Image Credit: Office of the President: Iran

The "Copycat" War: Iran Strikes Back


The growing evidence that Iran was behind a number of recent cyber attacks against Western and Arab institutions has raised concerns in many quarters about how the Islamic Republic may employ its cyberwarfare capabilities in the future. Although there’s no way to be certain, in the short-term Iran’s likely to act with considerable restraint in the cyber realm in keeping with the larger “copycat” strategy it is using to retaliate against adversaries without escalating tensions further. Over the longer-term, however, it stands to reason that Iran will incorporate cyberwarfare into its existing military doctrine.

The recent cyber attacks against American banks and Middle Eastern oil companies are part of Iran’s broader strategy of closely emulating its adversaries’ attacks against the Islamic Republic itself. By replicating its adversaries’ tactics as closely as possible, Iran is able to retaliate against these powers while simultaneously signaling to them that it doesn’t seek to enlarge the conflict.

This “copycat” strategy was first evident in Iran’s assassination attempts against Israeli diplomats and their families in India, Georgia, and (presumably) Thailand in February of this year. In the India and Georgia incidents, Iranian nationals working under the Quds Forces unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) attached magnetic bombs to the underbelly of Israeli embassy cars in order to assassinate Tel Aviv’s diplomatic personnel (although in the Georgia case the explosive failed to detonate before being discovered and disarmed.) A similar plot was likely planned for Thailand before Iranian operatives prematurely set off one of the explosives while they were building them in a safe house in Bangkok.

European intelligence officials were, inexplicitly, aghast by Iran’s audacity, proclaiming, “Until recently it was possible to see why they [Iranian leaders] were doing what they have been doing. Now it has become very unpredictable. It’s very hard to see the logic behind” the February bombings. This statement notwithstanding, the rationale behind these assassination attempts was readily apparent: over the past few years numerous Iranian nuclear scientists have been targeted and killed in the streets of Tehran in attacks that Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, is widely believed to be behind. Notably, the perpetrators of the attacks on the Iranian scientists often targeted their victims by attaching magnetic bombs to the bottom of their automobiles.

November 18, 2012 at 22:49

Iran may want nukes for world security. USA future president may think twice before maiming and killing civilians for wrong reasons or vested interest as it was done in Iraq. If Iran test its nuclear arsenal, it deserves to receive Nobel in peace….your unbiased comments shall be appreciated…..

Paul M
November 6, 2012 at 19:15

If Iran obtains a weapon then it can apply a stranglehold on the Strait of Hormuz and starve the rest of the World of Middle Eastern Oil. In 1980, US President Carter introduced the 'Carter Doctrine' which states that any attempt to tamper with US energy supply will be perceived as an act of war and treated accordingly. With even a primitive, low yield weapon, Iran could effectively neutralise any response. It's not about Iran planning to go to war with anyone; it is a challenge to US hegemony in the area. The Carter Doctrine is not just a case of the US being petty; billions of dollars would be lost every day that the oil supply is interrupted and not just in the US. A nuclear capable Iran could effectively hold the industrialised world to ransom.

November 1, 2012 at 00:10

There is something called `BAD` and something called `GOOD`

The North Koreans and the Iranian regime would fire nukes and destroy the whole world if they could.

They believe themselves to be a higher race like the Nazis.

The Iranian regime is run by religious fanatics who believe honestly that they are selected by allah to have a war against the rest of the world to usher in their savior mehidi. They are very passionate about it .

Allowing the Iranian fanatic regime access to nukes would be like giving nukes to the Vatican before the reformation era.

The North Koreans believe that their race is the purest race and the rest of humanity is below them and not fit to live.

The point is any country can have nuclear the technology by copying and pasting it from the Jews and Americans who created it in the first place.

But giving Nukes to a psychotic country will kill you and humanity.

April 8, 2014 at 07:32

i am not talking about n-korea’s- but as far as us iranian goes so far we have not attacked one single country as u.s have done – and frankly speaking yes- we are arenas , and we are a higher race than anglo saxon and yankee doodle dandies killers. yes we are a better race – and to my opinion you not being on this planet would be a blessing for humanity.

Kurt Scholz
October 31, 2012 at 02:42

Iran wants theoretical nuclear capability in accordance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that gives them the capability to strike back with a nuclear weapon in case Israel ever does a nuclear first strike. Since Israel does have nuclear weapons a full scale conventional attack by non-nuclear backed forces was pointless due to having zero chances of success. Iran develops a nuclear knowledge umbrella. Under that umbrella Israel can be threatened with wars they can possibly lose. Other countries with theoretical nuclear capability are South Africa that disarmed their nukes or Italy and Germany who participated in the now French nuclear weapon program (and were cheated from the having the result) or Brazil and Turkey that voluntary decided to cease their nuclear weapon efforts.
Iran is on the list of countries that "need a new US-friendly government" and that have been toppled ever since 9/11 (serving as an initial excuse). Brzezinski is one of the guys bragging about this "secret plan" of finishing off the Soviet leftovers. The nuclear story is just one excuse, but much better than the Iraqi WMD. It helps Iran at the moment to foster an internal defensive alliance of the population, while at the same time giving them the option to go for a know-how threshold that could force Israel to acknowledge a different strategic environment. The longer this story goes on with high tension claims, the more boring it will become, until it neither entices the Iranians nor the Western public that has Iran already written off as mad would-be killers after long exposure.
The Sunni Arabs are against Iran because that would unhinge the current power of a majority of working for a living conquered Shia tribes living on profitable oilfields of the nepotic Sunni tribes. Israeli Sephardi speak all Arabic dialects as native languages and are an important piece of projecting power through knowledge for the US-SIGINT backed diplomacy. Without Israel, this capability to understand and interfere in the major oil region of the world would vanish.

