CIA director says to focus on Iran, extremist groups

US faces “diverse range of threats, from nation state adversaries like Iran, to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda,” says CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Wednesday 26/09/2018
CIA Director Gina Haspel addresses the audience as part of the McConnell Center Distinguished Speaker Series at the University of Louisville, on September 24. (AP)
CIA Director Gina Haspel addresses the audience as part of the McConnell Center Distinguished Speaker Series at the University of Louisville, on September 24. (AP)

LONDON - CIA Director Gina Haspel said that one of her top priorities is to invest more heavily in collecting intelligence against nation state adversaries like Iran as well as Islamic extremists.

“Our efforts against these difficult intelligence gaps have been overshadowed over the years by the intelligence community’s justifiable heavy emphasis on counterterrorism in the wake of 9/11,” she said. “Groups such as the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida remain squarely in our sights, but we are sharpening our focus on nation state adversaries.”

“[The US faces] a very diverse range of threats, from nation state adversaries like Iran, to groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. So it's a much more complex threat picture, but I do think - I think fundamentally the United States is safe.”

She said the Iranian people are suffering from economic problems because their economy has been mismanaged. 

She said that as an intelligence officer, she has been surprised at the amount of money Iran is spending to prop up the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, expand its influence in Iraq and equip and train Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are using that equipment to attack US allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are watching very closely Iran's malign activities in the region, and we'd like to push back against that activity,” she said. 

Haspel said she is working to invest in foreign-language training to make sure CIA officers are attuned to the cultures where they work. On a personal level, she listed London and Istanbul as her favorite overseas cities. 

Haspel’s appearance was part of the McConnell Center’s speaker series at the University of Louisville. 

Haspel’s appearance drew protests from a small group of students who chanted in the rain while huddled under umbrellas. They cited her past role supervising a covert detention site in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

(AW and agencies)