Cyberwarfare Comes to the Middle East . . . and to America

Aug. 17 2015

Iran, writes Benjamin Runkle, has developed formidable capabilities for electronic spying and hacking, and has carried out sophisticated cyberattacks on Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel. Nor is the Islamic Republic the only Middle Eastern threat to American cybersecurity: Hizballah, Islamic State, and the self-styled Syrian Electronic Army (which works for the Assad regime) are all engaged in cyberwarfare. Runkle writes:

[W]hereas Russia and China have the resources to build conventional [military forces] unthinkable for most Middle Eastern actors, the entry costs to acquiring a significant cyber capacity are low enough to allow the Middle East’s weaker states—or non-state actors—to obtain capabilities that threaten U.S. and allied interests. . . .

[C]yberattacks [also] allow potential adversaries to bypass America and its regional allies’ military forces in order to target civilian infrastructure and economic targets directly. . . . Iran’s hackers are targeting critical infrastructure and developing the ability to cause serious damage to the U.S. power grid, hospitals, or the financial sector. . . . In fact, recent history suggests that Tehran’s offensive cyber capacity has dramatically evolved in sophistication and scope. . . .

In sum, Iran’s demonstrated willingness to conduct destructive cyberattacks, its ability to offset U.S. and allied military superiority in the region through cyberwar, its dearth of equivalent targets for deterrence or retaliatory attacks, and the Islamic Republic’s strategic culture favoring asymmetric or indirect conflict over conventional war mean that it poses at least as great a threat of initiating a “catastrophic” attack against U.S. or allied critical infrastructure as [the otherwise] technically superior Russian and Chinese hackers.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Cyberwarfare, Iran, Islamic State, Israeli Security, Technology, Terrorism, U.S. Security

A Lesson from Moshe Dayan for Israel’s Syria Policy

Dec. 11 2019

In the 1950s, Jerusalem tasked Moshe Dayan with combating the Palestinian guerrillas—known as fedayeen—who infiltrated Israel’s borders from Sinai, Gaza, and Jordan to attack soldiers or civilians and destroy crops. When simple retaliation, although tactically effective, proved insufficient to deter further attacks, Dayan developed a more sophisticated long-term strategy of using attrition to Israel’s advantage. Gershon Hacohen argues that the Jewish state can learn much from Dayan’s approach in combating the Iranian presence in Syria—especially since the IDF cannot simply launch an all-out offensive to clear Syria of Iranian forces:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Moshe Dayan, Palestinian terror, Syria