October 30, 2012 at 22:58

This made me laugh pretty hard, but it doesn't add much to the discussion.

Do Not Do Unto Others What You Do Not Want Others To Do Unto You
October 30, 2012 at 19:38

Every country whom the discriminatory US dislikes, should indeed copy the behaviour and responses of the US.  It is a wonderful idea.  Let Amerika get a taste of its own medicine.  Then perhaps it will learn that if it does not want others to do unto it what it does not like, then it should desist from doing the same to others.  Let Washington not complain through its mouthpieces.  It should be flattered Iran is copying what US does.

April 8, 2014 at 07:35

well said sir- excellent.

October 30, 2012 at 03:45

No, Mr. Pendleton,
Having nukes are not a "stablizing factor" in the case of North Korea, the fact that North Korea threatens to annihilate their own ethnic and cultural brothers in the South with nuclear armeggedon suggests a touch of dementia in the North Korean leadership which of course is always dangerous. The fact they already have them suggest the possibility of their use in the future

October 30, 2012 at 02:08

The same reason US keeps the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, looks here and there when asked about nuclear disarmament, becomes hard of hearing when talks of extending CTBT to computer or lab simulations takes place.

Dan Pendleton
October 29, 2012 at 23:06

Same reason that the North Koreans need nukes – to serve as a deterrent, to proclaim to its enemies it has no desire to be messed with – or else. Nuclear weapons are actually a stabilizing factor in the region if you think of it in those terms. They are never intended as a first strike option (since that would be suicide), just as Israel never intended their Jericho missiles as a first strike option.

October 29, 2012 at 23:06

Honestly I think it's far more likely that Iran is behind the assassination of their own nuclear scientists… ties up loose ends and looks like Israel.

October 29, 2012 at 23:02

pretty stupid article… anyone who has an actual understanding of the players, the game and the intelligence world knows that most of these acts are far more likely to originate in Israel, even the failed attacks on Israeli diplomats.
Iran has a history of being very successful and very discreet in their intelligence operations.
There is much assumption in this article, and no acknowledgement of the fact that 'disinformation' is absolutely rife in the intelligence world.  It's what they do!  When an operation is sloppy and obvious, like the 'Iranian/mexican drug cartel assassin and would be bomber of the Saudi embassy in the US, it's because they are designed that way.  There is very little strategic value in killing a few people, costing a few dollars or shutting down a few computers.
The real value of an intelligence operation is starting a war, swaying public opinion, creating a set of sanctions, a political distraction, an uprising, isolating a country, destroying trade relationships etc etc…

October 29, 2012 at 22:29

iranians are a bunch of persian losers who aren't even allowed to speak their own native language because they have been conquered and brain washed by islam. LOL

October 29, 2012 at 17:16

I just have one question.
Why does Iran want nuclear power for?
Energy or Eradication?

April 8, 2014 at 07:41

hoping for eradication of all those s.ob, blondes that have parked their bed pans in my persian gulf. get out peacefully or- we force you out. your choice

October 28, 2012 at 23:55

Iran DOES escalate the situation, just not in the same way the West does.  Every announcement about a new milestone or project in their nuclear program escalates the situation.  You really do not think that there is a connection between the recent cyber attacks against Iran and the fact that they were finishing the Fordo site?  Or the apparent severing of power lines to that plant a month or so ago?  There is a major difference between what the West and Iran does.  The West has a set goal in mind of stopping their nuclear program, all their actions have been towards that end.  Iran, however, is acting randomly, attacking Saudi oil firms who had nothing to do with Stuxnet or the killing of nuclear scientists, that is what makes Iran dangerous.  They hold civilian interests at harm (blockading Hormuz by sinking civilian oil tankers) because they know they cannot match the U.S or Israeli militaries.

April 8, 2014 at 07:45

would you kindly enlighten all of us the readers where you have gathered all these knowledge-sir? whoooo, amazing, sooo intelligent you are.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Muhammad NaIya
October 27, 2012 at 05:48

This episode goes to show the futility of the sanctions. For one the Iranians are more united in support for the nuclear progamme of their country. More importantly, the Iranians have become more creative undertaking tasks that they depend entirely on the US and the West previously. The sanctions have simply forced the Iranian middle class into a dead end since they are real losers in this brutal assault on the sovereignty of their country.
The much hated Ahmadinejad is not contesting the elections but the US and her allies have preempted working with whoever may emerge winner in the elections thus compounding am already bad situation.

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