Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced in a statement on Wednesday that his country is cutting diplomatic relations with Iran “with immediate effect,” in direct response to Iran’s July 15 cyberattack on Albania.

“This extreme response … is fully proportionate to the gravity and risk of the cyberattack that threatened to paralyze public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication, and stir up chaos and insecurity in the country,” Rama said. “The said attack failed its purpose. Damages may be considered minimal compared to the goals of the aggressor; all systems came back fully operational and there was no irreversible wiping of data.”

Albania gave all Iranian diplomats and support staff 24 hours to leave the country, as the United States expressed its support of Albania.

“The United States strongly condemns Iran’s cyberattack against our NATO ally, Albania. We join in Prime Minister Rama’s call for Iran to be held accountable for this unprecedented cyber incident,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a White House statement on Wednesday.

“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace,” she said.

The American Jewish Committee also voiced its support for Albania, saying, “Iranian cyberattacks against NATO allies cross a red line.” 

“The regime’s actions make it clear that it remains a dangerous, destabilizing force,” the AJC wrote, in reference to the Islamic Republic. “We stand with Albania and fully support its decision to cut diplomatic ties with Iran.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said it considered Albania’s “decision to sever political relations with our country based on such baseless claims to be an ill-considered and short-sighted action in international relations.”

Predictably, the foreign ministry promptly blamed the U.S. and Israel for the tensions, saying “the immediate release of the American government’s statement and the reception of this decision by the Zionist media indicate the existence of a prepared plan to create a political atmosphere against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Albania is a predominantly Muslim country that is governed according to a democratic and secular parliamentary system with freedom of belief. 

Albania’s severance of ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran shows that Iran’s repeated claims of Muslim unity are not factual, that even Muslim countries are willing to cut ties with the Islamic regime. 

In July, in a message regarding the annual hajj pilgrimage, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “The Islamic nation can once again observe its unity and harmony in this clear, timeless mirror, and take this opportunity to turn away from factors that lead to disunity and division.” In the Iranian leader’s eyes, this unity contrasted with the state of the West, which he claimed was “on the verge of defeat and collapse.” 

Relations between Albania and Iran have been strained for years over the Iranian military-political organization Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), led by Maryam Rajavi, which openly calls for the overthrow of the Iranian regime. Iran has called the group a terrorist organization, saying it is responsible for killing more than 17,000 people. 

After coordinating with the U.S., which held MEK on its terrorist list until 2012, Albania made moves to host the organization in its territory around 2014. Today, MEK is part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which calls for an end of the Islamic regime in Iran, with Rajavi NCRI’s president-elect. 

The NCRI is based in both France and Albania. 

In May 2022, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Rajavi in Albania, where he praised her work against the Iranian regime.

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