In preparing its annual table of major global threats, US intelligence on Tuesday denied Donald Trump major axes of his foreign policy, from North Korea to Iran through the withdrawal from Syria.
The often impulsive diplomacy of the Republican billionaire has already shaken many US allies since arriving at the White House two years ago. Heard by the Senate, the heads of major intelligence agencies brought Tuesday water to the mill of his detractors.
The gap is clear about the negotiations with North Korea, presented by the US president as one of the great diplomatic successes of the first half of his term.
“Our assessments continue to show that North Korea is unlikely to abandon all its nuclear weapons, missiles and production capabilities,” intelligence chief Dan Coats wrote in a report to the US Congress.
Despite the suspension of nuclear and ballistic tests “for more than a year” and “the reversible dismantling of certain parts of the infrastructures”, “we continue to observe activities that are not compatible with a total denuclearization”, he adds.
A light-years-away analysis of the President’s self-satisfaction just after his historic summit in Singapore on June 12 with Kim Jong Un. “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea”, had he trumpeted.
This hasty conclusion had already been relativised by his administration, but it continues to assert that the North Korean leader has committed to a “definitive and fully verified denuclearization” of his country.
But Dan Coats notes that in Singapore, the number one Pyongyang spoke black on white that a “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”, a formulation including the requirement that the United States put an end to their deployments and military exercises in the region.
– IS remains a “threat” –
Since then, negotiations have become bogged down. According to the US chief of intelligence, the regime still considers nuclear weapons “indispensable” to its “survival”, and is therefore ready only for “partial denuclearization measures” in exchange for “key concessions”, including the lifting of sanctions.
Intelligence warnings come at a crucial time: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are expected to meet in late February, probably in Vietnam, for a second crucial summit for the rest of the process.
“Usually, a president confronted with intelligence analysis that contradicts White House policy would have been worried, or satisfied to know other opinions,” ex-diplomat Aaron David Miller told Twitter.
“Today, it risks provoking a war with the intelligence community or accusations of disloyalty,” he added, recalling previous disputes over Russian interference in the 2016 election in the United States, minimized by Donald Trump despite the findings of his agencies.
Another nuclear crisis is the subject of an embarrassing analysis for US diplomacy: according to CIA Director Gina Haspel, Iran still “technically” complies with the agreement reached in 2015 to prevent it from acquiring the atomic bomb, which the United States nevertheless withdrew last year.
And if “the Iranians recently” plan to “distance themselves” from this text, she noted, it is because of the lack of economic spinoffs, Washington having reinstated draconian sanctions against Tehran after its withdrawal, which had angered the European allies of the United States.
The impromptu announcement of the withdrawal of US troops from Syria in December also caused some confusion among the European and Kurdish allies of the United States, as well as in the Republican ranks of the president. Reason invoked by Donald Trump: The jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group have been defeated.
Here again, intelligence analysis differs widely.
ISIS “still controls thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” Dan Coats said. “If we have eliminated the” caliphat “” set up by the jihadist organization, “with the exception of a few small villages, we must not underestimate the capabilities of terrorist groups, especially the IS”, a- he insisted.
According to him, “the IS will continue to pose a threat to the United States” – a cumbersome warning for a president who has made the “protection of Americans” the watchword of his foreign policy.