US: Iran “More Willing” to Conduct Attack on American Soil

Posted January 31st, 2012 at 3:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. intelligence chief says there is an increased threat that Iran could conduct an attack on U.S. soil in the wake of last year's failed plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper presented his annual assessment of the worldwide threats to U.S. national security to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with Iran at the forefront of the discussion.

Clapper said in prepared remarks that Iranian leaders are “now more willing to conduct an attack on the United States” in the case of a “real or perceived” threat by the U.S. to the regime.

In October, the U.S. Justice Department accused two Iranians of conspiring with elements of the Iranian government to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

Clapper also said Iran's nuclear decision making is guided by a “cost-benefit approach” that could be influenced by diplomacy. He said the Iranian leadership is “keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

“Among nation states, Iran's tactical advances – particularly in uranium enrichment – strengthen our assessment that Iran is well capable of producing enough highly-enriched uranium for a weapon, if its political leaders, specifically the Supreme leader himself chooses to do so.”

The assessment comes as Western powers are toughening sanctions on Iran to stop sensitive nuclear activities that they suspect are aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran maintains it is for peaceful purposes.

The U.S. also listed the growing threat of cybersecurity, particularly with state actors like Russia and China; and the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as top security concerns.

It also says al-Qaida remains a threat despite a decline in the international terrorist organization following the death of several other top leaders, including Osama bin Laden. The U.S. intelligence community says with a weakening core, al-Qaida will likely turn more smaller and simpler plots against the United States and overseas interests.

During the Senate hearing Tuesday, Clapper also said it is only a matter of time before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime falls, saying he does not see how Mr. Assad “can sustain his rule of Syria.”

On North Korea, Clapper said he believes the government of the young, new leader, Kim Jong Un, will remain cohesive to prevent instability. The intelligence community believes it is unlikely the new regime will use nuclear weapons unless facing possible military defeat.

“This would be based on a cost-benefit analysis starting with the Supreme Leader's world view and the extent to which he thinks that would benefit the state of Iran or conversely not benefit.”

“Iran is supposedly, reportedly, trying to be more open this particular time. Perhaps trying to reassure countries as it feels the increased bite of the new sanctions, of the Central Bank of Iran sanction and the reduction of the purchase of oil from some of its key customers. And so I look forward, as do others, obviously, to seeing what that public (International Atomic Energy Agency) report will provide this time.”