UPDATED: War clouds continue to build in the epicenter. Last month in Rome, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that the United States and Israel would soon be "annihilated," language he had not used so explicitly since October 2005 when he promised to wipe Israel "off the map" and urged Muslims to "envision a world without the United States." This week, his regime authorized a new series of Iranian war games. He ordered the digging of 320,000 graves to bury the enemies of Islam. He is calling for the unification of the Islamic world politically and economically, including the creation of a single currency.
What's more, Iranian TV is running a new anti-Semitic documentary film series entitled, "The Secret of Armageddon." Setting the stage for a coming apocalyptic war that will usher in the Islamic Messiah known as the Mahdi or the "Twelfth Imam," the series focuses on a series of Bible prophecies that inform Jewish and Christian End Times theology. While the presentation is grossly distorted, some facts do emerge. Iranian scholar Dr. Ismail Shafe'i Sarustani , for example, tells viewers that the word "Armageddon" is "originally a Hebrew word" and "is a real geographical region, situated south of Haifa," noting that "the place was shelled by Hizbullah during the 33-day [July 2006] war." Iranian historian Mohammad-Taqi Taqipour notes that "these [Evangelical Christians], along with the Jews, believe that the War of the End of Days will take place in the desert of Megiddo, in Palestine. They believe that Jesus will return, and that then there will be a millennium of happiness."
The series, however, accuses Jews who were recently victims of genocide -- during the Holocaust Ahmadinejad denies ever happened -- of actually planning to commit genocide. "There is a genocidal Zionist Jewish plan for the genocide of humanity at the hand of the Zionist Jew-boys," claims one Iranian researcher interviewed for the program. "The Zionist Jew-boys talk about a 'Greater Israel' -- from the Euphrates to the Nile -- but their actual goal is world domination." At one point, Iranian researcher Shams Al-Din Rahmani argues that "the goal of the Zionists is the total destruction of Islam."
During the June 7th episode, the narrator embraces anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and proceeds to try to justify Iran's own war plans. "Today, there are many indications that the 'hidden hands' of world Zionism were involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack. According to a large group of Western intellectuals, the Zionists are the real rulers of the United States. According to irrefutable documents published by independent American media outlets, the Zionists used intelligence agents and spies, with the full cooperation of agencies with the country, to carry out this terrorist operation in full view of the world, in order to prepare the ground for taking over Afghanistan and Iraq, and to realize the dream of a greater Israel."
Top Israeli intelligence officials, meanwhile, increasingly believe that time is running out. They believe that Iran could have nuclear weapons within a year and one former Mossad chief is urging his country's leadership to launch a massive series of air strikes against Iranian nuclear and other military facilities before it is too late. Israel's Air Force just conducted a test run of such a bombing mission. John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., says he believes Israel may strike Iran sometime in late fall or early winter, after the U.S. elections in November but before the inauguration of the next American President on January 20. A senior Pentagon officials told the Washington Post several days ago he is worried about the same scenario -- a November surprise -- prompting both President Bush and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to make strong public statements warning the Israelis not to take such actions. Until just a few weeks ago, it was widely believed in Israel that new parliamentary elections would be held in November. But at the last moment, Defense Minister Ehud Barak withdrew his threat of voting to bring down the Olmert government for a few more months. This led some to speculate that Barak may be calculating that Israelis couldn't be fully immersed in an electoral campaign and a bombing campaign simultaneously.
The U.S. does not want Israel to strike. After all, the repercussions of such a war with Iran would be global in nature. Israel would face tens of thousands of incoming missiles not just from Iran but likely from Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and possibly the West Bank. Some of these missiles could be have chemical and/or biological warheads, even if the nuclear warheads in Iran are not yet ready. Ballistic missiles would also be likely fired from Iran at the oil fields in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, at oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Straight of Hormuz, and at U.S. bases and forces in Iraq. Tens of thousands of suicide bomber cells could be activated in the region -- especially in Iraq and Israel -- and perhaps even in Western Europe and the U.S. and Canada. Iranian efforts to topple Jordan's King Abdullah II and/or Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in favor of radical Islamic regimes friendly to Tehran could also be set in motion. Oil prices could shoot from $140 a barrel to $300 a barrel or more. U.S. gas prices could spike to $7-$10 or more, with horrific domestic and global economic repercussions.
No wonder Washington doesn't want a war with Iran. No wants such a war. I certainly do not, nor do the Israelis. Yet, the U.S. does not have a convincing plan to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program in time. Nor does the U.N., or the E.U. Diplomacy isn't working. Economic sanctions have been imposed on Iran since 1979 to little strategic effect. Unfortunately, the words of Sen. John McCain keep echoing in my head this week. In April 2006, the senior Senator from Arizona appeared on NBC's Meet the Press. He warned, "there's only one thing worse than using the option of military action, and that is the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons." For if Iran gets the Bomb, he said, "I think we could have Armageddon."