Whitley's Journal

Confrontation with Iran: the Hidden Dangers

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington and former Mossad Chief Meier Dagan appeared on 60 Minutes to warn that war with Iran would be a mistake. Meanwhile, it has been pointed out by numerous commentators that no country which has acquired nuclear weapons since World War II has used them, and that nuclear arsenals are instruments of peace rather than war, because the prospect of mutually assured destruction enforces stalemate. The prime examples cited are the US and the USSR, which never actually fought a nuclear conflict, and Pakistan and India, which fought three wars prior to acquiring nuclear weapons, and have not fought since.

At present, the great powers have been at peace with one another for over sixty-five years, a record in modern times. War seems as absurd now as it did in 1913. But the danger now is at least as great as it was then.

There are six nuclear powers who could become involved: the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Israel. If it turns out that Iran actually does have the bomb, which is an outside possibility, that would be a seventh. But why would all these powers potentially be involved? How could such a fantastic conflict, seemingly completely impossible, break out.

Let's do a little analysis. First, why did Netanyahu come to Washington? What does he want? Israel has gone to war before without asking for American approval, and surely he cannot expect to receive that from the least pro-Israel president in modern times. However, Israel cannot succeed against the Iranian nuclear sites, not on its own. This is because it does not possess massive ordinance penetrating bombs, or bunker busters. Last September, the United States took delivery of twenty such weapons. Their precise capabilities are not known, but there is evidence that they have void-sensing fuses, which are designed to detonate the weapon after it has penetrated an unknown density of stone and senses a void.

Israel possesses neither such weapons nor the means to deliver them. The only delivery platforms that can do the job are the B-52 Bomber and possibly the B-2.

Now, why would Israel be so desperate for the US to use these bombs, and make no mistake, it's not a collegial debate. Netanyahu would not have come here unless he wanted a US attack on Iran, and Dagan would not have spoken out unless he knew for certain that this request had been made.

The fact that the request was made can only be for one reason: either Iran already has a prototype, or is about to have one. But why is this so dangerous to Israel? Wouldn't an Iranian bomb have the same regional stabilizing effect that the Soviet, Pakistani and Indian bombs had? That was Dagan's argument, but it is not the belief of the Israeli military, nor of Mossad at this time.

Looking across the reaches of Iranian history, the Israelis see a culture with a three thousand year long tradition of belief that death in war leads to life in heaven. Ever since Darius the Great sent his legions against the army of Athens at Marathon in 490 BC, this belief has been more or less present in Iranian culture. (At the time of Darius, it was believed that a warrior fighting on behalf of truth would be drawn into heaven by Ahura Mazda if killed. The infamous promise of eternal bliss for suicide bombers, which emerges through the long Islamic tradition that we know today originated that far back, and is thus is even more deeply engrained in Iranian culture than it is in that of the rest of the Muslim world.)

They also see another and very dire reality: Israel is a small country. In fact, a tiny country. Iran already has missiles that can reach any part of Israel, albeit without particularly accurate guidance. The problem is that even a single nuclear weapon, detonated essentially anywhere over Israeli territory, is going to do vast damage, much of which will be irreparable for years to come. If by chance there was a direct hit on Tel Aviv, a bomb the size of the ones that struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki would ruin the country.

The worry is that the fact that this would lead to the destruction of every major city in Iran might not be a deterrent. The theocratic extremists within the Iranian government might even see it as a religious triumph, a holy sacrifice. In any case, the Iranian regime draws its power mostly from its rural constituency and sees its urban populations as dangerous hotbeds of anti-regime sentiment.

Obviously, this is a terribly dangerous situation, and it has probably been made more dangerous by a paucity of good intelligence coming out of Iran. After the 2007 'outing' of CIA non-official cover Valerie Plame, there was a profound loss of an important source of direct intelligence from Iran. This is because she was associated with a sham company called Brewster-Jennings, which had deployed agents on the ground in Iran who were able to determine by testing air from exhaust vents near underground facilities which were emitting radiation consistent with the production of fissionable material and which were not. Once her actual role was made public, the Brewster-Jennings operation in Iran was destroyed, and for an unknown period of time it was impossible for US intelligence to keep track of activities at these facilities.

I have always regarded the revelation of this NOC as an act of high treason, and felt, as I have said before, that it was so profoundly destabilizing that it is difficult to believe that the parties responsible were not hoping to set the stage for an eventual nuclear war in the middle east. Of course, such a war is consistent with the beliefs of Christian extremists such as John Hagee, who imagines that such a war might bring on Armageddon and the Rapture. It is because of this belief that Hagee Ministries in Texas have been so accommodating to Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spoken at their church there. At the time that the NOC was exposed, of course, the US president was a Texan with avowed fundamentalist beliefs.

So, in the deeper background on both sides there are people who believe that such a war will open the gates of heaven to them, which is probably at least as dangerous a part of the problem as the Israeli's more realistic fears.

But surely such a conflict would be contained. Israel and Iran might both be destroyed, but there it would end. Surely.

