Quietly and unassumingly, Iran and Hezbollah have been removed from the list of terrorism threats in a report delivered to the U.S. Senate by the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
Iran and Hezbollah had been listed as terror threats for many years in the agency's previous reports. This year's report, published on Feb. 26, 2015, comes amid the U.S. negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist organization, is generally viewed as a fealty to Iran. The group was designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.
Titled, “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities,” the unclassified version of the report notes Iran’s willingness to battle Sunni extremists, especially the Isalmic State, and Iran's “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”
Hezbollah has also been involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in its support of the totalitarian Assad regime.
The report focused entirely on the advent and rise to prominence of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria). “Sunni violent extremists are gaining momentum and the number of Sunni violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens is greater than at any other point in history,” the report stated. “These groups challenge local and regional governance and threaten US allies, partners, and interests.”
The report, however, did call out “Iranian leaders — particularly within the security services," who the report said “are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran.”
Specifically, the report noted, “Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses.”
The report assessed Iran as having the capacity to build nuclear weapons if they chose to do so, saying that would face no “insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon.” The report also asssessed that Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles – a technology that Iran has been steadily developing and testing – would be how those nuclear weapons would be delivered. The report also mentioned threats emanating from Iran through counterintelligence and cyber warfare.
Last year's report said that Iran and Hezbollah directly threatened the interests of U.S. allies and that Hezbollah had increased its “global terrorist activity.”