Our top intelligence officials presented their unclassified threat assessment at a January 29 hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified with CIA Director Gina Haspel, Defense Intelligence Agency director Robert Ashley, National Security Agency director Paul Nakasone, and National Geospatial Agency director Robert Cardillo. According to Coats et al. (as Jeff Jacboy put it in his emailed Boston Globe Arguable column), “the world looks rather different from the one President Trump tends to describe.”
President Trump reacted to the media reports on Twitter in his usual fashion. He was not amused. His Twitter outburst, however, did not constitute his last word on the subject. On Sunday he responded on Face the Nation in the course of his interview with Margaret Brennan. The transcript is posted here. Quotable quote: “I am going to trust the intelligence [officials] that I’m putting there, but I will say this: my intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent.”
I didn’t really understand what was happening until I read Fred Fleitz’s column “It’s time to end unclassified threat briefings.” It provides necessary context.
Here I want to limit my comments to Iran. According to the threat assessment, Iran continues to abide by the JCPOA agreement from which we have exited thanks to President Trump. The JCPOA was the crowning humiliation of the United States administered by President Obama and Secretary Kerry. The lies and deceptions they perpetrated to promote it dwarf Trump’s wayward way with the truth. I remain grateful that he was moved beyond criticism to undo our participation in it.
Among other things, threat assessment testimony omitted any reference to the monumental intelligence coup pulled off by Israel with the capture of a treasure trove of documents from Iran’s nuclear archive. I should think that it might bear on the current intelligence assessment.
As it happens, just a few days before the intelligence chiefs’ testimony last week, Iranian nuclear majordomo Ali Akbar Salehi had discussed Iran’s subversion of the JCPOA on Iranian television. Salehi bragged about deceptive pictures of cement poured down the Arak plutonium reactor’s core (as required by the JCPOA agreement). Salehi revealed that the photographs had been photoshopped.
Salehi added that Iran did pour concrete down the pipes of the heavy water reactor, but only after replacement pipes had been procured. The invaluable MEMRI posted Salehi’s remarks (video here, transcript here, tweet below). In the video, Salehi is bursting his buttons with pride in the measures taken to circumvent the requirements of the JCPOA. Check it out.
Iran's Nuclear Chief Salehi: We Had Secretly Purchased Replacements for Nuclear Equipment That the JCPOA Had Required Us to Destroy; Yellowcake Production Facilities are Operational; We Are Advancing in Nuclear Propulsion https://t.co/s6Vr8dcwe5
— Scott Johnson (@scottwjohnson) February 5, 2019
Last week IDF Lt. Col. (retired) Michael Segall of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs provided his own assessment. According to Segall, Iran continues with its nuclear activities unabated.” Segall drew on Salehi’s remarks to note the points above while adding that Salehi said he was “thankful to Allah for the way in which the discussions relating to the technical aspects of the nuclear talks were conducted, as they left so many breaches in the agreement that Iran was able to exploit.”
”Iran has lost nothing as a result of signing the agreement,” Salehi continued, “and history will prove this. We have preserved our capabilities in the field of enrichment. We are…continuing to manufacture new centrifuges. We are doing everything we need to do.” Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, if true, therefore seems to be meaningless.
Today the the Wall Street Journal caught up with Salehi’s comments (editorial here on Outline), though the Journal states that the estimate of Iranian compliance is “technically true.” (The editorial doesn’t mention the photoshopped photographs.) One can only wonder whether the CIA has anyone monitoring Iran’s Channel 4 and, if so, what it makes of Salehi’s comments.
ON A RELATED NOTE: Obama lied repeatedly to Israel about our intentions with Iran. See Michael Oren’s memoir Ally. Obama and Kerry also knifed Israel in the back with the assistance of Samantha Power at the United Nations on their way out the door. Speaking this past Tuesday night at Sutton Place Synagogue in New York City, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer addressed our withdrawal from the JCPOA in these terms: “That has been, to my mind, the single most important decision that any U.S. president has made that affects the national security of the State of Israel. The only other decision that is close is a decision that Nixon made in 1973 to re-arm us… I’m sure people have big disagreements with President Trump on a lot of issues, but on this decision, President Trump took that decision against the wishes of his Secretary of State at the time, Secretary of Defense at the time, National Security Advisor at the time, and all the allies… That’s why I have a great deal of respect for the boldness of making this decision that is so critical for our security.”