Or perhaps not. In July of 1914 there was not a single great power that had any idea that events in the Balkans were going to lead to a catastrophic conflict in the very heart of western civilization. Even when the Austrians and the Germans began mobilizing, it did not immediately occur to other governments of the peril that presently existed. Not until the French military informed the government that, in view of the German mobilization, it could not guarantee the safety of the country unless it, also, mobilized at once was the peril realized. But by then it was too late.

If the US and Israel attack Iran now, it will be hoped that this will be a pre-emptive strike that will set back the Iranian nuclear program not for three years as is being publicly stated, but for ten or twenty or fifty years, or permanently. If this is not wishful thinking, then the strike could succeed, but it will nevertheless be an extremely dangerous gamble, for precisely the same reason that the Austrian move into the Balkans was far more dangerous than it appeared.

Russia and China both have an enormous but also tenuous stake in the middle east. Their primary allies are Syria and Iran. Obviously, it's not a very comfortable position for them. For China, Iran is an important oil resource. In February, China and Iran agreed that Iran would export half a million barrels of oil a day to China. This is an appreciable percentage of China's 10 million barrel per day consumption, and there is evidence that it is enabling China to expand its all-important strategic reserve.

So China, and to a lesser extent Russia, have a stake in Iran remaining at peace. At the same time, they cannot deny their ally what appears to be a reasonable desire to insure its own safety by creating a nuclear deterrent, and both countries have been supportive of Iranian ambitions, but only up to a point.

However, if there is an attack in Iran, it is possible that there could be a surprising response from an unknown party, possibly Russia, more likely China, even, remotely, Iran itself.

In November of 2010, the vapor trail of a submarine launched missile appeared off the US west coast. At the time, it was dismissed as the contrail of an incoming airliner, but this was not the case. The most likely power to have launched it was China, but as no accurate accounting has ever appeared, there is no way to be certain whose it was.

In any case, if a nuclear weapon was detonated in near space above the US west coast, it could potentially destroy all exposed electronics in the western third of the country, causing the collapse of everything from communications to vehicle mobility to water and power systems, and the destruction of financial records and the functionality of banks and all forms of electronic transaction. During the years it would take to restore systems, there would be fantastic human suffering and vast economic disruption. Without directly affecting a single individual, or even being detectable except by its effects, it would be the single most destructive military action in the history of the world, and, in terms of cost, the cheapest.

It might or might not bring retaliation from the United States. The country, already reeling from such a surprise attack, might be unwilling to risk a further nuclear exchange.

Now, I cannot even begin to predict what might or might not happen in the event of a conflict with Iran. What I am saying is that such a conflict is going to be highly unstable, and subject to unexpected escalation. There could be extraordinarily dangerous consequences that will probably be so asymmetrical that they will be a complete surprise, and one that is very difficult to deal with. Quite frankly, the United States could suffer a defeat of world-historical proportions during such a conflict.

If it happens, it is to be hoped that the worst that occurs is a rain of non-nuclear rockets falling on Israel, and China and Russian staying neutral, and, above all, that western assessments of Iran's military capabilities are accurate.

Consider the possibility that the U.S. is prosecuting an undeclared economic war against China, and that Iran is a proxy, as were Iraq, Libya and Syria. Journalist James R. Norman recently appeared on Coast to Coast AM to explain this; here's a link to a Youtube rebroadcast of the show. It's well worth listening to, in order to provide context to the Iran issue.


As a Jew, I must believe that Israel really has nothing to fear from an Iranian nuclear program. If Iran were to use a weapon against them - it would fail. I wholeheartedly believe that G-d will protect Israel. Recall during the first Gulf war – Saddam fired an endless salvo of SCUD missiles at Israel. Other than some property damage – not one - not one - Israeli life was lost as a result (assuming you discount the one reported heart attack). Why was that? I believe the divine hand of G-d was at work (okay – He may have made use of those patriot missiles too, but it still was a miracle).

When it comes to foreign policy, most world governments should not craft theirs simply around religious beliefs; certainly not the US which is, at its heart, a secular nation first and foremost. However, in the case of Israel, it should recognize G-d as its King and protector and put its faith wholeheartedly in Him. There is nothing they really need to do but expose the Iranian government as the hateful loonies they are and maybe some strategic sabotage. Iran will topple itself, bomb or no bomb. The ancient Kingdom of Judea defied four major empires, which prophecy tells us would rise again only to be soundly laid low before a new age begins. Babylon (Saddam’s Iraq) has been defeated already, Persia (Iran) is next – they will not prevail in starting a world war, let alone winning one. The Seleucid Empire that came from Alexander’s Greece (Syria) will be next to fall and is already on its way. This leaves us with the modern substitute for Rome – who could that be?

As G-d promised ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19: " I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed" If Israel, and the world as a whole, chooses life (peace) over death (war) then surely we as a species will survive for eternity.

This will start WW111 if Israel or the U.S. strike Iran, you only have to look at what happened to its neighbor Iraq to tell you they won't lie down. I have it on good authority that a close ally to the U.S. is gearing up to send warships to the persian gulf soon, some say it is to keep the pressure on sanctions, I believe there is a more sinister motive....

