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Jul 18, 2019 Fuji Sankei Business i. Opinion

Geopolitical risk of Iran, Cyber power country

Risk Management and Energy Security urgently secured

This article is written by Mr. Izumi Harada , President, Crisis & Risk Management Society of Japan and Executive Fellow, Institute for International Socio-Economic Studies(NEC Group)

Cyber “Seven Sisters
When the word “Seven Sisters” is quoted, many people may recall 7 international oil majors who showed strong leadership in the international oil market in 1960s before OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) was organized and started to take initiative. Lately in the world of cyber, however, “Seven Sisters” signifies 7 cyber power countries, namely, USA, China, UK, Russia, Israel, North Korea and Iran who are powerful and expertised in cyber attack.

Country with long history and friendship with Japan
Japan has long historical relationship with Iran. There is specific description about Persian people who visited Japan in the Tempyo Nenkan Period during Nara Era appeared in Shoku Nihongi, history book compiled by the Imperial Order.

Lately In the modern period this year is the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations established between Iran and Japan. Iran is famous and popular as pro-Japan country. Recently the Prime Minster Abe paid a visit on June 12-14 to have a talk with people of highest leadership of Iran in order to find possible solution to relax the political tension between USA and Iran who have been in conflict for some time.

On the other hand Iran have been rapidly and remarkably progressed and enhanced their power in the field of ICT (Information and Communications Technology). They have been promoting ICT as a national strategy in business and in academy and enriching university education. Women’s empowerment is also remarkably seen.

Specially since the agreement to limit the development of nuclear weapons in 2015 with USA, UK, Germany, France, China and Russia in 2015 and the lifting of the economic sanctions in 2016 Iran have been enjoying rapid economic growth and large enhancement in ICT field.

On the streets of Teheran, same as in Japan, young people are seen frequently operating smart-phone while walking and during recent two or three years many new application services have been in the market. There are many kinds of applications for example for delivery services and on-line shopping. “Snapp, famous taxi booking application, has been popularly accepted and used since 2014 and the service is currently available in 18 cities with a large number of users over 10 million.

Moreover, in the Iranian Government’s national strategy The 6th 5 years plan (2017-2021) ICT is specifically selected as one of the most focused area and there they expect the cooperation and contribution from Japan. It might be required that Japan take a step to improve and strengthen the exchange of any field, including possible exchange of human resources.

Even under such situation there have been a repeated number of cyber attacks between USA and Iran. In the year 2009 and 2010 it was widely acknowledged that “Stuxnet jointly developed by Israel and USA successfully destroyed the nuclear facilities in Iran.

On the other hand 9 Iranians hackers charged by US Department of Justice with conducting massive cyber theft campaign on behalf of The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mabna Institute Hackers penetrated systems belonging to hundreds of universities, companies, and other Victims to seal research, academic data, proprietary data, and intellectual property amounting to 31.5Gbytes.

On 13h June when Prime Minister Abe visited Iran it was reported that US Military launched cyber-attack against espionage group of Iran in association with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a retaliatory action against earlier attack to two tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

Against this US cyber attack the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran immediately stroke back on 18th June claiming that Iran had broken up a CIA spying ring and gave substantial dame to the spying operation (Denied immediately by US Government).

This is one of the examples of daily fierce fights in the cyber field behind the international politics and security debate and negotiations.

Execution of right of collective self-defense, if needed
Japan is dependent 86.8% of crude oil import on Middle East countries (in 2017), and the Strait of Hormuz is, therefore, regarded as life line for Japan.

President Trump claimed in the twitter that each country should take responsibility to defend its own national tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz by itself.

In the future there might be foreseeable risk of not limiting to cyber-attack but of actual conflict and war and the Strait of Hormuz is effectively blocked by mines. If it happens, crude oil supply to Japan would be suspended consequently.

If Japanese Government judge and decide that such situation is the situation posing threats to the survival of Japan, Japan is entitled to execute right of collective self-defense.

In the debate on national security laws Prime Minister Abe gave an example of execution of right of collective self-defense quoting that Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force take the mission of removing mines in the Strait. As a matter of course such situation as above should be avoided with maximum efforts of parties involved. Japan should maintain and strengthened diplomatic efforts to relieve the tension between two nations and to stabilize regional disrupted situation.

Having said that it is essential and indispensable that Japan prepare ourselves for emergency situation with appropriate risk management and security of energy.

In the short run Japan should manage to increase the stock of Crude oil from current stock level of 200days consumption for more and to diversify the supply sources, and in the mid to long run it is imperative that Japan should promote strategies and policies to increase the portion of renewable energies also as global warming measures.

(Profile) Izumi Harada

Graduate School of Keio University
Currently in service as Executive Fellow for Institute for International Socio-Economic Studies, moved from NEC Research Institute and also in service currently as Part-time Lecturer of Waseda University.62 years of age, born in Tokyo

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