Friday, February 03, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 151: Is a nuke-threshold (or outright nuclear) war looming over the ME Horizon?

The latest assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist by a car bomb, a few weeks back, strongly suggests -- with the Stuxnet cyber attacks that seem to have damaged a lot of nuke material concentration centrifuges -- that major covert action has been ongoing to try to delay Iran's breakout to a nuke bomb and missile package. 

Likewise, Iran is facing increasing sanctions. 

However, for years now, sanctions and talks (predictably) have in the end consistently proved inadequate.

As the Irish Times (acc. through WND) reports on the ongoing annual Herzliya security conference in Israel:
THE HEAD of the Israeli army’s military intelligence branch, Maj Gen Aviv Kochavi, says Iran already has enough enriched uranium to make four atom bombs.
In a rare public appearance, he told the annual Herzliya security conference Israel has conclusive evidence that Teheran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
“Iran is vigorously pursuing military nuclear capabilities and today the intelligence community agrees with Israel on that. Iran has over four tonnes of enriched materials and nearly 100kg of 20 per cent enriched uranium – that’s enough for four bombs,” he said.
The technical capability exists, the general said, and the final decision to manufacture a nuclear bomb will be taken by one man.
“When Khamenei gives the order to produce the first nuclear weapon – it will be done, we believe, within one year.”
As a window into the thinking of this sole decision-maker,  WND gives us a peek into what he said just a few days ago to delegates from all across the ME at an Iran-sponsored conference on what the media have been announcing over the past year as The Arab Spring (which is now rapidly becoming The IslamIST Winter -- as was warned against but largely ignored): 
“In light of the realization of the divine promise by almighty God, the Zionists and the Great Satan (America) will soon be defeated,” Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, is warning.
Khamenei, speaking to hundreds of youths from more than 70 countries attending a world conference on the Arab Spring just days ago, told a cheering crowd in Tehran that “Allah’s promises will be delivered and Islam will be victorious.”
The countries represented included Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Palestine and Tunisia, all of which have been involved in the Arab Spring.
In his remarks, Khamenei advised the youths to remain vigilant, stating that the Islamic awakening in the region has delivered several blows to the enemies of Islam and that all Muslims, despite their own historical and social differences, remain united in opposing the “evil hegemony of the Zionists and the Americans.”
Khamenei then claimed the current century as the century of Islam and promised that human history is on the verge of a great event and that soon the world will realize the power of Allah.
Many clerics in Iran have stated that Khamenei is the deputy of the last Islamic messiah on earth and that obedience to him is necessary for the final glorification of Islam.
For years, Iran has been announcing the expected advent of the Islamic end times deliverer figure, the Mahdi, who in the Shiite  version of Islam, is the re-emergence from seclusion of the so-called 12th Imam of Islam.  

According to Hadiths -- recorded traditions of Mohammed that form in effect the second Islamic holy book -- the Mahdi is expected to come from the direction of Khorasan (= Eastern Iran and east beyond), with the all-conquering black flag army. It is worth the while to excerpt the earlier KF blog post:

something is seriously wrong with how we are learning our history and with how we are therefore thinking about current issues and challenges. Something that is therefore potentially fatally dividing and polarising our civilisation. And, just when we need to stand together with moral clarity and resolute determination to see the struggle through in the face of a rising existential global totalitarian threat.
What "global threat"?
The what?

The fact that we don't know the phrase is itself an evidence of what is going on.
So, let's pause a moment, to hear Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabani – a chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America -- on the relevant hadiths (traditions of Mohammed):

“Hadith indicate that black flags [the flags of the army of Islam; now often seen in street protests] coming from the area of Khorasan will signify the appearance of the Mahdi is nigh. Khorasan is in todays Iran, and some scholars have said that this hadith means when the black flags appear from Central Asia, i.e. in the direction of Khorasan, then the appearance of the Mahdi is imminent.”