This will start WW111 if Israel or the U.S. strike Iran, you only have to look at what happened to its neighbor Iraq to tell you they won't lie down. I have it on good authority that a close ally to the U.S. is gearing up to send warships to the persian gulf soon, some say it is to keep the pressure on sanctions, I believe there is a more sinister motive....

Which way is the arab world swing after the Arab spring of 1 year ago? Are the oustings filling in with a worst evil to the West?
The US is in a tough stance. It coems down to this: Which is more valuable to our interests? A Friend with Oil or Friend with Democracy ?

Those in control want WWIII. Zionism is not about Israel...

War with Iran will most likely start by October or November as this will keep Obama re-elected for a second term as no standing president as ever been defeated during war time.
Also it will be a divergence from the global collapse that is about to unfurl,the laws getting passed through congress lately and done also very stealthily I might add(N.D.A.A getting passed on new years eve)are a method to control the masses and in particular the dissenters that have sussed onto the fact they've been had.
The global elite are turning into absolute lunatics,they have been pushing the eugenics paradigm for decades and what better than a war to scale back the population.But everything is planned to be they way they want it to be,after the coming conflict the people of the world will accept a one world government as the war will be so grisly the solution offered will be snapped up,a one world army.It seems a good way of peace but who bangs the drum.........the bankers and the military industrial complex.It means that a platoon of Chinese soldiers can march straight into occupy Oakland and slaughter American people without the remorse or chance of dissent an American platoon would feel.
If you think i'm wrong where is the massive outcry from the public over the murders of civilians recently in Afghanistan?It does'nt matter they seemingly don't have the same value as American lives.Also it was announced that America gets it's marching orders from the U.N. now if that's not a world govt by proxy I don't know what is ,so patriots no longer control American military policy.
China and Russia have both stated an attack on Iran is an attack on them so the whole thin could accelerate exponentially and most likely will if an open attack goes ahead.The war has already started in one way though with the targeting of key Iranians and it's a way of poking the bees nest with a stick and sooner or later Iran will retaliate and this will give cause for the gullible baffoons believing the msm to nod their heads in agreement that the west is justified in bombing Iran.

Hi, Whitley,
As ever, your analysis is concise, well thought out, historically informed and cognizant of the 'wild card' factor where fundamentalists of any persuasion are involved.

@Pssqd: The only "God" that has looked after Israel since 1947 is the one on the back of the US dollar bill: the all-seeing 'eye in the sky'. Strategic decisions cannot be made on the basis of religious belief. They must be based on the best intelligence available and, as Whitley observed with regard to the utterly treasonous 'outing of Valerie Plame', there are "God drunk" people in positions of political and military power who are immune to reason. It is not the secularists the world needs to fear; it is the "God drunk" fanatics.

@ Orson

Faith in "patriotism" is dangerous. We've all seen evidence for the statement: "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." Or are you not acquainted with the history of Senator Joe McCarthy and his fanatical bully boys? "Patriotism" is used to manipulate innocence in the service of conquest.

Nationalism and patriotism substitute sentiment for thought, mob rule for democratic process, lynch mobs for law, and mass slaughter for the much harder work of devising an alternative to war as a means to settle political - or religious - disputes. It's time to put away the G.I. Joe dolls and wake up to the realities of a world that could, in a matter of an hour or two, become a lifeless wasteland.

While Whitley's assessment is certainly a cause for concern, perhaps a more likely outcome of an attack on Iran is the cost of gasoline going over the $10 a gallon mark overnight in the US. This would very likely cut off the feeble economic recovery and bring back the recession - but this time on steroids. With no more credit available from China or anywhere else to prop up any type of government financed recovery, the US could quickly find itself in a real depression coupled with hyperinflation the likes of which no one in this country has ever experienced - not even during the Great Depression. Both the US Dollar and the Euro could collapse. This could easily result in a worldwide economic meltdown - even if Iran does not fire one missle in defense. The recent laws further undermining our civil liberties are aimed at American citizens, and the passing of these was motivated not by terrorists but by the occupy movement which could grow rapidly and become more radical in the event of a lingering and deepening economic depression. Mutually assured destruction is still valid, however, with an angry and revengeful public suffering hardships like never before in history, both America and Europe could become a very unstable players on the world scene. Paranoia could take hold of the nation as happened in Germany in the 1930's. Then anything could happen.


Regarding your first sentence - I respectively disagree. I do beleive in G-d and as a Jew I beleive Israel has a special destiny - albeit an misunderstood one - and is protected by the mysterious and unexplanable power that is G-d. You may not agree and that is fine.

I agree that there are "G-d drunk " fanatics, who use G-d as a justification for war and other horrors. They are not the what I was talking about. These people really don't beleive in G-d or their own religious teachings be they Jewish, Christian, Isalm, etc. but are arrogant enough to think they can do G-d's job for Him.

I also agree that a lot of modern Israel's policies have been directed by powers other than a belief in G-d. Which is kind of my point. If Israel wants to be truly considered a "Jewish" state, then I suggest they follow the ideals of the Torah and understand that G-d wants them (and all humanity) to avoid conflict and war - choose life over death whenever possible. