It’s a good bet that in Tehran and Pyongyang, officials will be poring with great interest over every detail in a lengthy piece in Sunday’s New York Times, all about the “digital trail” of the Stuxnet computer worm that crippled some of Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges: “Israel Tests on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay.”
Iran and its uranium-enriching pal, North Korea, should be grateful to the Times for the gumshoe reporting put into trying to track exactly how a computer worm was used to set back the uranium-enrichment portion of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. I would assume Iranian intelligence has also been on the trail, but there are some sources that western reporters can more easily access, and some folks they can more readily interview, as you can infer from reading the article. If there is civility in international affairs, surely Ali Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and their proliferation partner, Kim Jong Il, owe the Times a thank you note.
But if the broad picture painted by the Times is accurate (and there are gaps in the trail described), then surely there is another group of countries which for more wholesome reasons owe a profound thank you to Israel. Prominent among this crowd are the Middle East potentates, from the king of Saudi Arabia to the king of Bahrain to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, whose private pleadings — as made to U.S. officials and exposed by Wikileaks — were to do whatever it takes to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Or, as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia reportedly put it: “Cut off the head of the snake.”
Stuxnet hasn’t cut off the head, but it does appear to have given the snake a bad bout of indigestion. Civility suggests this would be a fitting moment for the Saudis to lead the way in sending Israel their fervent thanks. If that’s a bridge too far for Riyadh, then here’s another thought. Saudi Arabia hosts the headquarters of the Organization of the Islamic Conference — ringleader of the chronic pounding delivered to Israel at the United Nations. Surely the Saudis could use their clout to exhort the Iran-fearing members of the OIC to lay off Israel. Who else in the region are they depending on to stop an Iranian nuclear threat? The Palestinians of Hamas?