Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s pointed warning that the US will strike back against a cyberattack underscores the Obama administration’s growing concern that Iran could be the first country to unleash cyberterrorism on America.
Panetta’s unusually strong comments Thursday came as former US government officials and cybersecurity experts said the US believes Iranian-based hackers were responsible for cyberattacks that devastated computer systems of Persian Gulf oil and gas companies.Unencumbered by diplomatic or economic ties that restrain other nations from direct conflict with the US, Iran is an unpredictable foe that national security experts contend is not only capable but willing to use a sophisticated computer-based attack.
Panetta made it clear that the military is ready to retaliate — though he didn’t say how — if it believes the nation is threatened by a cyberattack, and he made it evident that the US would consider a preemptive strike.
“Iran is a country for whom terror has simply been another tool in their foreign policy toolbox, and they are a country that feels it has less and less to lose by breaking the norms of the rest of the world,” said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and now in private law practice. “If anybody is going to release irresponsible unlimited attacks, you’d expect it to be Iran.”
And while he did not directly connect Iran to the Gulf cyberattacks, he warned that Iran’s abilities were growing.
Security analysts agree.
Frank Cilluffo, , a former special assistant for homeland security to President George W. Bush, said US authorities have suspected Iran of trying to plot cyberattacks against American targets, including nuclear plants. And he said that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps appears to now be trying to bring some of the patriotic hacker groups under its control, so it can draw on their abilities.
The leader of al-Qaeda has urged Muslims to wage holy war against the United States and Israel over a film that insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.Ayman al-Zawahiri praised as “honest and zealous” demonstrators who breached the US Embassy in Cairo and attackers who stormed the US “embassy” in Benghazi in violence linked to the film. The American ambassador and three others died in the Sept. 11 attack on the US Consulate in the Libyan city.
As the day approaches when Israel may decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iran in order to cripple its nuclear infrastructure, Israeli policymakers and their allies abroad would carefully assess how the Lebanese-based group Hezbollah would react.
But perhaps no single factor, besides Iran’s nuclear program itself, will be as important in influencing Israel’s strategic assessment as the realization that attacking Iran risks sparking a war on several fronts; that is, one that not only invites retaliation from Iran, but very likely from its regional ally and sometimes proxy, Hezbollah. With the debacleof the 2006 war against the Lebanese group still fresh in Israeli minds, the possibility that the Shi’a organization would renew hostilities against the Jewish state through cross-border raids, terrorism, or rocket attacks against its cities, will have to be part of Israel’s calculations for any “day after” scenario.
Besides helping create the “Party of God” on the anvil of the Lebanese civil war and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invasion of Southern Lebanon in 1982, Iran’s support for Hezbollah has become multifaceted over the years, and now includes: military training, arms transfers, intelligence and, perhaps most crucially, financial support.“the billions of dollars Iran has spent on Hezbollah since 2000 was not an altruistic gift to help Lebanon defend itself against the possibility of future Israeli aggression … through Hezbollah, Iran has established a bridgehead on Israel’s northern border, enhancing its deterrence posture and expanding its retaliatory options in the event of an attack on the Islamic Republic.”
Indeed, Hezbollah packs a formidable punch. According to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh, Hezbollah today has at least 60,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, or about ten times the number it had during the 34-day war in 2006. While the organization had few rockets that were capable of hitting Tel Aviv during that conflict, today it is said to have several thousands in its arsenal capable of doing so.
In recent years, Hezbollah has placed medium- and long-range rockets deeper inside Lebanon and further away from the border with Israel. According to Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution, many of those are concealed in homes. Such an arsenal, added to geographical proximity, has led some Israeli security officials to argue that an attack by Hezbollah would be more dangerous than Iranian retaliation following a preemptive strike against Tehran’s nuclear facilities.
Some analysts have also speculated that Hezbollah could ramp up its militant activities outside Lebanon to destabilize the region and thereby complicate Israel’s plans to derail the Iranian nuclear program — a sort of preemptive move by Iran to nix Israel’s own preemptive attack.
The Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat Thursday night of more UAV’s over Israel aroused concern in the Israeli high command that Iranian drones had been smuggled into the hands of the Palestinian Hamas extremists ruling the Gaza Strip. He implied that Tehran or Hizballah might ask Hamas to release them over Israel, possibly in coordination with UAV intrusions from Lebanon.After rolling out Hizballah statistics claiming Israel had violated Lebanese airspace 20, 864 times (!), Nasrallah said in his televised speech: “This is our natural right and we will send them whenever we want and this will not be the last time.”
The latest executive order (EO) emanating from the White House October 9 now claims the power to freeze all bank accounts and stop any related financial transactions that a “sanctioned person” may own or try to perform — all in the name of “Iran Sanctions.”
Titled an “Executive Order from the President regarding Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions…” the order says that if an individual is declared by the president, the secretary of state, or the secretary of the treasury to be a “sanctioned person,” he (or she) will be unable to obtain access to his accounts, will be unable to process any loans (or make them), or move them to any other financial institution inside or outside the United States. In other words, his financial resources will have successfully been completely frozen. The EO expands its authority by making him unable to use any third party such as “a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, subgroup or other organization” that might wish to help him or allow him to obtain access to his funds.
And if the individual so “sanctioned” decides that the ruling is unfair, he isn't allowed to sue. In two words, the individual has successfully been robbed blind.
The Last Domino
With the U.S. Presidential election less than one month away, I think it’s a good time to take stock on what has occurred in 2012 so far and look forward to the period ahead, which I think will be one of increasing social and economic chaos in the United States.Earlier this year I wrote a piece titled Six Months Left…Can They Do It? in which I questioned whether the Administration and its cronies at the Federal Reserve and elsewhere would be able to hold things together in a relative calm until November 6th. I wasn’t sure of their ability to do so, but I understood that everything would be thrown toward this objective, legal and illegal, to make it happen. Well here we are, and to some degree they have held the undeniable disaster that is very apparent underneath the superficial surface of American society from exploding upwards.
It was always my contention (and still is) that if they successfully kicked the can until the election then there would be absolute hell to pay afterward. That payment is now due. The best way I can describe what I think the next six months will look like is: Europe. Think the periphery countries. Everything that we have seen in Greece, Spain and the other “PIGS” will be coming to America. Investors have become completely lulled to sleep by recent benign trends in U.S. markets. There is this almost religious belief that treasury yields will move sharply lower in an economic downturn or stock market plunge. I am not saying this won’t be the case, but it is certainly not set in stone. In the PIGS nations, we saw both collapsing economies and stock markets as well as soaring sovereign yields. Can’t happen here? Never say never.
The biggest mistake I made in the past year or so was a failure to realize the step by step fashion in which the global monetary and financial system would fall apart. Since the entire world is linked into the fiat petro-dollar monetary standard, the entire world suffers as the system breaks down. While it was tempting to assume the U.S. would get nailed the hardest, what many people missed, including myself, was that the U.S. would be the last domino to fall. Whether people want to accept this or not, the U.S. has unfortunately morphed into a global empire.
I believe that the boiling point will be hit sometime within the next six months, and 2013 will see the streets of America beginning to look a lot like the streets of Spain and Greece.