News / Middle East

Pentagon: Iran Continues Nuclear Weapons Push, Supports Extremists

David Dyar

A new U.S. Defense Department report on Iran's military power says the country continues to pursue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities, and to sponsor violent groups in several parts of the world.  But the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency says Iran is not likely to launch a direct attack on the United States because that might result in the fall of the current regime.

The first formal Defense Department report on Iran's military capabilities says the Tehran government's main goal is its own survival, and determines the leadership has therefore adopted a primarily defensive military strategy, including high-technology defenses aimed at detecting and stopping a sophisticated attack.  

But the report also says Iran continues to work toward developing a nuclear weapon and increasingly long range missiles.  It notes that Iran has run into some problems at its main uranium enrichment facility, but says a new facility is expected to come on line next year.  The report does not estimate when Iran might be able to produce a nuclear weapon, but U.S. officials, including the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, say it could be soon.

"The general consensus -- not knowing, again, the exact number of centrifuges that we actually have visibility into -- is we're talking one year," he said.

But General Burgess also says U.S. intelligence agencies do not know whether Iran's leaders have formally made the decision to actually build such a weapon and he says because the regime is interested in its own survival is unlikely to initiate a conflict intentionally or launche a preemptive attack.

The report says Iran is also working hard on its ballistic missile capability, and claims to have a new missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers.  It says Iran has also made improvements in the accuracy and payload capacity of its missiles, and estimates the country could have a missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015 if it gets some foreign help.  The report says Iran already has short range missiles that can hit neighboring countries, and U.S. forces in the region, with conventional warheads.  And it says Iran has improved the defenses that protect its missile launch sites.

The report also says the Iranian government pursues a policy of subversion through extremist groups abroad, particularly in the Middle East.  But the report says Iranian agencies have built "operational capabilities" elsewhere, too, in recent years, even as far away as Venezuela.  It does not provide details.

But before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Latin America last week, a senior defense official speaking on condition of anonymity said although Iran has "deepened" its relations with a few countries in the region, its influence is not widespread.   The official cited deepening Iranian relations mainly with Venezuela and Bolivia, but also to some extent with Ecuador, Nicaragua and Brazil.

In testimony last week before a U.S. Senate committee, Lieutenant General Burgess described Iran's activities abroad this way. "One principal tool employed by Iran is the active sponsorship of terrorist and paramilitary groups to serve as a strategic deterrent and intimidate and pressure other nations. This includes the delivery of lethal aid to select Iraqi Shia militants in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan," he said.

General Burgess said such activities are handled by Iran's elite, semi-independent Quds Force.  There has long been uncertainty about how much of the Force's activities are directed by the government.  But General Burgess said the Force does not operate entirely on its own.

"I think what I would say in this setting is that as I laid out in the testimony, the Quds Force, the IRGC folks, that there is some -- some control that is directed from on high. How much and within what bounds that is put on them is not something I'm prepared to go into detail on.  So when we say not a rogue force, they are not truly totally independent operators. There is some cognizance on high," he said.

The Defense Department report says the Quds Force continues to support insurgents in Iraq, and to a lesser extent in Afghanistan, even as the Iranian government pursues state-to-state relations with the U.S.-supported governments in those countries.

On Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Iran is subverting the Iraqi and Afghan governments even as it builds official relations with them. "Clearly Iran is, when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, they continue to be duplicitous -- at some levels wishing to engage with the government, at others trying to undermine their authority, their sovereignty," he said.

But Morrell says the Iran power report, released this week, is mainly a compilation of information and analysis already made public by the Defense Department and other U.S. government agencies. "I frankly don't think that anything that was shared in the report, and I read it last night, would strike anyone in this building as new, and therefore would require an adjustment in the approach we have been taking within the building or frankly the inter-agency, the government as a whole, would be taking, toward Iran."

The report is the first of its kind and was required by the Congress.  

The Defense Department does a similar annual report about China.

The report puts Iran's annual defense spending at the equivalent of just $9.6 billion as of last year, less than two per cent of U.S. defense spending.  But the report says that does not include the activities of agencies such as the Quds Force.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid