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Terrorism & Security

Israel tested Stuxnet worm in joint effort with US to thwart Iran, says report

A Stuxnet cyber worm tested at a secret facility in Israel’s Negev desert wiped out about a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, The New York Times reported yesterday.

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“Dagan concluded his term saying Iran was still far from being capable of producing nuclear weapons and that a series of malfunctions had put off its nuclear goal for several years. Therefore, he said, Iran will not get hold of the bomb before 2015 approximately,” said the Haartez report.

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The destruction caused by the Stuxnet worm makes military action against Iran less likely, according to several analysts.

In January 2009, The New York Times reported that in an apparent effort to avert such military action, President George W. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz.

"President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year [2008] for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials."

The Guardian quoted Avner Cohen, Washington-based author of "Israel and the Bomb" and "The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb," as saying:

"In the short term, it surely makes military action less likely. In fact, I do not see any military action against Iran anytime soon. It takes the pressure off. It does not mean military action is off the table, but it is not a short-term concern."

"For the long run, while it is impossible to predict, my gut feeling is that Iran will not have the full bomb. The only thing that would push Iran to the bomb would be an attack on Iran. I think Iran would ultimately emerge smart enough to avoid confrontation with the world but would insist to keep themselves very close to the bomb, still within the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) claiming the right to a fuel cycle. Whether the west and Israel would be able to live with that, I don't know."

According to the recent Monitor report, Stuxnet works by targeting industrial control systems with certain specific brands of frequency converters – a type of equipment that controls centrifuge motors and rotational speed. The worm subverts the original speed requirements, ordering the converters to drastically increase – and then drastically reduce – the speed of the centrifuges in a subtle way intended to ruin or greatly impede output from those centrifuges.

"If its goal was to quickly destroy all the centrifuges ... Stuxnet failed," the Monitor quoted an Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) report. "But if the goal was to destroy a more limited number of centrifuges and set back Iran’s progress in operating the [enrichment facility] while making detection difficult, it may have succeeded, at least temporarily."

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