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  • Workers are seen at the damaged site of Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, September 20, 2019.

    Workers are seen at the damaged site of Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, September 20, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 October 2019

Iran's Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi commented Wednesday to Reuters: "They must have dreamt it," Fars news agency reported.

The United States carried out a secret cyber operation against Iran in the wake of the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blame on Iran, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

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The officials, who spoke on anonymity, said the operation took place in late September and took aim at Tehran's ability to communite what they called "propaganda."

One of the officials said the strike affected physical hardware, but did not give further details.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have publicly blamed the Sept. 14 attack on Iran, which denied involvement in the strike. The Iran-aligned Houthi militant group in Yemen claimed responsibility.

Publicly, the Pentagon has responded by sending thousands of additional troops and equipment to bolster Saudi defenses - the latest U.S. deployment to the region this year.

The Pentagon declined to comment about the cyber strike.

"As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence, or planning," said Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith.

Tensions in the Gulf have escalated sharply since May 2018, when Trump withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or 'nuclear deal', with Tehran that put limits on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions.

After the Sept. 14 attack, Tehran has said an Iranian tanker was hit by rockets in the Red Sea and warned that there would be consequences.

On Monday, President Hassan Rouhani reiterated his country's policy toward the U.S. Trump administration, ruling out bilateral talks unless Washington returns to the landmark nuclear deal and lifts crippling economic sanctions.

“I have clearly said to the leaders of the European countries that if we can assure ourselves that it’s a meeting with the 5+1 group and is not an electoral meeting for Mr. Trump, I will meet,” Rouhani told reporters at a press conference this week.

Rouhani recalled that his nation has good ties with China and Russia, among the countries who are parties to the nuclear pact (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China). With regard to the three European countries, with whom he disagrees for having followed the United States, Rouhani said, “regrettably they have not kept their promises.”

The Iranian leader reiterated that Tehran will continue to gradually reduce the commitments it had made under the pact – every two months it has scaled back on those commitments – until the European countries in the pact fully assume their own commitments.

Last year, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear pact signed in 2015 between Iran and the six world powers and imposed harsh sanctions on Tehran, and in November Iran will implement the third phase of its scale-back from its commitments under the pact.

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