The US launched cyberattacks against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network after Tehran downed a US surveillance drone, according to US media reports.
US President Donald Trump secretly authorized the US Cyber Command to carry out a retaliatory attack on Iran, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, shortly after he pledged to hit the Islamic republic with major new sanctions.
The attack crippled computers used to control rocket and missile launches, the Post said, while Yahoo News said a spying group responsible for tracking ships in the Persian Gulf was also targeted.
Tehran is yet to react to the reports, Iran’s Fars news agency said yesterday.
It added that it was “still not clear whether the attacks were effective or not” and suggested the US media reports were a “bluff meant to affect public opinion and regain lost reputation for the White House” following the downing of its drone.
Trump called off a planned retaliatory military strike on Friday, saying that the response would not be “proportionate,” with Tehran telling Washington that any attack would see its interests across the Middle East go up in flames.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Tehran against misinterpreting the last-minute cancelation.
“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness,” he said ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
The downing of the US drone came after a series of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, which Washington has blamed on Iran, exacerbated already-tense relations between the two countries.
Iran has denied responsibility for the attacks.
Trump, who spent Saturday huddling with his advisers at Camp David, initially told reporters that he was keen to be Iran’s “best friend” — if the country agreed to renounce nuclear weapons.
“When they agree to that, they’re going to have a wealthy country. They’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend,” he told reporters.
Iran has denied seeking a nuclear weapon and said its program is for civilian purposes.
A multinational accord reached by Tehran and world powers in 2015 sought to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.
However, Trump left that agreement more than a year ago and has imposed a robust slate of punitive economic sanctions designed to choke off Iranian oil sales and cripple its economy — one he now plans to expand.
“We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday,” Trump said on Twitter.
“I look forward to the day that Sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous nation again - The sooner the better!” he wrote.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added: “When the Iranian regime decides to forgo violence and meet our diplomacy with diplomacy, it knows how to reach us. Until then, our diplomatic isolation and economic pressure campaign against the regime will intensify.”
However, lest anyone think he was entirely ruling out military action, Trump on Saturday evening said on Twitter that “I never called the strike against Iran ‘BACK,’ as people are incorrectly reporting, I just stopped it from going forward at this time!”
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