The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has warned that Iran continues to build up its military capacity, posing a threat to US strategic interests in the region.
During testimony at a recent congressional hearing, Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart listed the Islamic Republic of Iran as among the “global threats” and said the “security challenges” the US faces today are “more diverse and complex than those we have experienced in our lifetimes.”
“We continue to assess that Iran’s goal is to develop capabilities that would allow it to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so,” he told the House Armed Services Committee in a prepared statement.
The DIA chief said that Iran “faces no insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon, making Iran’s political will the central issue.”
The US and some of its allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian purposes in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
ISIL to expand its global outreach in 2015
The threats from al-Qaeda and the ISIL terrorist group topped the list of Stewart’s threat assessment.
The three-star general told lawmakers that ISIL is spreading throughout the Middle East and is establishing affiliates in North Africa to rival al-Qaeda that also remains capable of launching attacks.
“Particularly concerning has been the spread of ISIL beyond Syria and Iraq,” Stewart said. “With affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint that includes ungoverned and under governed areas.”
“In 2015, we expect ISIL to continue its outreach to other elements of the global extremist movement, and to continue benefitting from a robust foreign terrorist fighter flow,” Stewart said.
The DIA chief’s comments come as the United States and its Arab allies have pursued a policy of arming and training “moderate” militants in Syria to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Many of those battle-hardened militants later joined forces with the more extreme ISIL group.