Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

Cyberattacks the new diplomatic weapon against Iran

The age of cyber diplomacy and cyber policy enforcement is upon us. These and other related topics have been recently covered in the popular press and now seem to have made their way from print into reality. In recent weeks Iran was hit be a series of cyberattacks that impacted its ability to refine and export its oil and gas. As one would expect, Iranian officials have downplayed the attacks and insisted they hadn’t affected oil production or exports. If the main facility of the National Iranian Oil Company was disrupted it would have an economic impact of about $200 million a day.

As you may recall, the United States and the European Union sought to pressure Iran to end its nuclear enrichment and imposed sanctions on the nation, which is one of the top three crude producers in the world. Recently, the effectiveness of the sanctions came into question, even though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledged in November 2011 that they were having an impact. Despite the economic impact produced by these sanctions, the Iranian leadership shows no indications that it is scaling back or intends to scale back its nuclear enrichment program.

Did forces yet to be named (Iran says they know who was behind the cyberattacks) use cyberattacks to enhance the impact of the existing sanctions and put further pressure on the country’s leadership to curb its nuclear enrichment program? One could certainly see how world leaders might use the soft-power projection capabilities of cyberattacks. As one insider put it, “Use of ‘cyber sanctions’ is a viable alternative to the alternative bombings.” This is the latest tool in 21st-century diplomacy.

Posted by Kevin Coleman on May 03, 2012 at 9:26 PM

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