DEBKAAs Tehran gropes in the dark for a solution to the crisis caused by the malignant Stuxnet cyber worm to its vital strategic systems, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources as having warned Syrian PresidentBashar Assad when they met last in Damascus that he is gearing up for military revenge.
Tehran’s allies Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza should get ready, he said. for Israel to take it as an opportunity to attack them. Their conversation took place Saturday, Sept. 18, three days after word of the software invasion surfaced.
Our sources add that the Iranian president admitted he did not know who was responsible for the cyber attack – andmay never find out – but he is certain that either Israel or the United States, or both, launched it to stop Iran’s nuclear program in its tracks. Even if it was Israel, he said, Washington would have known and approved.
He reminded Assad that then, too, Israel and the US had worked together to destroy the Syrian-Iranian nuclear plant under construction by North Korea. Israeli cyber commando units, he said, simultaneously raided additional Syrian nuclear facilities and made off with nuclear materials, equipment and software which they passed to the United States.
This, said Ahmadinejad, was the second time in three years that the US and Israel have jointly attacked Iran’s nuclear program – and that is one time too many. Tehran is resolved this time not to let them get away with fighting the Islamic republic without even declaring war.
He told Assad that although the form the Iranian attack on Israel had not been finally worked out, it would probably take place during the first half of October at around the dates of his scheduled state visit to Lebanon on Oct. 13-14.
Less than a week after this conversation, the Iranian president stood up at the UN General Assembly and said, “Most people believe the US government was responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001.” Another theory, he said, was that “some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and [strengthen] its grip on the Middle East in order to save the Zionist regime.”
In Tehran, our sources disclose, these outrageous remarks were later presented to political and military circles as Iran’s first response to the cyber attack. Twenty-four hours later Tehran came clean about it – and not by chance.
DEBKA At the end of last week, the Iranians reported 30,000 of their computers had been affected. Monday, September 27, some Iranian sources were talking about 45,000, including 30,000 in the Bushehr nuclear reactor and military facilities alone.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly, Tehran issued these low figures to downplay the scale of the damage for the benefit of the public. In reality, Western intelligence calculates that millions of computer systems and personal computers were struck. A Stuxnet invasion of just one sector, such as the military industry or banks, could disable three million computers in less than half an hour.
Now, if this was done by Israel as suspected, this is the reason why:
Tired of being strong-armed by the Obama administration into holding back on a military strike against Iran, Jerusalem accepted a military intelligence recommendation to substitute a cyber offensive for military action, a course Washington has never vetoed.
Israeli planners figured that paralyzing Iran’s nuclear program, defusing its military prowess and disabling Revolutionary Guards resources with a single electronic worm, would finally burst the balloon of Iran’s pretensions as a mighty regional power. Its innate vulnerabilities would be paraded, making even its Arab neighbors and allies, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas, sit up and note their iconic champion’s downfall.