LONDON: Explosions in western Tehran resulting in power outage. A fire at a ballistic-missile production facility. A deadly blast at a medical clinic in the Iranian capital’s north. Huge floods at one of the country’s most important shipping hubs.
These apparently isolated recent incidents, mainly at military, nuclear, and industrial facilities, have been either subjected to cover-ups by Tehran or explained away as unfortunate accidents.
But when a blast on July 2 crippled the Natanz nuclear research facility in Isfahan, Iran was forced to come clean and admit that the showpiece of its nuclear-enrichment program was the target of an act of sabotage.
Experts have told Arab News that this admission has thrown into question the whole series of events. They said that what initially could have been a string of ill-timed separate incidents was starting to look like a coordinated campaign of cyber and psychological warfare. The real questions, to them, were: How impactful has the campaign been, who is behind it, and how will the regime respond?
Olli Heinonen, a senior adviser on science and nonproliferation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that whoever was responsible for the Natanz sabotage was sending Iran a message.
The attack, he added, would not have “been possible without detailed knowledge on the design and operations of the workshops.”
This handout photo provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official website via SEPAH News shows an Iranian military satellite — dubbed the Nour — which the Revolutionary Guards said on April 22, 2020 was launched. (AFP/Iran’s Revolutionary Guard via SEPAH NEWS/File Photo)
This “sends a stern message to the nuclear and missile programs: Their operations and goals are not secret.”
Whoever was responsible, Heinonen said, may not be finished yet. “The hitting of the assembly plant of the advanced centrifuges is likely a warning shot only.”
As if on cue, electricity reportedly got cut off after a large explosion hit a suburb west of Tehran on Friday in a missile facility of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Iranian officials denied the report. Another mysterious explosion had been reported just three days before, on July 7, at a factory south of Tehran.
While the full picture has yet to emerge of the damage caused by the blast at Natanz, it may have set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions by up to two years.
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
The 2015 nuclear deal, JCPOA (joint comprehensive plan of action), reached between Iran and six world powers allowed only enrichment of uranium at Natanz with just over 5,000 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, but Iran has installed new cascades of advanced centrifuges after US President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reinstated economic sanctions.
Iran, which said it would not negotiate as long as the sanctions remained in place, has repeatedly threatened to continue building up what it calls a defensive missile capability run by the IRGC.
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said: “It is difficult to interpret recent incidents at Iran’s nuclear facilities as anything but coherent and sustained acts of sabotage conducted by state actors.”
Referring to the Natanz blast and the other explosions and fires, he added: “There is a pattern.” This pattern stretched back years, and has used cyberattacks, sabotage, and targeting of scientists to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
This picture made available by the Iranian armed forces office on June 18, 2020 shows a missile being fired out to sea from a mobile launch vehicle reportedly on the southern coast of Iran along the Gulf of Oman during a military exercise. (AFP/File Photo)
As for the culprit, Alfoneh believes it “makes very good sense” that Tehran’s arch-nemesis Israel could be behind the attacks on nuclear and missile facilities. Israeli statements, he said, “give further credence to these allegations.”
Israel is just one of a number of enemies of the regime who may now be targeting Iran, Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics, told Arab News.
His understanding of the situation, largely in line with Alfoneh’s assessment, is that the blast at the Natanz nuclear facility was most likely “a cyberattack by Israel.”
However, he said: “Were all of the attacks by Israel? That is the question we’re not clear on, and that’s where it gets interesting.”
Karasik pointed out that Tehran also had domestic adversaries with their own grouses. “There’s messaging that a group attached to the (Iranian ethnic minority) Baluch people could be responsible. With Baluch sentiments inflamed, the ethnic minority have at times been used by outside forces as another way to undermine Iran,” he added.
A number of attacks targeting the IRGC personnel and military infrastructure have been claimed by Baluch groups in the past few years. They have not, however, come forward to claim responsibility for the latest series of incidents in Iran.
“Overall, we can say someone is using various tactics — external cyberattacks, internal sabotage — to hit Iran right now, and it’s part of a larger pattern,” Karasik said.
Much of the discussion surrounding the series of attacks has revolved around cyber warfare. Karasik believes this is a central part of the campaign by whoever is targeting the Islamic Republic.
Someone is telling Iran: We know where you live, we know your weak spots, and if we need to hurt you, we can.
Yossi Mekelberg, associate fellow at Chatham House
“To cause explosions, to make something stop operating — this is very sophisticated in terms of cyber warfare. It’s one thing to shut down a street or a factory; it’s another issue to actually detonate something,” he added.
The technological sophistication points to Israeli cyber sabotage. Israel has long employed cyberattacks as a means of targeting Iran’s nuclear and military capacity, famously unleashing the Stuxnet attack which set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions by up to five years.
The emerging consensus among Iran watchers such as Karasik is that Israel was likely responsible for some, if not all, of the recent major disruptions that have struck Iran. The question then, is how Tehran will respond?
Tehran was patient and opportunistic, Karasik said, but “there is a danger that the tail may wag the dog.” As Tehran faced more domestic pressure and its legitimacy in the eyes of the people eroded further, the only way to prove its strength could be to lash out.
