Matt Blake – Daily Mail April 11, 2012
Iran’s plans to ‘shut down the internet’ and replace it with a state-controlled intranet have been dismissed as a hoax… by the ‘propaganda wing of the West’.Reza Taghipour, the Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister, was reported as saying millions of Iranian web users will be barred from access in a drive to build a ‘clean internet’.
But in a statement, the ministry said yesterday: ‘The report is in no way confirmed by the ministry [and is] completely baseless.’
It blamed the rumours on ‘the propaganda wing of the West’ which was providing ‘its hostile media with a pretext emanating from a baseless claim’
It is the latest in a string of clashes between Iran and the West, who have become locked in a tense stand-off as tensions soar towards breaking point.
A report, published last week, quoted Taghipour as saying the internet ‘promotes crime, disunity, unhealthy moral content, and atheism’ and the government has no choice but to rid the country of these ‘scourges’.
The statement did say, however, that Iran has plans to establish a ‘national information network’ billed as a totally closed system that would function like a sort of intranet for the Islamic republic.
It is not clear if this will run alongside the internet or replace it completely.
But the clash comes weeks after a Chinese telecommunications equipment company sold Iran’s largest telecom firm, TCI, a powerful surveillance system capable of monitoring landline, mobile and internet communications.
The deal, worth £100 million, illustrates how despite tightening global sanctions, Iran still manages to obtain sophisticated technology, including systems that can be used to crack down on dissidents.
Human rights groups say they have documented numerous cases in which the Iranian government tracked down and arrested critics by monitoring their telephone calls or internet activities.
But it is Iran’s uranium enrichment programme that has caused the most concern, igniting fears that the Islamic nation could be close to the production of weapons-grade nuclear material. Iran claims it only seeks reactors for energy and medical research.
Last week, the US Navy deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf amid rising fears over Iran’s nuclear program.
In November, the Nuclear Atomic Agency issued a damning report that said the Middle East nation is secretly building an arsenal of nuclear warheads, and could have its first ‘within months’
The last time an American carrier left the Gulf – the USS John C Stennis in late December – Iran’s army chief warned the U.S. it should never return.
In March, The BBC said it had been the victim of a ‘sophisticated cyber-attack‘ in an attempt to undermine its Persian Service which broadcasts to Iran.