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U.S. Intelligence Annual Threat Assessment 2021

(April 9, 2021)

On April 9, 2021, the intelligence community published its Annual Threat Assessment focusing on China, Russia, North Korea, and transnational issues. The section on Iranian Provocative Actions highlights threats to the United States and Israel.

While media reports* highlighted the intelligence community’s conclusion in the Annual Threat Assessment that Iran “is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device,” the report also said:

Iran will present a continuing threat to U.S. and allied interests in the region as it tries to erode U.S. influence and support Shia populations abroad, entrench its influence and project power in neighboring states, deflect international pressure, and minimize threats to regime stability. Although Iran’s deteriorating economy and poor regional reputation present obstacles to its goals, Tehran will try a range of tools—diplomacy, expanding its nuclear program, military sales and acquisitions, and proxy and partner attacks—to advance its goals. We expect that Iran will take risks that could escalate tensions and threaten U.S. and allied interests in the coming year (emphasis added)....
Iran demonstrated its conventional military strategy, which is primarily based on deterrence and the ability to retaliate against an attacker, with its launch of multiple ballistic missiles against a base housing U.S. forces in Iraq in response to the January 2020 killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qasem Soleimani. Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the region, and despite Iran’s economic challenges, Tehran will seek to improve and acquire new conventional weaponry....
Iran is pursuing a permanent military presence and economic deals in Syria as the conflict winds down there. Tehran almost certainly wants these things to build its regional influence, support Hezbollah, and threaten Israel…. Tehran remains a threat to Israel, both directly through its missile forces and indirectly through its support of Hizballah and other terrorist groups.

*See, for example, Shane Harris, “China maneuvering to expand global influence, undercut U.S., intelligence report finds,” Washington Post, (April 13, 2021). Harris also noted, “in a sign of how rapidly intelligence may be overtaken by events, hours before the report’s public release, a senior Iranian official announced a major jump in the country’s enrichment of uranium, [from 20 percent] to 60 percent purity.”

Sources: Office of the Director of National Intelligence.