Albania severs relations with Iran following cyberattack

Albania has cut diplomatic ties with Iran and kicked out Iranian diplomats, following a July cyberattack blamed on Tehran.

What happened: Earlier today, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that the eastern European country was severing ties with the Islamic Republic, effective immediately.

He gave Iranian diplomats 24 hours to leave Albania. Rama said the order is in response to a July cyberattack that targeted Albanian state infrastructure and communications.

The Albanian government has not released further details on the incident. The Iranian government has also yet to comment.

Why it matters: Iran and Albania have a somewhat troubled relationship. Since 2016, the Iranian dissident group Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), has been based in Albania.

It opposes the Iranian regime and controversially fought alongside Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

Tehran designates the MEK as a terrorist organization and many Western observers describe the group as a cult.

The Iranian press sometimes reports critically on MEK’s presence in Albania. Last December, the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported that members were arrested for allegedly trafficking drugs and people there.

Iran has allegedly been both the recipient and deliverer of cyberattacks. In October of last year, Iranian gas stations were hit by an apparent cyberattack.

A few months prior, Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility sustained an explosion resulting from a cyberattack.

Iranian authorities attributed the Natanz incident to Israel and have blamed other similar events on the United States.

On the other end, in January, the US military implicated Iran in several cyberattacks across the Middle East.

Some Israelis also suspect Iran of being responsible for cyberattacks on Israeli hospitals late last year.

Know more: The United States removed the MEK’s terrorist designation in 2012, following a concerted lobbying effort.

In recent years, some hawkish Republicans including former Bush and Trump administration officials have openly embraced the group.

The White House National Security Council condemned the alleged Iranian cyberattack today.

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