The Last Israelis -

Archive for May, 2013


May 26, 2013

Doomsday Thriller (ebook, audiobook, paperback) Iranian Nukes

As the Obama administration tries to unbury itself from snowballing scandals, my apocalyptic thriller steadily crawls from fiction to fact. The Middle East is an insane place. And it’s going nuclear. Yet too many optimists, isolationists, and self-deluded analysts think that rationality will prevail and keep us all safe.

Is it rational to take out the organs of a man you just killed and eat them on camera, as a Syrian rebel recently did? How about a senior Palestinian Authority official who recently, on Lebanese television, declared that the PA would nuke Israel if it had nuclear weapons? Jibril Rajoub, the deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and the chairman of the PA Olympics Committee, apparently doesn’t mind that the nuclear mushroom he wants over Israel would also kill millions of Palestinians, just miles away – the main goal is that Israel be nuked.

At best, one can say that there is a “twisted rationality” in the Middle East, as exemplified by Iran’s former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In a December 2001 speech, Rafsanjani said, “If one day the Islamic world [acquires nuclear weapons], then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality. Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix is extracted from the region and the Muslim world.”

Despite the above, Rafsanjani is considered such a “moderate” that regime hardliners disqualified him from running in Iran’s presidential election next month. So if Rafsanjani thinks that nuking Israel would be worth a few million Iranians killed by an Israeli retributive nuclear strike, what does that say about the rationality of the current, less “moderate” regime (the one regularly threatening to destroy Israel)? Could the eschatology of Shia Islam further heighten the risk of Armageddon? If the regime under Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei genuinely believes that an apocalyptic war will hasten the advent of the Twelfth Imam (the Islamic messiah), doesn’t that make a nuclear first strike on Israel that much more tempting? Scholars may disagree about the potential impact of messianic ideology on nuclear decisions, but the mere possibility that geopolitical conflicts could be viewed through a theological lens hardly adds rationality to the Middle East.

To spread its radical ideology, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard finances, trains, and arms some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations: Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. These organizations are collectively responsible for thousands of deaths from decades of terrorist attacks and wars in Israel, Lebanon, Europe, and Latin America. Iran has also provided support to the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents, and al-Queda. The Islamic Republic supplies Syria with arms, training, and fighters to help President Basher Assad stay in power by massacring his own people every day. If this is how the Iranian regime has behaved without the impunity conferred by a nuclear deterrent, what can be expected of the regime once it has nukes?

Equally troubling, if Iran’s large-scale and dispersed nuclear program continues, the regime will be able to produce dozens of nuclear bombs every year. Such massive production only increases the odds of intentional (or unauthorized) nuclear transfers to state or non-state actors, and spurs regional rivals into acquiring or developing a matching nuclear deterrent.

Three trends will make a nuclear Middle East even scarier: 1) technological improvements and miniaturization will make it easier to create and transfer small nuclear devices. 2) Climate change will aggravate water scarcity, which will only intensify generational conflicts in the Middle East. 3) Increasing technological interconnectedness will exacerbate sectarianism (as has been the case in Syria, where atrocities from the civil war are constantly recorded on video and shared, only further radicalizing the belligerents).

Once Iran has nukes, the potential catastrophes are manifold: a Middle East decimated by a far-reaching Sunni versus Shia conflict (sparked in Syria) and/or by a nuclear war between Israel and Iran; a nuclear arms race among other Mideast countries; the end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and terrorists who can target major cities with small nuclear devices. However it plays out, oil prices will skyrocket and many will die.

The Iranian nuclear threat is the most important global security issue of this generation. To focus public attention on it, I authored “The Last Israelis” in a breathless ten weeks, hoping to release the book in time to impact the May 2012 “P5+1” talks in Baghdad, when world powers tried yet again for a diplomatic solution. To continue raising awareness before Iran crosses the nuclear finish line, I just released a second edition, and added paperback and audiobook formats to reach more people with my book’s urgent message.

But what happens when it’s too late to stop Iranian nukes? “The Last Israelis” depicts the doomsday scenario resulting from a nuclear-armed Iran, as experienced by 35 ideologically divided and ethnically diverse Israelis aboard the Dolphin submarine. To write the apocalyptic thriller, I dropped everything in my life and secured interviews with veterans of Israel’s elite and secretive submarine force. Imagining 35 submariners confronting the unthinkable as World War III unfolds in their claustrophobic reality was bad enough. Watching the world gradually move in the same direction, knowing that it’s not my imagination this time, is far worse.


May 22, 2013

Obama’s Apocalyptic Betrayals on the Issue of Iranian Nukes

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President Obama’s far-reaching efforts to facilitate Iran’s march to nukes amount to nothing less than apocalyptic betrayals of U.S. voters and allies that will make the world exponentially more dangerous.

