U.S. officials said they have seen no intelligence to indicate that Iran is actively plotting attacks on U.S. soil. But Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said the thwarted plot “shows that some Iranian officials — probably including 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 U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”
The warning about Iran’s more aggressive stance was included in written testimony that Clapper submitted to Congress on Tuesday as part of the intelligence community’s annual assessment of the nation’s most serious security threats.
On other fronts, U.S. intelligence officials said that al-Qaeda has been badly degraded, but they expressed rising concern over
alleged cyber-espionage by China, the leadership transition in
nuclear-armed North Korea and the uncertain prospects for Afghanistan after U.S. forces eventually depart.
Still, Clapper, CIA Director David H. Petraeus and other top U.S. intelligence officials spent much of Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee fielding questions about Iran.
Washington is eyeing the country’s nuclear ambitions, long a source of simmering concern, with new urgency. Reports suggest that Iran is closing in on the ability to develop a bomb, and a series of explosions, assassinations and computer attacks targeting the country’s nuclear program have led many outside analysts to conclude that a covert conflict is already underway.
Iran says its nuclear efforts are for peaceful, energy-producing purposes and has blamed the United States and Israel for mysterious developments including the apparently targeted killing of yet another Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran on Jan. 11, as well as an earlier cyberattack on the country’s largest uranium-enrichment facility.
In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama raised the threat of military intervention to halt Iran’s alleged pursuit of an atomic bomb, saying he would “take no options off the table to achieve that goal.”
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta added new rhetorical heat during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” program that aired Sunday, saying that Iran was probably one year away from being able to build a bomb. He added that it could take a year or two beyond that to develop the ability to deliver a warhead by missile.