‘They should go back to school’, Trump says about ‘naive’ intel chiefs

US president Donald Trump defended his policies on Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea in a string of tweets and went after his own intelligence community leaders calling them “naive” and “passive” on Iran, and suggesting they need to go back to school.

The president has facing increasing public criticism and pushback — branded “rebuke” and “repudiation” by observers — on his key foreign policy initiatives in recent days from close party allies, including Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican-controlled senate, and US intelligence chiefs.

They have disputed the president’s claims that Iran was developing nuclear weapons, that North Korea was willing to give up its nuclear weapons programme, that the Islamic State was decimated and it was time to bring home American troops deployed in Syria and Afghanistan.

McConnell, a close ally whose wife serves in the Trump cabinet, broke with the president in a rare move Tuesday and introduced a legislative measure opposing the “precipitous withdrawal” of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan and arguing “al-Qaeda, ISIS, and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to our nation.”

President Trump has focussed his return fire on his intelligence chief for now. “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran,” he wrote in one of the posts in which he had defended his position on Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan. He contended Iran was still testing “Rockets” and, added, “Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

On Afghanistan, developments regarding which are closely followed by New Delhi, Trump wrote, “Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting … We will soon see if talks will be successful?”

The US and Taliban negotiators have said they have prepared a “draft framework” of a peace deal.

President Trump’s ire with intelligence chiefs stems from their joint report — Worldwide Threat assessment, 2019 — which they presented to US senate Tuesday at a hearing. Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence had said North Korea “is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability”.

And on Iran, Coats said, “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

This is not the first time President Trump has clashed with the US intelligence, which he has held in some suspicion since taking office. Most notable of his confrontations took place in Helsinki, where he sided with President Vladimir Putin against US intelligence on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections. That earned him a public pushback from Coats.

Trump backed down then and said he misspoke and said he had full confidence in the intelligence agencies. Not really, it seems.