Israel’s New Aim: Making Iranians' Daily Hardships Even Worse

The most recent cyberattack against Iran's gas stations illustrates Israel's new strategy in curbing Tehran's nuclear program: making the lives of Iran's middle class harder

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Iranians walk on a promenade in the north of Tehran, earlier this month
Iranians walk on a promenade in the north of Tehran, earlier this monthCredit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Reuters

Even if Israel didn’t instigate the cyberattack that made tens of thousands of Iranian drivers miserable all throughout Tuesday, the attack dovetails with the security establishment’s latest strategy to exploit the lifestyles of middle-class Iranians in the struggle against Iran’s nuclear program.

Israeli security officials have recently aimed their sights at the Iranian public, or at least the educated urban middle class, which they see as the country’s soft underbelly. They believe this group finds it hard to tolerate damage to their quality of life and hope that these Iranians will put substantial pressure on the regime if the situation endures.

A diplomatic source recently confirmed that Israeli officials have decided to exploit the “tzfonboni” character – the disparaging term for north Tel Aviv residents who are seen as rich and spoiled –of Iran's populous urban middle class as a way to deter the regime from pursuing nuclear weapons.

He said that Israeli officials have noticed that urban, educated Iranians don’t fear vocalizing their positions and that they “vote with their feet” when they perceive a threat to the relative calm of their lives. Israel has concluded that it can exploit this behavior to influence the regime in Tehran regarding nukes.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has tried in recent months to create a distinction between “the rotten regime,” as he put it, and the common people of Iran. Bennett addressed this separation during his speech at the United Nations last month when he said: “Iran is much weaker, much more vulnerable than it seems. Its economy is sinking, its regime is rotten and divorced from the younger generation, its corrupt government fails to even bring water to large parts of the country."

Israel's prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, at UN headquarters, September.Credit: John Minchillo, Pool/AP Photo

"The weaker they are, the more extreme they go. If we put our heads to it, if we’re serious about stopping it, if we use all our resourcefulness, we can prevail. And that’s what we’re going to do,” the prime minister added.

A senior Israeli official said recently that the problems in the day-to-day functioning of the regime are making Iran unstable: Tuesday's cyberattack, which affected 4,300 gas stations across the country, is just the latest example. 

Iran's state news agency IRNA reported that gasoline distribution is returning to normal on Wednesday, and the details of the attack are under investigation. Iran's instability provides Israel “considerable stimulus to action” in halting Iranian efforts to develop their nuclear program, the Israeli official said.

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