Both Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, have been removed from the National Intelligence list of terrorism threats – the most authoritative document produced by the National Intelligence Agency.
Fox News‘ On The Record with Greta Susteren reported late Tuesday on information found in the unclassified version of the report, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities 2015 (PDF), dated February 26, 2015. An annual report, this one was delivered recently to the U.S. Senate by National Intelligence Director Lt.-Gen. (ret.) James Clapper.
The document noted Iran’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners and de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.” Also noted was the fact that “Iranian leaders – particularly within the security services – are 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…”
The intelligence report added that Tehran’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 missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so.”
Whether or not Iran would choose to do so it still not clear, according to the U.S. intelligence assessment. However, if the Iranian government decides to go ahead, there exist no “insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon,” American intelligence experts concluded, most likely to be delivered via intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told Fox News journalist Greta Susteren that he believes the removal of Iran and Hezbollah from the terrorist list was not a simple “format change” as reporters were told at a briefing, but rather a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to deceive the American public.
“What we’re having now is an Orwellian example of disappearing references to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from the terrorism report,” Bolton said, during an exchange with Susteren on Fox. “This was a concession, I think, by the administration relating to the nuclear negotiation. You will not find it in the signed deal.
“How many other concessions has the administration made that are not in the deal — that may not even be related to the nuclear program — in this desperate effort to get a deal?”
Meanwhile, Iran is moving to widen its sphere of influence in South America, where its diplomatic ties are already strong with Argentina and even warmer with Venezuela, which has the largest reserves of uranium in the Western hemisphere, outside of Canada.
Photos that flashed across Fox News during a report by Susteren showed a heavily guarded facility that was set up in Bolivia in 2011, allegedly with Iranian backing.
“There are elements of that facility which is supposed to be some type of military academy,” Susteren reported, “but is very heavily fortified. And the suspicion is that it’s being used by Iran as a way to have a footprint in Bolivia” which she described as “not a friend of the United States.”
Despite the disappearance of Iran from the terror map in the 2015 National Intelligence assessment, Fox journalist Cathern Herridge also noted that “the documents, the photos and Congressional testimony show that Iran is really effectively expanding its influence into South America, into our neighbor.”
In effect, Herridge said, Iran is “creating a launching pad into North America.”
Bolton concurred in his own remarks. “Look, Iran has terrorist networks all over this hemisphere,” he pointed out. “Remember, three years ago, the Justice Department indicted senior officials of the Revolutionary Guards Corps for conspiring to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington by infiltrating through the Mexican border.
“I think this is just another example of Iran’s activities.”