Could Iran Be Using Stuxnet to Confuse the West?

Via Alexis Madrigal, a v. hot Vanity Fair piece about the origins of Stuxnet, and its impact. Much to comment on (and much that is too obscure to comment on) but the piece contained this provocative bit of analysis:

After being detected by Iran, (the virus) may have been retooled by the country as "psyops"--psychological operations--against the West. Robert Baer, the former C.I.A. officer and author of The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, says, "The moment Iran caught Stuxnet, they could easily have put out misinformation"--to the effect that their nuclear program had been set back several years--"simply to alleviate meetings in Western capitals. So that everyone will say, 'All right, Stuxnet worked.'"

I don't know. Even the people who know don't know. But I've become dubious about the effect of Stuxnet, especially since a raft of reports, including one from the International Atomic Energy Agency, suggesting that the Iranian program continues apace. Here's a fatalistic-sounding Charles Duelfer on Iran's program:

The IAEA inspectors report that Iran continues to expand its activities and, in particular, its uranium enrichment seems to be continuing with plans for expansion. Tehran has not complied with requirements to explain suspected military nuclear work and seems unfazed by Security Council sanctions. Moreover, the IAEA reports that the output of the declared facilities continues--despite the affects of the Stuxnet cyber attack. The evidence is that despite increased sanctions, the effects of cyber attacks (and reportedly the sabotaging of imported equipment) and the assassinations in Iran of top scientists, the program marches on...to the point where it is beginning to look inevitable rather than unacceptable as previous White House statements have declared.

Bibi Netanyahu's people are making noises that he's going to offer some sort of plan to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, and that he's going to announce his willingness to make certain concessions he wasn't willing to make before. If he does this, he does it because he does fear for Israel's repuation, and for its future as a Jewish-majority state. But there is an ancillary benefit here, as well: Cooperation with President Obama for Bibi is vital -- as is some level of international credibility --  if he is going to tackle the Iranian nuclear program in dramatic fashion, as he fears he might have to do.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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