I've taken the liberty of making a free translation of this essay and adding paragraph breaks where I thought they fit. Not that I agree with it, but it's an interesting perspective, and I'm delighted to have non-English speakers posting at ICANNWatch: |
Internet geopolitics at work: the case of .IQ (Iraq). This article was initially imagined as having a very narrow focus: showing how American entities continue to "squat" on extensions corresponding to countries considered hostile by the american government.
My research "revealed" a situation that is complex and unusual in the sense that although the "delegation" of a country code contravenes ICANN's rules, it is situated in a context in which the US could have legitimate reasons for doing it. I would like to note that I have made every effort to edit this article with a concern for objectivity: I am not "anti-american" but I also refuse to take an overly Manichean view of things. The case of .IQ seemed interesting because of the will manifested these last weeks by the administration of George Bush junior to finish work started a dozen years ago by George Bush senior (I refer history buffs to the decisive interview of July 25, 1990, between Saddam Hussein and United States Ambassador to Baghdad April C Gaspie, where they can find the responsibility for the invasion of Kuwait begun August 2nd thereafter). I could also have cited the cases of .SD (Sudan) or the .SO (Somalia) among others, but .IQ may have value as an example.
Iraqi's extension was delegated on May 9, 1997 to a company baptized as "Alani Corp" and domiciled at Infocom in Richardson, Texas. There was nothing "shocking" about this delegation at the time. Jon Postel, who administered the "root" of the DNS delegated extensions according to the rule of "first come, first served". The delegation nonetheless somewhat contravened RFC 1591 issued by the very same Postel, for that specified that a ccTLD delegate should be managed in the interests of the internet community of the nation. And this is therefore the first symbolic decision of the case of .IQ. According to RFC 1591, that fundamental text which has been subsequently confirmed by ICANN and by governments (the "GAC Principles" add in a few codicils), .IQ should have been delegated to an entity enjoying the support of the Iraqian internet community.
There is an obvious (and cyncial) objection to this observation: Iraq wasn't so to speak at all connected to the Internet, there was no Internet community over there, and thus it had no need for 'its' extension. QED. The proof nevertheless did not seem so obvious as all that to the US State Department. It imposed such conditions on the use of .IQ that the extension was never able to be activated, according to what an Infocom executive stated in 2001 to "The Guardian". This is clearly a case where the US used their sovereignty and control over the "root" of the Internet to block the activation of a country-code.
The problem can be fully appreciated if one considers Infocom, whose head, Bayan Elashi, served as technical contact for .IQ. A quick Google search delivers a great deal of information about him. Founded in the early 90s, Infocom is run by several members of the Elashi family, who are of Palestinian origin. The firm is known for hosting more than 500 pro-Muslim sites including the "Holy Land Foundation" whose Board is chaired by Ghassan Elashi, brother of Bayan, and vice-president of Infocom. On Sept. 5, 2001 -- we are slipping involuntarily into a different file -- Infocom was the object of an investigation involving 80 FBI agents. For three days they copied and analyzed the contents of servers hosted by Infocom. Was this demonstration of force part of a race started by the FBI to neutralize the terrorists of 9/11 before the irreparable could be accomplished? Doubtlessly we will only know in several decades.
On Sept. 10, 2001 the Bureau of Exportation of the Dept. of Commerce (which is also in charge of the ICANN matter via the NTIA) add the brothers Elashi and Infocom to its blacklist, accusing them of having made illegal exports to Libya. The operation was said to use a Maltese firm as its cover. The Elashi brothers said in their defense that these accusations lacked any legal basis. If the US administration had wanted to neutralize Infocom, this is precisely how it would have gone about it. Indirect response from the FBI to the Elashi brothers: in 2001, the Holy Land Foundation, presided over by Ghassan Elashi, had as its objective the collection of funds for distribution in the form of aide to Palestinian families. But according to Israeli sources delivered to the FBI in the summer of 2001, the HLF was in fact concentrating its gifts on the families of "Palestinian martyrs" killed in the course of suicide missions. Explicit links existed between the brothers Elashi and Hamas. It seemed evident that .IQ is nothing more than a fraction of the voluminous file concerning Infocom and the Elashi brothers put together by a diverse group of US agencies. And, if it's true that the Elashis, as Palestinians, had no more rights to the Iraqi country-code than did the USA, one can but approve -- if the American accusations are based on accurate facts -- Washington's decision to block the extension so long as it is in the hand of these people.
The solution will surely consist of redelegating the extension to an Iraqi entity that is not linked to terrorist networks. But the current geopolitical context indicates that this redelegation, although legitimate, is still far from becoming a reality.