It seems Iran has the most to gain from cutting the cables. The last thing the mullahs want are their people having access to the outside world. Internet access is oxygen to dissidents and reformers.
And Then There Were Five hat tip Larwyn via Wretchard
Al Bawaba claims that a total of five undersea cables have been disrupted. "However, the International Cable Protection Committee, an association of 86 submarine cable operators dedicated to safeguarding undersea cables, has declined to speculate on the cause of the breaches, adding investigations were underway."
A total of five cables being operated by two submarine cable operators have been damaged with a fault in each. These are SeaMeWe-4 (South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-4) near Penang, Malaysia, the FLAG Europe-Asia near Alexandria, FLAG near the Dubai coast, FALCON near Bandar Abbas in Iran and SeaMeWe-4, also near Alexandria.
Now the tin-foil hats are being broken out. The force behind these cable outages is ...
... the Jew. As the Jerusalem Post reports:
Of course, logic never comes into play for these people; it's got to be Israel's fault. Well, I've got a theory of my own. Instead of saying that Israel and/or the CIA - which, as we all know, controls Iraq nowadays - deliberately cut the cables to isolate the Arab world, and especially Iran, and set it up for "something," I think it was the Arabs/Iran themselves that did the cutting to make Israel look bad by having something to blame on us. Or we could just call it a draw, and attribute the breakages to bad winter weather and infrastructure failure - not unheard of with underwater cables.
Why wasn't Israel affected? Simply because we use a different cable, with Egypt and company refusing to allow Israel to rent bandwidth on the same one it uses. Israel's cable is called MedNautilus (http://www.mednauti
lus.com), originally put together by a consortium that involved Israelis, but is now wholly owned by Spain's Telefonica.
But the MIT Technology Review puts things in perspective. There are lots of cable outages a year. The reason the Middle East is so vulnerable is because they are served by a relatively few.
Undersea cable damage is hardly rare--indeed, more than 50 repair operations were mounted in the Atlantic alone last year, according to marine cable repair company Global Marine Systems. But last week's breaks came at one of the world's bottlenecks, where Net traffic for whole regions is funneled along a single route.
This kind of damage is rarely such a deep concern in the United States and Europe. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are crisscrossed so completely with fast fiber networks that a break in one area typically has no significant effect. Net traffic simply uses one of many possible alternate destinations to reach its goal.
Not so with the route connecting Europe to Egypt, and from there to the Middle East. Today, just three major data cables stretch from Italy to Egypt and run down the Suez Canal, and from there to much of the Middle East. (A separate line connects Italy with Israel.) A serious cut here is immediately obvious across the region, and a double cut can be crippling.
But the vulnerability of the region won't last long. A large number of new cables are planned along the routes that have been cut by the series of accidents. Or rather one should say the exposure of the regin to accidental damage will close as more redundancy is built into the system. Any undersea cable network, however extensive, is potentially vulnerable to the power that controls the seas.
UPDATE: Ben notes, "It may be worth noting, or maybe not, that it is generally considered impossible
to tap a fiber optic line- unless you install a special device just for that
Which would require you to break the line, which would interrupt traffic, which would be noticed- unless you used a second break to mask your tapping break."