[The Approach of Armageddon? (Canada, Supreme Muslim Council of America, 2003), p. 231. (NB Others point out that Khorasan formerly referred to areas E & NE of Persian Empire; and point to the Taliban as the probable black flag army.) [HT: J Richardson, Will Islam be our Future?] ]

Then, let us hear no less than the Government of Iran speak, from the words of an official message to the world at Christmas 2007 in a Shiite IslamIST variation on the above Islamic traditions [note my distinctions], so that we can connect a few dots:
[T]he exploitation of the weak, the unjust system of distribution and denial of the rights of nations [i.e. inter alia Iran's "right" to break its former commitments under the Non Proliferation treaty, and access the technologies for the weapons that would equip it to "wipe Israel from the face of the map"], will end with the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS). In the government of the Imam man will witness real economic welfare throughout the world without any discrimination

. . . . Imam Mahdi and steadfast devotees will gather in Mecca . . . . Imam Mahdi sends troops who kill the Sofyani in Beit ol-Moqaddas [i.e. Jerusalem], the Islamic holy city in Palestine that is currently under occupation of the Zionists. . . . Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus [NB: the Islamic end times no. 2 to the Mahdi: Isa, not the Biblical Jesus!] will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world. Jesus had himself given the tidings of the coming of God's last messenger and will see Mohammad's ideals materialize in the time of the Mahdi. The seat of the Mahdi’s global government will be the city of Kufa [a Shiite city and centre of pilgrimage in Iraq] . . . .From here he will dominate the east and the west to fill the earth with justice.
And what will happen when Jerusalem is captured?

For that, we observe Egyptian authors Muhammad ibn Izzat and Muhammd ‘Arif, writing in Signs of Qiyamah (Islamic Book Service, New Delhi, 2004), p. 40:

The Mahdi will be victorious and eradicate those pigs and dogs [this is an allusion to an Islamic tradition that Jews were punished by Allah by being transformed into pigs, apes etc] and the idols of this time so that there will once more be a caliphate based on prophethood as the hadith states… Jerusalem will be the location of the rightly guided caliphate and the center of Islamic rule, which will be headed by Imam al-Mahdi… That will abolish the leadership of the Jews… and put an end to the domination of the Satans who spit evil into people and cause corruption in the earth, making them slaves of false idols and ruling the world by laws other than the Shari’a [Islamic Law] of the Lord of the worlds. [HT: JR]

Genocide, in one word. Or, as a notorious hadith that is cited verbatim in Hamas' charter, Clause 7, puts it:
"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews). When the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla [= slave or servant of Allah], there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharqad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Summing up in the words of Joel Richardson:
Islamic tradition pictures the Mahdi as joining with the army of Muslim warriors carrying black flags. The Mahdi will then lead this army to Israel and re-conquer it for Islam. The Jews will be slaughtered until very few remain and Jerusalem will become the location of the Mahdi’s rule over the Earth.
In short, our civilisation now faces an ideology driven by an end-times global conquest mindset; one that is now on the verge of not only ballistic missiles but the nuclear bombs to put on them. One committed to the genocide of the Jews of Israel, and the conquest of the whole earth until it is duly submitted to Allah, to Allah's Prophet, to Allah's Law, and to Allah's Warriors led by Imam Mahdi.

One that of course has territorial claims against Israel: lands once under Islam must be recovered by any means necessary. 

(It is not at all a matter of who has legitimate historic claims to the land. The Jews obviously do, and the long term residents -- many of whom are Arabs -- do as well. If that was all that was at stake, any one of the many opportunities to get a reasonable compromise deal that would develop the region to the mutual benefit of all its peoples would have worked: in 1919, in 1947 - 48, in 1967, in 1977 - 79, in 1993 - 2000 and onward up to today. The hadith cited as clause 7 of the Hamas Charter tells us why all such deals have consistently failed, and why they consistently failed from the Arab side, with violence. [Post Colonialist myths about a Jewish colonising state that has imposed "Apartheid Mark II" on its Arab neighbours simply fail to explain the easily accessed facts. In fact, the closest thing to a colonial overlord was the British Mandatory Power under the 1919 Versailles-League of Nations regime. And, a League Mandate was very different from your typical colony! What, with annual reports to the League, on progress and issues, etc!])

But equally, IslamISM has claims that bear the same rationale against Spain -- al Andaluz.

