Friday, February 08, 2008

Information Warfare: Mid-East Has Its Intertubes Tied

It's worth wondering why the fiber optic cables to Iran, Egypt, and Dubai were cut. While making some sport of it in my first post, and the title of this one, it's also cause for serious concerns. Ones I didn't vent at first. Conspiracy theories? Uhn-uh. To think 5 cables got cut in a total of 6 places from ships dropping anchors, the only explanation offered thus far, is to buy a lifetime membership in the Ignorance Is Bliss Gated Community.

Under current US and Israeli war doctrines, knocking out the enemy's communications infrastructure is Priority One. Those undersea cables would be the first thing to go, because if you're making war, crippling them is risk-free, high-payoff. It not only seriously degrades the enemy's advanced communications, but it also gives you mastery of the public relations message to the world. Al-Jazeera can't transfer, upload, or air video over the internet in real time. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), not to mention the virulent nation itself, knows that it is first and foremost a propaganda machine. An awesomely effective one. (Remember, it's The Holocaust, and none other holocausts shalt come before it.)

Israel has to be the prime suspect in this gig, with the US a close second or an outright participant. Various other possibilities readily present themselves: countries wanting more censorship, Islamic extremists, a self-inflicted test, a psy-op...but each of these is also relatively easy to dismiss.

Naj from Iran Facts finds the censorship angle ludicrous, since manual, ad hoc measures are fully effective in the eyes of her former government. It's highly doubtful Islamic extremists possess the coordination or inclination to carry out such an operation, nor with such a light touch. A self-inflicted test on infrastructure effects carries some appeal, yet it's a stretch to imagine exactly what multinational Mid-east body would've wanted to conduct one. An intelligence psy-op study is even more appealing, but it would almost have to be a rogue operation, one whose scale makes it unlikely; the Mid-East is an active war zone where the military takes precedence.

A telecommunications professional of long acquaintance briefly mused that the cables may be tapped; while technically possible, bouncing light signals out of thousands of underwater optic strands is arduous and, due to signal loss, obvious, compared to sniffing right on the server nodes. Still, surveillance can't be ruled out, with resulting service disruption playing nicely into multiple purposes.

While very bad, I don't think the internet vasectomy signals immediate war as an attack would've (probably) already happened. It would be difficult to imagine, even granting the past and current imperial wooden-headedness in the region, giving an enemy so much time to re-adjust. This incident reads more like a message of mastery, an ape beating its chest and thumbing its nose. Strategically, it's an excellent way to signal you're escalating the threat level up another notch. You can safely sit back, gleefully gauge the reaction, and send a witty note to make your point. As mentioned in the first post below, the countries in the region are about to break down the fence and stampede off the dollar farm, and giving them electric collar shocks is just about the only means of non-violent control either primary suspect has left.

Unfortunately, the move is openly aggressive, illustrates what a wider regional war would first look like, and gives the Mid-East abundant and well-founded reason to stock up on three things: paranoia, desire for payback, and making communications infrastructure and procedures more redundant and secure.


Jon said...


The cause of the Internet outage has been revealed in this article titled "Abandoned anchor cut Gulf Internet cable":

I haven't had time to read the article, but from the headline I assume that Dan Rather is to blame.


MarcLord said...

Hi Jon,

thanks, I'll be sure to watch out for those ship anchors. Maybe we better set up anchor barriers around our houses!