This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows the Konarak support ship before the accident in the port of Konarak, Iran on April 30, 2020. (AFP/Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies/File Photo)
However, one of the advantages of using cyber warfare and other such clandestine means of undermining Iran, was that the attacks had plausible deniability, Yossi Mekelberg, associate fellow at Chatham House, told Arab News.
“It’s hard to definitively prove who was behind the attacks, so it does not force Iran to respond to preserve its legitimacy and save face,” he added.
But he warned that it was a “highly volatile” situation. “There is a danger of miscalculation — you’re guessing other peoples’ thresholds for retaliation and it’s easy to miscalculate. It’s a risky game.”
The strategy being employed against Iran, Heinonen, Mekelberg, and Karasik all agreed, was a psychological one. An outside power — which many suspect to be Israel — was sending a message to Iran.
A handout picture released by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization on November 4, 2019, shows shows the atomic enrichment facilities Natanz nuclear power plant, some 300 kilometres south of capital Tehran. (AFP/Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/File Photo)
Karasik said that someone had been “hammering away at specific targets related to Iran’s national security, creating an explosion here, a fire there. That has a psychological impact.”
Mekelberg added: “Someone is telling Iran: We know where you live, we know where your weak spots are, and if we need to hurt you, we can. It’s a show of force.”
Iran is upgrading its ballistic missile arsenal and investing heavily in obtaining nuclear weapons. It should come as no surprise then, that as its posture becomes ever more aggressive, its adversaries are sending a clear message that they will not stand for a nuclear-armed Iran.
The campaign of cyberattacks and sabotage is making that position abundantly clear.
Everything Announced at Ubisoft E3 2021: Rainbow Six Extraction, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Far Cry 6, and More
Ubisoft’s E3 2021 presentation was largely about building on established franchises. The Rainbow Six series is pitting players against AI aliens with Rainbow Six Extraction. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora takes gamers into the James Cameron movie world. Giancarlo Esposito-led Far Cry 6 will place you in the shoes of three villains as part of its…
Ubisoft’s E3 2021 presentation was largely about building on established franchises. The Rainbow Six series is pitting players against AI aliens with Rainbow Six Extraction. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora takes gamers into the James Cameron movie world. Giancarlo Esposito-led Far Cry 6 will place you in the shoes of three villains as part of its story-driven DLC. Aiden Pearce and Wrench are coming very soon to Watch Dogs: Legion. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is headed to Paris — but better yet, Valhalla is getting a full year of additional content. The fantastic Mario + Rabbids series is returning after five years on Nintendo Switch. And there’s outdoor sports action in Riders Republic. On PC, all Ubisoft games are available with the subscription service Ubisoft+. Here are the biggest announcements from Ubisoft Forward at E3 2021.Release date: September 16, 2021Platforms: Amazon Luna, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/XBuilding off the legacy of PvP Rainbow Six Siege, Ubisoft Montreal is now taking its co-op shooter experience into the PvE space. In Rainbow Six Extraction, you can team up with up to two friends to fight mysterious alien creatures Archæans. You can pick from 18 Rainbow Six operators — each of them have unique gear, weapons, and abilities — all of whom will be available from the start if you have played Rainbow Six Siege in the past. Rainbow Six Extraction will offer full cross-play, cross-save, and cross-progression.Avatar: Frontiers of PandoraRelease date: 2022Platforms: Amazon Luna, PC, PS5, Stadia, and Xbox Series S/XThe world of James Cameron’s Avatar is the setting for a new first-person action-adventure from The Division 2 maker Massive Entertainment — also behind an open-world Star Wars game next — that will use The Division’s Snowdrop engine to bring Pandora to life. In Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, you will play as the blue aliens Na’vi in a standalone story in an unseen part of the planet, as you push back against the human forces. All that is to say that the game will not be connected to the Avatar movie sequels, the first of which is due in December 2022.Far Cry 6Release date: October 7, 2021Platforms: Amazon Luna, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/XAt Ubisoft Forward, we got a new look at Giancarlo Esposito’s dictator Antón Castillo and his first meeting with our protagonist Dani Rojas from Far Cry 6. Ubisoft Toronto also unveiled the Far Cry 6 Season Pass — it includes three DLC story packs that lets you play as three villains (Vaas Montenegro, Pagan Min and Joseph Seed) to expand on their backstories, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and seven Blood Dragon items for Far Cry 6.Watch Dogs: Legion — BloodlineRelease date: July 6, 2021Platforms: Amazon Luna, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/XSet prior to the events of the main campaign, the first story expansion Bloodline brings back Watch Dogs protagonist Aiden Pearce and Watch Dogs 2 deuteragonist Wrench. After the latter escapes with a valuable piece of tech, Aiden, who took a routine fixer job in London to reconnect with estranged nephew Jackson, is under fire from all sides. To play bloodline, you will need the Watch Dogs: Legion Season Pass that will also allow you to add Aiden and Wrench to your DedSec outfit.Riders RepublicRelease date: September 2, 2021Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/XIt’s all about outdoor sports — biking, skiing, snowboarding, wingsuiting and rocket wingsuiting — in this Ubisoft Annecy game set across US National Parks, from Yosemite Valley to Mammoth Mountain. You can choose to play by yourself in career and make your way through five different progressions. Or you can join your friends in free roam, or a variety of multiplayer competitions, be it versus mode, 6v6 trick battles, 12-player free-for-all, or — only on next-gen — 50-player multisport races.Assassin’s Creed ValhallaValhalla goes on. At E3 2021, Ubisoft announced that a second year of content is coming for the Viking game, keeping Assassin’s Creed fans busy until the next mainline entry, potentially in late 2022. And in continuation of Odyssey and Origins, education expansion Discovery Tour: Viking Age is on its way, giving players a non-violent experience in Valhalla that puts you in the place of different characters as you learn about their history. Before all that, the second paid DLC, The Siege of Paris, due later in summer 2021.Mario + Rabbids Sparks of HopeRelease date: 2022Platforms: Nintendo SwitchMario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was an unexpected delight, and Ubisoft and Nintendo are now building on that with a new cosmic adventure that will mix turn-based tactics and real-time action to create a new combat style. As for the name, it refers to dozens of Sparks that you must rescue across your interstellar journey. In turn, you can harness each Spark’s unique power as a special ability in battle. As before, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope will include normal and Rabbids versions of beloved Nintendo characters.Why did LG give up on its smartphone business? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Later (starting at 22:00), we talk about the new co-op RPG shooter Outriders. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.
