Islamist terrorists and governments have learned in recent months that terrorism (especially cyber warfare) works, thanks to the appeasement of the U.S. government and Hollywood.
There are three acts of appeasement that happened, with two occurring on December 18.
1. Appeasing Iran’s Cyber Warfare
First, cyber attacks from Iran have been going on for months without any meaningful response. In addition, Iran continues to assist Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, thereby making the regime responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan.
The Cylance cyber security firm published a report concluding that Iranian hackers have attacked critical infrastructure and government agencies in 16 countries since 2012. The Iranian campaign may be linked to North Korea’s own campaign that is dominating headlines in the U.S.
“[Iran’s] intense focus on critical infrastructure companies, especially in South Korea, hints at information sharing or joint operations with Iran’s partner, North Korea. In September, 2012, Iran signed an extensive agreement for technology cooperation with North Korea, which allows for collaboration in a variety of efforts including IT and security,” it states.
The study noticed similarities between Iranian and North Korean operations and warned that the Iranian attackers retrieved highly sensitive information about airports and airlines in South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. They even had the ability to remotely control security gates and systems. Nine oil companies were also penetrated.
A secret FBI document warns that the Iranian cyber campaign is targeting U.S. universities, defense contractors and energy companies.
The most well-known attack was on a Las Vegas casino after its owner urged tougher threats to Iran, suggesting a nuclear detonation in an Iranian desert as an option. The hackers left a message on the casino computers making it clear that it was retaliation for the comment. Supreme Leader Khamenei responded angrily to the remark.
In 2012, the Iranian regime launched cyber attacks on the Saudi Aramco oil company and replaced all computer data with images of burning American flags. The hackers said it was retaliation for Saudi support for the Bahraini government when it put down a largely Shiite uprising.
The attack damaged 30,000 computers and intended to disrupt oil and gas deliveries. Iranian hackers then struck the RasGas natural gas company in Qatar. Iran has repeatedly condemned Qatar for supporting Syrian rebels.
2. Appeasing Cuba’s Harboring of Terrorists
Secondly, the Obama Administration announced a review of Cuba’s status as a State Sponsor of Terror even as it harbors fugitives who have killed Americans.
The State Department says Cuba is harboring members of non-Islamic terrorist groups like the Basque ETA and the Colombian FARC, as well as American fugitives.
One such fugitive is Joanne Chesimard, a Black Panther member who murdered a New Jersey police officer and then escaped to Cuba after being broken out of jail. She is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list.
Cuba’s condemnation of the 9/11 attacks (which the regime believes was an inside job) and lack of connection to Al-Qaeda doesn’t disqualify it as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
In fact, the State Department stated that Cuba reacted to 9/11 by repeatedly “[sending] agents to U.S. missions around the world who provided false leads designed to subvert the post-September 11 investigation.”
Less than two weeks after 9/11, Fidel Castro traveled to Iran and said, “Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees.”
In 2011, Spanish television aired a documentary that showed the Cuban embassy in Mexico hatching a cyber-terror plot against the U.S. Iranian and Venezuelan officials were also shown expressing interest in such plots.
Cuban relations with Hezbollah are strong enough that the terrorist group has sent official delegations to the country. An Italian newspaper reported in 2011 that three Hezbollah members were overseeing a new operations base in Cuba that would grow to 23 operatives. The base intended to attack an Israeli target in South America.
It must also be understood that the Venezuelan regime is extremely close to Cuba, with Cuban intelligence helping to prop it up. The former Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. describes Venezuela as a “puppet controlled by the Cubans.”
This is significant because Venezuela is now harboring Hezbollah terrorists. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has a network there, and Israel intercepted a Venezuelan ship delivering 500 tons of weapons including rockets to Hezbollah in 2009. The Iranian nuclear program is also active in Venezuela.
Venezuela is also known to sponsor the FARC terrorist group. This is not an Islamist group but it works with Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and Mexican drug cartels (who also work with Islamist terrorists).
Cuba is also involved in secret weapons trafficking with North Korea. In February, Panama seized a North Korean ship with Cuban weapons onboard.
3. Appeasing North Korea’s Cyber Warfare and Terrorism Threats
Thirdly, Hollywood is caving to North Korean demands.
U.S. officials have confirmed that North Korea is behind a cyber attack on the Sony Corporation that released troves of sensitive data in retaliation for a comedy film titled “The Interview” about an assassination plot against North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
The hackers threatened 9/11-style attacks on movie theaters showing the film and to release more internal data from Sony on Christmas when the movie is released. Major movie theaters chains cancelled plans to show the film and Sony subsequently canceled the film’s release, even on DVD.
Another planned movie with a thriller story line based in North Korea was canned, even though the hackers never even mentioned it. The appeasement is reminiscent of Comedy Central’s decision to censor all images of the Prophet Mohammed in its South Park animated show because of Islamist terror threats.
The attack on Sony bears strong similarities to Iran’s attacks on Saudi Aramco in 2012, indicating that the Iran and North Korea’s cyber warfare programs are interconnected and there may have even been coordination. Just like their weapons of mass destruction programs, the Iranian and North Korean cyber warfare programs should be treated as one entity.
The U.S. handling of Iran, North Korea and Cuba sends an unmistakable message that harboring of terrorists is acceptable and cyber terrorism works.
The Iranian cyber campaign has been going on for years and is ongoing. The lack of a response not only encourages Iranian aggression further, it likely encouraged North Korea to believe it could do the same with impunity.
When President Obama said the U.S. would review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, he did not mention the reasons why Cuba has been on that list since 1982. The messaging infers that there’s no reason for Cuba to be on the list.
Cuba continues to harbor a terrorist with American blood on her hands, along with other terrorists. The Raul Castro regime must hand over these terrorists and end any support for Hezbollah and other terrorists, including those that reside in Venezuela.
Hollywood’s appeasement of North Korea is sure to encourage further acts of cyber warfare and threats of terrorism. All hostile actors will now conclude that they can veto the decisions of the mightiest of American businesses.
Bin Laden referenced the U.S. withdrawals from Lebanon and Somalia and limited retaliation after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings until the day he died. This shows it can take decades to reverse the damage caused by appeasement.
Removal from the U.S. State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is something that should be fully earned. Our enemies should never be allowed to attack us in any shape or form without regretting it.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.