WASHINGTON — Iran has gradually improved its offensive cyber abilities and developed more advanced ballistic missiles since signing an accord last year to curb its nuclear program, the U.S. Defense Department said.
The Islamic Republic now has a "substantial inventory of missiles capable of reaching targets throughout the region, including U.S. military bases and Israel," according to an unclassified summary from a Pentagon assessment of Iran's military prowess.
The annual report, mandated by Congress, is the first issued since the U.S. and five other world powers signed the accord with Iran in July last year to curtail its nuclear ambitions in return for ending sanctions. The full report, which includes classified details, was submitted May 31 to congressional defense committees.
While the summary includes only one line on Iran's cyber capabilities, the findings echo a recent report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Michael Eisenstadt, who found that Iran's cyber operations have evolved "from a low-tech means of lashing out at its enemies to a pillar of its national security concept."
In the wake of the nuclear deal, Iran has been "testing to see what kind of activities it can get away with without jeopardizing sanctions relief and foreign investment," Eisenstadt wrote.
The Obama administration and international monitors have said the deal itself is achieving its goal of curbing Iran's nuclear program. "It has now been well over a year since the agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear program was signed," President Barack Obama said at a news conference last week. "And by all accounts, it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work."
The Defense Department executive summary mentioned the nuclear agreement but offered no assessment of Iran's compliance with it. Instead, it said President Hassan Rouhani has sought to avoid antagonizing the U.S. while Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei "harbors a longstanding, deep skepticism of U.S. intentions."
The report also reiterated points from last year's review, saying Iran continues to seek to control strategic "avenues of approach," including the narrow Strait of Hormuz connecting the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea, and is pressing ahead with covert activities. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is still trying to improve its ability to "support and carry out" terrorist attacks that advance its interests, the Defense Department said.