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Alleged Israeli Cyber Spying on Iran Talks?

Outgoing Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey made his last visit to Tel Aviv to meet with IDF counterparts. Ostensibly this trip by outgoing JCS chief Dempsey was to assure the IDF that the U.S. would live up to its pledge to maintain the Qualitative Military Edge superiority of the IDF in the Middle East.  This was about Israeli concerns raised over advanced weapons systems like the F-35 being offered to Gulf Cooperation Council, notably Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is caught between Iran’s hegemony over four Arab capitals, the threats of ISIS infiltrating the Kingdom perpetrating suicide bombings and the current conflict against Iranian trained Houthi rebels in Yemen. Somehow we are lent the impression that he may have been there to  promote  the benefits of a  looming  P5+1 deal against a nuclear Iran, trusting that any deal with Islamist Iran threatening to wipe Israel off the map of the word  wouldn’t interfere with the long coveted exchange of intelligence  and cyber-security information between the two allies.

Kaspersky labs Reuters-Serhgei Karpukhirt

Kaspersky Labs Moscow-based cyber security firm. Source: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

That impression was dispelled by news from Moscow-based Kaspersky Laboratories, a premier cyber security firm detecting a new malware, called Duqu Bet, named after the second alphabet in the Hebrew alphabet alleging possible Israeli development of a powerful cyber spy software system.  A Wall Street Journal report suggested that Duqu Bet was allegedly targeting posh hotels used for private U.S. Iranian negotiations in Switzerland and Austria. In a February 2015 Iconoclast post we noted Duqu 1.0 as a key component in the Equation group discovered by cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs based in Russia:

The Equation Group according to Kaspersky has a powerful and  geographically distributed network  covering more than 300 web domains  involving over 100 servers located in the U.S., UK, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Panama, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Colombia and the Czech Republic.  Since 2001, it has infected tens of thousands of “high profile victims” in over 30 countries. Examples include: “Government and diplomatic institutions, Telecommunications, Aerospace, Energy, Nuclear research, Oil and Gas, Military, Nanotechnology, Islamic activists and scholars, Mass media, Transportation, Financial institutions and companies developing encryption technologies.”

 Business Insider noted the hypocrisy of Kaspersky disclosing this latest alleged Israeli Malware:

“The use of Duqu by Israel against Iran is not the question we should be asking,” Jeff Bardin, chief intelligence officer of Treadstone 71, told Business Insider. “The question should be why Kaspersky only finds code of this type by nation-states it does not consider friendly to Russia or those aligned to the West.” Is it because there is no code of this type [Duqu] coming out of Russia?” Bardin asks, “Or is it because disclosing code of this type that is Russian made and in use against target nation-states would place Eugene Kaspersky at risk of countering his country’s cyber espionage efforts and, at risk of incurring the wrath of Putin?”

The firm’s billionaire founder and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, used to work for the KGB and reportedly maintains relationships with former and current Russian intelligence officials.

“Kaspersky releases this information as a political tool,” Bardin said. “The absence of any photos of Kaspersky with Putin on the internet is itself evidence of direct alignment. Can you be a billionaire in Russia today without the direct scrutiny of Vladimir Putin?”

Bloomberg analysis of Kaspersky’s work generally supports Bardin’s suspicions: “While Kaspersky Lab has published a series of reports that examined alleged electronic espionage by the U.S., Israel, and the U.K., the company hasn’t pursued alleged Russian operations with the same vigor

Gav-Yam Technology Center source WSJDoubtless the Israeli military and national security echelons harrumphed about U.S. cyber security expertise given Chinese and Russian hacking of U.S. government and White House files. The Wall Street Journal reported Israel building a $5.9 billion cyber communication security complex near Beersheba in the Negev to house military high tech echelons including the fabled Unit 8200. That has attracted U.S. high tech and defense firms like EMC, Oracle and Lockheed Martin to build facilities in the planned development.

 The Pentagon recently announced “restocking” of supplies of tens of thousands of rockets, missiles, and quantities of ammunition held back at White House request during last summer’s Operation Defense Edge.  That may not include so-called  bunker busters or the Boeing developed CHAMP non-nuclear EMP cruise missile capable of   destroying computers  and communication nets  of Iran’s nuclear  program  without loss of life.  The Pentagon promoted this latest offering as an increase of weapons under the $1.8 billion military grant.

However, Dempsey’s leave taking and his successor, Marine General Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. arrival under  Pentagon civilian chief, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter may have a different agenda.  With 18 months left in the President’s second term and a possible diplomatic deal with Iran over its nuclear program releasing tens of billions of funds, Israel is clearly concerned. Concerned that Iran may already have achieved a nuclear threshold and been given funds to support state terrorism enabling delivery of more weapons to proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.  Hezbollah’s Sheik Nasrallah threatened  “displacement of Millions of Israelis” in any future conflict with Israel raining down hundreds of thousands of Iranian supplied rockets and missiles on the Jewish nation.

Meanwhile, the alleged solid intelligence and security alliance between the U.S. and Israel appears tattered, awaiting a successor to President Obama in January 2017 who may return the previously productive relationship to solid footing.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.