President Donald Trump's most fundamental foreign policy claims Tuesday, underscoring a persistent division in his view of the world and theirs.

In a hearing on global threats at the Senate Intelligence Committee, the country's top spies took issue with Trump's assertion that the Islamic State group has been defeated, and that North Korea can be convinced to forego its nuclear weapons.

They also challenged Trump's claim that Tehran is actively seeking nuclear weapons, the justification Trump gave for withdrawing last year from a multilateral treaty on Iran.

And they underscored again that Russia meddled deeply on Trump's behalf in the 2016 presidential election -- which he has repeatedly denied -- and can be expected to do the same in 2020.

But Trump hit back yesterday and attacked the US intelligence services as "naive" and "wrong" on the threat he says is posed by Iran.

"Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!" Trump said in a blistering tweet.

The hearing took place weeks after Trump cited a victory over Islamic State to justify his sudden announcement of an immediate pullout from Syria -- a move that alarmed the US defense establishment and allies in the Middle East.

And it came just weeks before Trump plans a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to negotiate a hoped-for denuclearization of the hermit state.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the committee that the US intelligence community believes it is unlikely that Pyongyang will agree to completely denuclearize.

"We continue to assess that North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, even as it seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization steps to obtain key US and international concessions," Coats said in the annual "Worldwide Threat Assessment" report.

"North Korea's leaders see having a nuclear weapons capability as "critical to regime survival."

The report also warned that Islamic State is hardly vanquished and could easily rise again in a vacuum left by departing US forces, resuming global attacks and restarting its propaganda machine.

"ISIS still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses," Coats said.

The Coats report highlighted the broad and increasing threat to the United States from China, a point of agreement across the board in the Trump administration.

It characterized the US-China struggle as an ideological battle between the Western model of a democratically-based economy and China's authoritarian capitalism.

It also warned of a growing alignment between China and Russia, saying their relationship "is likely to strengthen in the coming year as some of their interests and threat perceptions converge, particularly regarding perceived US unilateralism and interventionism and Western promotion of democratic values and human rights."

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