Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The US hit Iran with a secret cyberattack to disrupt oil tanker raids in the Persian Gulf
The U.S. launched a cyberattack against Iran in late June that successfully disrupted the ability of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to attack oil tankers, according to a New York Times report based on discussions with senior American officials.
The cyberstrike reportedly came the same day President Donald Trump called off military strikes last minute in retaliation for Iran's downing of a U.S. drone. Trump said the strikes would not have been proportionate to the downing of an unmanned aircraft.
The cyberattack "wiped out a critical database" used by the IRGC — a paramilitary force that operates separately from Iran's conventional military — to plan attacks on oil tankers, according to the report. The attack also hurt Tehran's ability to target shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf. The database helped Iran "choose which tankers to target and where," according to the Times.
The Trump administration blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the region in recent months amid heightened tensions linked to Tehran's nuclear program — and Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal — that have led to fears of war. Iran also seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf of Oman in July, which was retaliation for the UK seizing one of its tankers near Gibraltar.
According to the Times, the White House saw the cyberattack as a more proportional response than airstrikes to the downing of the U.S. drone by Iran.
The White House did not immediately offer a comment on this in response to a request from Insider.
Brandon Valeriano, a cybersecurity expert and the chair of military innovation at Marine Corps University, told Insider that the reported operation was "deescalatory, in that it was a step taken to give us options outside of war."
"It was an option to move us away from conventional strikes," Valeriano added. "It's a response that doesn't raise the risk of war."
Through operations that target and destroy information and intelligence, Valeriano said the U.S. can demonstrate its abilities to adversaries and signal the potential consequences of certain actions.
Valeriano said an operation along these lines could "provoke" the Iranians "to be a bit more blunt with their instruments in the region," in the sense it shows the U.S. is aware of their covert abilities and operations. But since tensions have diminished somewhat in recent weeks, with Trump and the Iranian president even tentatively flirting with the idea of holding talks, it does not seem to have induced any significant reaction from Tehran.
Read more from Business Insider:
- How the Trump administration got into a showdown with Iran that could lead to war
- Russia's nuclear weapons tests were linked to a radioactive explosion. Trump's friendliness with Putin makes it hard for NATO to do anything about it
- North Korea is building a new ballistic missile submarine that could one day be a nightmare for the U.S. and its allies
- China denies another port visit by the Navy as a U.S. warship sails through the disputed South China Sea
- Mattis sharply rebukes Trump's leadership in a not-so-subtle op-ed warning against abandoning America's allies
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed that a nightmare scenario has come to pass: Captured ISIS fighters are escaping as a result of Turkey's invasion of Kurdish-held northeast Syria.
Turkey's incursion has led to "the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees," Esper said in a statement on Monday.
Video footage of a purported "bombing of Kurd civilians" by Turkish military forces shown on ABC News appeared to be a nighttime firing of tracer rounds at a Kentucky gun range.
The U.S. military's seemingly never-ending mission supporting civil authorities along the southwestern border will last at least another year.
On Sept. 3, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border until Sept. 30, 2020, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said on Monday.