The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has told the Senate that factions within Iran’s leadership — which might or might not include the Supreme Leader — might seek to launch direct attacks on Americans in the US or abroad.This is not the first though it is the most authoritative voice we’ve heard making this point. Via Meadia is at least as concerned about free lancers as about a top down decision to strike. Seasoned foreign policy hands recall the chaos during the hostage crisis when various Iranian factions took actions or stands regarding the hostages in the name of the government as part of an internal struggle for power. In Iran, the big mullahs don’t always know what the little mullahs get up to behind their backs.Radical factions can and will take actions that force the hand of the leadership — just as Japan’s armed forces forced the hand of civilian leaders by acting on their own in the 1930s.Iran’s leaders are not united on how to proceed in the face of international sanctions and (possibly American- and Israeli-led) attacks on its nuclear scientists. The alleged attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US not long ago might not be the only plan of its kind. As the NYT reports, “Mr. Clapper said that the suspected assassination 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.'”Some leaders in Tehran are rasher than others, more willing to bring the fight to the US. These rogues have their supporters. As the pressure to stop the nuclear program builds, and Iran’s situation becomes less favorable in the Middle East, these rogues might take matters into their own hands. (This pattern of factionalism and lack of control is one of the many reasons that so many people around the world are so concerned about the Iranian nuclear program.)If rogue elements do launch provocations — attacks on US shipping in the Gulf, terror strikes on US soil or against US or allied targets elsewhere — the US and the world will have little choice but to hold the big mullahs responsible for what the little ones have done. The threat is both real and hard to quantify; it’s good to know that the DNI is on the case.