(Source: AP)

Iran blames western spies for the attack on its first nuclear plant.  (Source: DigitalGlobe-ISIS)

Iran's intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi claims that Iranian forces have captured "several" western spies.  (Source: AFP/Getty Images)
Iran says it will not be deterred by efforts to sabotage its nuclear program

Late last month it was revealed that Iran's first nuclear plant underwent a shocking and sophisticated cyberattack which was designed to break its fuel enrichment centrifuges.  The Stuxnet worm reportedly succeeded in temporarily hindering plant operations, infecting hundreds of plant computers. However, the worm turned out to be overly virulent, spreading to thousands of other plant computers worldwide and drawing attention.  Israel is suspected of the attack, according to a senior source quoted in a report by The New York Times.

Now Iran's intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, who accused western "spy services" of the attack, has claimed on Iranian state television and the Mehr news service that his forces had captured "several [western] spies".  He accused western nations (presumably the U.S. and Europe) of engaging in "destructive activities of the arrogance in cyberspace".  

He says his nation is prepared to thwart future attacks.  He states, "Different ways to confront them have been designed and implemented.  I assure all citizens that the intelligence apparatus currently has complete supervision on cyberspace and will not allow any leak or destruction of our country's nuclear activities.  Iran's intelligence department has found a solution for confronting [the worm] and it will be applied. Our domination of virtual networks has thwarted the activities of enemies in this regard."

Another senior Iranian official -- Mahmoud Liaii -- was quoted last week as saying that "An electronic war has been launched against Iran."

So did the U.S. or other western nations truly have a role in the attack? And did Iran really arrest western spies, or is it merely using the attack as yet another opportunity to crack down on political dissidents?  Many questions remain.

One thing that is clear is that the attack seems to have been a partial success, despite the Iran's claims to the contrary.  The plant's inauguration has been pushed back to next year as Iran reportedly is struggling to cleanse its systems of Stuxnet.

For Iran, the announcement of "arrests" of purported "western spies" is nothing new -- in fact it has made several similar announcements over the course of the last few years.  There's been no indication thus far whether these claims bear any trace of veracity.

While the recent cyberattacks may have created a headache for Iran, the country's recent activities have created a bigger headache for the west.  Regardless of whether they were involved in the attack, the west is struggling with the notion of Iran having access to nuclear power and advanced weapons like drone bombers.  

Iran poses a unique challenge in that it is backed by both China and Russia, who have become the nation's key trading partners.  The U.S. has faced similar challenges with North Korea -- which is also backed by China and has announced nuclear ambitions of its own in recent years.

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