Anytime I see an Iranian waving his finger in the air I wonder: Proctologist?
There is an information war at its very core building up between Israel and Iran, especially in the cyber realm. There is also a propaganda aspect, from both sides. News reports concerning Israel and Iran are mostly highly biased and most likely suspect as to their sources. Israel is beefing up their capabilities in the cyber world, establishing a new cyber command (and here). The Jewish Internet Defense Force is reportedly manipulating which articles appear on Reddit. Israel already has Unit 8200 opposing the ‘Iranian Cyber Army’. I’m going to step onto a limb here and categorize this not as information operations but as information warfare. This is a war mostly conducted via cyberspace and accompanied by a war of words. In November 2009 I spoke in Moscow, Russia to a conference on information warfare, the previous day I had spoken about cyberwarfare. I said “yesterday I spoke about cyberwarfare, today I speak about information warfare. In cyberwarfare, at the end of the day you leave work, you get in your car, you drive home, eat a meal and go to bed. Some of the lights might be flickering, some of the traffic signals might not work. You might not be able to get cash from your ATM machine and you might be inconvenienced from time to time. In information warfare, however, this is where you see regime change, the fall of a government or the uprising of a people. Here people can die in great numbers”. Our host, General Dr. Vladislav Shurstyuk looked me in the eyes and nodded his head in agreement, he understood the difference.
One thing I’ve noticed about the Iranians, post-Shah, is they tend to deal in absolutes. “We will never“, “they always“, “we will crush them”. What’s the appropriate expression? Pshaw… poppy cock and doo doo. The world is not black and white, it is not Islam vs. Judaism or Christianity, it is much more than that. The world is actually a vibrant mix of colors and each color has many shades. There are many more religions, each offers a different lens through which to view the world and one can choose to be a casual worshiper or a devout follower. Most of the world is seriously not in love with Ahmadinejad and his ilk, his views are extreme and run contrary to most logic. It is small wonder that his government is so oppressive and tolerates little dissent.
Taking the Iranian perspective for a second, you have to wonder how the Iranian citizens feel. The entire world is lined up against them, how are they surviving? Then I remember that the government is not really representative of the people. When Ayatollah Khomeni took over Iran in 1979 the constitution they adopted stipulated that elections must be held but they appear to be a sham. Iran had elections in 2009 but somehow Mousavi did not win. After a brief investigation a commission declared that Ahmadinejad got 60% of the vote. Pro-Mousavi people marched by the thousands in the streets and the government brutally suppressed them. Something is seriously wrong in that country.
One of my good friends is working with an Iranian dissident group and from what I understand it is not too difficult to get people and supplies into and out of the country. The problem is the Iranian government has absolute power over the citizens and apparently the government has no compulsion against using force and violence to stop the opposition. The dissidents are fighting back, occasionally winning.
Taking yet another perspective, everything and anything can be used against the Iranians in one overwhelming information war. Iran’s beloved Russian friends are suspect after Stuxnet, perhaps because they unknowingly bridged the air-gap, or maybe they knew? Imported food could be tainted by Zionists. It’s not really halal, it’s haram! A PhD friend of mine actually said to me: “want to keep Iran off the Internet? Rename it Porknet!”
My thanks to Niels Groeneveld for doing the lion’s share of the research for this article in his “Operation Aurora – Cyberconflict Research discussion group on LinkedIn.com. I apologize for the political incorrectness of this blog, it’s all done to bring humor to a really depressing situation. Dr. J. Michael Waller often states that ridicule is one of the most effective tools against extremists.