A discussion with:
Director, Middle East Security Initiative, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council
Former Senior Director, Gulf Affairs, National Security Council
Bren Chair for Cyber Conflict and Security, Marine Corps University
Principal Adversary Hunter, Dragos
Assistant Professor, Institute for Security and Global Affairs, University of Leiden; Research Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Director, Cyber Statecraft Initiative, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council
On January 2, the US Department of Defense confirmed a strike on Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force. The loss of a key diplomatic and military figure will have implications for Iranian military operations and proxies across the Middle East at a time when the US has sought to move away from decades of conflict in the Middle East and shift focus to competitors such as China and Russia. Complicating matters further, Iran has invested in its cyber capabilities, targeting the energy and financial sectors, which begs the question of whether a retaliation may be delivered through cyber over traditional means.
This development will influence US engagement with Iran and partners in the region and its knock-on effects may very well manifest in the cyber domain. What type of de-escalatory engagement should we expect between the US and Iran following the assassination of Soleimani? What types of responses, both kinetic and cyber, can we expect from Iran, a country in need of appearing powerful to its allies and adversaries? How might this development change the strategic balance in the region between the US and Iran, but also Israel and Saudi Arabia? Last, what will be the role of proxies in this growing conflict?