Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric

Ahmad Khatami told worshippers attending Eid prayers in Tehran that President Donald Trump’s offer of talks with Iranian leaders was unacceptable. (Reuters)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric

  • ‘Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks. So, this is not negotiation, but dictatorship’
  • ‘The price of a war with Iran is very high for America’

LONDON: A senior Iranian cleric warned Washington on Wednesday that if it attacked Iran, the United States and allied Israel would be targeted, as a war of words escalated after the reimposition of the US sanctions on Iran.
Ahmad Khatami also told worshippers attending Eid prayers in Tehran that President Donald Trump’s offer of talks with Iranian leaders was unacceptable, as the US leader wanted Tehran to concede on its missile program and regional influence.
“Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks. So, this is not negotiation, but dictatorship. The Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation would stand up against dictatorship,” Khatami was quoted as saying by Mizan news agency.
“The price of a war with Iran is very high for America. They know if they harm this country and this state in the slightest way, the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime (of Israel) would be targeted,” Khatami said.
Khatami did not elaborate which forces would carry out such attacks, but Iran has said it could target Israeli cities with its missiles if it is threatened. Iran also has proxies in the region, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it, and vowed to boost Iran’s military might.
The Trump administration slapped sanctions back on Iran this month after withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it was too soft on Tehran and would not stop it developing a nuclear bomb.
Washington imposed new sanctions in August, targeting Iran’s car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of US dollars. Trump has said the United States will issue another round of tougher sanctions in November that will target Iran’s oil sales and banking sector.
Trump’s national security adviser told Reuters on Wednesday that the US president wanted maximum pressure on Iran.
“There should not be any doubt that the United States wants this resolved peacefully, but we are fully prepared for any contingency that Iran creates,” John Bolton said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional talks on a new nuclear deal, prompting Trump to tell Reuters in an interview on Monday: “If they want to meet, that’s fine, and if they don’t want to meet, I couldn’t care less.”


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.