US Directional of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Wednesday jousted with US Senate Intelligence Committee Member Tom Cotton about whether to blame current US President Joe Biden or former US president Donald Trump for Iran’s nuclear advances.
Haines suggested at the hearing worldwide threats that Iran’s decision to speed up and elevate its nuclear enrichment program came during the Trump era after the November 2020 assassination of Iran nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and was connected to Trump’s May 2018 withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA Iran nuclear deal.
In contrast, Cotton argued that if the US intelligence community viewed November 2020 as a turning point, then the blame should be placed on Biden as the Islamic Republic had decided that it did not need to fear him as president.
Cotton asked how can there be “nothing about Biden administration policies” in the US intelligence community's report analyzing why and how Tehran jumped forward with its nuclear program.
Haines quickly replied that her intelligence analysts would likely “look at the JCPOA withdrawal” as the real cause of Iran breaking the deal’s nuclear limits.
US Senator Marion Michael Rounds piled on with concern about Iran, asking Haines how close the ayatollahs were getting to a nuclear weapon.
Responding, Haines said, “we continue to have concerns. We have indicated they are moving closer without a decision to pursue” a nuclear weapon, but that “they are getting very concerningly close.”
This echoed the recent US intelligence community report which said, “If Tehran does not receive sanctions relief, Iranian officials probably will consider further enriching uranium up to 90 percent,” which is known as the weaponization level.
Iran threatens both Israel and the US
In other comments, Haines told the US Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran threatens both Israel and the US.
Regarding Israel, she said that the Iranian threat came from missiles, drones and its support for Hezbollah and other proxies.
In addition, Haines said that the Islamic Republic threatened both Israel and the US by virtue of its nuclear program and ongoing actions in the Middle East which can threaten the citizens of both countries.
The recent US intelligence report said that “Iran probably will seek to acquire new conventional weapon systems, such as advanced fighter aircraft, trainer aircraft, helicopters, air defense systems, para-naval patrol ships, and main battle tanks. However, budgetary constraints and fiscal shortfalls will slow the pace and breadth of acquiring these systems.”
In addition, it said, “Iran’s ballistic missile programs, which already include the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the region, continue to pose a threat to countries across the Middle East. Iran has emphasized improving the accuracy, lethality, and reliability of its missiles.”
“Iran’s work on space launch vehicles (SLVs)—including its Simorgh—shortens the timeline to an ICBM if it decided to develop one because SLVs and ICBMs use similar technologies,” said the report.
Moreover, the report cited aggressive Iranian cyber attacks on Israel as proof that, “Iran’s growing expertise and willingness to conduct aggressive cyber operations make it a major threat to the security of U.S. and allied networks and data.”
Earlier, opening the hearing on worldwide threats, Committee Chairman Mark Warner highlighted threats to the US from China.
“China is unlike any adversary we have faced before. Not only has it demonstrated intent and capability to compete with the United States militarily, but also compete with us economically and, I believe most worryingly, technologically,” said Warner.
Warned stated, “Relying on strategic investments, cyber, and traditional espionage to acquire intellectual property in key technologies, China is focused on undermining the United States as the world’s leading technological power. And unlike the United States, China will use that power to spread its authoritarian ideals, whether through economic coercion – like Belt and Road – or infiltrating international standards-setting bodies.”
He added, “It is why the United States must aggressively invest in the talent, tools, and research to lead in tomorrow’s technologies, like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and biomedical engineering.”