Iran and the P5+1: Dual Track Clash
Image Credit: Uniphoto Press

Iran and the P5+1: Dual Track Clash


‘The Iranians?’

This was one of the questions posed on chatbacks as conspiracy theorists in Israeli Internet chat rooms tried to guess who was responsible for the massive mobile phone blackout that hit millions of Israelis on December 1.

The blackout lasted 12 hours and left 3.3 million Cellcom subscribers—more than 40 percent of Israel’s population— with no cell phone access. A day after the ‘glitch,’ Cellcom's management had still failed to explain the cause, leaving plenty of time for all manner of theories about the reason to proliferate. Iran wasn't the only suspect—some wondered whether it was caused by an out of control experiment by Mossad, the Israeli secret service, while another group of netizens thought that it might have been sabotage by Turkish hackers.

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It’s interesting how quickly Iran’s name came up. One reason it did is that Iran has always been associated in many Israeli minds with military and financial support for Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran hasn’t previously been known (or feared) as a cyber power, but with many fingers having been pointed at Israel after the Stuxnet worm was found to have infected computer systems at the Iranian enrichment facility in Natanz, some could have assumed that the Cellcom outage could be blowback.

Of course, the network outage was likely nothing more sinister than a malfunction, and Nokia engineers are reportedly on their way to assist in the investigation. But the episode, combined with the recent WikiLeaks revelations, has underscored how suspicion of Iran is reaching new heights in Israel.

Such suspicion has also been fuelled by recent mysterious—and deadly—events inside Iran. On Monday, assassination attempts were made on two Iranian nuclear scientists on the streets of Tehran, in broad daylight. One scientist was killed, the other was injured. None of the assassins has so far been apprehended, including the driver of the mysterious Peugeot 206 that was spotted at the scene of the assassination attempt and which was fired on by the police. Subsequent media reports suggested that the car had exploded in the Shahid Mahalati neighbourhood of Tehran, an area built by the Revolutionary Guards and where some members of the IRC’s upper echelons, as well as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's brother Davoud, live.

Strangely, the same semi-official media quickly denied there’d been an explosion, prompting a new round of conspiracy theories over the assassination attempts, this time amongst Iranians. The Iranian government, however, seemed to have no doubt: Mossad, Britain’s MI6, and the CIA were said to be behind the attacks.

But the tense atmosphere inside and outside of Iran isn’t confined to Internet gossip. Early next week, Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) are scheduled to meet to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.

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