United States Cyber Command on Thursday reportedly launched an operation against an Iranian spy group with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, despite President Donald Trump's last-minute scrapping of a direct military strike, former intelligence officials said in a Yahoo News report.
The Iranian group is believed to have supported the limpet mine attacks against two tanker ships earlier last week, which resulted in the U.S. increasing its military posture against the country. The group reportedly tracked and targeted both military and civilian vessels sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.
President Donald Trump backed out of retaliatory attacks against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on Thursday evening, following the downing of a U.S. drone on Wednesday. Officials were said to have planned to strike before dawn on Friday and chose to target radar and missile batteries, according to a New York Times report.
Trump claimed he was "cocked and loaded" to strike at Iranian targets but decided to forgo the plans after being briefed that there could be an estimated 150 casualties from the attack.
"[Ten] minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone," Trump said in a tweet. "I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!"
Trump has given significant autonomy to CYBERCOM, the US military's command for cyber-related operations, and authorized it to conduct offensive attacks against foreign adversaries during his presidency. The new strategy allows CYBERCOM to conduct some of its operations without consulting White House officials or other government agencies.
"Our hands are not as tied as they were in the Obama administration," national security adviser John Bolton said in 2018.
Current and former U.S. officials say Iran may attempt to launch cyberattacks against the US in light of the hostilities, according to The Wall Street Journal. In 2016, the Justice Department charged seven Iranians for allegedly coordinating financial cyber attacks that "resulted in hundreds of thousands of customers being unable to access their accounts and tens of millions of dollars being spent by the companies trying to stay online through these attacks."
"These were no ordinary crimes, but calculated attacks by groups with ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and designed specifically to harm America and its people," then-U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "We now live in a world where devastating attacks on our financial system, our infrastructure, and our way of life can be launched from anywhere in the world, with a click of a mouse."
Read more from Business Insider:
- Trump's story on why he stopped a military strike against Iran at the last minute doesn't add up, experts say
- The U.S. and Iran are still on a military collision course, despite Trump's calling off airstrikes last minute
- Trump made the right call by not pulling the trigger on Iran after it shot down a U.S. drone, former officials say
- Trump and Iran may be on the brink of a war that would likely be devastating to both sides
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