Obama has ignored the countless reasons to doubt that the ayatollahs will make and keep a nuclear accord that prevents them from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here are just some of those reasons: 1) Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani boasted about his own role in exploiting diplomatic talks to advance Iran’s nuclear program, 2) Iran hid its nuclear facility in Qom until it was exposed in 2009 and continues to cover up its nuclear work in Parchin), 3) Iran recently tried – in a single transaction – to buy know-how for nukes and impunity for one of its biggest terrorist attacks. 4) Iran is actively developing more advanced, long-range cruise missiles, 5) thanks to Iranian involvement in the recent Houthi-rebel takeover of Yemen, Iran’s ever-expanding hegemony now reaches four Arab countries, and 6) Iran continues to stonewall IAEA inquiries into potential military dimensions of its nuclear program, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929.

The Saudis have warned that the current deal will spark a Mideast nuclear arms race. It could also hasten the era of nuclear terrorism. There are already reports that ISIS has resorted to attacks with chemical weapons (hardly surprising after Obama’s “red lines” on chemical weapons use turned white). Iran could provide nuclear material – in addition to a nuclear umbrella – to its proxy terrorist group, Hezbollah. For these and other grave concerns, Netanyahu risked his political career on a speech before Congress that explained why the deal is so bad.

Yet rather than address legitimate reservations about the emerging Iranian nuclear deal, Obama prefers to hold Bibi to his Israeli election slogans about a Palestinian state as if Obama hadn’t himself broken countless campaign promises, including his own oft-repeated commitment (to voters and allies alike) that he would prevent Iran from going nuclear. Breaching his promise to everyone, Obama has embraced a process that makes Iran a threshold nuclear state.

Instead of questioning the intentions of the same theocratic regime that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, the Obama administration has whitewashed Iran’s terrorist activities/record, and accepted Rouhani as a moderate even though human rights in Iran have worsened under his rule.

Despite Obama’s attempts to influence the outcome of Israel’s free elections, no Israeli government, regardless of the political parties that comprise it, can live with the existential threat posed by a nuclear Iran. And world powers are closer than ever to forcing an Israeli military response to that danger because they have buckled rather than created sufficient diplomatic and economic pressure to persuade Iran to dismantle its nuclear program.

Iran has made steady progress on its nukes despite decades of sanctions, UN Security Council resolutions, IAEA inspections, and negotiations. The most successful strategy for stopping Iran’s nuclear march was the very real threat of force in 2003. After the U.S. military quickly trounced Iraq, neighboring Iran was deterred from continuing its nuclear activities, until it concluded that the U.S. military threat had dissipated.

Under Obama, the weakest U.S. president since Jimmy Carter, there is no credible military threat, as his actions in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere have shown.

That reality will force Israel to take military action against Iran’s nukes – either in the absence of a nuclear deal or despite the bad one under consideration (which paves Iran’s path to the bomb with legitimacy while isolating Israel). Some think that Israel will refrain from attacking because a military strike would, at best, set back Iranian nukes by a few years. But that is a specious argument for two reasons: 1) Like “mowing the grass” with Hamas’ military buildups in Gaza, Israel may simply have to take military action every few years, 2) the Iranians may eventually stop trying to develop nukes, after realizing that it’s a huge waste of resources to build nuclear facilities that Israel will eventually destroy.

Despite all of the risks of attacking Iran’s nuclear program, doing nothing will be riskier to Israel’s survival because the world’s most dangerous regime then acquires the world’s most dangerous weapons. The Jewish nation knows all too well the dangers of ignoring genocidal threats, and Iran, the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism, has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel. By making Iran a nuclear threshold state, the proposed deal leaves the ayatollahs with the ability to carry out that threat and therefore compels an Israeli attack. However, because Israel’s capabilities are far more limited than those of the U.S. military, Israel won’t be able to prevent Iranian retribution when destroying Iran’s nukes.

What follows is a nuclear World War III. Iran will retaliate with an overwhelming barrage of potent, long-range ballistic missiles on Israel’s population centers, and will likely also target the Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona (which action could itself produce massive casualties). Hezbollah, which has about 100,000 long-range missiles supplied by Iran, will add to the unstoppable downpour of missiles. For all of their impressive successes, Israeli missile defense systems simply cannot handle such a huge number of incoming missiles, and so there will be thousands of dead.

The world, as usual, will do nothing but excoriate Israel and call for restraint, leaving Israel with countless casualties. Adjusted for population differences, ten thousand dead in tiny Israel is like about 400,000 killed in the USA. At that point (if not much sooner), Israel will feel that it’s very survival requires nuking Tehran and a few other major cities, which would destroy the regime along with maybe a million people. The Sunni countries threated by Shiite Iran’s hegemonic aggression in the region may have already entered the fray at that point, or would do so soon after, and the centuries-old Sunni-Shia conflict would explode throughout the region even more than it already has. It’s not clear how the war eventually ends, but there will be even more chaos as failed states and radical extremism spread across the Middle East. The price of oil will skyrocket to unseen levels, and none of this will be good for U.S. interests.

