First Published: 2012-06-06

 

Obama’s Cyber-War on Iran

 

The United States, in collaboration with Israel, has undertaken an unprecedented cyber-warfare attack on Iran’s nuclear program, opening the door to a new dimension for international conflict and complicating negotiations with Iran, say Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett at www.RaceForIran.com.

 

Middle East Online

In May 2009, we published an op-ed in The New York Times, in which we argued that “President Obama’s Iran policy has, in all likelihood already failed” — largely because “Obama is backing away from the bold steps required to achieve strategic, Nixon-to-China type rapprochement with Tehran.” Indeed.

We wrote, “The Obama Administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program begun in George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Under these circumstances, the Iranian government … will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile.”

Now, in an article by David Sanger, “Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran,” The New York Times informs that:

“From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

“Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.”

The article goes on to describe multiple details about Stuxnet and the President’s decision-making as to its use. We, however, are most interested in the report for what it confirms about Obama’s approach to Iran — in particular, that Obama’s aggressiveness toward the Islamic Republic extended to a significant expansion of “America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons.”

Consider what Sanger writes about the motives for Obama’s decision-making in this regard:

“Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade. He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons — even under the most careful and limited circumstances — could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks.

“‘We discussed the irony, more than once,’ one of his aides said. Another said that the administration was resistant to developing a ‘grand theory for a weapon whose possibilities they were still discovering.’ Yet Mr. Obama concluded that when it came to stopping Iran, the United States had no other choice.

“If Olympic Games failed, he told aides, there would be no time for sanctions and diplomacy with Iran to work. Israel could carry out a conventional military attack, prompting a conflict that could spread throughout the region.”

The perceived imperative “to dissuade the Israelis from carrying out their own preemptive strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities” also reportedly motivated the Administration to have Israel “deeply involved in every aspect” of Olympic Games.

Two things strike us as significant here. First, our May 2009 analysis was right on the money. If anything, we may have underestimated the degree to which Obama was prepared to let half-baked schemes undermine any chance he might have had, at least in theory, to pursue serious diplomacy with Iran.

Obama apologists want us to believe that the President meant well on engaging Tehran, but that what they describe (with no evidence whatsoever) as the Islamic Republic’s “fraudulent” 2009 presidential election and the resulting “disarray” within the Iranian leadership stymied Obama’s benevolent efforts. This is utterly false.

Second, the Sanger article makes undeniably clear — if it were not sufficiently evident already — that the reason for the President’s hostility toward Iran has nothing to do with American security.

Rather, Obama’s aggressiveness — which carries with it a willingness to put significant long-term American interests at risk — is motivated by a perceived imperative to prevent the Israelis from doing something that they cannot credibly do in the first place: namely, strike and destroy Iran’s nuclear program.

Flynt Leverett served as a Middle East expert on George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff until the Iraq War and worked previously at the State Department and at the Central Intelligence Agency. Hillary Mann Leverett was the NSC expert on Iran and – from 2001 to 2003 – was one of only a few U.S. diplomats authorized to negotiate with the Iranians over Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and Iraq. [This article was originally published at RaceforIran.com.]

Consortiumnews

 

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe