On Tuesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put to bed any speculation on the possibility of a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear program. The Islamic regime’s supreme leader, in his Iranian New Year address to the nation, informed the world that Iran will not surrender to international pressure to halt nuclear enrichment.
Khamenei praised the country’s great accomplishments in the previous year and stated that the Arab Spring benefited the country’s objective.
“Those countries in the region that the Islamic republic has supported have achieved great goals: Dictators were overthrown, and constitutions based on Islam were passed in several countries,” he said. “The No. 1 enemy of the Islamic Ummah (community) and the Islamic Republic of Iran, namely the Zionist regime, has now been surrounded.”
Khamenei talked about an economic jihad to confront international sanctions imposed to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. If self-sufficiency in production of goods is achieved, he said, the enemy will lose interest in confronting Iran.
Israel believes the Iranian nuclear program will soon be strike-proof and that an imminent pre-emptive attack is necessary to derail Iran’s ambitions, which include destroying the Jewish nation. Precautionary actions have been taken in Israel, suggesting a move toward war. Reports indicate that Israel has transferred nuclear fuel out of its Dimona reactor, fearing retaliation by Iran. It also has moved army units close to the Lebanese and Syrian borders in case war expands on those fronts, and has set in place its anti-missile system in its most populated areas.
President Barack Obama, for his part, issued an executive order on Friday addressing national defense resource policies and programs. Though Obama’s order was hardly different from what President Bill Clinton had set in place, the executive departments and agencies responsible for national defense were once again ordered to identify requirements for emergencies, which include military and civilian demands.
The executive order demands preparedness in the event of a threat to America’s security and asks all agencies to ensure the availability of adequate services, such as energy, food and water distribution, health services and transportation.
Last month, National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper Jr., in his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated that “some Iranian officials — probably including 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.”
Khamenei, in his recent Friday prayer sermon, announced that the U.S. will be attacked if it takes any military action against Iran. He has not been the only one to make such statements. The commanders of the Revolutionary Guards have also stated that U.S. military bases in the region will be targeted for retaliation, and that targets within America will also be considered.
Basij commander Gen. Mohammad Naghdi and Guards commander Hussein Babaei have gone on record indicating that Iranian and Hezbollah cells are active in America and ready to strike.
Hassan Abassi, the former commander of the Guards and current strategist of the regime, in his address to the Guards a couple of years ago, stated that over 800 sensitive sites in the U.S. have been identified for attacks by martyrdom-seeking cells.
Last month, the FBI held a classified nationwide video teleconference with the bureau’s top counterterrorism officials from each of the 56 field offices. They assessed the likelihood of an attack by the Iranian agents and its surrogate terrorist group, Hezbollah. The urgency for this action was based on recent activity by the Iranian assets in surveillance of potential U.S. targets overseas and the potential for terrorist acts within the U.S. The call also touched on coordination with local police in remaining vigilant against suspicious activities and in protecting sensitive sites.
U.S. intelligence is aware of Iranian intelligence operatives’ collaboration with Mexican drug cartels and their presence in the Americas. Tom Betro, the former director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, recently told CBS News that, “Yes, I could see them striking on U.S. soil. They do have a network of surrogate groups. They have provided material support, assuming that support is already in place. I think they know, psychologically, the impact that an attack on U.S. soil would have on our country and on our leadership.”
Meanwhile, three U.S. aircraft carriers, along with an armada of other strike groups and British warships, are all closing in on Iran. The USS Enterprise left its base at Norfolk, Va., last week and is expected to arrive in the Persian Gulf within days, joining the two other U.S. carriers — the Abraham Lincoln and Carl Vinson.
It boils down to the upcoming meeting in April of the “5+1” negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. The Iranians have already announced there won’t be any backing down and that only a full acceptance by the West of its nuclear program will resolve the standoff. The West, desperate to find a diplomatic way out of this dilemma, knows that Israel will not accept a continuation of the Iranian program, and therefore the potential for war grows.
Though no one knows for certain the outcome of this confrontation, one thing is certain: President Obama and the intelligence community are extremely worried about possible attacks on U.S. soil, perhaps on a scale much greater than 9/11.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the author of the award winning book, ”A Time to Betray.” He teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy.