WASHINGTON – A draft intelligence report on Iran suggests that a major near-term change in that country's government appears unlikely despite growing public anger over the country's economic woes, U.S. officials say.
The report also anticipates little progress toward getting Iran to halt its nuclear program or stop supporting militant groups in the region, officials familiar with the draft said Thursday 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 almost completed and could be delivered to President George W. Bush and other policymakers within weeks, said the officials. One said it is expected to be completed as early 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.
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 leaders that control 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 a 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.
Dealing with another dispute between Washington and Tehran, the report also predicts that 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 bomb attacks on U.S. troops and other violence in Iraq. Iran denies all such allegations.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met in Baghdad early this month with his counterpart from Iran, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, on the subject. It was the third round of U.S.-Iranian security talks in just over two months, but officials have reported no progress.
U.S. officials and others also have criticized Iran for supplying money and weapons to the Shiite Muslim 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 takeover by young radicals of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
The lingering poor relations have been exacerbated in recent years by rising tensions over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program and the U.S. allegations of Iranian support for 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 exhibiting a "disturbing pattern" of harassment after the detention of a fourth Iranian-American for alleged espionage.