Speaking at the hearing, Petraeus outlined America's red line with regards to the Iranian nuclear menace and said that Israel viewed the Iran threat as "existential."
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Meanwhile, the US National Director of Intelligence, James Clapper, noted at the hearing that "The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States 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 US actions that threaten the regime.
Clapper added that "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.
Yet he stressed that "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."
As for Iran's nuclear progress, Clapper said 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."
Clapper believes that new US sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program were likely to have a greater impact than previous ones, but were not expected to lead to the downfall of Tehran's leadership.
According to Clapper, Iran "sought to 'exploit the Arab Spring but has reaped limited benefits, thus far." He stated that Iran's biggest regional concern was Syria where a change in leadership would be a major strategic loss for Tehran.
Nearly a year into the unrest, the situation in Syria is unlikely to be resolved quickly, Clapper said.
"Both the regime and the opposition are determined to prevail, and neither side appears willing to compromise on the key issue of President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power."
Reuters contributed to the report
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