Absurdly enough, the U.S. could probably prevent such a doomsday scenario by simply asserting an ultimatum backed by very credible military force. If Iran does not, within a week after the expiration of the current talks, allow inspectors unfettered access to all of its nuclear facilities and then cooperate in their destruction (with compensation and a set of economic and political rewards for that cooperation), then the U.S. military will, with overwhelming military force, destroy the entire Iranian military infrastructure (including its nuclear program) and work towards the downfall of the regime. If the U.S. can make such a threat credibly, then Iran will acquiesce, no actual force will be needed, and the decades-long Iranian nuclear threat will finally end.

But, unlike apocalyptic betrayals, such a bold show of force is unthinkable for Obama, and so we could be looking at a nuclear World War III in the not-too-distant future.


May 18, 2013

Obama-gate and World War III

Americans are the biggest losers from the slew of scandals now rocking the White House, but who are the biggest winners? Iran, North Korea, Syria, China, and Russia. If US foreign policy seemed spineless and muddled in confronting bad actors before the Benghazi-IRS-AP scandals surfaced, the US just became that much more irrelevant to its archrivals and antagonists on the world stage.

Unfortunately, the trio of scandals comes at an extremely dangerous time. The ever-unpredictable North Korea just fired three short-range guided missiles. Much more ominously, Russia is reverting to a Cold War mindset in ways far more serious than the recent arrest of alleged CIA operative Ryan Fogle. Russia is doubling-down on its strategy of backing its Syrian client, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Russia recently sold advanced Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Syrian President Bashar Assad. These missiles, outfitted with an advanced guidance system, effectively empower Syria to thwart any attempt by international forces to help Syrian rebels with a naval embargo or no fly zone. Upping the ante even more, Russia sent at least a dozen warships to its Tartus naval base in Syria, according to a Wall Street Journal report last Thursday. Russia has also declared its intention to complete its sale of the S-300 advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Syria. The S-300 is a state-of-the-art system that can intercept fighter jets and cruise missiles at a range of about 124 miles and would therefore – if actually delivered to Assad – represent a game-changer that disturbs the current military balance of power in the Middle East. That is undoubtedly a red line for Israel, and Israel takes its red lines seriously, as it has shown with airstrikes on Syrian targets to prevent the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah.

When the above developments are combined with the already combustible circumstances prevailing in the Middle East, the results could quickly explode into a potentially catastrophic regional conflict. The potential belligerents – Israel, on the one hand, and the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis, on the other – have decades of hostility and mistrust between them, and no open communications by which to resolve conflicts or clarify intentions. Thus, the possibility of miscalculation is dangerously high, and the short distance between Syria and Israel only accelerates the time to full-scale war.

The Golan Heights, which borders Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan, is the only buffer between Israel and Syria, and is only about 500 square miles large. Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon, which is effectively as close as Syria is, illustrates how easily and quickly one miscalculation or attack can unexpectedly lead to something far greater. On July 16, 2006, Hezbollah terrorists fired rockets at Israeli border towns and ambushed two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence, killing three Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah launched the totally unprovoked attack with the limited goal of abducting some Israeli soldiers, but that offensive sparked a month-long war with Israel that left over a thousand dead, displaced well over a million, and resulted in billions of dollars of economic damage. Without the cooperation of world powers, the conflict might have escalated into something considerably worse.

But with the two-year old conflict in Syria, and the current confluence of events, the situation is much more perilous. In Syria there are chemical weapons and the unabashed involvement of an ex-super-power (Russia), one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations (Iran-backed Hezbollah), and a rogue nation that sponsors global terrorism and is aggressively pursuing a nuclear capability (Iran). Obama’s isolationist stance paved the way for an increasingly jihadist Sunni insurgency to fill the resulting vacuum in Syria and his policy has also allowed Russian designs and influence in the region to go unchecked, however disastrous the results may be.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Russia has sniffed Obama’s lack of resolve. But now – with so many domestic scandals plaguing Obama – Russia is even more emboldened to pursue its interests in Syria, and that sets the stage for an inflammable conflict. Israelis knows all too well that when it comes to their security, they can ultimately rely only on themselves. Indeed, no foreign soldier has ever died defending Israel in any of the major wars threatening its existence.

So if Russia ultimately delivers the S-300 missiles, New Jersey-sized Israel may be forced to destroy those batteries before they become fully operational, or even after, if its legendary air force can find ways to overcome the system. But such attacks by Israel would quickly draw in Hezbollah and Iran, vastly expanding the theater of conflict in a way that could have devastating and far-reaching consequences. Will Iran decide at some point to attack U.S. interests across the Middle East and/or Europe, with its ballistic missiles or terrorist sleeper cells? Will Iran block the Strait of Hormuz and send oil prices skyrocketing, challenging NATO military resolve to open the critical waterway by force? Will Israel decide to strike at Iran’s nuclear program?

Much potential peril lies ahead. Will the USA’s Commander-in-Chief be so distracted by three scandals that he can’t effectively respond to, much less proactively manage, the international crises that may soon emerge? Is that how World War III happens during Obama’s second term?