(TEHRAN) -- Iran is ready to take on the U.S. and Israel in any online skirmish using their "undeniable" cyber warfare capabilities, a member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said Monday.
Avaz Heidarpour said that should American or Israeli cyber spies attempt to wage an online campaign against Iran, the country's state and intelligence agencies would combat any operations with their own "very strong" defense capabilities, according to Iran's state news agency.
Heidarpour's remarks came a day after Britain's The Sunday Times reported Israel has set up a military cyber command charged with developing attacks against Iran. The command operates under a military intelligence designation, reports directly to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has already conducted "soft" espionage missions against Iranian social networking sites, the report says.
"Israel must turn into a global cyber superpower," Netanyahu told a meeting of cyber warfare experts, according to reports.
Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, and the U.S.'s CIA have already been implicated in at least one major cyber operation against Iran: the Stuxnet worm that reportedly damaged an Iranian nuclear facility in 2010. Shortly after the worm's discovery, The New York Times reported it had been developed in a joint U.S.-Israeli intelligence operation. The German publication Der Spiegel said Monday that Israeli sources doubt the U.S. played a significant role in the Stuxnet program.
Neither U.S. nor Israeli officials publicly took credit for the cyber attack, but it was reportedly referenced in a video montage of "accomplishments" by an outgoing Israeli general, and several cyber security experts -- including American government officials -- put the U.S. and Israel on a short list of countries with the means and motivation to carry out such an attack.
It is not the first time Iranian officials have taken a vocal, defensive position against perceived Western cyber threats.
In June, Iran's head of intelligence claimed the state was also capable of combating the U.S.'s so-called "internet in a suitcase" program which he said was designed to connect dissidents directly with the CIA in hopes of undermining the Iranian government.
"We had predicted these [U.S.] devised actions...and devised proper ways to combat them," Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Mosleshi said.
In addition to the reported secret cyber command, the Israeli military recently revealed it was dedicating resources to public "new media" operations online, run from the Israeli Defense Forces Spokespersons Unit.
"The tools are infinite. The question is not whether we should be there, but how we should be there," IDF New Media chief Lt. Sacha Dratwa said in a post on the IDF website. "Computers and keyboards are the weapons, Facebook and Twitter are the battlefields. It is there that we fight, each and every day."
Spokesmen for the Israeli military did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report.
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