Saturday, August 19, 2006

Super Tuesday?

Let's hope this coming Tuesday, August 22, passes with little news, but I and many others believe that someting big may be in the offing. Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton and Middle East scholar, tells us why in a piece that was published last week in the Wall Street Journal
This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.
Most elites in the West, and indeed most Westerners, I think, have trouble accepting the idea that a national leader would use a religous event to provoke a cataclysmic event. It seems like something out of the Middle Ages.

But the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is no ordinary fellow. He takes his religion seriously. Very seriously.

David Pryce-Jones, in the May 8 2006 print edition of National Review (digital subsctiption required), quotes Ahmadinejad on the purpose of his government, and provides an, er, illuminating detail.
“Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi.” In the middle of the 10th century, this imam went into hiding, supposedly in a well in Jamkaran, south of Tehran, but it is an article of Shiite faith that he will return and herald the End of Days. Ahmadinejad and his cabinet signed a petition to the hidden imam, proceeded to Jamkaran, and threw it down the well for his attention
"He did what?" I said to myself the first time I read that. It's the type of thing that must be read a few times before the significance sinks in. And then you realize; there are people who actually think we can negotiate this man out of obtaining nuclear weapons. I don't think so.

Just for the record, yes I know that Christian pastors will talk about end times, and will even say "the end is near." I know because I hear this on Sundays. The difference is that the pastors say this because they're trying to get people to change their ways before it's too late, and they don't tell the parishoners to go quit their jobs and sit at home to await the rapture.

Now read what Pryce-Jones tells us about a speach he gave at the UN:
Similarly unself-conscious, he claimed that while speaking at the United Nations “I became surrounded by a green light,” so that for 27 to 28 minutes all the attentive listeners did not blink — the chronological exactitude is a touch a thriller writer might envy. And he closed that speech by urging God to “hasten the emergence of Your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one who will fill the world with justice and peace.”
The color green, if you didn't know, is the color of Islam.

Further, all this is not just theological musing by Ahmadinejad. According to Joel Rosenberg in an article at NRO,
Ahmadinejad is telling colleagues in Tehran that he believes the end of the world is rapidly approaching. He also believes that the way to hasten the coming of the Islamic Messiah known as the “Hidden Imam” or the “Mahdi” is to launch a catastrophic global jihad, first against Israel (the “little Satan”) and then against the U.S. (the “Great Satan”).
Now do you understand why Bernard Lewis isn't crazy when he told us we better pay attention on Tuesday August 22?

What Might Happen?

One thing that might not happen is that 10 airliners don't get blown out of the sky. Some commentators, such as Michael Ledeen, think that the airline plot was supposed to happen on August 22. Of course, it might still. The one thing about playing defense is that you never know if you've stopped all of the plots. I just hope that security people take extra precautions next week.

Iran has said that they will respond to our demand that they cease production of nuclear fuel on Tuesday August 22. So on the "lite" end of the spectrum, maybe they're just going to tell us to bugger off that day.

The other end of possibilites, the "heavy" end, looks much more dire. While it is unlikely that Iran has nuclear weapons, North Korea almost certainly does. While there is no formal alliance between them, the two countries are united in their hatred of the West in general and the United States in particular. We would be foolish to discount the possibility of cooperation. It is rumored that a North Korea nuclear test could be very near, perhaps imminent. Steve Schippert of ThreatsWatch speculates that a strong possibility therefore, is that the DPRK lites one off on Tuesday.

Iran, for it's part, has just started major military maneuvers. Schippert takes all of this into account and throws out one possibility
One speculation – taking the events and forcing them into the same context – would interpret the Iranian exercises as an actual perimeter defense deployment ahead of events known by Iran and expected to be perceived as provocative. That event could potentially be an Iranian rejection of the nuclear proposal simultaneous with a nuclear demonstration by their chief technology proliferation partner, North Korea.
The two countries might even announce some sort of formal alliance, or defensive treaty. We would do well to remember that the Tripartite Pact ("Axis Pact") between Germany, Japan, and Italy, was defensive in nature, only obligating the powers to come to each other's aid if they were attacked by an outside power.

So I don't know about you, but I'm going to pay extra close attention to the news this Tuesday. And I'm not flying anywhere.