On Monday, Israeli and Iranian officials met in a hotel room in Tehran, where they discussed the possibility of a joint response to leaks of US intelligence and foreign policy secrets.
The meeting was the first direct contact between the two sides in decades.
The Israeli defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, called the leak of classified US intelligence « a great sin. »
A senior Iranian official described the leaks as « an act of war » and said Israel would retaliate by targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iran is one of several nations that has publicly accused Israel of launching cyberattacks.
But the two countries have not made any formal statements.
The Israelis, who have made significant progress in negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program in recent months, have said they are working to resolve the matter in good faith.
« The Iranian regime is the aggressor and it has no respect for the laws of the state, » Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with Al Jazeera last week.
Iran has not denied the reports, but its foreign ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaber Ansari, has called the leaks « fake news. »
He said the leaks, which include top-secret documents, « are part of a criminal operation against the nation. »
The leaks are part of an effort to distract the public and distract from the real issue: Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In a recent video, Iranian officials said the United States and Israel had been waging a war against Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a claim that Iran rejects.
The government of President Hassan Rouhani has tried to use cyberattacks as a tool of diplomacy, and the Iranian government has been accused of interfering with the United Nations’ sanctions against Tehran in an effort that may have hurt its relations with Washington.
In recent weeks, Iranian cyberattacks have disrupted major American banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, that have invested billions of dollars in Iranian banks.
Iranian officials have also tried to influence the U.S. government on Twitter and other social media platforms to pressure the White House to make concessions on Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
Iran, a country that has been locked in a protracted war with Israel, has been a key actor in the cyberwar against Israel, with cyberattacks disrupting US-Israel ties, as well as US-Iran relations, and undermining efforts to build closer ties.
But Israel, which is seeking a nuclear deal with the P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, has not taken a public stance against the leaks.
Iran also has a long history of interfering in US-Israeli relations, including the 2015 raid that killed top Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, and has used cyberattacks to undermine US-led efforts to secure nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
The leaks have rattled the Israeli government and sparked widespread speculation about the fallout from the attacks.
« What we are seeing here is a concerted effort by Israel to undermine the credibility of the US and Iran’s security cooperation, » said Saad Segev, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank.
« It is very concerning.
It shows that the Israeli cyberattack campaign is a major concern and will be used to undermine our ability to work with our allies, » he said.
« Israel has always been a great opponent of US cyberattacks and has worked hard to deny us our own cyber capabilities. »