Iran navy exercise
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) talking with Iran's naval chief, after a military exercise in the Persian Gulf in February 2010. Photo by AP
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Iran and the United States are engaged in a shadow war, Dr. Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute, told the Congress Committee of Homeland Security on Wednesday.

According to Levitt, who had been deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the past, Iranian leaders appear to be more willing to approve attacks in the U.S.

“It is no longer clear that Iran sees carrying out an attack in the United States as crossing some sort of red line,” he said.

On the other hand, Hezbollah, which was long thought of as taking orders from the Iranian regime, makes decisions of its own and may not automatically jump to carry out an attack against the U.S. even if Iran asks it to do so.

Recently, several intelligence officials have said that there has been little cooperation between Iranian and Hezbollah cells in carrying out attacks abroad. Surprisingly, there has even been some element of competition between the two. However, there is reason to be concerned that Hezbollah may decide to carry out attacks against U.S. interests, as a result of its own decision making calculus.

Hezbollah has long leveraged its worldwide network of members, supporters, and sympathizers to provide the group financial, logistical, military, and other types of support. Though the worldwide network includes operational agents, it is mainly concerned with gathering resources and fundraising.

Hezbollah has long been seen by the United States as a cash cow, running charities and engaging in a vast array of criminal activities to raise money and procure material.