Draft Report Logs Bleak Outlook for Iran

By PAULINE JELINEK and KATHERINE SHRADER
The Associated Press
Thursday, August 23, 2007; 11:06 PM

WASHINGTON -- A draft intelligence report on Iran suggests a change in the Tehran regime appears unlikely any time soon despite growing public anger over the country's economic woes, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The report also anticipates little progress in getting Iran to halt its nuclear program or stop supporting militant groups in the region, officials familiar with the draft said on condition of anonymity because the report has not been released.

The latest in a series of reports from the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is nearly complete and could be shared with President Bush and other policymakers within weeks, said the officials. One said it is expected to be completed as soon as next week.

It is one of four reports the intelligence community is wrapping up on the Persian Gulf. Two others look at Iran's nuclear program and its military and conventional threat.

And an update on the situation in Iraq was released Thursday.

The report on Iran's political situation looks at issues ranging from the economy to its weapons programs, the officials said.

It says that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will continue in power despite rising discontent with the worsening economy, the officials said.

With the backing of the unelected clerical leadership that controls Iran, hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected on a populist agenda in 2005, promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment. His failure to keep those promises has provoked increasingly fierce criticism over recent months from both conservatives and reformists, who point to rising housing, food and oil prices, including the recent decision to ration fuel.

The new intelligence report also says Iran will continue to pursue a nuclear program that the United States and others believe is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, the officials said. Tehran denies that and says the program is for power generation.

Addressing another dispute between Washington and Tehran, the report also says Iran will continue to cause problems in Iraq, the officials said.

The U.S. government alleges that elements of Tehran's military are equipping and training militias involved in sectarian killings, roadside bombings of U.S. troops and other violence in Iraq _ allegations that Iran denies.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met in Baghdad early this month with his counterpart from Iran, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, on the subject. Though it was the third round of U.S.-Iranian security talks in just over two months, officials have reported no progress.

U.S. officials and others also have criticized Iran for supplying money and weapons to the Shiite Muslim extremist group Hezbollah, which is on the U.S. government list of terrorist organizations.

The new intelligence estimate foresees that Iran will continue as a main backer of the group, along with Syria, the officials said.

The U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

The lingering poor relations have been exacerbated in recent years by rising tensions over Iran's nuclear program and U.S. allegations that Tehran is supporting armed groups in Iraq.

Iran said it had uncovered spy rings organized by the U.S. and its Western allies and has detained a number of Iranian-Americans.

The United States in recent months warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Iran, accusing Islamic authorities there of a "disturbing pattern" of harassment after the detention of a fourth Iranian-American for alleged espionage.


© 2007 The Associated Press