The word among some members of the intelligence community is that the government of Iran is in a panic. This is not good news for the world. And it is making Iran’s neighbors very uneasy.
It’s difficult to remember a time when the mullahs of Iran were sane. Their insanity began with the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, and the assumption to power of Ayatollah Khomeini in that same year, and the bloody revolution that began with the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, exactly forty years ago. The Ayatollah turned a secular country, where the people were free to live as they liked and enjoy relative freedom in a Muslim country, into an Islamic state that controlled all aspects of public life under strict Shariah (Islamic law).
When a head of state believes that the Messiah will be coming any day now, and that the way to hasten his coming is to sow the seeds of chaos wherever possible (because chaos must occur before his arrival), chaos is what can be expected. And when that state is equipped with nuclear weapons, the stage is set for disaster of catastrophic proportions. It is set for the people in the region, for the community of nations, and for the future generations who will suffer the consequences.
Iran is preparing for a nuclear war that will create the chaos required before the ‘Mahdi’ (their messiah) can appear. This sequence is according to Shi’a belief and the Mullahs take it very seriously.
It is believed that the Mahdi will be a direct descendant of Mohammed and he will lead his flock into a golden age of justice and the acceptance of the true religion – Islam.
For the rest of us, the path to eternal peace is not so attractive, because the time of chaos will be bloody and brutal. We have already seen what it looks like in the ruthless, inhuman record of rape, murder, and destruction that ISIS made as they marched through Syria and Iraq, only a few years ago. And even though ISIS is a Sunni cult and has little love for Shi’a Muslims, they too follow the brutal teachings embodied in their own beliefs and demonstrated to us what may be to come if the Ayatollah decides that the time is right to encourage the coming of their Mahdi by bringing on the chaos.
The Insanity of Iran’s Rulers
Here are just a few of the indications that Iran is moving along a very dangerous path and we had better take it seriously.
One of the first things that got the Mullahs unhinged occurred when, in May 2018, President Trump announced the United States withdrawal from Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The purpose of that agreement was, ostensibly, to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the near future in exchange for removing sanctions. But the agreement did not provide the necessary oversight that could have prevented Iran from continuing its nuclear program in secret.
In fact, it actually ensured that Iran would be able to have nuclear weapons within a ten-year period, while growing its economy substantially because of the lifting of sanctions. In the context of the agreement, the U.S. delivered billions of dollars in cash to Iran, much of which went to fulfill pledges to terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East.
When President Trump withdrew the U.S. out of the JCPOA, he put even more severe sanctions on Iran, particularly its oil production and sale.
Iran tried to renegotiate the deal with the other signers, but their efforts had only limited success, So the government began gearing up its nuclear capabilities and voiding the terms of its own deal.
On November 5, Iran announced that it is already operating 60 advanced IR-6 centrifuges and, even more important, they are working on a new type of centrifuge that will work 50 times faster than what is currently permitted under the deal.
Then, two days later, Iran began injecting uranium hexafluoride gas into the 1,044 centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, the underground nuclear facility that is located about 20 miles northeast of the holy city of Qom. With this action, the Fordow ‘research facility’ (as it was defined in the JCPOA) turned into an active atomic site. It has also been reported that the Russian nuclear company Rosatom is helping Iran to make this conversion.
Iran did not need much of an excuse to breach the agreement that it still had with the remaining signers to the JCPOA. In July 2019, the IAEA already reported that Iran had breached the 3.67% limit by enriching uranium to 4.5%.
3.67% represents the enrichment level needed to operate a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium requires 90%, which is relatively easy to reach once uranium has been enriched to 20%. Iran reached 20% before the JCPOA was signed, according to several sources, although the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has denied that.
America responded to this escalation with a warning that this is not being taken lightly. A State Department spokesperson said,
“Iran has no credible reason to expand its uranium enrichment program, at the Fordow facility or elsewhere, other than a clear attempt at nuclear extortion that will only deepen its political and economic isolation . . . . We will continue to impose maximum pressure on the regime until it abandons its destabilizing behavior, including proliferation-sensitive work.”
Is he talking about more sanctions?
And speaking of sanctions, those that Trump placed on Iran have had a devastating effect on Iran’s economy. The sanctions were intended to cripple Iran’s oil-centric economy, and they have done just that. As soon as they were first imposed, international companies began pulling out of Iran, because of fear that secondary sanctions by the U.S. might cripple them as well.
The sanctions were aimed at Iran’s crude oil production which had reached 3.8 million barrels per day (bpd), of which 2.3 million bpd were earmarked for export. Most of Iran’s oil was traditionally purchased by eight countries – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Greece, and Italy – and the U.S. had granted them all six-month waivers after the sanctions on the Iranian energy sector took effect.
By March 2019, Iran’s oil exports had dropped to 1.1 million bpd. Taiwan, Greece and Italy stopped importing completely, and China and India, the two biggest buyers by far, cut their purchases significantly – China by 39% and India by 47%. China says that its trade with Iran is legal and that the US has no jurisdiction and cannot interfere. Turkey has also refused to break its ties completely, saying that it cannot cut off its commercial relationship with a neighbor.
