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View from Iran: World needs rules on cyberattacks (+video)

The US believes that cyberattacks from another country can constitute an 'act of war.' This begs the question of whether the US can unilaterally engage in an unprovoked act against Iran that, according to its own standards, is unacceptable. The world needs global rules on cyberattacks, regardless of where we live and how we think, say Iran's UN diplomats.

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Attempts to establish global rules relating to cyberattacks – particularly those under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union – have yet to deliver a binding international legal instrument due to diverging views. However, in the absence of an international governance system to manage the Internet and cyberspace, the general rules of international law do apply. States must behave responsibly and respect accepted norms and principles of international law.

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American media report that the US Department of Defense has adopted a cyberstrategy in which cyberattacks originating from another country can constitute an “act of war.” This naturally begs the question as to whether the current administration can unilaterally engage in an unprovoked act against Iran that, according to its own standards, is unacceptable.

Apart from the legal stand point, this approach also harms America’s own interests, because it emboldens hackers to target American companies. It could also provoke other countries to take countermeasures against US behavior. This obviously has the risk of escalating cyberwars. President Obama, in his State of the Union address, expressed his concern about cybersecurity.

It is important to note that Iran has never conducted a cyberattack against the US (or any other country) that would trigger the right to respond in kind. Neither has Iran ever retaliated against these illegal cyberattacks with its own cyber-counterattacks.

In our view, “the ends do not justify the means” and this pattern of hostile behavior is counter-productive. It is an obstacle to efforts to reach a win-win agreement with Iran on disputed issues.

Iran has repeatedly said that coercive efforts such as covert actions or sanctions have resulted in only negative effects on the current “P5+1” negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. There is a need for the US to revise its approach toward Iran, as well as toward the use and applicability of cyberattacks.

There is simply no substitute for peaceful resolution of disputes. And there is no choice but to cease cyberattacks and to responsibly contribute to establishing international rules concerning these attacks that increasingly threaten global peace and security.

Alireza Miryousefi is the head of the press office at the Islamic Republic of Iran’s mission to the United Nations. Hossein Gharibi is the counselor of the mission, dealing with the UN “Sixth Committee” that examines legal questions before the General Assembly.


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