Iran views developing cyberwarfare capabilities as enabling it to be able to strike U.S. homeland
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The Iranian regime continues to seek effective deter- rents to potential US or Israeli military strikes. Still, it is not confident—rhetoric aside—that it can build its own adequate conventional military defense any time soon. It has, therefore, developed a wide variety of other means by which to threaten to inflict pain on a potential attacker, ranging from the tens of thousands of rockets deployed in Lebanon and Gaza to the thousands of small boats and minelayers supposedly ready to close the Strait of Hormuz, to the missiles able to hit American military facilities throughout the Persian Gulf region. Cyberattack capabilities are obviously a significant addition to this deterrence and escalation- management arsenal, and one that might prove to be extremely cost-efficient in an asymmetric conflict against a major power.
In American strategic thinking, a US military attack on Iranian soil could be a proportionate response to an Iranian attack on an American military base in Bah- rain or Qatar. The Iranians likely do not see things that way. For them, the proportionality would be meeting an attack on their homeland with an attack on ours— but such an attack will be beyond their conventional military capabilities for a long time to come. For Iran, a cyberattack is a promising avenue by which Tehran could bring any future conflict to American soil, espe- cially since it offers a way to do so that is graduated and potentially unattributable and may or may not involve casualties and the destruction of physical infrastructure.
Iran has been developing cyber warfare capabilities for years and accelerated these efforts following the Stuxnet attack that set back their nuclear weapons program. Several large-scale hacking incidents against Western targets show that Iran is also becoming more adept and confident in conducting offensive cyber attacks to further its revolutionary aims.