Head of U.S. Intelligence: Iran’s Appetite for Terror Strikes in the U.S. Growing
James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was on Capitol Hill earlier today to brief lawmakers on the biggest national security threats facing the nation in the year ahead. While there was some good news (Al Qaeda, for instance, has been substantially weakened by the death of Osama bin Laden and many of its other senior leaders), Clapper’s warnings about Iran were ominous. As the Washington Post reports it:
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States in response to perceived threats from America and its allies, the U.S. spy chief said Tuesday.
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said in prepared testimony that an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington that was uncovered last year reflects an aggressive new willingness within the upper ranks of the Islamist republic to authorize attacks against the United States.
That 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,” Clapper said in the testimony, which was submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee in advance of a threat assessment hearing Tuesday. “We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas.”
Bracing stuff. It should now be clear that Iran poses a greater immediate national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation on earth. And our response — to the extent that we’ve had one — has been woefully inadequate.
One of the great ignominies of President Obama’s tenure in office was his decision not to side with the Iranian dissidents who rose up against the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, missing an opportunity not only to advance our strategic interests in the region but also to put our moral capital on the line for a people yearning to throw off the hand of oppression. At the time, the president was more concerned with preserving his diplomatic options with the mullahs’ regime, even though their actions proved exactly why such overtures would be fruitless.
Though the White House now seems to have a slightly more acute sense of the dangers posed by Iran, the upshot has not been a more effective foreign policy. The current response of choice is to step up economic pressure through the widespread use of economic sanctions by the U.S. and our allies. This will fail to stem the tide of Iranian radicalism. Sanctions and their corresponding decline in economic growth only serve to make life less bearable for workaday citizens. That may make the regime less popular, but in an undemocratic system that’s a development that comes with little cash value.
Khamenei and his ilk are true believers, convinced that history is winding inevitably towards an outcome ordained for them by God. There’s not an instrument of policy sufficient to change that orientation — other than regime change.