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US ‘launched cyberattack on Iran’ after drone shoot-down: reports

In this undated file photo, an RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle sits on a flight line (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. news outlets are reporting that the United States launched cyberattacks against Iranian military computer systems on June 20, hours after Iran downed a U.S. surveillance drone.

The Washington Post and AP, citing unnamed U.S. officials, on June 22 reported that the strikes were conducted with the approval of U.S. President Donald Trump.

U.S. defense officials refused to confirm the reports.

The cyberattacks came as Trump first approved, then canceled, a more conventional military strike on several sites within Iran, saying the response would not be “proportionate” and would lead to the loss of Iranian military and civilian lives.

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Trump instead has said the United States will impose new sanctions on Iran on June 24, without providing details.

But Trump, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also appeared to ease off recent harsh language toward Tehran.

The president said he was open to quickly reaching a deal with Iran that he said would help the country rebound from a devastating economic crisis largely caused by U.S. financial restrictions.

If Tehran would renounce nuclear weapons, Trump said he would become the country’s “best friend” and would help “make Iran great again.”

Pompeo said in a statement on June 22 that “when the Iranian regime decides to forgo violence and meet our diplomacy with diplomacy, it knows how to reach us,” he said.

“Until then, our diplomatic isolation and economic pressure campaign against the regime will intensify.”

The Washington Post reported that Trump authorized U.S. Cyber Command to attack Iranian military computers following the June 20 downing of the U.S. drone by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

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Tehran has said the drone was flying over its territory, while the Pentagon says it was over international waters when it was shot down.

AP cited two U.S. officials as saying the cyberattacks specifically targeted an IRGC computer system.

The Post said the attack crippled computers used to control rocket and missile launches.

The Post and AP said the cyberattacks had been developed over the past several weeks as tensions increased between Washington and Tehran.

Speaking on June 23, a senior IRGC commander warned that any conflict in the region may spread uncontrollably.

“If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing,” Major General Gholamali Rashid was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Rashid said the Trump administration “should behave in a responsible way to protect the lives of American forces.”

He said Iran is not after a war while adding that the country will defend itself against any kind of “threat and aggression.”

The United States blames Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Iran denies any involvement.

The escalating tensions have prompted several international carriers to divert flight routes away from the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz.

Saudi Arabia’s state airline Saudia was the latest carrier to announce late on June 22 it is rerouting flight paths to some Asian destinations in order to avoid Iranian airspace, saying the move is a precautionary measure for aviation safety.

The decision follows the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to bar U.S.-registered aircraft from operating over parts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone.