CIA Director Porter J. Goss told Congress yesterday that the governments of Syria and Iran are helping insurgents in Iraq, despite U.S. efforts to end the cooperation.
“Despite a lot of very well-intentioned and persistent efforts to try and get more cooperation from the Syrian regime, we have not had the success I wish I could report,” Mr. Goss said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
On Iran, Mr. Goss said intelligence analysts understand that Tehran “has been meddling in the affairs of Iraq, in the interests of Iran.”
“I would also say that how that is going to work out in the future is a matter of some concern,” he said.
Mr. Goss said Iran remains one of the few “obvious sponsors of state terrorism” and that Tehran is funding the Hezbollah terrorist group.
Iran also has been hiding its nuclear program, its intentions regarding the development of arms and what its nuclear capabilities are, Mr. Goss said.
“That is extremely worrisome from the point of view of proliferation,” Mr. Goss said.
Mr. Goss said intelligence shows that “several high-level al Qaeda” terrorists are in Iran, but it is not clear whether the Iranian government has them in custody or whether Tehran is harboring them.
The CIA director said the agency could not gauge accurately the number of insurgents in Iraq or how many of them have come into Iraq from outside the country.
Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the estimate of the number of insurgents in Iraq is between 15,000 and 20,000, mostly Iraqis and a few foreign nationals.
Under questioning from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, Mr. Goss said the lack of security at U.S. borders is a “very serious” problem.
“And I think it’s not just our southern border. It’s any border,” Mr. Goss said.
Mr. McCain said he is concerned that terrorists might be trying to infiltrate the southern U.S. border. The concerns, he said, were heightened by the recent discovery of Arabic-language documents near the border.
Mr. Goss softened his earlier testimony about the danger of China’s military buildup. He told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Feb. 16 that China’s military buildup “is tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait” and that improved Chinese military capabilities “threaten U.S. forces in the region.”
Yesterday, however, Mr. Goss said the military forces’ improvements “seemingly threaten U.S. forces in the region.”
Mr. Goss repeated earlier assessments of the main threats facing the United States, including the danger that al Qaeda terrorists will circumvent U.S. security and “strike Americans and homeland.”
“Their intent, perhaps passion, to harm us for being who we are is just as vital as ever,” Mr. Goss said.
Al Qaeda or other terrorists also are attempting “to use chemical, biological, radiological, and/or nuclear weapons,” he said.