WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 10 — Is war with Iran inevitable? “Indeed, Iran has already initiated retaliation for the U.S. attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC]. Is the tit-for-tat missile volley the regime fired at U.S. air bases in Iraq earlier this week the beginning or the end,” says Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. “It’s the big question that’s top of mind as we wait to see if hostilities will escalate.”
Some called Soleimani powerful and popular. However, the esteem he received came from Iranian insiders, “die-hard Islamists, who admired his ability to promote and support terrorism throughout the middle east. But loyal allies in a time of war are hard to muster for a rogue nation such as Iran,” according to Weber.
As Jim Geraghty, senior political correspondent at the National Review, put it: “Soleimani had enemies around the world, and his legacy is not merely the 608 American troops killed by improvised explosive devices in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. Soleimani financed, trained, armed, and commanded various militias and factions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Every foe of those groups, as well as dissidents of the regime in Iran, all are rejoicing about his death, either publicly or secretly.”
Geraghty writes that with few, if any, allies and a weak economy Iran may have cause to fear an all-out shooting war with the U.S. But that doesn’t mean the Islamic Republic won’t continue to seek revenge for Soleimani’s death, one way or another.
So, what are the possible alternatives to World War III? Some experts, inside and outside the U.S. government, believe that an escalation of the ongoing cyberwar between America and Iran is a likely option.
“The United States and Iran are two of the most advanced, active, and capable hacking powers in the world at a time when governments regularly use hacking to accomplish important goals and shape geopolitics,” according to an article in the MIT Technology Review.
Meanwhile, One senior cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, Christopher Krebs, has warned American companies and government agencies to “pay close attention” to critical systems that might be targeted by Iranian hackers.
Sergio Caltagirone, a former technical lead at the NSA who now works at the industrial cybersecurity firm Dragos, told the MIT Technology Review that “when countries pull cyber triggers to conduct cyber effects, a lot of the times it’s against civilian targets rather than military targets. Right now it looks like civilians and innocent people all around the world, including Iranians, Americans, and Saudis will bear the brunt of the impact of these attacks. That’s the saddest part of all this: states are in conflict, but civilians feel the consequences.” Meanwhile, British military intelligence expert, Philip Ingram, warns that Iran has “a first-world cyberattack capability.” In a recent Forbes report, he says that “Iran has a very sophisticated broad spectrum of capabilities able to target critical national infrastructure, financial institutions, education establishments, manufacturers and more.”
But Iran has a lot to fear from the U.S. in a cyberspace war, according to cybersecurity journalist Kate O’Flaherty who wrote the Forbes article. She noted that last June “the U.S. launched a successful cyberattack against Iranian air defense sites and command and control” after the Iranians shot down an unmanned American spy plane over the Persian Gulf.