‘Hot War’ Erupting With Iran, Top Terror-Watchers Warn

Friday, July 27, 2012
By Paul Martin

By Noah Shachtman
July 26, 2012

ASPEN, Colorado — There have been acts of sabotage, assassinations, explosions, and cyberattack. But the increasingly violent shadow war between the U.S., Israel, Iran, and its allies haven’t hit targets on American soil — yet. That could change before too long, the administration’s current and former top analysts of terror threats warned.

“We’re seeing a general uptick in the level of activity around the world. Both Hezbollah and the [Iranian] Quods Force have demonstrated an ability to operate essentially globally,” Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told an audience of more than a hundred security professionals gathered here on Thursday.

“There are times when we are briefing the White House [on terror threats that] at the top of the list are Hezbollah or Iran,” Olsen added. The al-Qaeda network of Sunni extremists is still America’s undisputed Public Enemy #1. But for the first time in a long time, there’s competition, at least week-to-week.

The signs of escalating tension with Iran are everywhere: the sizable American armada building off of Iran’s shores; the American accusation that Iran tried to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.; the deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists, widely blamed on the Israelis; and, of course, last week’s bombing in Bulgaria, which U.S. and Israeli officials have pinned on Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militant group backed by Iran.

“This is a hot war that has gotten hotter,” Michael Leiter, Olsen’s predecessor at the NCTC, told the Aspen Security Forum. “The Iranians have considered this a shooting war for some time.”

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