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April 14, 2015 0

How to Deal With Iranian Expansionism

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

At the very moment that a nuclear deal with Iran is look­ing closer to real­ity, Iran is expand­ing its influ­ence through­out the Mid­dle East. To the Saudis, the Emi­rates and Israel — all of whom see Iran as the great­est threat in the region — this is a dis­turb­ing phenomenon.

Israel has reacted by call­ing on the United States to link the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions to Iran’s broader behav­ior in the region.  In his address before a joint ses­sion of Con­gress, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu said the U.S. should not sign a deal until Iran halts its ter­ror­ist activ­ity and ceases its sup­port of extrem­ist groups. More recently, the prime min­is­ter has called for no agree­ment until Iran accepts Israel’s     legitimacy.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the U.S. rejected those pro­pos­als as unachiev­able and saw them as an effort to block any nuclear deal.

The Saudis, in their usual way, took a more restrained approach, say­ing nice things about the frame­work agree­ment while decry­ing Iran’s activ­i­ties on many fronts in the region. Clearly, at this moment when the U.S. is pro­vid­ing essen­tial sup­port for the Saudi-led mil­i­tary coali­tion against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, they are not look­ing for a full-blown con­fronta­tion with their main ally and sup­porter, the United States.

On the other hand, the Saudis con­tinue to express in many ways their frus­tra­tion with what they per­ceive to be weak Amer­i­can lead­er­ship in the region. While not will­ing to link their cri­tique to the nuclear issue, they have found other ways to get their point across.

Their most extreme reac­tion took place in the fall of 2013 when in an unprece­dented fash­ion they turned down a seat at the United Nations Secu­rity Coun­cil. While they never stated a rea­son it was widely under­stood to be a protest over Amer­i­can pol­icy toward Syria and Iran.

Since then, Saudi con­cerns have only grown as they watch a con­tin­ued Iran­ian role in Syria and Iraq, U.S. coop­er­a­tion with Iran against ISIS and — more recently — the poten­tial for new sig­nif­i­cant Iran­ian influ­ence in Yemen through the Houthis.

Both the Israelis and the Saudis fear that lift­ing the deep­est sanc­tions against Iran through the nuclear deal will fur­ther embolden Iran­ian expansionism.

More­over, what­ever their views on the nuclear deal, they fear that the basic under­ly­ing theme, despite U.S. protests to the con­trary, is that Iran under Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani is an evolv­ing nation that can be moved toward a state of nor­malcy both at home and in its inter­na­tional rela­tions. So they worry that after the nuclear deal is signed, sealed and deliv­ered, the U.S. will be even more reluc­tant to iden­tify Iran for what is and to take action against it.

What is it that the U.S. admin­is­tra­tion can do to reas­sure its allies?

First, its rhetoric about Iran­ian behav­ior must be ele­vated by many deci­bels. The notion that such a change would jeop­ar­dize the nuclear talks does not ring true. The Ira­ni­ans have a huge inter­est in the removal of sanc­tions while also being able to main­tain its nuclear infra­struc­ture. They are not very likely to walk away because of a more hon­est and focused U.S. approach to Iran­ian behavior.

It was encour­ag­ing in that respect that Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry on April 8 on PBS New­sHour crit­i­cized Iran for sup­ply­ing the Houthis in Yemen and added that the U.S. “could do two things at once” – the nuclear deal and con­tain­ment of Iran’s desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties in the region.

Still, a more sus­tained U.S. approach is needed, one which rec­og­nizes that Iran remains unre­pen­tant and extreme — includ­ing recent state­ments by its lead­ers call­ing for Israel’s destruc­tion — and is the great­est threat in the region.

Call­ing atten­tion to the huge arse­nal of mis­siles amassed by Iran­ian sur­ro­gate, Hezbol­lah, is a good place to start.

Using Holo­caust Remem­brance Day on April 15 to denounce Iran’s open call for Israel’s destruc­tion, most recently by the head of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, would add to the chorus.

