The annual report was delivered to the US Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, and did not include the Islamic Republic or its Lebanese terror proxy as global terror threats, despite their having appeared as such in previous years.
The unclassified version of the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities is dated February 26, 2015. It details the current state of global threats such as cyber-terrorism and weapon proliferation, as well as regional threats around the world.
When it comes to terrorism, the document focuses on the danger posed by Sunni extremists such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and its followers. Notably absent from the chapter is any mention of Iran or Hezbollah.
“Sunni violent extremists are gaining momentum and the number of Sunni violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens is greater than at any other point in history. These groups challenge local and regional governance and threaten US allies, partners, and interests,” the report reads.
It goes on to explain that these extremist groups have taken advantage of the instability in some Muslim countries to expand their territorial control. “Most will be unable to seize and hold territory on a large scale, however,” it adds, “as long as local, regional, and international support and resources are available and dedicated to halting their progress.”
In its assessment of the Middle East, the report acknowledges that Iran remains “an ongoing threat to US national interests because of its support to the Assad regime in Syria, promulgation of anti-Israeli policies, development of advanced military capabilities, and pursuit of its nuclear program.”
The report notes “Iran’s intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,” but warns that the country’s leaders are still “pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran. Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses.”
Despite ongoing nuclear negotiations, the report assesses, “Iran’s overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige, and regional influence have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build 6 missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so. We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. We also continue to assess that Iran does not face any insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon, making Iran’s political will the central issue.”
The author’s of the intelligence assessment also praised Iranian implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) as inhibiting “at least temporarily” Iran’s uranium enrichment and plutonium production capabilities, as well as effectively eliminating its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center’s analysis of the Worldwide Threat Assessment document states that the US may have downgraded Iran as a terror threat due to diplomatic pressure.
“We believe that this results from a combination of diplomatic interests (the United States’ talks with Iran about a nuclear deal) with the idea that Iran could assist in the battle against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and maybe even in the battle against jihadist terrorism in other countries,” it read, adding both Iran and Hezbollah were listed in another American terror threat assessment report, that of the Defense Intelligence Agency submitted to Senate the same day in February.
Israel has long warned of the threat posed by a potentially nuclear Iran, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a controversial appearance in US Congress earlier this month to repeat these concerns.