Nowadays -- courtesy Dr Sultana Afroz's tendentious teachings that the original Spanish settlement of the Caribbean was Moorish [thus Islamic] and that most of the slaves brought here were Muslims, IslamISTS have similar claims against our Caribbean region as well . . . . So, the threat is a little more directly relevant than we might think.
We must never forget, that in IslamIST eyes, the much celebrated "peace" of Islam -- as in: Islam is the religion of peace -- is only attained under the hegemony of Allah, Allah's Prophet, Allah's law and Allah's warriors. In the meanwhile, the world is in two camps: the domain of Islam, and the domain of war. The latter, to be defeated, final victory being achieved under Mahdi, as excerpted.

In that ideological-apocalyptic context, the proposed NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan will be seen by IslamIST radicals as a defeat for enemies of Mahdi, Iran sees itself as the vanguard for said Mahdi, and the Arab Spring/IslamIST Winter is patently seen as preparing the wider region for the first stage of Mahdi's triumph. He is to subjugate the ME, massacre Jews, and with the re-emerged Isa [Islamic version of Jesus], the world to the East and the West is to be dominated.

Clearly, Khameni either takes this very seriously, or sees an opportunity for Iranian hegemony based on this sentiment. Or, both.

As this blog already noted, Mr Netanyahu, Israel's current Prime Minister, in his UN General Assembly reply to Mr Abbas, was grimly determined to warn that in the end, Israel will act in the face of existential threats. Youtube.

Against that backdrop, we can understand the following from The Washington Post, under the headline, "Is Israel preparing to attack Iran?":
[US Defense Secretary, Leon] Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily . . . 
The report goes on to note:
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak may have signaled the prospect of an Israeli attack soon when he asked last month to postpone a planned U.S.-Israel military exercise that would culminate in a live-fire phase in May. Barak apologized that Israel couldn’t devote the resources to the annual exercise this spring.

President Obama and Panetta are said to have cautioned the Israelis that the United States opposes an attack, believing that it would derail an increasingly successful international economic sanctions program and other non-military efforts to stop Iran from crossing the threshold. But the White House hasn’t yet decided precisely how the United States would respond if the Israelis do attack. 
The Obama administration is conducting intense discussions about what an Israeli attack would mean for the United States: whether Iran would target U.S. ships in the region or try to close the Strait of Hormuz; and what effect the conflict and a likely spike in oil prices would have on the fragile global economy.
The administration appears to favor staying out of the conflict unless Iran hits U.S. assets, which would trigger a strong U.S. response . . . .
U.S. officials see two possible ways to dissuade the Israelis from such an attack: Tehran could finally open serious negotiations for a formula to verifiably guarantee that its nuclear program will remain a civilian one; or the United States could step up its covert actions to degrade the program so much that Israelis would decide that military action wasn’t necessary.
By the time the Iranians hit US assets directly and openly, of course, they will have long since had the nuke-tipped, 6,000+ mile range missiles to back up such actions, and/or the nuke suicide bomber squads fired by visions of seventy two perpetually renewed virgins to smuggle in so-called backpack or suitcase nukes through the highly porous Mexican or Canadian borders of the US.

The current US estimate is that Israel is not bluffing, though many Israeli military and policy leaders are skeptical about the likely effectiveness of a strike that will almost certainly become a wedge issue with the Obama Administration; Israel, after all is notoriously being type-cast as the neighbourhood bully in the ME.  This would be simply an extension of the longstanding rift between Israel and the current administration in the US, it being clear to all with eyes to see and ears to hear that Mr Obama is no heart-felt friend of Israel. And, of course, many in our region will be all too willing to go on and on and on in that vein.

But, that neighbourhood bully factor should be balanced by the historical note that in 1967, when Israel saw itself as under credible threat of annihilation (due to the Nasser-led Ring of steel, and oil strangulation attempt through the Straights of Tiran), despite major doubts on what such a strike could achieve, Israel struck by air -- using, by and large, inferior aircraft -- against the Egyptian and other Arab air forces, and backed that up with a tank led attack that in the main used patched up and modified WW II era Sherman tanks against the Egyptian tank forces. 