And finally, the president’s remarks about hav­ing Israel’s back in the face of any Iran­ian threat should be reflected in clear agree­ments. What exactly does it mean for the U.S. to be there for Israel and Saudi Arabia?

This becomes more sig­nif­i­cant than ever because of the per­cep­tion that the eager­ness for the nuclear deal was partly moti­vated by a U.S. desire to pull back from the region. And, it is sig­nif­i­cant because Saudi con­cerns about a poten­tially expand­ing nuclear Iran could lead them to seek their own nuclear weapons.  The con­se­quences for the region and the world of such nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion would be disastrous.

Even before the nuclear frame­work agree­ment, the U.S. had a lot of work to do to reas­sure its allies in the Mid­dle East.

The need for such reas­sur­ance takes on a greater urgency as the real­ity of the nuclear agree­ment and the prospect of an embold­ened Iran loom larger.

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April 2, 2015 2

Hackers Directly Threaten Individual Israeli Citizens

As hack­ers pro­ceed with OpIs­rael, an annual anti-Israel cyber-attack cam­paign, AnonG­host, a promi­nent hacker group with an Islamic extrem­ist agenda claims that they are send­ing some Israeli cit­i­zens threat­en­ing mes­sages via var­i­ous mes­sag­ing apps includ­ing Face­book and What­sApp. These mes­sages include threats of vio­lence, vile lan­guage, and anti-Semitism.anonghost-opisrael

While these claims remain uncon­firmed, AnonG­host claims it acquired a large amount of per­sonal infor­ma­tion about Israelis includ­ing phone num­bers and Face­book accounts. The group dis­trib­uted a list of more than two hun­dred Israeli phone num­bers sup­pos­edly asso­ci­ated with What­sApp accounts and promised that there are more num­bers to be released on April 7, the offi­cial start date of OpIs­rael. Anony­mous hack­ers have also shared the list of What­sApp con­tacts obtained by AnonG­host on their social media platforms.

Hack­ers have also shared what appear to be images of threat­en­ing mes­sages they sent to Israeli cit­i­zens using What­sapp, includ­ing “All your Pri­vate con­fi­den­tial details are in our hands, includ­ing your phone number/Your Home….we will kill you all of the Jews/Israelian.[sic].”

Other images show that hack­ers sup­pos­edly have made phone calls to threaten Israelis using the free call­ing fea­ture on What­sApp. It is unclear at this point what was said dur­ing the calls, but sup­posed screen­shots of active What­sApp calls indi­cate that this most likely is another tac­tic to intim­i­date Israelis.

Muhammed Nazmi (aka Don­Nazmi), one of the lead­ers of AnonG­host, posted images of what appear to be sam­ples of mes­sages he sent to Israelis. Accord­ing to one  image, he ini­ti­ated a con­ver­sa­tion with an Israeli and once the Israeli responded, Nazmi sent a threat­en­ing mes­sage which included an image of an ISIS fighter with the cap­tion, “We are com­ing O Jews to kill you.” Under the image, a mes­sage reads, “I am Donnazmi[blurred] from AnonG­host Team. Send This Msg to your GOV Israel you bet­ter get ready to be pre­pared #opIs­rael 07/04/2015 is coming.”

Another image posted by Nazmi shows a mes­sage that includes what appears to be a per­sonal fam­ily pic­ture sent to a father with his chil­dren cir­cled in red and a cap­tion that reads, “I’ll stick a knife in their throats.”

Other hack­ers claimed that they hacked into Face­book chats with Israelis and posted images of con­ver­sa­tions in which they injected com­ments such as “F**K Israel.”

As this cam­paign against con­tin­ues, more Israelis will likely have to deal with such alarm­ing messages.

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March 31, 2015 1

Rival Hackers Overcome Differences For Anti-Israel Cyber Campaign

Update — 4/2/15: For more infor­ma­tion on OpIs­rael, please see Hack­ers Directly Threaten Indi­vid­ual Israeli Cit­i­zens.

