WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday pushed back against his intelligence chiefs’ national security assessments, saying “the Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran,” and he defended his own, more positive appraisals of threats to the US posed by North Korea and the Islamic State. “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school,” Trump said.
In a series of Twitter posts the day after senior American intelligence officials briefed Congress and directly contradicted some of Trump’s rosier estimations, the president reasserted his own conclusions and trumpeted his accomplishments on critical national security matters. He said the Islamic State’s control in parts of Iraq and Syria “will soon be destroyed,” and that there was a “decent chance of Denuclearization” in North Korea.
On Tuesday, top intelligence officials described a different Iran, one that is not currently trying to make a nuclear bomb and appears to be complying with a 2015 agreement, even after Trump last year promised to withdraw from it. On Syria, intelligence officials said the Islamic State would go on “to stoke violence” with thousands of fighters there and in Iraq, and with 12 networks around the world. Regarding North Korea, they said Pyongyang was not likely to permanently shed itself of nuclear weapons — contradicting a prediction Trump has made based on what he has called the “best” relationship the two nations have ever had.
“It’s deeply dangerous that the White House isn’t listening,” Representative Adam B Schiff, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a Twitter post Wednesday morning.
The threat assessment — an annual report to Congress that ranks threats to American national security from around the world — provides the public with an unclassified and up-to-date summary of the most pressing national security threats to the US.
It was not the first time the president has split with senior intelligence officials on national security assessments. Before he took office in 2017, he was publicly skeptical of intelligence conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and he mocked intelligence agencies for their role in the leadup to the Iraq war.