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Published on December 18th, 2012 | by Jasmin Ramsey

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With a Cyberwar Quietly Taking Place in the Background

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Iran seems to be maintaining its previous stance on uranium enrichment — a key issue for Western powers and Israel — ahead of proposed talks by the 6-power P5+1 negotiating group. On Tuesday, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation (AEOI), said Iran would “not suspend 20 percent uranium enrichment because of the demands of others.”

Iran insists that it has an “inalienable right” to enrich uranium on its soil. That right is guaranteed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Iran is a signatory, but the US and Iran appear to interpret it differently. Several UN Security Council resolutions also demand that Iran suspend its enrichment program until IAEA concerns are satisfied.

The US believes Iran is working towards nuclear weapon capability, but has not decided to build a nuclear weapon. Interestingly, some US foreign policy luminaries have called the US position of 0% Iranian enrichment untenable, as Tony Karon has reported.

Laura Rozen points out that Abbasi-Davani’s comments “came a day after Iran’s foreign minister struck a conciliatory tone, expressing optimism about prospects for progress at upcoming nuclear talks.” Last week, Herman Nackaerts, the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the agency had a “good meeting” in Tehran even though Iran refused to allow the agency to enter its Parchin military site at this time.

These developments suggest it’s anyone’s guess at this point whether resumed talks, if they go so far, will lead to substantive progress during the diplomatic process. But it’s easy to forget that while all this is going on, a related cyberwar is quietly taking place.

While telling Israel’s Army Radio that Israel’s “red line” with Iran is still “our top priority”, Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s Likudnik Vice Prime Minister, brought up the issue today:

“In the meantime, there are interesting things happening in Iran, such as worms, viruses and explosions,” alluding to clandestine cyber-warfare operations targeting the Islamic Republic that many suspect are carried out by Israel.

Yesterday, Iran reported that its computers are being targeted by malware that wipes data from hard drives. The source is unknown.

I’m not sure how cyber attacks, particularly large-scale ones, affect Iran’s negotiating stance or its alleged nuclear ambitions. But is it fair to say that this is an important issue that’s overlooked when assessing “defiant” Iran’s unreasonable stance towards the West, just as the now forgotten issue of targeted assassinations against Iranian scientists was? Not to mention cyber blowback and another potentially calamitous form of warfare that’s slowly being unleashed upon the world, be it from Iran, or anyone else. Those issues may deserve some attention now too.

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About the Author

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A multilingual Iranian-born journalist, Jasmin Ramsey is the editor and manager of the well-known U.S. Mideast policy site, LobeLog, and the Washington correspondent for the international news wire service, IPS News. Under her leadership LobeLog was recognized by the Economist as an essential stop for Iran coverage. Ramsey was also named one of the Guardian’s top ten Twitter accounts to follow on Iran in 2014. Her current work focuses on U.S.-Iran relations, U.S. foreign policy, and mideast affairs. You can email her at jasmin[dot]ramsey[at]gmail[dot]com.



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