Monday, January 17, 2011

Beeman--Stuxnet: In attacking Iran will the U.S. and Israel suffer Blowback?

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2011 10:50:50 -0600

From: William O. Beeman

What is pitiful about the Stuxnet offensive is that it is a classic case of overkill. The Iranian nuclear program was already low-level, faltering and nowhere close to producing fuel for electric generation much less for weapons. It was a weak target for this kind of cyber-attack, all the weaker because the attack from this quarter was unexpected.

Moreover, it is unlikely to have achieved anything. Hasn't the United States learned that Iran can't be beaten into submission? In all of history it hasn't worked. Iranians turn resentful and bitter in situations like this and eventually strike back--sometimes behind the facade of quietude. This is the eventual result we can expect. For those who know Persian, think of mokaafaat, "retribution." It is an active force in Iranian life--especially as a reaction to an unjust assault--and applicable here. It is widely believed to be God-driven when there is injustice present, and this action is definitely perceived as unjust and unwarrented.

It is sobering to note that since the Iranian Revolution, Iran has not made even one significant attack against the United States, or for that matter Israel--despite all the attempts to link "proxy" groups to Tehran. Iranians who point fingers at the United States (and Israel) for its bullying tactics certainly will have sympathetic listeners, not only in Iran but in the developing world where there is overwhelming sympathy and support for Iran's nuclear program. Nations like Brazil and Turkey already wonder whether they are going to be targeted if they advance technologically, and this questioning is now going to spread.

The U. S. and Israel are likely to reap the whirlwind in the form of blowback from the Stuxnet caper. The worm spread beyond Iran, and is out there doing its damage elsewhere as well. How long before clever hackers retool it for use against whomever? It may well return to American and Israeli shores in another form to bite everyone in the behind.

William O. Beeman
University of Minnesota