Taliban, Iran, United States discussed on The World


This is all things considered. I'm Audie Cornish, and I'm Mary Louise Kelley, how serious is the threat from Iran. And what capabilities does Iran have that make it dangerous to the US? And our allies members of the Trump administration were on Capitol Hill yesterday, providing lawmakers with their answers to those questions, based on intelligence, that remains largely classified a we're gonna put those questions next to Heather Williams. She served as a US intelligence analyst, for more than a dozen years under both Republican and democratic administrations, Heather Williams. Welcome back to all things considered. Thank you for having me. So in your view, if you can just describe in a few sentences into the question I posed at the top, how serious is the threat from Iran. I think it is a serious threat. I don't see strong evidence that it has increased as of late Iran has the ability to act via proxy organizations towards United. States troops, diplomats other assets that might be in the region. It also has the mechanisms to act against our partners and against our allies, either directly or through the proxy organizations that it has a relationship with and a little bit of a picture of what that map looks like when you describe Iran's proxy organizations in the Middle East. So Iran's strongest relationship is with Lebanese Hezbollah wouldn't that allows them to have a measure of influence both to act in Lebanon to act towards Israel from Lebanon, but increasingly to act in other countries, where Iran has deployed, Lebanese has Bala troops to, including Syria? It is also been improving its relationship with who the'rebels and in Yemen, though, its ability to direct or control. The huskies still very limited, and it has long established relationships. With Iraqi militias does Ron have control over its proxies. I would say that control is a strong word. It has influence and it can may put some parameters in what these groups do it can discourage them from doing certain actions. And then it could've loosened those constraints and unleashed those proxy organizations. But that doesn't mean that it can put them back in the box after it does. So, and they don't always operate in the way that Ron anticipates. Some people look at the current situation. The heated rhetoric we've been talking about moving military assets to the Gulf, and they hear echoes of the run up to war in Iraq. Do I certainly hope? That's not the path that we're on. I think it is important considering that there are individuals in this administration who were part of the policy decisions, made, then the right intelligence questions weren't asked of the intelligence community. An intelligence was presented out of context very often. So I think it's very careful just for the credibility of the United States, and the credibility of the intelligence community that we aren't seen as doing that, again, were you serving in the intelligence community, then in two thousand one thousand two thousand three I came in on the tail end, this is personal for you. I guess I what kind of confidence do you have the, the Iran intelligence is better than they rock intelligence was fifteen sixteen years ago. Yes, this is certainly personal for me. Also has a member of the national intelligence council, which has taken great efforts since the national intelligence estimate on Iraq WMD to ensure that we would not commit errors in the future when you're inside the intelligence community. People are very concerned about being the boy who cried wolf you only have so many times that you can ring the alarm bells and actually say the threat is increasing. I always concerned that maybe we wouldn't wanna use those, those tools prematurely. And do you see that as a possible danger, this time, I don't know, it seems to be changing day by day? What the intentions of the administration are seems like we're on a de escalation path, perhaps, on the just the last few days, but that seems like it could easily change in the future. Heather williams. She was national intelligence officer for Iran under the director of national intelligence. She is now at the RAND Corporation, Heather Williams. Thank you. Thank you. Now an update on one story. That's part of the long war in Afghanistan. The prisoners speaks English ended defense official says the US forces now holding him have every reason to believe he is a US citizen. That's NPR's. Tom chilton. Reporting back in two thousand one and the prisoner he spoke of was Taliban fighter, John Walker Lindh a twenty year old from northern California land was later sentenced to twenty years for joining the Taliban. He's scheduled to be released tomorrow from federal prison in Indiana, NPR, national security correspondent Greg Myers here in the studio. Welcome back, ride high Yati remind us how John Walker lint wound up as a soldier with the Taliban. Well, he was born right here in DC, and his father was a lawyer at the Justice department and practicing Catholic, the family moved to northern California when he was aged ten it's sixteen converts to Islam, and then a year later with his parents support. He goes to study Arabic in Yemen, and then on to Pakistan in then in the spring of two thousand one he goes. To Afghantistan to volunteer is a Taliban soldier without his parents knowing about this part of it. So how did his interest in Islam lead him to becoming a soldier for the Taliban? Well, his family said he was very idealistic in the US at that point wasn't involved in the war. And the family says the John Walker Lynn had no intention of fighting Americans but then nine eleven happens in the US begins, its bombing, and he's among a group of tala Bon soldiers who surrender. And there's a sort of extraordinary coincidence. And there's this footage of, of John Walker lint on his knees being questioned by a CIA operative who turns up at this camp in his name was Mike Spann part of this very, small CIA contingent a few hours later, the Taliban prisoners launched an uprising in span is killed now no evidence. John Walker Lynn was an active participant. Fact, he was shot and wounded this goes on for several days, but he's a venture -ly captured. He pleads guilty to joining the. Taliban gets a twenty year sentence, though. No terrorism or treason charges against him. He's now being released three years early right in that twenty years sentence. Do we know John Walker links about the Taliban today? Well, not exactly. Because we really haven't heard from him behind bars when he went to prison in two thousand and two gave a prepared statement and said, I've never understood Jehad to mean anti-americanism or terrorism, I condemn terrorism on every level he said at the time, but we do have to note the terrorism, the Taliban rather was already a very notorious group when he joined head had abominal human rights record, and they were protecting Osama bin Laden and then serve another extraordinary coincidence. He actually met Osama bin Laden turned up at one of the Taliban training camps at that time in Mike spans family is, is very upset about this release one of his kids who was very young at the time is now grown daughter, Allison says this releases a slap in the face. Greg. What are the conditions of his relief of his release? Where's he going to live? We don't know exactly. His parents are very supportive and are, are still at northern California, but he got these three years off for good behavior. The judge has has put on very tight probation restrictions. He's going to need permission to go online. He'll be closely monitored at all times he'll get mental health counseling, now we do know that imprison he did get an Irish passport through one of his grandparents, I of Irish descent, but he can't travel. So we don't know what kind of life, he's going to be able to build out of this, and we'll just have to wait and see..

Coming up next