Iran likely to devote sanctions relief towards building up its cyberattack capabilities
Previous research conducted by AEI’s Critical Threats Project and Norse Corporation has highlighted the growing cyberthreat posed by Iran and suggested that the regime might exploit the nuclear deal to increase investment in its cyber infrastructure and gain access to more effective technology.18 The sixth FYDP confirms this assessment. Khamenei calls for aggressively investing in Iran’s cyber infrastructure so that “Iran will become a top regional country.”19 Khamenei also calls for increasing technology cooperation with other states, “gaining technology,” and transforming Iran into “the regional leader in electronic government.”20 These are not new proposals articulated in the FYDP, but they echo comments made by numerous other senior officials.21 They also reflect realities in the regime’s existing security strategy. A robust cyber capability protects Iran’s critical infrastructure against attack while supporting the regime’s deterrence against the United States and its regional allies.22
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.
Iran's regime is dedicated to spreading its revolutionary ideology and has a well-established network of terrorist proxies that it funds. If the nuclear deal is completed without addressing Iran's aggressive foreign policy, then it will only add fuel to this fire by giving Iran access to over $100 billion in sanctions relief as well as billions of dollars more in potential foreign direct investment and trade.