February 7, 2008
Is there a cable-cutting conspiracy in the Middle East?
Various reports between 23-Jan-08 and 04-Feb-08 have the nets buzzing with conspiracy theories. Over that period, there have been five underwater cables cut or damaged. Here are some of the details:
23-Jan-08: A FALCON cable near Bandar Abbas in Iran was cut. There were no initial reports of the damage at the time; I found out about it from Wikipedia of all places!
30-Jan: Two cables, SEA-ME-WE 4 and FLAG Telecom, are cut in separate incidents near Alexandria, Egypt and Marseilles, France. Wide net disruption in the Middle East and India reported. New York Times report.
01-Feb: The FACLON cable suffers a second cutting, this time 56 km from Dubai.
03-Feb: Qtel reported that a cable called DOHA-HALOUL connecting Qatar to the United Arab Emirates had been damaged.
04-Feb: SEA-ME-WE-4 suffers a second cut near Malaysia.
The casualty count so far is five cuts in four cables in six days.
Additional information can be found at Khaleej Times Online.
Mermaids with scissors? Cables, even underwater ones, are bound to fail sooner or later. But the rate of failures and who is being affected has some calling conspiracy. Here’s what is being claimed so far:
Anchors away… the wrong way. The two simultaneous cable cuts were first attributed to ship’s anchors. Egypt, however, reportedly has evidence to the contrary:
Egypt’s Transport Ministry said footage recorded by onshore video cameras of the location of the cables shows no maritime traffic in the area when the cables were damaged.
“The ministry’s maritime transport committee reviewed footage covering the period of 12 hours before and 12 hours after the cables were cut and no ships sailed the area,” a statement by the Communications Ministry said.
“The area is also marked on maps as a no-go zone and it is therefore ruled out that the damage to the cables was caused by ships.”
One conspiracy disproved…
Mother nature on PMS. It’s possible storms in the area(s) may have generated underwater currents strong enough to snap the cables. Some people believe that sharks may be chewing on the lines, being confused by electromagnetic fields around the cables.
Probable, but I have doubts…
Information warfare. Perhaps the most likely answer may be Iran.
From Arabian Business.com:
The location of the breaks and short space of time in which they have happened has sparked fears the cables were intentionally damaged by the US and Israel to deprive Iran of internet access.
“Clearly Iran, who was most affected, would gain nothing from such an action and is perhaps the target of those responsible,” said another reader.
It is not clear how badly Iran’s internet access has been affected by the cable breaks.
The Iranian embassy in Abu Dhabi told ArabianBusiness.com that “everything is fine”, but internet connectivity reports on the web, citing a router in Tehran, appear to indicate that there is currently no connection to the outside world.
Unfortunately, India is America’s outsourced call center and was affected as well. Cutting the cables would have a negative effect on companies, and the government does not want to make their corporate masters angry.
There are also theories that certain agencies cut the cables to stop file sharing, and a YouTube video proclaiming this as a Neo-Con pretext to more Mid-East wars to make up for Duh’bya’s failures in Iraq.
The TRUTH is out there. Maybe. It’s going to take a couple of weeks before the cables are repaired and service is fully restored. Maybe the truth of how and why the cables were cut will be found out. Until then, the conspiracies are going to fly.