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 Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid