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Friday’s Iran Events – August 17, 2018

Iran Regime Hackers a Growing Danger

The Iranian Regime has surfaced as a major security threat when it comes to cyber-espionage operations. Accenture Security i Defense released a research report that states, “The Iranian government and hacktivists located in Iran pose a disruptive or destructive cyber threat against the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.”

A large amount of attacks originated in Iran during the first half of 2018. The attacks are reported to be state-sponsored campaigns focused on other nations in the Middle East.

Iranian hackers have often been viewed as less skilled and less tenacious than hackers from countries like China and Russia, but recent research, suggests that this is changing quickly. “They’re more sophisticated than the other players,” according to Robert Katz, executive director of the Cyber Science Institute. “They had a major coordinated attack that did damage to our financial institutions on Wall Street. That was 2012, that was before we saw Russia being organized. Shortly after that, they had a physical attack against Saudi Aramco. They destroyed computers and turned them into paperweights.” Katz continued, “All of those are very sophisticated compared to all of the unsophisticated stuff we’ve seen from North Korea and the outright silly stuff we’ve seen from Russia. The Russia stuff was just a basic phishing attack.”

Pompeo launches Iran task force as US tries to shore up support for its pressure campaign

The Trump administration is launching a new task force to focus on Iran, highlighting the threat from the country as a top foreign policy priority.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his team would spearhead the Iran Action Group to coordinate all “Iran-related activity” across his department and the federal government. The group, led by the new Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, “will drive daily progress” toward the administration’s goal of changing Iran’s behavior, from support for groups like Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels to pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear capabilities, Pompeo said.

Putin, Trump Agreed in Helsinki Iran Should Exit Syria – Reports

According to a US administration official cited by Reuters, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton will discuss Iran’s role in Syria during a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva next week.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that this scheduled meeting was “a follow-up to the Helsinki summit to discuss a range of important national security issues.”

According to the senior US official, the two leaders agreed in principle during their summit in Helsinki that Iran should exit Syria; however, Moscow viewed that as a tough task.

Arab League Opposes Iran’s Threats to Block Navigation in Hormuz Strait – Envoy

The Arab League opposes Tehran’s threats to obstruct Middle East states’ oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz in case Iran is unable to transport its oil via the route, the organization’s new ambassador to Russia, Jaber Habib Jaber, told Sputnik on Thursday.

“We oppose any threats to suspend navigation and foreign intervention into the region’s affairs. The Arab League defends the principles on non-interference in domestic issues of the Arab states and protection of its interests from any external meddling,” Jaber said.

In July, Iranian Supreme Leader’s Top Adviser for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati said at the Valdai discussion club in Moscow that if Iran was not allowed to export its oil via the strait, no other Middle East state would be able to do so.

In early July, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) held large-scale military drills in the Persian Gulf. The IRGC said they were prepared to disrupt other countries’ oil shipments via the strait if Iran’s own exports were impeded.

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