Up to now, it is estimated that Iran has lost more than $10 billion in revenue because of the sanctions.
But it is the Iranian people who have been suffering the most. The prices of basic goods have skyrocketed, while the value of Iran’s currency, the rial, has plummeted and it now takes many more rials to buy far less. Reports began coming out that the Iranian people were getting restive and demonstrations began breaking out throughout the country against the austerity, the lack of basic goods, the skyrocketing prices, and the hopelessness that was engulfing them.
Several months ago, more reports began coming out – this time that the Iranian regular soldiers were going without their paychecks, and they were not fed. The soldiers had to manage on their own. And because the government may have recognized that an army that is not paid will be resentful, the Iranians leaders began to worry that they might be soon facing a coup.
On the other hand, Iran’s elite forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were still being paid and fed, because their commander reports directly to the Ayatollah Khamenei, and his troops are loyal to the Ayatolla, who takes good care of them. If there is ever going to be a coup, these are the men who will protect him.
In the face of this austerity, and the fierce sanctions imposed by the U.S., Iran began rattling its sabres. At first, they sent out their IRGC navy operators to place mines on tankers in and around the Strait of Hormuz, then they shot down a U.S. drone, and then destroyed a major portion of an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia.
Then, only last week, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector was detained briefly after she was accused of triggering an alarm as she entered the Natanz nuclear facility. Iran said that her entry was denied and her credentials were removed. It was a humiliating situation that was most likely staged by the Iranians themselves.
Iran continues its policy of destabilizing the Middle East, supporting terrorism throughout the region, and providing weapons and funding to terrorist organizations, with particular emphasis on Hizb’allah in Lebanon and Syria, and Hamas in Gaza.
In Lebanon alone, Iran is reported to have provided Hizb’allah with 100,000 missiles, many of which are hidden in caves and under tree canopies, aimed at Israel. Iran now has the capability to attack Israel from many locations, including not only Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, but now also from Iraq and Yemen.
And coming back to Iran’s threats, Israel has always been a major thorn in Iran’s side and the Ayatollah continues to threaten the tiny Jewish state as if it were comparable in size to itself and a major threat. Make no mistake, Israel is a tiny but powerful country and the threat that Iran poses to its future is taken very seriously indeed.
Only recently, the commander of Iran’s elite IRGC Major General Hossein Salami told a meeting of IRGC commanders that destroying Israel, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime . . . . This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal,” Salami said.
Tensions with Hizb’allah grew rapidly only recently when Iranian operatives in Syria — including two former Hizb’allah members — attempted to carry out an attack on northern Israel with armed drones, to which Israel responded to by defeating the attack and carrying out a retaliatory attack on Beirut. Hezbollah responded to the attacks by firing anti-tank missiles into northern Israel earlier this month, although no Israelis were injured.
Does Iran Have Nukes?
My sources tell me that they do. These are the warheads and the missiles that they developed together with North Korea back when the intrusions of U.N. inspectors made their work impossible in Iran. In December 2012, they began packing up their secret R&D and shipped it – and the scientists and IRGC soldiers they needed – off to the Hermit Kingdom where the two countries worked on bombs and delivery systems and miniaturization, until they had a nuclear warhead that fit on a missile and could be deployed. This is what they have – today. So it really is not a question of when they will have the bomb. It may be primitive, but it is a nuclear bomb. And they do have it.
So What Next?
Israel is now preparing for a war with Iran. And Israel too has the bomb. Israeli leaders believe that it is not a matter of “if” but “when” there is a war with Iran, and they want to be prepared. But the task is difficult because Israel is surrounded by enemies, and it is a tiny country, preparing to go to war with a country that is eighty times its size. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the threat clearly. And he described Israel’s determined response:
“The current focus of aggression in the Middle East is the Iranian regime in Tehran. Iran is striving to tighten its grip on Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip. It is constantly arming its metastases with dangerous weapons and is attacking freedom of navigation in international shipping routes. It downed a big US UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle], it launched a crude and unprecedented attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, it repeatedly exceeds its own arrogance. … Iran threatens to wipe us off the map. It says explicitly: ‘Israel will disappear’. Time and time again, it tries to attack us, so we must stand ready to protect ourselves from the danger.
“Whenever Israel is challenged and its security is threatened,” Netanyahu said, “we always remember and apply the basic rule that guides us: Israel will defend itself, on its own, in the face of every threat. The IDF [Israel Defense Force] is prepared to pre-empt any threat, defensively and offensively, with its overwhelming power in weaponry and in spirit.”
So what next? It depends on how desperate, how aggressive, how unhinged Iran becomes. In its current state of panic, its future moves are difficult to predict. But what is clear is that the West must be ready. If Iran decides to attack – Israel or the U.S. – there will not be long hours for discussion, for arguing strategy, or discussing tactics. There will be only minutes to make life or death decisions that will affect millions of lives.
If war starts, it will begin in the Middle East, and Israel will likely be the first target. But it will start because of Iran, stirring the pot, planting the mines, deploying the missiles. And it will be up to the West – to the U.S. – and to Israel to stop the monster once and for all, to free the people of Iran, and to save the region from the insanity of religious fanatics.