The war that worries most people in the Middle East is the one going on
between Shia Iran and Arab Sunnis. This conflict ultimately takes over every
other conflict. For example, Iran has been trying to get a Cyber War going against
Israel. Prizes were offered for the most daring attacks on Israeli web sites by
Moslem hackers. But the effort went sideways last year when some of the Shia
hackers began attacking Sunni websites, in retaliation for some Sunni attacks
on Shia sites. For the Shia, this was also payback for the increasingly
anti-Shia tone of Sunni mass media. This, in turn, was in response to Iran's
nuclear weapons program, and increasingly belligerent Iranian claims that it
should be the leader of the Islamic world.
For the last
three months, Shia and Sunni radicals have escalated their attacks on each
other's web sites. What really got things going was a Shia attack on the two
main web sites for Sunni radical religious propaganda (including al Qaeda) on
September 11, 2008. Sunni hackers retaliated shortly thereafter by defacing 300
web sites belonging to Shia clergy and religious organizations. Shia hackers
then came back with more attacks on Sunni clergy, media and religious sites.
The two main Sunni radical propaganda sites, Al-Ekhlaas.net and Alhesbah.net,
have been down most of the time since September 11. Since some 80 percent of Moslems are Sunni
(versus about ten percent Shia), the Shia soon began taking more damage than
they were dishing out, by a margin of more than two to one.
Arab media and religious leaders pleaded for the hackers to stop. Some chastised the hackers for fighting fellow
Moslems, rather than going after infidels (particularly Israel.) But Moslem
hackers don't like tangling with the Israelis, who have a much deeper bench in
the hacking department.
was assured when sheikh Yousef al Qaradhawi, head of the International Union
for Muslim Scholars, recently called in the Arab media, and denounced Shia in
general, and Iran in particular, for being heretics and beyond redemption.
These statements got wide coverage in the Egyptian and Saudi press, and were
soon picked up by Islamic media worldwide. The leaders of most Sunni nations
are content to play down the theological differences between Sunni and Shia.
This includes Saudi Arabia, the guardian of Islam's most sacred shrines. But
now this Internet based war threatens to spill over into the real world.
particular Cyber War seems to have attracted Arab and Iranian hackers who do
not normally get involved in Islamic radicalism. The animosity between the Shia
and Sunni sects goes back nearly a thousand years, and has led to much
bloodshed in that time. While Sunni and Shia leaders try to play down this feud
(over who should have inherited the leadership of Islam over a thousand years
ago), grass roots hatred is tolerated. Thus lower ranking religious leaders in
Iran and the Arab world spew hatred for each other's religious beliefs. This
has little to do with the current plague of Sunni terrorism (al Qaeda and so
on), but is more of a deep seated cultural dispute.
Iran has been trying to get Moslem hackers united against Israel. For two years
now, the Hamas office in the capital of Iran, has sponsored a hacking contest.
Whoever makes the most spectacular attack on the most important Israeli web
sites (belonging to a government agency or one of the major political parties),
wins a prize of $2,000. Not that a lot of Moslem hackers need much
encouragement for this sort of thing. But the Islamic radical groups have
noticed that they are not getting the best hacking talent, and the Israelis
typically respond much more forcefully. It has been found, however, that a
prize, and a formal competition, tends to bring in the more skilled, if less
religiously radical, Moslem hackers.
There are a
growing number of programmers and Internet specialists in the Moslem world, but
most of them have legitimate jobs in software firms, or maintaining software
and Internet services for companies. Some are involved with Internet crime, and
a very few spend some time trying to get some Internet based terrorism going.
It was hoped
that this contest would defuse the Internet based war between Sunni and Shia
Moslems. Although most Hamas members are Sunni, Shia Iran is a major backer of
Hamas. So it makes sense for Hamas to come up with something to stop the
Internet war between Shia and Sunni Moslems, and unite everyone against Israel.
It hasn't worked, and Israeli and Western counter-intelligence agencies appear
to have joined in, making attacks on Shia and Sunni sites, and letting paranoia
take its course.