Iran starts closing Internet as saber-rattling continues

Iran is shutting down access to Google services while readying its own "Internet" and threatening Israel and the West.

Iran seems to be once more closing its Internet borders.

In New York City, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is talking softly, while his government has started  blocking Google services and a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards is threatening a pre-emptive strike on Israel.

While saber-rattling has long been part of Iran's foreign policy towards the West, Iran does finally seems to be making good on its promises to break Internet ties with the rest of the world. According to reports from Tehran in Al Arabiya, an Iranian official has stated that "Due to the repeated demands of the people, Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide. They will remain filtered until further notice."

Other reports agree that Iranians can no longer reach Google search and Gmail. Your Middle East, a self-declared independent source of news on the Middle East, reports that a high Iranian official in charge of Internet access said that closing the door to Google was in response to the recent YouTube video mocking the prophet Mohammad .

That said, Your Middle East also reported that Mohammad Soleimani, a lawmaker heading a parliamentary communication committee and former Minister of Communication and Information Technology, said that "the establishment of the 'National Internet' will not cut access to the Internet," because ”cutting access to the Internet is not possible at all, because it would amount to imposing sanctions on ourselves, which would not be logical. However, the filtering will remain in place."

Google's own numbers show a minor reduction in Iranian Internet traffic, but they doesn't show a major dip. That may be because tech-savvy Iranian Internet users have long used virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy servers to slip around the Iranian national firewall.

This is not the first time Iran has cut the country's Internet users off from global Web services. In February, Iran temporarily blocked access to Gmail, Facebook, Hotmail and Yahoo. Since June 13, 2009, Iran has censored YouTube.

Is this the beginning of Iran moving to its own Internet? That seems unlikely. What does seem possible is that Iran, which has been subject to numerous cyber-attacks , is starting to implement its own version of China's great firewall.

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