“Operation Cyrus,” an Iranian military commander’s fictional memo written by Benjamin Locks, is the second submission in The Art of the Future Project’s series with the Military Writers Guild. The piece stems from MWG’s workshop prompts at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum’s 2016 DEF[x]DC conference. The first submission was “Ends, Means and Timelines” by Luke O’Brien.
Seizing A Moment of Historic Opportunity for Iran: Operation Cyrus
To: IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari
CC: High Council of Cyberspace
From: IRGC Cyber Army Major General Esmail Madani
Subject: Operation Cyrus
Date: Nov. 2th, 2021
I ask that you reconsider your decision to postpone Operation Cyrus. It is admittedly audacious, yet it is a strategically sound plan based upon the truth that America’s military center of gravity is, and has always been, public support for its endless wars. America’s enemies in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan understood this well. They drained public support by killing Americans and their puppets in hit-and-run attacks, forcing them to spend ever more blood and treasure to accomplish their ill-defined political goals. The public became fatigued and sought an end to the losses. They then elected politicians who promised to bring American forces home and end the wars of the day. Once the American troops left, their puppets collapsed. With our new cyber operational capabilities that can target America, we can influence the American political climate with far less risk to our homeland and consolidate control of the Persian Gulf. This is the moment for Operation Cyrus – to take preemptive action to secure Iran’s future from further American influence.
The Time To Strike is Now
Our intelligence reports that President Trump is sending US troops and aircraft to Saudi Arabia to prepare for a raid on our nuclear facilities. However, the US depends on their weak allies for basing. The Arab Gulf countries’ internal security has eroded after years of low oil prices. Daesh has killed hundreds of Shiites in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and government forces have only limited control of their territory. With our help, the local Shiite community has formed militias to fight Daesh and their government allies. The Europeans are worried that the trickle of Saudi refugees fleeing across the Red Sea to Egypt will soon become a torrent on their shores. While our enemies are weak and divided, we must seize the opportunity to wrest control of Bahrain and eastern Arabia and deny the Americans a launching pad for their attacks. We must order our local Shiite militias to take control of these areas to prevent the intervention of the United States.
The Means: Operation Cyrus
After decades of study of cyber weaponry and tactics in response to the Stuxnet catastrophe and the Chinese hack of OPM, our Cyber Army have found a way to gain control of the Social Security Administration’s records, which are tied to hundreds of billions of dollars in payments to almost 50 million senior citizens. Once Operation Cyrus is approved, our Cyber Army will shut off all payments to seniors. This will cause widespread panic amongst a huge voting bloc right before the midterm elections and reveal an unknown vulnerability. Once the government realizes what is happening we will send a private message to President Trump’s administration that we are prepared to let them regain access to their records once their military ships and airplanes have withdrawn from the area
If they do not relent, we will begin destroying their Social Security records. Trump will have to deal with millions of angry voters or embarrassingly admit that Iran now has control over one of their most important data systems. The public fear of follow-on cyber attacks will be unprecedented for America and is sure to result in public disturbances and political crisis. This is only the start. If our opening move does not bring enough pressure on Trump’s administration, our Cyber Army is well prepared to target the IRS or Medicare next to significantly impair the functioning of their government and society.
Why This Will Work
Our cyber attacks can accomplish the same economic and political disruption of a strategic bombing campaign. Our models show that this, unlike ballistic missiles or martyrdom operations, will not rise to provoke a confrontation with the American military. The attack will shock Americans’ trust in their government to an unprecedented level, yet it will not produce mass casualties or provide images of burning buildings or ships that might raise the ire of the American people to demand war. President Trump is obsessed with his poll ratings and will do anything to avoid unpopularity. His victory in the 2020 election was based on his criticism of President Hilary Clinton’s poor handling of the Syrian and Libyan interventions, indicating the public’s reluctance to enter another Middle Eastern war. He cannot risk losing the support of older voters in Florida and Arizona or he will lose the 2024 election. The American people have never experienced the massive and prolonged disruptions and deprivations of a war on their homeland. The threat of indefinite hardships without a clear cassus belli will deter the American public and political leadership from going to war.
Why Other Plans Will Not Work
Some in the Supreme National Security Council say we should launch martyrdom operations on their homeland or target US business interests or embassies abroad. My friends misunderstand the fundamental nature of the American people. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 demonstrate that mass casualty events only prompt the American people to support politicians who want war, the very thing we are trying to avoid.
Guerrilla strategies have proven effective against American forces abroad in the past, but Operation Cyrus is not without risks or costs. If the Great Satan rises to make war, the United States has a potentially supply of men, women and material to throw at any adversary. Our missiles and guns will kill many of their soldiers but it cannot guarantee victory. Destroying their will to fight, without targeting their means to fight, is the surest path victory. Operation Cyrus can accomplish this with much less cost and risk than other strategies.
The New Art of War
Further delay of Operation Cyrus imperils Iran at the very time moment when we should preemptively strike America’s center of gravity in order to safeguard our nation’s future. Operation Cyrus gives us the means to target America where it is most vulnerable while achieving our aims without a fight. I formally request you revisit your decision to indefinitely postpone Operation Cyrus. To do otherwise is to accept certain military conflict on America’s terms, which Iran can no longer afford to do.
Benjamin Locks is a Senior Analyst at Avascent, where he supports a wide variety of strategic project engagements including: Third Offset technology evaluations, competitive assessments, due diligences, adjacent market studies, and federal procurement assessments in both national and international markets.