Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
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 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.”
Clapper said it’s believed that Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has not yet made a decision on the country’s nuclear future.
“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.”
The assessment comes as Western powers are toughening sanctions on Iran to stop sensitive nuclear activities. Iran vows its nuclear program is peaceful. The European Union has vowed to stop all Iranian oil imports by July 1.
In the annual worldwide threat assessment report, Clapper highlighted counterterrorism, counterproliferation, cybersecurity and counterintelligence as the main U.S. security concerns.
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.