President Donald Trump’s bickering with US intelligence chiefs over Iran is at least in part due to his aversion to career government officials, the ‘deep state’ that outlived many presidents, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou said.
Trump has stunned the US intelligence community this week when he publicly cast doubt on their assessment of Iran. While presenting the community’s annual review of threats on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran does not appear to be pursuing nuclear weapons and abides by the 2015 Iran deal, from which Trump withdrew last year.
Coats’s words are in a stark contrast with hawkish rhetoric that Trump employed against Iran while still on the campaign trail and which he has ratcheted it up since taking over the White House. Without mincing his words, Trump called the intelligence’s take on Iran “wrong” and refereed to the “intelligence people” as “extremely passive and naïve,” suggesting they “go back to school.”
Kiriakou believes that the otherwise unusual clash between the US leader and his own spies is not unusual for Trump, since the current US president “is not a professional politician” and “does not trust government.”
“On the other hand, the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA director, the FBI are career intelligence officials, they have been in intelligence for decades. And so, they are very much a part of what people are now calling the ‘deep state’,” the former CIA analyst told RT.
In addition, Trump is generally not inclined to trust anybody by himself, Kiriakou added.
“He believes what is in his gut, and there is nothing that you’re going to be able to say that is going to change his mind.”
Trump’s inner circle, which includes National Security Adviser John Bolton and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), both known for their hardline militaristic views on foreign policy, does not help the situation, Kiriakou noted.
The public embarrassment of his top intelligence chief may have extra value for Trump at the moment since it works to reassure his base, that he – and not the Deep State – is in control, Kiriakou suggested.
“He wants his base, he wants his followers to understand that he is the one in charge. They are not in charge. They can come up with whatever intelligence conclusions they want, but he is the one that has the final word.”
The spat between Trump and the intelligence community does no favors to the image of the country,Kiriakou said, arguing that the standoff of that kind is unlikely to be repeated once Trump is replaced by “somebody who would be carrying out mainstream foreign policy.”
The US “will go back to position of normalcy” eventually, he said, calling Trump’s ascendance “an anomaly” and “an accident.”
FBI ‘politically biased’ against Trump
Trump did not trade blows with his own intelligence and security people for the first time. Since the start of FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation, which he repeatedly blasted as a “witch hunt,” Trump has attacked former FBI Director James Comey and once claimed in a tweet that the agency’s “rank and file” are “disgusted” with their “so-called” leaders.
Kiriakou said that the FBI did not think highly of the president either, arguing that the agency is leading a campaign to oust him from office with possible indictment in the Russia probe.
“Many of them have a problem with Donald Trump. I think they have gone after Donald Trump and many of his associates because of that political problem that they have.”
“FBI can be and is indeed politically biased,” Kiriakou said, noting that while “normally very conservative,” the agency’s political tinge has changed over the years with Washington field office becoming “very politically liberal.”
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