‘OITNB’ Star Taryn Manning Engaged to Anne Cline After Surprise Proposal
They said yes! Caroline Stanbury, Nilsa Prowant and more celebs took major steps in their relationships in 2021. The Ladies of London alum confirmed via social media days after the new year that boyfriend Sergio Carrallo popped the question during a trip to Nepal. The engagement came less than six months after the pair made…
They said yes! Caroline Stanbury, Nilsa Prowant and more celebs took major steps in their relationships in 2021.
The Ladies of London alum confirmed via social media days after the new year that boyfriend Sergio Carrallo popped the question during a trip to Nepal. The engagement came less than six months after the pair made their relationship Instagram official. Stanbury was previously married to Cem Habib, from whom she split in December 2019. The exes share daughter Yasmine and twin sons Aaron and Zac.
Weeks after confirming her engagement, Stanbury defended her relationship after receiving negative comments about the more than 10-year age gap between her and her fiancé. “Why is this so shocking?” she told Bravo Insider, noting that the reaction isn’t as severe when men date younger partners.
Prowant, for her part, checked two big milestones off of her list within a few weeks. At the beginning of the holiday season, the MTV reality star revealed that she was expecting her first child, a baby boy, with then-boyfriend Gus Gazda. Soon after breaking the happy news, Gazda proposed.
“On cloud nine 💍,” Prowant gushed via Instagram on January 2, showing off the romantic moment that Gazda got down on one knee. “The love of my life asked me to spend forever with him tonight on my 27th birthday. Today has been more than I could have ever imagined. I can’t believe I get to marry my best friend and bring our son Gray into this world soon.”
The Florida native thanked her “kind, caring, strong” fiancé for always standing by her side — even through tough moments. “Gus, you’ve picked up the broken pieces of my heart and put them back together one by one. You never cease to amaze me. I can always count on you!” she wrote. “I know with you by my side I can get through anything. I would say yes over and over and over again. Every single time. Now…Let’s plan a wedding 🤍.”
Scroll down to see which stars got engaged in 2021.
E3 2021 PC Gaming Show’s highlights have something for everyone – CNET
Tinykin Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET This year’s E3 PC Gaming Show hurled trailer after trailer of upcoming (and some already available) games at us, though as you’d expect there weren’t many hotly anticipated games.Premieres included: Citizen Sleeper, a complex but cool-looking survival RPG where you’re going to be put out of commission by An Evil…
Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET
This year’s E3 PC Gaming Show hurled trailer after trailer of upcoming (and some already available) games at us, though as you’d expect there weren’t many hotly anticipated games.Premieres included: Citizen Sleeper, a complex but cool-looking survival RPG where you’re going to be put out of commission by An Evil Company.
Tinykin, an utterly adorbs 3D platformer we won’t see until 2022.
Fighting fantasy RPG Soulstice, coming 2022.
Silt, a moody monochrome underwater adventure with woodcut-like graphics.
Lakeburg Legacies, a deck-building game about everyday life in a medieval village.
Humble Games’ Dodgeball Academia, which is exactly what it says on the tin. Coming in 2021.
The 8-bit bloodshed-and-magic sequel Project Warlock 2.
Ixion, a space station strategy sim in which Earth is dying and you’re the manager of a space station that’s humanity’s last hope.
Far Changing Tides (from Okomotive the developers of FAR: Lone Sails), where you’re the captain of a ship in a flooded world searching for a new home. Coming in late 2021.
Wartales, a medieval turn-by-turn open-world RPG in which you play a mercenary, coming later this year.
Next Space Rebels just looks weird, but it’s a game about home rocket building in an alternative future with the spirit of Hypnospace Outlaw. Coming this fall.
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