US officials clash over Trump Iran arms control document: report

State Department and intelligence officials reportedly clashed over a Trump administration report on international arms control compliance, expressing concerns that the report politicized evaluations about Iran, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The clash reportedly occurred on Tuesday when the State Department briefly posted an unclassified version of its annual report on international cooperation with arms control agreements before removing it, according to the news service.

Intelligence officials reportedly were concerned about the report’s framing, saying they suspected it was painting Iran in a deliberately unflattering light rather than providing an objective assessment, Reuters reported, citing five sources familiar with the matter.

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A State Department spokesperson defended the report’s assessment of Iran, telling The Hill that it was “informed by careful assessment of all relevant information.”

“As the United States was only a participant in the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran deal] for part of the reporting period, this Compliance Report examines as a matter of discretion, activities that are relevant to Iran’s JCPOA commitments without making adherence assessments,” the spokesperson said.

“The findings in the reports are informed by careful assessment of all relevant information, including information related to the existence of the archive, which raises serious questions regarding whether Iran intended to preserve the option to resume elements of a nuclear weapons program in the future, in the event a decision were made to do so.”

The unclassified report did not include assessments of Russian compliance with agreements such as New START or the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, according to Reuters.  

It also omitted detailed analysis that had appeared in previous years’ reports on several nations’ adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Iran, Myanmar, North Korea and Syria, according to the outlet. Instead, the document reportedly included five paragraphs under the heading “country concerns,” according to Reuters.

The document, which is reportedly 12 pages — down from 45 pages last year — did not include determinations by the International Atomic Energy Agency and U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran has complied with the 2015 deal restricting its civilian nuclear program, Reuters reported. 

Instead, it reportedly said questions remained about whether Iran plans to resume a nuclear weapons program, noting that the nation retained a nuclear archive, according to Reuters.

“It’s piling inference upon inference here to try to create a scary picture,” a congressional aide told Reuters. “There is significant concern that the entire sort of purpose … was to help build a case for military intervention in Iran in a way that seems very familiar,” referencing the faulty intelligence used in 2003 to claim Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction to argue in favor of the invasion of Iraq.

The report comes after the U.S. recently designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, the first time the designation has been applied to a government entity. Iran responded by making the same designation for U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Updated: 2:30 p.m.

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