Dr. Behzad Ahmadi Lafouraki, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the report of The Hill newspaper, affiliated with the US Congress, in which Washington’s efforts to strengthen the cyber alliance in the region against Iran, stated: The agreement the United States has reached with Israel and Saudi Arabia has many aspects; certainly part of this agreement has a defense-security aspect, but it is not just a security issue. From leading industries such as G5, cooperation in the field of the sixth generation of the Internet and space explorations to security issues have been paid attention and separate agreements have actually been signed between the Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority and the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity has signed up.
Noting that the agreement made with Saudi Arabia has extra-security aspects in economic and technological dimensions as well, he said: The Hill newspaper tried to portray Iran as a common threat and claimed this cooperation is aimed at confronting Tehran; but if we look deeper, in a simple analysis these agreements can be restricted only to the imaginary threat of Iran.
US cyber strategic objective
The expert on the international governance of cyber space explained: Creation of technology-oriented diplomatic initiatives, especially cyber initiatives, is a matter that has been seriously pursued by the United States in the past few years, and recently a special department has been established in the State Department, whose manager is at the ambassador level and should get a vote of confidence from the Congress. This situation shows how serious they are in that strategy. Based on this strategy, the United States is trying to create convergence among its allies to strengthen the Internet, which it considers global itself, against the Balkanized Internet that it claims China, Russia, and other players are looking for.
Emphasizing that the main objective of the United States in creating an alliance is not just Iran and that it is trying to counter the growing influence of countries that want to challenge the dominance and unilateralism of the United States in the cyber space, Ahmadi added: The discussion of cyber geopolitics is also of strategic importance for the United States and planning to be able to strengthen its cyber depth and have the upper hand in cyber geopolitical issues is one of the important policies of the Biden administration in this area.
Saying that it seems the United States is pursuing “non-proliferation” in five areas regarding Iran, he explained: Before, the United States only focused on the issue of non-proliferation in the nuclear, regional influence and missile fields, but especially in the past two years, two new issues of “preventing spread of cyberspace” and “prohibiting spread of drones” has also been added to the dimensions of dealing with Iran. Therefore, production of literature in the American research institutes has increased in this field and the Americans, at the level of senior officials, have repeated references to Iran’s “increasing threat” in cyber and drone fields. Therefore, they try to include clauses in this regard in bilateral and regional summits and put it on the global agenda. It is expected that they will issue resolutions in this regard.
The expert on the international governance of virtual space noted: Iran will definitely experience many challenges with the United States, especially at the international level, in the field of cyber and drones in the very near future.
According to Ahmadi, in the cyber field, the Zionist regime’s view of Iran is mostly analyzed in the field of cyber power balance. The Zionist regime considers itself a rival of Iran in the cyber arena and believes that it has capabilities in the offensive and defensive fields, but alone it cannot stand against Iran’s capabilities; therefore, it is looking for regional and trans-regional partners, and the UAE has found a special position in the region in this area, and Saudi Arabia has also unofficially made this alliance with the Zionist regime.
Cyber needs of Saudi Arabia
Noting that portraying Iran as a stubborn enemy and creating a narrative and intensifying the perception of the threat from Iran is in the interest of the Zionist regime and the United States, and they have a specific agenda to magnify in this regard, while Iran was one of the first victims with the Stuxnet attack on Natanz nuclear facility, he continued: It has been cyber terrorism, he continued: Although Saudi Arabia is growing in the cyber field, it has less cyber power compared to Iran and the UAE, therefore it finds itself in need of joining such coalitions. I believe that it is a reductionist view to imagine that the Saudi alliance in the field of cyber security was more in opposition to Iran. Saudi Arabia may understand the cyber threat from Iran, but it also has concerns from other players, including the Zionist regime and even its Arab rivals, such as Qatar, and this is a reason for coalition building.
According to the expert on the international governance of virtual space, the US cyber agreement with Saudi Arabia has powerful economic and technological aspects that have not been addressed. Saudi Arabia is cooperating with topics such as the new generations of communication, strengthening the digital economy, and especially intensifying space cooperation with the view of strengthening the space-based economy which should be analyzed in line with the ambitious plans of Mohammed bin Salman called Project 2030.
Ahmadi emphasized: In competition with other players, especially the UAE, Iran and even the Zionist regime, Saudi Arabia is trying to separate itself from the oil economy and accelerate its digital transition by defining strong digital infrastructures, and in this field, huge investments has also made in the fields of artificial intelligence.
Iran’s path ahead
Saying that Iran should consider activities in both domestic and international fields in order to deal with coalitions against itself, he added: We should increase the share of the digital economy and the space-based economy in our GDP. Therefore, the second step should be to strengthen the communication infrastructure and information technology, as well as the establishment of laws that facilitate the growth of the digital economy and can cause its growth and prosperity. At the same time, attention should also be paid to increasing the strength and power of the country’s cyber defense.
The expert on the international governance of virtual space called connecting such economy to regional and trans-regional markets and gaining a share from them as other important strategies and said: Our services and equipment can be attractive to African and some Asian countries.
Stating that we must have clear positions in the field of cyber security to create deterrence and firmly declare that we can respond to cyber-attacks, from any source, Ahmadi stressed the necessity of concluding cyber security agreements with friendly and aligned countries and added: Although in geopolitical discussions, Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries are presented as our competitors and sometimes our enemies, they have concerns very similar to our concerns in the ICT fields.
He said: By using the experience that Europeans had based on functional approaches in the 1960s and 1970s, we can use the capabilities of functional cooperation in the field of cyber and digital economy to strengthen relations with our neighbors, including Saudi Arabia. Just like the environment field, which is a functional field in which governments do not compete with each other, but try to cooperate with each other in those cases. Cooperation in functional areas softens positions in hard areas.
The analyst of the international governance of cyberspace, emphasizing the need to pay attention to the strong and effective presence in international conferences and fora that shape cyber norms, rules and laws, as well as gatherings defining the rights of “outer space”, added: Regional and trans-regional assemblies should be held for South-South dialogues in the field of international governance of cyber space and even outer space. We have very similar concerns in those areas.