The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Iran has “crossed a threshold” in its thinking that could lead it to carry out terrorist attacks against the American homeland:
An assessment by U.S. spy agencies concludes that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States, highlighting new risks as the Obama administration escalates pressure on Tehran to halt its alleged pursuit of an atomic bomb.
In congressional testimony Tuesday, U.S. intelligence officials indicated that Iran has crossed a threshold in its adversarial relationship with the United States. While Iran has long been linked to attacks on American targets overseas, U.S. officials said they see troubling significance in Tehran’s alleged role in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington last year.
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.”
Iran has long used Hezbollah as a terrorist proxy. But as I noted here yesterday, a disturbing new article in Foreign Affairs by Seth Jones suggests another proxy with whom Iran might collaborate: al Qaeda.
Jones documents how Iran currently provides al Qaeda with its only safe haven out of reach of U.S. drones, and permits senior al Qaeda leaders to “fundraise, communicate with al Qaeda central in Pakistan and other affiliates, and funnel foreign fighters through Iran.” He notes that “Iran appears willing to expand its limited relationship with al Qaeda,” and that in response to a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear program, Tehran “could support an al Qaeda attack against the United States or one of its allies, although the regime would surely attempt to hide its role in any plotting.”
Clearly, Iran is attempting to deter American or Israeli military action by sending signals that it might respond with a terrorist attack on our soil. Yet if Iran is willing to blackmail America today with the threat of a terrorist attack, imagine the kind of blackmail the regime would be capable of once it obtains a nuclear weapon. And if Iran is already providing safe haven and limited support for al Qaeda today, before it possesses a nuclear deterrent, imagine the support Tehran would be willing to provide al Qaeda once it has the security of a nuclear umbrella.
There are clearly serious risks to action when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program—but the risks of inaction could prove far greater.