Cut cables in the Middle East

Something strange is happening to undersea fiber optic cables in the Middle East: they are being cut. At least four, and possibly five, of the communications links have failed in the last twelve days. The first two were allegedly damaged by a ship’s anchor; subsequent failures are more mysterious. Serious disruptions are being experienced in Egypt and India, along with lesser problems in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kuwait, the Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The fifth cable cut seems to have disabled internet access in Iran.

It’s tempting to ascribe some nefarious motive to all of this. That said, it is sensible to recall how past hysterias proved unjustified. After much hoopla in the media, it turned out that the ‘cyberwar’ against Estonia was the work of a twenty year old subsequently fined $1,620 for his misdeeds.

The cable problems are being widely discussed:

[Update: 16 February 2008] According to The Economist, all this was just hysteria.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Cut cables in the Middle East”

  1. Could it be conservative local groups that want to limit the exposure of the populace to Western culture and ideas?

  2. Just to be clear, early reports of the entirety of Iran being offline turned out to be exaggerated or perhaps entirely false.

  3. SIERRA LEONE’S single largest link to the internet sits on a ridge in the west of the capital, Freetown. Behind a red wall topped with razor wire several satellite dishes point skyward. The surrounding district is called Wilberforce, after the 18th-century British politician who campaigned against the slave trade. However, the digital connection maintained by Airtel, a mobile-phone company, is not free: it costs $89,000 a month.

    Sierra Leone, a poor west African country, has no fibre-optic link to the outside world. Its internet users rely on satellite bandwidth. The International Telecommunication Union says this is also true of the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Guinea, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe and the Seychelles.

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