Where the offence is, let the great axe fall. (Shakespeare, Hamlet)
It is a deadly game of chess where both players lose, yet apparently, the game must be played out regardless. It is a duel where both combatants end mortally wounded. Israel and Iran keep inching closer and closer, threatening, pointing, accusing, knowing that when they cross the line, "the Middle East will burn." When the great axe falls, the world as we know it will change.
It is no secret that the Israelis and Iranians detest each other, but similar off-the-charts visceral animosities have occurred throughout human history. The difference today is the high stakes of nuclear weapons, global economic consequences in a fragile recovery, crippling oil price/supply volatility, the eruption of the Muslim street, the possibility of all-out nation-state destruction, and even the risk of WWIII.
Both the Israelis and the Iranians are masters at head-fakes, threats, bluffs, and finally, surprise. The Israelis, for their part, are talented at saying "We are not going to attack for the foreseeable future...we will attack anytime" and "We have a few years before they develop the bomb...time is running out quickly" and "We can't do this without the Americans...we are prepared to go it alone."
The Iranians say they want peace; they are not building a bomb; they only want nuclear reactors for medical and energy purposes; their sophisticated and populous country deserves nuclear power; and the Koran would regard nuclear weapons as evil. On the other hand, they openly lie, distort, deny, deceive, and cover-up. They dig their nuclear program deeper into the mountains, accelerate the mining of their own uranium, advertise an increased deployment of high-speed centrifuges, boast about rapid enrichment of uranium stockpiles, and work to refine triggers, detonators, and missile technology. Above all, they hide their nuclear sites, scientists, and activities from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) nuclear inspectors.
It would help Iranian claims of innocence if their leadership stopped saying: "The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor that must be cut out." - "It would only take nine minutes to wipe Israel off the map." - "The Zionist regime is a center of microbes, a cancer cell and if it exists in one iota of Palestine it will mobilize again and hurt everyone." - "Israel is a one-bomb state." It would also benefit their cause if Holocaust-denier President Ahmadinejad stopped calling the WWII massacre of Jews a myth and a lie.
In the midst of the bluster and bombast, the endless war of words, decision-makers in Israel must cut through the noise and watch their clock. The Mossad and IDF (Israel Defense Forces) gather intelligence data, crunch the numbers, and do the calculus. Once progress of Iranian nuclear bomb making activity nears the "zone of immunity," Israel will strike. The zone of immunity is the place of inevitability when the assemblage of a bomb can no longer be stopped. It is the point when the Revolutionary Guard will have acquired everything they need and buried their nuclear facilities deep under concrete bunkers in mountains, unreachable by a military strike.
Israel knows precisely what that sequence looks like. Thus the clock. When the fateful moment draws near, they alert the world that time is running out.
World: "Wait, give sanctions more time." Israel: "The clock has run out."
World: "But the sanctions are starting to bite." Israel: "You should have imposed such sanctions years ago instead of debating them."
World: "Well, as you know, from 2003-2009 we didn't believe they were still working on a bomb." Israel: "Precisely. We told you they started back up in 2006, but you didn't listen to us."
World: "You will destroy all our diplomatic efforts." Israel: "It is too late for diplomacy."
World: "You cannot succeed. The best result would be to set Iran back a year or two." Israel: "Then we will set Iran back a year or two."
World: "You will polarize the world into Russia-China against US-Europe." Israel: "We must protect our people from annihilation."
World: "The Muslim world will now look to Russia and China." Israel: "They make a nice family."
World: "You will cause a global recession, maybe depression." Israel: "It is too late for us to worry about that now."
World: "You will be hated by everyone for causing widespread misery." Israel: "We have been hated and hunted for thousands of years--seen this movie before."
World: "The US has promised they will never let Iran strike you." Israel: "The US might believe this, but we do not."
World: "It will be impossible to withstand a counter-strike." Israel: "We know about the 200,000 rockets and missiles aimed at us, but we always give worse than we get."
World: "There are no cities or areas in your country that cannot be reached by these missiles." Israel: "Correct. But they cannot reach our nuclear-powered dolphin submarines, cruise missiles, and fighter jets. In the past, we have shown restraint. This time we will not."
World: "You might well be annihilated anyway." Israel: "We were passive when Hitler killed six million Jews. We will never again be passive when six million Jews are threatened. One Holocaust was enough, thank you. Nie wieder."
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with President Obama Monday, March 5, to discuss the Iranian nuclear crisis. Obama gave a speech before AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) today, then discussed privately with Israeli President Peres for 35 minutes. Afterwards, Peres said, "I am sure that Netanyahu will be received very warmly in the White House tomorrow." Former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said last week that Netanyahu "will not even get as much as a cup of coffee" in his meeting at the White House.
It is no secret that Netanyahu and Obama dislike each other. This meeting will do little to heal that rift. The London Telegraph reported today, "Prime Minister Netanyahu will deliver President Obama an ultimatum that if the United States does not attack Iran soon, Israel will."
The latest IAEA reports leave little doubt that Israel was correct, that Iran is rapidly continuing its nuclear program.
* They will have enough low-grade (20%) uranium for a 15-kiloton bomb by June 1, 2012, "sufficiently large to be strategically useful."
* Their underground Fordow uranium enrichment plant (near the holy city of Qom and clandestine until discovered in 2009) will go fully operational "in the near future."
* They have detailed plans for construction of a "neutron initiator," a pellet that sits at the middle of the nuclear core and is crushed by high explosives in a nuclear explosion.
* They have conducted explosive tests linked to nuclear weapons research.
On January 31, Sen. Diane Feinstein leaked that the Mossad chief was in DC for secret talks related to a possible Iran strike. Days later, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there was "a strong likelihood" that Israel would strike Iran in April, May or June. All this is horrible news for President Obama. He is in trouble whether he goes along with an Israeli strike or refuses to back it. In an election year with a polarized and volatile electorate, either decision will cause heartburn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Israelis are damned if they do and doomed if they don't. Either way, they lose. President Obama now knows the feeling as well. (to be continued...)
- Do not yawn. This is history being made. It will not only affect you but also your grandchildren.
Pray for godly wisdom to direct all world leaders, that somehow a way might be found around the worst scenarios.
- Pray, as always, for the peace of Jerusalem, that great, beautiful, divisive city of all three monotheistic religions.
- Remember, we always live in a double narrative: what is seen (material) and what is unseen (spiritual). Every step we take is a step in both narratives. Trust in the second more than the first.
- Some have asked me about stockpiling, and I always smile and say, No, I don't go quite that far. I am not a survivalist. Having said that, in the chance of an unimaginably horrible Middle East confrontation, it might be prudent to set aside at least the beginnings of a small supply. It is hard to predict just how far and deep the economic repercussions of such an event might extend.
- Remember, in a tightly-coupled world, things happen fast.