The resulting astonishing triumph, we know today as the Six Day War.

The Israeli blog, Israel Matzav, reflects:
If we reach the point where the military option against Iran is about to become "use it or lose it," I highly doubt our government will lose it. I don't think any Israeli government - Right or Left - could risk the consequences of losing that military option and then God forbid Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

I don't believe the US can stop this with sanctions and I don't believe negotiations would be anything but a stalling tactic. I believe the US can stop it with A LOT of covert action that significantly degrades Iran's nuclear program, but then it won't be so covert, will it?

Even if we only manage to put Iran off for a year, that year could have a huge advantage: There may be a new President in Washington who is more willing to confront Iran.
The bloggist then asks, "What could go wrong?"

Obviously, a lot.

But if Israel sees its survival at stake at the hands of an extremist Iranian regime that has backed terrorism for thirty-odd years, which has been threatening annihilation of Israel for years, and which has been the main backer for what is now a ring of apparently up to 200,000 rockets (mostly 25 mile range, but several thousands have much longer ranges) in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, there is but little doubt that Israel is willing to strike.

For, even if the programme is only postponed by a year, that could be decisive.

And, I have but little doubt that Israel would be willing to use nuke bunker busters to take out hardened Iranian targets. Similarly, if Israel strikes, it is unlikely it will just strike nuclear targets, anything connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the regime will be fair game.

That is why we need to take the following statement from Israel's Defense Minister quite seriously:
Israel's defense minister says there is growing international awareness that military action against Iran's nuclear program will have to be considered.

Ehud Barak told a security conference on Thursday in Herzliya, Israel, that he senses a change in international thinking. He says world leaders are increasingly realizing that if sanctions don't stop Iran's nuclear program, "there will be a need to consider action."
Israel, like the West, believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Israel has been a leading voice in calls to curb the Iranian program. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
Israel has repeatedly hinted it is ready to attack Iran, saying that while it prefers a diplomatic solution, "all options are on the table."
This was backed up by comments to the same conference by Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister, Moshe Yaalon, that appear in the main body of the same article:
Iran's suspected nuclear weapons installations are vulnerable to possible military strikes, Israel's vice premier warned Thursday, suggesting that underground bunkers don't offer sufficient protection . . . .

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said even the most sophisticated U.S. bunker-buster bombs [presumably, conventional explosives ones] aren't powerful enough to penetrate all of Iran's defenses.
Yaalon, a former military chief of staff, suggested Thursday that forces guarding the nuclear installations could be targeted. Referring to the debate over bunker-buster bombs, he said that "at the end of the day it's possible to strike all the installations."
If conventional munitions, however sophisticated, are likely to be inadequate, that strongly suggests that nuke bunker busters -- perhaps, launched as GPS-guided cruise missiles from Israel's submarines in the context of an air strike that would saturate and distract Iran's defenses -- are on the table.

Multiply all of this by Iran's increasing bellicosity, threats to cut the world's oil-jugular vein through the Straights of Hormuz, and general ME instability over the past year that is rapidly putting IslamIST regimes in place in keystone Arab states. Blend in Turkey's shift back to a ME orientation and rising IslamISM.

Nuke threshold or outright nuclear war is plainly looming over the ME horizon, perhaps within the next several months to a year now.

That suggests major disruptions to the vital oil markets, and yet another oil price spike, probably to unheard of levels, US$ 200 - 300 or even more, if things break down sufficiently spectacularly. 

Here in our region that would probably severely disrupt our tourism trade, and the trade patterns we depend on for food and general consumption.

In addition, we must remember that regional power, Venezuela, is an Iranian ally, so fighting in the ME could have spillover effects in our region, especially if the US is involved one way or another.

All of this is deeply painful to consider, but we need to think about it very seriously and prepare for the possible consequences of a world that tumbles into even more dangerous developments in the ever-unstable Middle East. END

F/N Feb 4: Debates on when Iran moves into the immunity zone. The Israelis are evidently thinking: within six months, the Americans: maybe double that, and are hoping sanctions will work within six months.

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