Journal Article

Cyber Operations as Nuclear Counterproliferation Measures

Marco Roscini

in Journal of Conflict and Security Law

Volume 19, issue 1, pages 133-157
Published in print April 2014 | ISSN: 1467-7954
Published online January 2014 | e-ISSN: 1467-7962 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jcsl/krt028
Cyber Operations as Nuclear Counterproliferation Measures

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Focusing on recent malware that allegedly targeted Iran’s nuclear programme, this article discusses the legality of inter-state cyber operations as measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons approaching the problem from the perspective of the law of State responsibility, in particular the circumstances precluding wrongfulness. After examining the role that cyber attacks and cyber exploitation can play in preventing nuclear proliferation, the article explores whether cyber operations can be justified as countermeasures in response to a possible breach by Iran of its non-proliferation obligations. It then discusses whether counterproliferation cyber operations amounting to a use of force are submitted to a more lenient legal regime than other more traditional forms of the use of force in international relations. Finally, the article explores the legality of counterproliferation cyber operations from the perspective of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and in particular of the resolutions adopted against Iran by the Security Council. The article concludes that the legality of counterproliferation cyber operations must be assessed in the light of the general primary and secondary rules of international law: neither the means used (cyber instead of kinetic) nor the aim pursued (the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons) justify a special legal regime.

Journal Article.  12196 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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