The public hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was attended by the CIA Director David Petraeus, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the senate panel.
According to Haaretz.com
, the information that the Israeli Mossad chief visited Washington earlier in the week was revealed when Feinstein asked Clapper whether or not Israel was going to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. Clapper said he would rather discuss the matter behind closed doors. Feinstein then said she had met Mossad chief Pardo when he visited Washington earlier in the week. Patraeus responded he had also met Pardo and said Israel was growing more concerned about Iran's nuclear program. Patraeus stressed that Israel considered Iran a threat to its existence.
The New York Times
reports that Director of National Intelligence Clapper, said, "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so." But according to Clapper, "We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. Iran nevertheless is expanding its uranium enrichment capabilities, which can be used for either civil or weapons purposes."
Clapper told the Senate panel that, "Iran's technical advancement, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so. These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, if it so chooses."
Clapper added, that in the judgment of U.S. experts, "Iran would likely choose missile delivery as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon."
Iran now more willing to conduct an attack in the U.S.
The Washington Post
reported that Clapper went on to say that the plot in 2011 to assassinate the Saudi envoy to the U.S. “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 spoke further: "We are also concerned about Iranians plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas. Iran's willingness to sponsor future attacks in the United States or against our interests abroad probably will be shaped by Tehran's evaluation of the costs it bears for the plot against the ambassador as well as Iranian leaders' perceptions of U.S. threats against the regime."
The New York Times
points out that Clapper's remarks at the Senate hearing were intended to warn the Iranians while alerting the U.S.intelligence services that they should be looking out for information about plans to stage attacks on U.S. soil.
Clapper's assessment of U.S. sanctions against Iran was that it was likely to have a great impact but is unlikely to lead to the downfall of Tehran's leadership. He said Iran's leadership was worried about the possibility of a change in leadership in Syria because it would be a strategic loss for them.
The Washington Post
also reports that Clapper said Al Qaeda was badly degraded after sustained U.S. attacks. He said further sustained pressure would make the organization's leadership merely of "symbolic importance" in the next few years as it fragments.
According to The New York Times
, Clapper defended the administration’s discussions of trust-building measures and a possible transfer of five Taliban prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Republican Senator Saxb Chambliss, expressed opposition to the plan, citing intelligence reports about the security risks involved. Chambliss said: “We should not transfer these detainees from Guantánamo."
Shimon Peres: 'Evil and nuclear weapons must not come together'
Meanwhile, President Shimon Peres of Israel described Iran's religious leadership as "most morally corrupt regime in the world," and said Iran's "evil" leadership must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons capability. According to Haaretz
, Peres described Iran's nuclear program "the world's central problem" and accused Iran of aiming to achieve regional and "even global hegemony." Peres stressed, "Nuclear weapons mustn't be allowed to fall into the hands of Iran's Ayatollah regime."
Peres also emphasized that Israel was not ruling out any option in "our dealing with the Iranian danger. This is an existential threat." He said: "It is the duty of the international community to prevent evil and nuclear [weapons] from coming together. That is the obligations of most of the leaders of the free world, one which they must meet."