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News | US Intelligence Chief: Iran Growing Threat to America

01 Feb 2012 02:35Comments

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Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

ClapperFilePhoto.jpg2:35 a.m., 12 Bahman/February 1 Iran is increasingly likely to attack the United States, according to Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. The Guardian reports,
Presenting his annual "worldwide threat assessment" to Congress, Clapper said an alleged plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador in Washington last year, which the US blamed on the Iran's Revolutionary Guard, "shows that some Iranian officials -- probably including the supreme leader Ali Khamenei -- have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived US actions that threaten the regime."

Clapper added: "Iran's willingness to sponsor future attacks in the US or against our interests abroad probably will be shaped by Tehran's evaluation of the costs it bears for the plot against the ambassador as well as Iranian leaders' perceptions of US threats against the regime."

Western officials say that in the past year there has been a notable increase in activity around the world by suspected members of Iran's Quds force, the external operations arm of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which they say could reflect positioning of units capable of carrying out reprisal attacks against western and Israeli targets if Iran was itself attacked. "There have been a lot of reports recently of IRGC activity abroad," one western official said. "There is a great deal of worry about the IRGC carrying out covert and deniable actions. But they may be overestimating how much they can hide their role. The US and others are very concerned about this."

For an examination of the alleged plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, which grabbed headlines last October, see this commentary and survey of U.S. and Iranian reactions, by Tehran Bureau political columnist Muhammad Sahimi. And here's a look back at the former used car salesman who was purportedly at the center of the plot.

The Washington Post observes that Clapper's assessment

signals a potentially dire new direction in the adversarial relationship between the United States and Iran, at a time when there are indications that a covert campaign is already underway to thwart Iran's alleged ambition to develop a nuclear weapon.

Clapper's warning about Iran was delivered as part of the U.S. intelligence community's annual overview of the nation's most serious national security concerns. As the hearing got underway, Clapper signaled that the United States is seeking to avoid a violent confrontation with Iran, instead pushing for more and more sanctions while also monitoring the possibility of a preemptive strike by Israel.

"Our hope is that the sanctions...would have the effect of inducing a change in Iranian policy toward their apparent pursuit of a nuclear capability," Clapper said. "Obviously this is a very sensitive issue right now. We're doing a lot with the Israelis."

For a detailed look at that covert campaign targeting the Iranian nuclear program, see Muhammad Sahimi's analysis.

In his prepared testimony for the Senate committee, Clapper also asserted that "Iran's intelligence operations against the United States, including cyber capabilities, have dramatically increased in recent years in depth and complexity." According to Clapper, "the compromise of U.S. and Dutch digital certificate issuers in 2011 represents a threat to one of the most fundamental technologies used to secure online communications and sensitive transactions." A hacker who identified himself as a 21-year-old Iranian student claimed responsibility for that cyberattack, which he said was retaliation for what he described as the Dutch government's complicity in the July 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Serbian forces.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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