After a solid 30 years of fearmongering centered around Iran’s civilian nuclear program, and the nuclear weapon that is always just “months” away but never seems to actually get made, “experts” are being quoted in the media with a bunch of new scenarios for things Iran might conceivably do.
The first is really just an extension of the existing nuclear hysteria; the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. Popular in cold war fiction, the EMP rests on the idea of not attacking a city with a nuclear weapon, but instead detonating it in the air so that the resulting electromagnetic field disrupts electrical systems, potentially knocking out electricity in the effected area. Such an attack rests on the idea of Iran getting a nuclear weapon first, however, and therefore is no more likely to happen than all of the other nuclear-based hysteria.
The second plan, which officials claim they have evidence is being considered, is called “Dirty Water.” It is precisely that, the idea that Iran might up and spill a bunch of oil into a Straits of Hormuz, causing an environmental disaster on their own shores to force a massive international cleanup, which would require Iranian help and therefore force the UN to “relax” sanctions to allow such a cleanup. Though Iran could theoretically do this since it has a bunch of oil already sitting on ships, it isn’t clear why it would be considered, as it solves none of the ongoing tensions in the region, and seems more the sort of thing a James Bond supervillain or Lex Luthor would do than a country under sanctions.
Finally, and perhaps most plausibly, we have “cyberattack.” Politicians like to say cyberattack on TV because it makes them sound techno-savvy, and adding “cyber” to the beginning of words or phrases is always a good bet, with US politicians ever on the lookout for “cyber 9/11.”
The Pentagon is also pretty sure Iran is to blame for cyberattacks that have already happened. Not that they have any proof, but it makes sense in their own worldview of the Internet as a “battlefield of the 21st century,” and doubly so since the US has been openly launching cyberattacks against Iran for years. It would make sense that they might retaliate, but so far Iran is denying this, and there is no evidence to the contrary.
The biggest argument against Iran being responsible is that many of the sites have been incredibly small and irrelevant, and it isn’t clear why Iran would bother to make Bank of America’s website a bit slow for a few hours. It certainly isn’t anywhere near the scale of US and Israeli cyberattacks on Iran, in which virii not only damaged a number of Iranian centrifuges, but escaped the country and did billions of dollars in economic damage worldwide as well.
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