US hit Iran with cyberattack after strikes on Saudi oil facilities: report

The U.S. hit Iran with a secret cyberattack after a September strike on two Saudi oil facilities that Washington and Riyadh both blame on Tehran, according to Reuters.

Two U.S. officials told the news service that the operation, which took place late last month, targeted Tehran’s ability to spread “propaganda.” One of the officials said the attack hit physical hardware, but declined to provide further information. 

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“They must have dreamt it,” Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi responded, according to Iran’s Fars news agency.

The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have all publicly blamed the Sept. 14 strike against Saudi oil facilities on Iran, which denied any involvement in the attack. The Iran-aligned Houthi rebel group in Yemen claimed responsibility.

The Pentagon responded to the attack by sending thousands of additional troops and equipment to Saudi Arabia to help reinforce its defenses. 

Neither the White House nor the National Security Council immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill regarding the cyberattack. 

“As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence, or planning,” Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith told The Hill. 

While the effects of the cyberattack are currently unclear, experts say the response could be seen as less provocative than an armed response. 

“You can do damage without killing people or blowing things up; it adds an option to the toolkit that we didn’t have before and our willingness to use it is important,” James Lewis, a cyber expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters.

Tensions in the Gulf have skyrocketed since President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE last year withdrew the U.S. from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran. Tehran has since beefed up its nuclear program beyond the limitations placed on it under the pact, has been accused of bombing oil tankers in the region and shot down a U.S. surveillance drone. Trump authorized a retaliatory strike over the drone shootdown, but aborted the operation after learning as many as 150 Iranians could be killed.