Washington, 8 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The chief U.S. intelligence officer says Iran's ballistic missile development program continues to pose a threat to the national security of the United States.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet also says Iraq is likely to have a ballistic missile system ready in a few years that will threaten the Middle East.
The assessments were part of the CIA's annual review of worldwide security concerns. Tenet spoke Wednesday to the U.S. Senate's Select Intelligence Committee in both a public session and a confidential meeting held behind closed doors.
Tenet said proliferation of missiles, chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction remains a primary concern for U.S. security planners. He said Iran is well along in its missile development.
"Iran has one of the largest and most capable ballistic missile programs in the Middle East. Its public statements suggest that it plans to develop longer-range rockets for use in a space-launch program, but Tehran could follow the North Korean pattern and test an ICBM capable of delivering a light payload to the United States in the next few years."
He said the agency expected Iraq to continue working on a missile system as well.
"Given the likelihood that Iraq continues its missile development work, we think that it too could develop an ICBM capability sometime in the next decade assuming it received foreign assistance. "
Tenet said foreign assistance was a crucial component for Iran in its effort to develop its weapons technology. The CIA director said that despite U.S. pleadings and some sanctions levied against a few enterprises, some Russian institutions provided that foreign assistance.
"Russian entities last year continued to supply a variety of ballistic missile-related goods and technical know-how to countries such as Iran, India, China, and Libya. Indeed, the transfer of ballistic missile technology from Russia to Iran was substantial last year, and in our judgment will continue to accelerate Iranian efforts to develop new missiles and to become self-sufficient in production."
Tenet told the senators that he was puzzled by these Russian actions. He said it is conceivable that Iran and its militant form of Islam could pose a threat to Russia and its interests as well.
The director said the past year has proven to be a disappointing one for supporters of political and social reforms in Iran. He reviewed moves by authoritarian forces to reassert their control.
"Prospects for near-term political reform are now fading. Opponents of reform have not only muzzled the open press, they have also arrested prominent activists and blunted the legislature's powers. Over the summer, Supreme Leader Khamenei ordered the new legislature not to ease press restrictions, a key reformist pursuit. This signaled the narrow borders within which he would allow the legislature to operate."
In Iraq, Tenet said President Saddam Hussein has succeeded in his effort to weaken international sanctions against his regime, as well as the resolve of the international community to keep those sanctions in place. Tenet said Saddam's pursuit of weapons is a particular worry.
"Our most serious concern with Saddam Hussein must be the likelihood that he will seek a renewed WMD capability both for credibility and because every other strong regime in the region either has it or is pursuing it. For example, the Iraqis have rebuilt key portions of their chemical production infrastructure for industrial and commercial use. The plants he is rebuilding were used to make chemical weapons precursors before the Gulf War and their capacity exceeds Iraq's needs to satisfy its civilian requirements."
Turning to Russia, Tenet said Moscow is "driving for recognition" as a great power. He said the agency sees this quest for status as a primary goal of President Vladimir Putin.
"Let me be perfectly candid. There can be little doubt that President Putin wants to restore some aspects of the Soviet past -- status as a great power, strong central authority, and a stable and predictable society -- sometimes at the expense of neighboring states or the civil rights of individual Russians."
Putin, he said, is also striving to limit U.S. influence with the other former Soviet republics.
"Putin is making efforts to check U.S. influence in the other former Soviet states and reestablish Russia as the premier power in the region. He has increased pressure on his neighbors to pay their energy debts, is dragging his feet on treaty-mandated withdrawals of forces from Moldova, and is using a range of pressure tactics against Georgia."
In the Caucasus and Central Asia, Tenet said the strategic location of the countries in those regions make their stability critical to the future of Eurasia. He asserted that "corruption, poverty, and other social ills are providing fertile ground for Islamic extremism, terrorist networking, and drug and weapons trafficking that will have impact in Russia, Europe, and beyond."
He noted that the agency is becoming increasingly concerned about the activities of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Tenet described it as an extremist insurgent and terrorist group and said its incursions into Uzbekistan have become bloodier and more significant every year.
In the Balkans, Tenet said Yugoslavia's democratic leaders will "have a hard time cleaning up the mess," left behind by deposed President Slobodan Milosevic. Tenet said Milosevic, his family, and cronies, "stole much of what had value, ran down industries, and wasted whatever resources were left."