The United States is warning of an "increasingly brazen" Iran, accusing the government in Tehran of using its growing network of proxies and hackers to target both America and Americans, even on U.S. soil.
Previous assessments from the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. military have consistently called out Iran for its support of terrorism and what they have described as malign activities, in the Middle East and beyond. Only the latest warning, from the U.S. Justice Department, indicates the threat has changed even over the past few months.
"This is a threat that has evolved and increased," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, speaking virtually, told a summit Wednesday in New York, describing it as "increasingly sophisticated and multi-dimensional" and "increasingly brazen."
"The most concerning … is the threat posed to the homeland and seeking to develop and use networks and proxies," she said, further describing Iran's efforts to target U.S. citizens on U.S. soil as a "sea change."
Specifically, Monaco referenced two plots last month against individuals in the U.S. — one aimed at former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and another at VOA Persian TV host Masih Alinejad.
Alinejad was also the target of a kidnap plot in July 2021, which led to the indictment in the U.S. of four Iranian intelligence operatives.
"A plot against or a threat to Americans, full stop, is unacceptable," Monaco said, promising "very stiff consequences."
Her comments about Iran came just hours after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Raisi rejected criticism aimed at Iran, especially when it comes to human rights.
"Human rights belongs to all, but unfortunately it is trampled upon by many governments," he said.
Raisi also called for former U.S. President Donald Trump to be tried for ordering a U.S. airstrike that killed Iran's elite Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.
Monaco, speaking to the non-profit United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), whose advisory board includes multiple former U.S. government officials, additionally warned of Iran's growing reach in cyberspace.
"Here again, this is an evolution in an increasingly concerning threat from Iran," she said, citing Tehran's "increasing willingness to, frankly, seek to punch above their weight" with attacks on big targets, including U.S. critical infrastructure.
Just last week, the U.S. Justice Department indicted three Iranian nationals, charging them in a plot to attack and extort money from hundreds of victims across the U.S., including police departments, transportation companies, local governments and a children's hospital.
At the time, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, called the activity "just the tip of the iceberg."
The U.S. and other Western countries this month also accused Iran of being responsible for a massive cyberattack on Albania, which targeted government networks and critical infrastructure.
And private cybersecurity companies, including Mandiant and Proofpoint, also this month identified a series of cyber campaigns aimed at dissidents, experts and analysts, all of which were linked to Iranian cyber actors.
U.S. intelligence officials also concluded Iran used cyber means to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and have indicated they expect Tehran will try to meddle in the country's upcoming midterm elections, as well.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.