Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States in response to perceived threats from America and its allies, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.
An alleged Iranian conspiracy to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, which was revealed last year, “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,” Clapper said in testimony submitted to the committee, which was holding a hearing on “World Wide Threats.”
“We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas,” Clapper said.
Also, Iran appears to be “keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons,” Clapper said, while noting that “we do not know” what the leaders inside the Islamic Republic will decide.
Clapper’s warning was delivered as part of the U.S. intelligence community’s yearly overview of the most serious national security concerns facing the United States.
Clapper also cited a growing concern over cyber-related threats and a continuing danger to the United States posed by al-Qaeda.
The United States is entering a critical transitional phase for terrorist threats in which smaller strikes from regional players are more likely than big, mass-casualty plots, he said.
If pressure on al-Qaeda can be maintained, there is a better-than-even chance that decentralization of the organization will lead it to fragment, Clapper said, and al-Qaeda will seek to execute “smaller, simpler plots to demonstrate relevance to the global jihad.”
The al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen remains the most likely source of plots targeting the United States, he testified.