Iran and “Cyber Hezbollah” strategies

25 November 2011

Last September, Jihadists who call themselves “Cyber Hezbollah” organised their second conference in Teheran. Islamist hackers and cyber-jihadists gathered there and decided to fight the U.S. and Europe. Hassan Abbasi, political strategist and adviser of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was present, and delivered an ardent and virulent speech.

Participants in the Cyber-Hezbollah Conference consisted of so-called "cyber-jihad activists”, "Cyber-Resistance" activists and "interested activists in the soft war". HojatVahidi, head of the new "Committee of the Holy Defense Strategy in Europe", attended via live online conferencing. A coordinator of Iran’s propaganda activities in Europe and the United States and veteran of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), Vahidi lives in an undisclosed location in Europe. Vahidi also leads the low-profile organization known as the "Association of European Muslims".

In his talk to attendees at the Cyber-Hezbollah Conference, he said that in recent years he had organised many events and exhibitions in Europe and the United States with the help of colleagues. Vahidi added: "We have made many bilateral contacts with European students through our activities in the Committee of the Holy Defense Strategy in Europe. The experiences of students of the Islamic Revolution of Iran were shared with some European young people. This means that Islamic cells were founded in Europe and America”. He did not divulge any concrete operations these "Islamic cells" plan to undertake in Europe and the USA. Cyber Jihadists are indeed subversive.

The aim of these groups is the "dissemination of pure Islam" and opposition to "American Islam, spread by the enemies.” The organisers of the Cyber-Hezbollah event issued a public statement in which they imply that they intend to expose the "wrongdoers and doomsayers”, not only in real life but also in the hyperspace, as they are supposedly under the influence of "foreigners".

In other words, Cyber Jihadists intend to kill their enemies in hyperspace and in reality.

At the same time, these modern Jihadists praise the Islamist bloggers and the "bases of jihad and martyrdom”.

The infamous Iranian anti-Semite, Israel-hater and anti-American Hassan Abbasi was another star guest at the Tehran conference of the Iranian Cyber-Hezbollah. Hassan Abbasi heads the Tehran-based "Doctrinal Analysis Center”. The online Fars News Agency reported on September 23 that Abbasi warned conference participants about the National Security Agency (NSA), which he accused of spying on all Internet activities in Iran. Abbasi assured his audience that not only the NSA but also Iranian "Security Organisations" are now in a position to monitor all Internet activities of the Iranians.

Hassan Abbasi pointed out that some of the arrested "rioters", his term for the democracy activists in Iran, have admitted that they made "a lot of information available to Western intelligence agencies". Abbasi warned: "We must remember that we are being monitored and we have to analyse the perspective of the enemy. The enemy has positioned itself against our Muslim society. The enemies are at war against our religion, against Islam”.

Like other ideologues of the totalitarian Islamic dictatorship in Iran, Abbasi called the million Muslim Iranians who took to the streets demanding a change of the ruling regime in June 2009 simply "insurgents". In fact, the official ideologues of the dictatorship assume and propagate the notion that anyone who criticises the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or pleads for reforming the Constitution is an “insurgent”, remotely controlled by the hostile Western governments.

Abbasi therefore goes on the offensive and demands that Iranian Internet-Jihadists become active on the "territory of the enemy". He writes: "The first state to appropriate the strategy of asymmetric war itself was the Islamic Republic of Iran". He gives a proud hint to the terrorist activities of Iran when he stresses that asymmetric war is part of the military doctrine of Iran.

But in fact Abbasi is not talking about the well-known asymmetric war supporting terrorist organisations. Rather, Abbasi here is advocating destructive Internet activities, transferring the concept of asymmetric warfare to subversive Internet activities. Abbasi suggests that Cyber-Jihadists have to falsify their identification on the Internet by obscuring their IP address. He argues: “Because in hyperspace one can destroy the laws that have been created by the security apparatus of the enemy, and one can attack their strategies".

Abbasi warned: "The United States of America has decided in the last year and has stated publicly that they will not conduct a nuclear war against any country, with the exception of two states, Iran and North Korea“. Abbasi contends that the United States of America has enshrined in a law passed by Congress that if the U.S. is threatened by a cyber-attack it may declare a nuclear war without the consent of the UN Security Council.

In reality the U.S. government has never enacted such a law, but it is obvious that the Iranian military chief ideologue and strategist must lie in order to persuade his audience.

Abbasi further ladled out his conspiracy theory: "This time, the U.S. will conduct an attack against itself in hyperspace, following the example of September 11th". The U.S. government has now decided to wage a cyber-war, and therefore needs excuses, said Hassan Abbasi. He ignores the facts, maintains that the US-government caused the attacks of September 11th and defends his concept of "asymmetric" Internet subversion.

In keeping with the traditional Islamist narrative that the “Muslim world is always in the position of the innocent martyr on the defensive”, Abbasi said that the West is looking for an excuse to wage war. Therefore, a cyber-Hezbollah would require that the "conspiracy of the enemies be neutralised”. The Cyber-Hezbollah must "keep the culture of martyrdom alive”. Abbasi concludes that, with the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy, the Cyber-Hezbollah will be of great importance.

During his stay in September 2011 in New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reported on the successful activities of Muslims in the "West". He stressed that "the waves of awakening that have arisen in the world will reach the U.S.A. and Europe soon".

In fact, at the conference of Islamist hackers and supporters of the Iranian government, it was announced that 14 groups are currently active under the banner of "holy defence" in Europe and in the U.S.A. They are to propagate the values of the Islamic revolution.

It should not be forgotten that war propagandists in the eight-year war against Iraq between 1980 and 1988, also called the Iranian military strategy the "holy defence".

Wahied Wahdat-Hagh is Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels..