- In the Middle East in the last three days, there have
been several undersea, international communications cables that have been
cut. On Wednesday, 30 January 2008, two major, undersea communications
cables were cut off the Egyptian coast, in the eastern Mediterranean. (1)
The story has received prominent play in the international news cycle.
Various explanations have been floated in the mainstream news media as
to the cause - the most popular culprit being a "ship anchor".
In any event, communications in the region have been severely disrupted,
all the way from Egypt to India, and most points in between.
- Then on Friday, 1 February 2008, an undersea cable in
the Persian Gulf, running between Oman and Dubai, was also cut "causing
severe phone line disruptions and compounding an already existing Internet
outage across large parts of the Middle East and Asia" according to
the International Herald Tribune. (2)
- There was also a report on Friday, 1 February 2008, of
yet another undersea, fiber optic communications cable between Suez and
Sri Lanka that has been cut. The reporting is a bit confused; however,
given that the Persian Gulf is geographically distant from the Suez, this
appears to represent a fourth undersea cable that has been cut. (3)
- So let's see if we can figure this story out. I will
say up front that I am well and thoroughly skeptical of the "ship
anchor" explanation that has been so prominently advanced in the mainstream
news media. Yes, ships do sometimes drag their anchors and dragging anchors
can cause damage, true enough. But to have three undersea cables -- or
is it actually four cables? -- cut in the same region in just a two day
span, strains credulity; the more so, when we look at how the damage has
played out across the region.
- Two countries in particular stand at conspicuously opposite
ends of the continuum of communications disruption.
- 1. The website, internettrafficreport.com/asia.htm,
reports that as of Friday, 1 February 2008, internet traffic routing through/from/to
Iran has been cut to zero. Packet loss is 100%. (4)
- 2. Whereas CNN reported on Thursday, 31 January 2008,
that internet traffic to Israel has been unaffected because Israel uses
a "different route". The same CNN article also reports that
Lebanon and Iraq have been "spared the chaos". (5)
- So, the sudden, unprecedented round of undersea, communications
cable cutting in the Middle East leaves Israel and Iraq still connected,
while completely shutting down the Iranian internet.
- Funny how that works, isn't it?
- As it happens, the two actors in the international arena
in recent years whose rhetoric has expressed the most animus for Iran are
the United States and Israel. They have also been by far the most bellicose,
Zionist-NeoCon propaganda notwithstanding. Israel and the United States
have repeatedly committed military aggression against other countries in
the region, and have made many thinly veiled threats of war against Iran.
In this decade, the United States has militarily invaded and occupied first
Afghanistan, then Iraq, where its forces remain, bogged down in bloody
wars of attrition. In the same period, Israel has bombed Syria, bombed
and invaded Lebanon, and placed the Palestinian territories under a merciless
blockade/occupation/assault. Parallel with these international war crimes,
the United States and Israel have repeatedly rattled their sabres against
- Which brings the discussion back around to the instant
spate of undersea, communications cable cutting in the region that has
uniquely brought Iranian internet communications to a complete halt, while
sparing Israel, which has a different internet route than any of the cut
cables, and Iraq, where the American military occupation is bogged down.
- As it happens, the U.S. Navy has for decades had special
operations teams that go out on submarines and deploy undersea, on the
seabed itself, specifically for cutting or tapping communications cables.
The U.S. Navy divers go out through special airlocks and use very sophisticated
equipment. This has all been thoroughly documented in the excellent book,
Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, by
Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew (New York: Public Affairs, 1998).
- For the uninitiated it seems bizarre and unlikely, but
the plain fact of the matter is that American military divers really go
out onto the seabed from special submarines outfitted with airlocks and
they actually cut undersea communications cables-- then patch in sophisticated
surveillance equipment -- then they splice the cables back together. That
is if the motive is espionage. If the purpose of the operation is garden
variety sabotage, then simply cutting the cable suffices. It's like something
out of a spy novel thriller, but the U.S. Navy really does have submarines
and deep diving, special operations personnel who specialize in precisely
this sort of operation. So cutting a few undersea cables in two or three
days is well within the operational capabilities of the United States Navy.
- Couple this little known, but very important fact, with
the reality that for years now we have seen more and more ham-handed interference
with the global communications grid by the American alphabet soup (NSA,
CIA, FBI, HoSec) and major tel-comms. Would the tel-comms and the American
military and alphabet soup agencies collude on an operation that had as
its aim to sabotage the Iranian communications network, even if that entailed
collateral damage to other countries in the region? The honest answer has
to be: sure, maybe so. Who can really tell? I mean, after all, we are living
in a bizarro world now, a world of big and bigger lies, a world of 24/7
propaganda, a world of irrational and violent policies enacted against
the civilian population by multinational corporations and military and
espionage agencies the world over. We see the evidence for this on every
hand. Only the most myopic among us remain oblivious to these realities.
- In light of the American Navy's demonstrated sea-floor
capabilities and espionage activities, the heavy American Navy presence
in the region, and the many veiled threats against Iran by both the Americans
and the Israelis, suspicion naturally falls on them both. It may be that
this is what the beginning of a war against Iran looks like. Or maybe we
are merely seeing a dry run, a practice run, for a planned, upcoming war
against Iran. The cables that have been cut are among the largest communication
pipes in the region, and clearly represent major strategic targets.
- Whatever the case, it is crystal clear that we are not
looking at business as usual. On the contrary, we are looking at distinctly
unusual business, that much is obvious.
- The explanations being put forth in the mainstream news
media for these several cut, undersea communications cables absolutely
do not pass the smell test. And by the way, the same operators who cut
undersea cables in the Persian Gulf, Mediterranean Sea and possibly the
Suez as well, presumably can also cut underwater cables in the Gulf of
Mexico or Great Lakes or ... you see my point. This could be a multipurpose
operation, in part a test run for isolating a country from the international
communications grid. Iran today, the USA tomorrow?
- What's that you say? I don't understand how the world
works? That kind of thing can't happen here?
- In any event, if the cables have been intentionally cut,
then that is an aggressive act of war. I'm sure the Iranians have gotten
that message, and are actively making counter preparations against a possible
imminent attack. I'm looking at the same telegram as they are, and I know
I would be, were I in their shoes.
- (1) http://www.reuters.com/article/internetNews/idUSL3026621820080130?sp=true
- (2) http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/02/02/africa/ME-GEN-Mideast-Internet-Outages.php
- (3) http://www.smartmoney.com/news/on/index.cfm?story=ON-20080201-000320-0524
- (4) http://www.internettrafficreport.com/asia.htm
- (5) http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/01/31/dubai.outage/
- Richard Sauder lives and works in San Antonio, Texas.
He can be contacted at email@example.com