What has become an annual cyber cam­paign against Israel, “OpIs­rael” – which coin­cided with Holo­caust Remem­brance Day in pre­vi­ous years – is once again tak­ing place this year; this time, by a broader coali­tion of hack­ers than ever before.AnonGhost OpIsrael 2015

In light of the uptick in attacks against Jew­ish insti­tu­tional web­sites in the U.S. by inter­na­tional hack­ing groups over the past few years, both Israeli and Jew­ish web­sites world­wide are expected to be tar­gets of the cyber campaign.

In 2014, “OpIs­rael” was pri­mar­ily led by an Arab sub-division of Anony­mous, which called for a cyber-attack against Israel on Holo­caust Remem­brance Day, threat­ening to launch “elec­tronic attacks against as many Israeli web­sites as pos­si­ble.” The group also threat­ened Israeli cit­i­zens: “Your credit cards, your bank accounts, your servers … are ALL in a dan­ger!” In 2013, the group called for a sim­i­lar cam­paign timed with Holo­caust Remem­brance Day to “wipe Israel off the Inter­net.”

This year, the Arab sub-division of Anony­mous, in one of the videos it posted on YouTube, described “OpIs­rael,” as an “Elec­tronic Holocaust.”

There are strong indi­ca­tions, how­ever, that AnonG­host, a promi­nent hacker group known for tar­get­ing Jew­ish and Amer­i­can web­sites, is seek­ing to replace Anony­mous in spear­head­ing “OpIsrael.”

For exam­ple, ear­lier this month, AnonG­host launched and pro­moted soft­ware enabling users to con­duct cyber-attacks against Israeli (and other) tar­gets. The soft­ware appears to enable users to ini­ti­ate denial of ser­vice (DOS) attacks. AnonG­host has already claimed respon­si­bil­ity for the hack­ing of sev­eral Israeli web­sites in the past week in the lead up to “OpIsrael.”

On March 31, AnonG­host mem­bers claimed that they started mes­sag­ing Israeli cit­i­zens with warn­ings about OpIs­rael. The threat­en­ing mes­sages included an image of an ISIS fighter with the cap­tion, “We are com­ing O Jews to kill you.” Under the image, AnonG­host mem­bers intro­duce them­selves and ask the recip­i­ents to deliver the warn­ing to the Israeli government.

An image of the threatening message sent to Israeli citizens featuring an ISIS fighter

An image of the threat­en­ing mes­sage sent to Israeli cit­i­zens fea­tur­ing an ISIS fighter

By inject­ing itself into “OpIs­rael,” AnonG­host may take the cam­paign into a more extreme direc­tion. For exam­ple, AnonG­host has been unam­bigu­ous about sup­port­ing ISIS and has car­ried out hacks on its behalf. This activ­ity dif­fers from the Anony­mous col­lec­tive, which has launched cyber-campaigns to counter ISIS’ online pres­ence. In Jan­u­ary 2015, for exam­ple, they­launched a cam­paign against Jihadist web­sites titled OpChar­lieHebdo in response to ter­ror­ist attacks in France.

There are indi­ca­tions that AnonG­host and the broader Anony­mous col­lec­tive have even engaged in a cyber-conflict against each other; Mau­ri­ta­nia Attacker, the osten­si­ble leader of AnonG­host, claims to have hacked a group of Anony­mous mem­bers known as “Anony­mous Squad No.035,” the Ser­bian sub-division of Anonymous.Anonymous OpIsrael 2015

The appar­ent con­flict between AnonG­host and the Anony­mous col­lec­tive, how­ever, does not seem to have pre­vented them both from par­tic­i­pat­ing in this year’s “OpIs­rael.” Oppo­si­tion to Israel seems to be a com­mon cause.

It is impor­tant to note that ADL is cur­rently unaware of any spe­cific cyber threat to the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity. Nev­er­the­less, we are urg­ing Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties to revisit and reassess their cyber-security plans, mea­sures, and procedures.

Related Infor­ma­tion:

ADL Alerts U.S. Syn­a­gogues to Pro­tect Against Online Hackers

ISIS Estab­lishes A Cyber-Alliance With Anti-Israel Hackers

Hack­ers Post Anti-Semitism On U.S. Uni­ver­si­ties’ Websites

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