ANALYSIS: Israel Further Escalates Covert War Against Iran as Nuclear Talks Resume

Disgruntled Iranian commanders admit Israel is getting the better of them, as the Jewish state’s cyber superiority takes center stage.

By Yochanan Visser | | Topics: Iran
Iran's new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, isn't fooling anyone when he claims his nuke program is "peaceful." Photo: EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Talks over a new or amended nuclear deal between Iran and some world powers resumed on Tuesday in Qatar, the only Arab Gulf state with which Iran has good relations.

This was very much against the wishes of Israel, and outgoing Foreign Minister Yair Lapid expressed disapproval of these renewed negotiations that will take place despite increasing aggression by Iran in its conflict with Israel.

The resumption of indirect talks between a team of US negotiators and representatives of the radical regime in Tehran had been encouraged by the European Union.

Joseph Borrell, the EU diplomat responsible for the organization’s foreign policy, was in Tehran last week and wrote on Twitter that it was necessary to break the current “dynamics of escalation.”

Iran, however, remained coy about the ‘breakthrough’ and told the US to remain “realistic,” meaning all sanctions against the Islamic Republic must be lifted.

The US government of President Joe Biden responded to news that Borrell had managed to break the deadlock by making another concession to Tehran.

Media in the US and Israel reported that some members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would now be re-allowed to enter the United States.

 

Lapid lashes out

Lapid, who this week will take over as Israel’s interim prime minister, condemned Borrell’s visit to Iran.

Lapid said Borrell’s position was “very disappointing” in light of the latest Iranian sabotage activity in the monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran recently removed IAEA cameras from a number of its nuclear facilities, and this led to strong condemnations from most members of the IAEA and the adoption of a resolution by the agency’s governors censuring the Islamic Republic.

The removal of the IAEA monitoring cameras rendered the inspection of Iran’s nuclear activities useless, said Rafael Grossi, the Director-General of the UN nuclear watchdog.

See: Iran Will Go Nuclear, Laments IAEA Chief

Lapid personally told Borrell that his actions were a “strategic mistake that sent the wrong signal” to Iran.

The top Israeli diplomat accused his EU counterpart of a “worrying lack of concern for the lives of Israeli citizens.”

See: Our Lukewarm and Fearful Responses to Iran Are Not Biblical

This was a reference not only to Iran’s nuclear threat but also to the events in Turkey, where members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) hunted down Israeli civilians last week.

 

What to do about Iran?

In Israel, top military and intelligence officials are divided over the usefulness of resuming nuclear negotiations with Iran in Qatar.

For example, Aviv Kochavi, the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), opposes the renewed negotiations with Iran.

The same goes for David Barnea, the current head of Mossad, Israel’s foreign secret service.

Both Kochavi and Barnea believe that the only way to stop Iran from advancing its nuclear program and curb its imperialist actions in the Middle East is for Israel to use its military and intelligence superiority.

Others think, however, that a new nuclear deal could still keep Iran from breaking out to an atomic bomb.

The EU team in Qatar on Thursday morning announced that two days of indirect negotiations had failed to bring the anticipated breakthrough.

Iran reportedly stuck to old positions and even demanded new things not related to the nuclear dossier.

This shows again that the Israeli intelligence and military chiefs were right about Iran’s stalling tactics and the need to use covert warfare tactics to halt Iran’s nuclear and imperialistic drive.

 

Shadow war

Under Barnea, Mossad has recently stepped up its activities against Iran, especially within the borders of the Islamic Republic, and infiltrated the IRGC, a disgruntled top member of the organization admitted this week.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Hossein Ta’ab the head of the IRGC’s intelligence division, who was removed from his position last week, had told the paper that Israel’s actions inside Iran had “undermined our most powerful intelligence organization.”

See: Mossad Scores Another Victory Over Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

Ta’ab’s admission finally confirmed that the Israeli intelligence organizations are aware of most of Iran’s terrorist plots against targets within and outside the Jewish state.

Ta’ab’s removal from one of Iran’s top jobs came after the secret arrest of another IRGC general, Ali Nasari, who also served in the IRGC’s intelligence service and was reportedly spying for Mossad.

 

Cyber superiority

On Monday, General Kochavi visited IDF Unit 8200, which is also known as SIGINT.

SIGINT is a special intelligence unit of the Israeli army that is responsible for most cyber attacks on targets in Iran.

These cyber-attacks are increasingly part of the so-called ‘covert war’ between Iran and Israel, which has escalated significantly in recent months.

This escalation was the result of a political decision by outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who in January said that Israel should take the fight against Iran to the “head of the octopus.”

Since then, not a week has gone by in Iran without sabotage acts, assassinations, or cyber attacks that were mostly attributed to Mossad or the SIGINT unit.

The latest cyber attack on vital installations in Iran took place last Monday, when three major factories producing steel were sabotaged.

As a result of these cyber attacks, Iran’s entire steel production came to a standstill, which in turn had serious consequences for the large military industry of the Islamic Republic.

The attacks were carried out by a group of hackers called ‘Predatory Sparrow,’ a group that was previously responsible for cyber attacks that paralyzed fuel supply and rail transport in Iran.

The group must have the backing of “a state-actor,” Israeli cyber experts say.

Without precise intelligence about the three steel factories and the physical presence of collaborators, these cyber attacks could not have caused the damage that almost destroyed the facilities.

Military commentators later stated that Israel was definitely behind the new cyber attacks on Iran.

The group of hackers was previously associated with the Israeli security apparatus, specifically the IDF’s SIGINT unit.

After the attack, the group of hackers released a statement on social media saying it was a response to “the aggression of the Islamic Republic.”

 

Iranian hackers thwarted

The new cyber attack on Iran’s metal industry came more than a week after sirens suddenly went off in the Israeli cities of Eilat and Jerusalem.

The IDF’s Home Front division later announced that the sirens were false alarms caused by a cyber attack from a group of hackers in Iran.

SIGINT’s deputy commander ‘Uri’ also made a rare appearance at the Cyber Conference of Tel Aviv University, where he explained how his unit prevented a group of Iranian hackers from poisoning Israel’s fresh water supply.

SIGINT was aware of the planned hack long before the attack was carried out and managed to neutralize it before scores of Israelis would have been killed, ‘Uri’ said.

Due to the military censor, the full name of the SIGINT commander was barred from publication.

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate has now launched a new project called “Digital Iron Dome” to protect companies and other civilian projects from cyber attacks.

The name Iron Dome was taken from the successful anti-missile shield of the IDF.

 

Don’t mess with Israel

Bennett addressed the Iranian cyber threat to Israel during a speech at a week-long Cyber Conference in Tel Aviv.

“We are not causing havoc on the streets of Tehran, that has never been our policy. Our policy is that if you mess with Israel, you will pay a price,” Bennett said.

He added that just as there is a nuclear deterrent, there is also deterrence in the Cybersphere.

It was clear that Bennett also disagrees with Borrell’s position that negotiations with Iran will “break the dynamics of escalation.”

Bennett will continue to be in charge of overseeing the covert war against Iran after handing over the task of Prime Minister to Yair Lapid, who is not an expert on military issues.

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