May 15, 2007

The Eschatology of the Coming Nuclear War

U.S. News and World Report has a short post up concerning the simulation of nuclear detonations in the Middle East:

A simulation has determined that any major use of nuclear forces in the Middle East in the next decade would most likely be "existential," meaning that an attack would amount to an effort to destroy a nation and the ability of its people to ever recover from a nuclear exchange. The briefers determined that Israel would be vulnerable to such attacks--and so would any Iranian attacker. The simulation was developed by the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., to examine the nuclear dynamics likely to develop in the Middle East between 2010 and 2020.

"In fact," noted a Center for Strategic and International Studies summary of the briefing released today, "a nation like Iran--with so much of its economy, culture, and government concentrated in Tehran and a few other cities, might prove to be far more vulnerable to the forces Israel could develop than Israel would be to the forces Iran could hope to deploy" until the end of the 2010-2020 time period. The briefing covers the use of nuclear ground bursts, fallout, longer-term death rates, and population-killing strikes. Other targets will likely include oil and gas distribution and loading facilities, desalination and water purification plants, electric power plants, and refineries--targets likely to affect the general population.

First, is there ever a "minor" use of nuclear forces?

But that isn't my main focus here.

The writer of this piece seems to imply that Iran's vulnerability to a nuclear exchange would keep it from starting a nuclear exchange with Israel. To make such an assumption, if this is the writer's intent, is a failure of cultural understanding.

It would perhaps be fair to apply Western standards and values to the state of Israel, as so much of the Israeli population emigrated to Israel from western nations, and their society and government hold with Westernized cultural values, but to attempt to apply those same cultural values to an Iranian government run by this mullacracy is to avoid the plain fact that Iran's leaders have values shaped by a radical theology all their own.

The Iranian government--and hence its rapidly expanding nuclear weapons program, is slaved to the beliefs of a radical Shia sect called the Hojjatieh, a cult within Shia Islam so radical that it was outlawed in 1983 by Ayatollah Khomeini.

As notes the Persian Journal:

According to Shi'ite Muslim teaching, Abul-Qassem Mohammad, the 12th leader whom Shi'ites consider descended from the Prophet Mohammed, disappeared in 941 but will return at the end of time to lead an era of Islamic justice.

"Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi," Ahmadinejad said in the speech to Friday Prayers leaders from across the country.

"Therefore, Iran should become a powerful, developed and model Islamic society."

"Today, we should define our economic, cultural and political policies based on the policy of Imam Mahdi's return. We should avoid copying the West's policies and systems," he added, newspapers and local news agencies reported.

Ahmadinejad refers to the return of the 12th Imam, also known as the Mahdi, in almost all his major speeches since he took office in August.

A September address to the U.N. General Assembly contained long passages on the Mahdi which confused Western diplomats and irked those from Sunni Muslim countries who believe in a different line of succession from Mohammed.

This fascination has prompted wild stories to circulate.

Presidential aides have denied a popular rumor that he ordered his cabinet to write a letter to the 12th Imam and throw it down a well near the holy city of Qom where thousands of pilgrims come each week to pray and drop messages to the Imam.

But what really has tongues wagging is the possibility that Ahmadinejad's belief in the 12th Imam's return may be linked to the supposed growing influence of a secretive society devoted to the Mahdi which was banned in the early 1980s.

Founded in 1953 and used by the Shah of Iran to try to eradicate followers of the Bahai faith, the Hojjatieh Society is governed by the conviction that the 12th Imam's return will be hastened by the creation of chaos on earth.

How seriously should we take the ruling Hojjatieh sect?

The executive summary of one study provided to the U.S. military by a strategic planning contractor stated:

Ultra-religious Shia clerics and Ahmadinejad are dedicated to the near-term messianic return of the 12th Imam via the creation of an apocalypse.

I don't think it gets much clearer than that.

The contention is that not only do the Hojjatieh anticipate the "creation of chaos on earth," they actively seek to create an apocalypse. Based upon their public pronoucements and nuclear weapons research, it seems quite clear that their preferred method is to instigate a nuclear attack against Israel. They know that Israel will respond with a retaliatory nuclear strike of their own, and are in fact, are more than likely counting on it.

It is this Israeli return nuclear strike on Tehran that Ahmadinejad and the Hojjatieh are counting upon to trigger the Madhi's return.

Iran and Ahmadinejad have been very clear in their desire to see Israel "wiped off the map," with multiple threatening pronouncements, and Ahmadinejad himself seems quite convinced that he is on a mission from Allah.

Mortal concerns and fears have little importance for an Iranian leadership seemingly bent on using a nuclear war to force a messianic return. Tens of millions may perish because a once-outlawed cult thinks a nuclear war will convince a four-year-old messiah to crawl out of a well in which he's been hiding 1,066 years.

I sadly fear that Democratic Party principles of avoidance will force our government to continue to discount the Iranian nuclear threat until after Iranian missiles are already arcing in towards Tel Aviv, at which point any further action against Iran will be addressed to a relative handful of survivors.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 15, 2007 11:41 AM

Excellent post, Bob. Too bad the people who could learn the most from it won't find time to read it. I added an excerpt and link to my 2007.05.15 Dem Perfidy // Islamism Delenda Est Roundup

Posted by: Bill Faith at May 15, 2007 12:47 PM

Why does anyone think Iran would be silly enough to launch a nuke attack themselves? They have many willing allies to press the button for them. If this is the case, will any in the West be willing to attack those that are responsible without hard evidence of the fact? No.

Unfortunately this is not a Democrat Vs. Republican issue any longer. Both the Dems and the Repubs fail to call a snake a snake, or, more importantly, kill the snake that is in their midsts.

