WASHINGTON, (AP) A draft intelligence report portrays a bleak political situation in Iran, anticipating little progress in getting Tehran to halt its nuclear program or stop supporting militant groups in the region, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The latest in a series of reports from the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is nearly complete and could be shared with President Bush and other policymakers within weeks, said officials familiar with the report, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been released. The report is expected to be completed as soon as next week, one official said.
No regime change in Iran appears on the near horizon and Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i will continue in his position despite popular anger.
It is one of three reports the intelligence community is wrapping up on the Persian Gulf. Another looks at Iran's nuclear program. And an update on the situation in Iraq is to be released Thursday.
The report on Iran's political situation looks at issues ranging from the economy to its weapons programs, the officials said.
It concludes that Iran will continue to pursue a nuclear program that the United States and others believe is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, the officials said. Tehran denies that and says the program is for power generation.
Addressing the second most visible dispute between Washington and Tehran, the report also says Iran will continue to cause problems in Iraq, the officials said.
The U.S. government alleges that elements of Tehran's military are equipping and training militias involved in sectarian killings, roadside bombings of U.S. troops and other violence in Iraq — allegations that Iran denies.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met in Baghdad early this month with his counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, on the subject. Though it was the third round of U.S.-Iranian security talks in just over two months, officials have reported no progress.
U.S. officials and others also have criticized Iran for supplying money and weapons to the Shiite Muslim extremist group Hezbollah, which is on the U.S. government list of terrorist organizations.
The new intelligence estimate foresees that Iran will continue as a main backer of the group, along with Syria, the officials said.
It also indicates no regime change in Iran appears on the near horizon — that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i will continue in his position despite popular anger over the country's economic problems.
Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad recently replaced Iran's key oil and industry ministers in a move seen as his attempt to increase control over industries that are the source of most of the country's revenues. Ahmadinejad was elected on a populist agenda in 2005, promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment. His failure to keep those promises has provoked increasingly fierce criticism from both conservatives and reformists in recent months.
The U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
The lingering poor relations have been exacerbated in recent years by rising tensions over Iran's nuclear program and U.S. allegations that Tehran is supporting armed groups in Iraq.
Iran said it had uncovered spy rings organized by the U.S. and its Western allies and has detained a number of Iranian-Americans.
The United States in recent months warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Iran, accusing Islamic authorities there of a "disturbing pattern" of harassment after the detention of a fourth Iranian-American for alleged espionage.
Meanwhile, a prominent Iranian dissident who co-founded the Guards told the French news agency AFP that the United States risks elevating tensions and is not likely to achieve much by declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guards a "terrorist" group.
United States is not likely to achieve much by declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guards a "terrorist" group.
Mr.Mohsen Sazegara, who was a high-ranking Tehran official before turning against the government, told Laurent Lozano of AFP in an interview that the US move, reported to be in the works last week, could spark a backlash, stirring up more turmoil in places where Washington accuses them of terror activities, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Now a research fellow on Iran at Harvard University, Sazegara also said that he doubted blacklisting the Revolutionary Guards would force any change in the Iranian regime.
"The relationship between Iran and the United States will go one more step ahead toward military confrontation and the situation will become more dangerous, because the Revolutionary Guards is now one of the most powerful organizations in the politics of Iran", he said.
Sazegara, 52 held high positions in the Tehran regime after the 1979 revolution, including a key role in setting up the Revolutionary Guards that year.
"The Revolutionary Guard ... is at the same time a political party; it is like an army, a security organization, a secret service, a huge complex of companies". Domestically, he said, they operate a militia, the Bassidj, for suppression. Outside the country, they operate through the Quds force, which is out of President Ahmadi Nezhad's control.
"This is a force that is involved in Iraq, or Lebanon, or Afghanistan, or Palestine, any place in the world", he said, adding: "Not only the foreign ministry of Iran; even the president does not know what the Revolutionary Guards does outside of Iran. They directly report to the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.
"Many of the members of cabinet and parliament are members of the Revolutionary Guards ... many of the top managers of the country are from the Revolutionary Guards."
"So far although we have had two resolutions of the UN Security Council, they are not strong resolutions, they don't go for the main sources of power of this regime. "Whatever the United States has done solely is more effective. Striking the banking system is causing a lot of problems for the merchants and industries of Iran, in the private and public sectors."
However, he insisted, "blacklisting the Revolutionary Guards is not enough to push them to a reasonable policy". "Everything must be solved by negotiations. But in any negotiation you have to show your power too. You have to show the carrots and the sticks, you have to show that you are serious too. Otherwise Iran just wastes time".
"What (Iranians) expect from the international community is to put pressure on this regime to help the people of Iran in their struggle for democracy and human rights. "Any sanction against Iran of course creates problems for the people. But the people of Iran are ready to tolerate the difficulties if they are sure that the international community goes toward a kind of Helsinki process, if they establish some link between the sanctions and the human rights and democratic issues in Iran".ENDS IRAN STABLE 23807
Editor’s note: Highlights and phonetisation of some names are by IPS