Fri, 30 Sep 2022

Washington - The United States is warning of an 'increasingly brazen' Iran, accusing the government in Tehran of using its growing network of proxies and hackers to target both America and Americans, even on U.S. soil.

Previous assessments from the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. military have consistently called out Iran for its support of terrorism and what they have described as malign activities, in the Middle East and beyond. Only the latest warning, from the U.S. Justice Department, indicates the threat has changed even over the past few months.

'This is a threat that has evolved and increased,' Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, speaking virtually, told a summit Wednesday in New York, describing it as 'increasingly sophisticated and multi-dimensional' and 'increasingly brazen.'

'The most concerning ... is the threat posed to the homeland and seeking to develop and use networks and proxies,' she said, further describing Iran's efforts to target U.S. citizens on U.S. soil as a 'sea change.'

Specifically, Monaco referenced two plots last month against individuals in the U.S. - one aimed at former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and another at VOA Persian TV host Masih Alinejad.

An FBI wanted poster shows Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi of Tehran, Iran, in an image released by the U.S. Justice Department after they charged the member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps with plotting to murder John Bolton, Aug. 10, 20 An FBI wanted poster shows Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi of Tehran, Iran, in an image released by the U.S. Justice Department after they charged the member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps with plotting to murder John Bolton, Aug. 10, 20

Iranian Operative Charged in Plot To Murder John Bolton 

FILE - Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist and women's rights activist, speaks on stage at the Women in the World Summit in New York, April 12, 2019. FILE - Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist and women's rights activist, speaks on stage at the Women in the World Summit in New York, April 12, 2019.

Man Arrested with Loaded Weapon Near Home of VOA TV Host, an Iran Critic

Alinejad was also the target of a kidnap plot in July 2021, which led to the indictment in the U.S. of four Iranian intelligence operatives.

Screen grab of a Twitter video posted by VOA Persian TV host Masih Alinejad on July 13, 2021. Screen grab of a Twitter video posted by VOA Persian TV host Masih Alinejad on July 13, 2021.

VOA Persian TV Host Says Iran Kidnap Plot Sought to Stop Her Social Media Activism 

'A plot against or a threat to Americans, full stop, is unacceptable,' Monaco said, promising 'very stiff consequences.'

Her comments about Iran came just hours after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi holds up a photo of slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as he addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 21, 2022. President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi holds up a photo of slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as he addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 21, 2022.

Raisi rejected criticism aimed at Iran, especially when it comes to human rights.

'Human rights belongs to all, but unfortunately it is trampled upon by many governments,' he said.

Raisi also called for former U.S. President Donald Trump to be tried for ordering a U.S. airstrike that killed Iran's elite Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2016 photo released by the office of Iran's supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2016 photo released by the office of Iran's supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

Trump Says Killing of Iran's Quds Force Commander Overdue

Monaco, speaking to the non-profit United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), whose advisory board includes multiple former U.S. government officials, additionally warned of Iran's growing reach in cyberspace.

'Here again, this is an evolution in an increasingly concerning threat from Iran,' she said, citing Tehran's 'increasing willingness to, frankly, seek to punch above their weight' with attacks on big targets, including U.S. critical infrastructure.

Just last week, the U.S. Justice Department indicted three Iranian nationals, charging them in a plot to attack and extort money from hundreds of victims across the U.S., including police departments, transportation companies, local governments and a children's hospital.

A screenshot of a DOJ release about three Iranians accused of hacking for ransom the computer networks of hundreds of victims in the United States and around the world, Sept. 14, 2022. A screenshot of a DOJ release about three Iranians accused of hacking for ransom the computer networks of hundreds of victims in the United States and around the world, Sept. 14, 2022.

Three Iranian Hackers Charged in 'Ransomware-Style' Hacking Campaign

At the time, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, called the activity 'just the tip of the iceberg.'

The U.S. and other Western countries this month also accused Iran of being responsible for a massive cyberattack on Albania, which targeted government networks and critical infrastructure.

And private cybersecurity companies, including Mandiant and Proofpoint, also this month identified a series of cyber campaigns aimed at dissidents, experts and analysts, all of which were linked to Iranian cyber actors.

U.S. intelligence officials also concluded Iran used cyber means to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and have indicated they expect Tehran will try to meddle in the country's upcoming midterm elections, as well.

FILE - Maryland voters cast their ballots at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center in Annapolis, Md., Nov. 3, 2020. FILE - Maryland voters cast their ballots at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center in Annapolis, Md., Nov. 3, 2020.

US: Russia, Iran Meddled in November's Election; China Held Back

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

More Egypt News

Access More

Sign up for Cairo News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!