Posted by: Mekan at May 15, 2007 02:54 PM

First, is there ever a "minor" use of nuclear forces?

The smallest fission device Ted Taylor ever designed for the US arsenal is smaller than a grapefruit.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at May 15, 2007 03:36 PM

Let's assume you're right about Iran being suicidal. Why wait for nukes? They've got plenty of conventional warheads, and probably chemical ones as well. Why not fire 'em all at Israel and then welcome the incoming rounds?

In truth, much is made of this '12th Iman' thing, but it's a little like Christianity's Apocalypse: something you might even believe in, but are not going to seriously try to trigger.

Posted by: gregdn at May 15, 2007 03:49 PM

The reason they dont use conventional munitions is because they want to at least hurt Israel. Conventional warheads with limited guidance are just sabers to rattle. A nuke does a huge amount of damage, doesnt need to be guided as well, and it radiates the area.

A chemical attack would cause casualties, but not nearly as many a nuclear strike. Plus it only kills, it doesnt destroy. Being a WMD though, Israel would most likely retalliate with nukes. They might be suicidal, but they wont kill themselves for nothing.

Posted by: jbiccum at May 15, 2007 04:17 PM

Q: How do you know someone is trying to over-inflate the Iranian threat?

A: They pretend Ahmadinejad is actually in charge of Iran.

Sorry kids, strict limit of one botched war per generation. That's Iraq.

Posted by: Shochu John at May 16, 2007 11:16 AM

Q: How can you tell if someone is a liberal?

A. When they purposefully misstate what someone else says, so they can continue to stick their heads in the sand.

What part of "Iranian government run by this mullacracy," "Iran's leaders," "their own," "the ruling Hojjatieh sect," "Ultra-religious Shia clerics and Ahmadinejad," "their public pronoucements," "Ahmadinejad and the Hojjatieh," "Iran and Ahmadinejad," "Iranian leadership," and "once-outlawed cult" (all pulled from the post itself) would make anyone with two firing brain cells interpret Ahmadinejad as the power "in charge of Iran?"

I'm quite cleary not referring to one man.

You're intellectually dishonest, John, and purposefully so.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 16, 2007 11:40 AM

Let me spell this out more clearly. This entire post, and do correctly me if I'm wrong, is based on the notion that,as yous say, "[t]he Iranian government--and hence its rapidly expanding nuclear weapons program, is slaved to the beliefs of a radical Shia sect called the Hojjatieh, a cult within Shia Islam so radical that it was outlawed in 1983 by Ayatollah Khomeini."

Slave to the beliefs? Interesting. And what would make the entire Iranian government slave to such beliefs? Because, as it says in the very headline of the linked Persian Journal article, "Iran president paves the way for arabs' imam return" Indeed, the entire article is about how this school of thought influences Ahmadinejad. You yourself note that this little millenarian cult was banned in Iran over twenty years ago. So, now let's turn this into a logic puzzle. If you take evidence that the Hojjatieh controls A-Jad to mean that the Hojjatieh controls the Iranian government, it must mean that you believe A-Jad controls the Iranian government.

As I am a guest here, I shant return your accusations of purposeful intellectual dishonesty in kind, but will instead give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you simply do not understand the ultimate logical meaning of your statements.

Posted by: Shochu John at May 16, 2007 01:00 PM

My apologies, John.

Now seeing your most recent comment, I realize my error: I didn't make things simple enough for you to understand them.

Ayatollah Khomeini? Dead. So are his edicts, including the one that outlawed the Hojjatieh. The reason their outlawing was cited was to show that this bunch of nutters was too crazy even for their crazies. The edict, however, died with Khomeini.

The Hojjatieh not only exist, they are the power beind the Iranian Beeblebrox, Ahmadinejad, not hte other way around. Now, all of my other readers seem to grasp this without having it explained to them, so perhaps you're simply the lowest common denominator, as it were.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 16, 2007 01:30 PM

"The Hojjatieh not only exist, they are the power beind the Iranian Beeblebrox, Ahmadinejad, not hte other way around."

Swing and a miss. Where did I say A-jad controlled these people? Why don't you got ahead and point that out for me.

What I said was:
"If you take evidence that the Hojjatieh controls A-Jad to mean that the Hojjatieh controls the Iranian government, it must mean that you believe A-Jad controls the Iranian government."

Please, for the love of God, take the time to read over that statement. Read it out loud to yourself if you have to There is little value to engaging in name calling because you disagree with the comments I didn't make.

Posted by: Shochu John at May 16, 2007 01:52 PM

This is an excellent message dealing with the analogy of faith and other matters of the interpretation of prophecy.,%20Eschatology%2017%20Revelation%2020%20Pt%201.mp3

Posted by: Jonathan at May 17, 2007 08:55 PM

A couple of points - having read through the released briefing from CSIS, the author doesn't imply one way or the other that Iran would be deterred from use of nukes - it does however, note that it may be an existential for Israel (or it might be able to recover in 10 years), but it is much less clear that it will be recoverable over something like a 50 year timeframe for Iran.

And @ Sochu John, your argument seems to hinge on wheter Ahmadinejad is in charge or not. As far as I can tell, the control of strategic devices would most likely rest with the IRGC, not with the regular military, and in any case, I can't think of a single government in the history of mankind that was either totally under control of any single individual or completely in control of the nation as a whole.

Maybe I just don't see what you're driving at, but I don't get how the relative command-and-control authority of Ahmadinejad over all sectors of the state is relevant to his C3I over the nuclear deterrent, particularly keeping in mind that the creation of the IRGC was intended specifically to tackle the military/civil relationship.


Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 18, 2007 09:52 AM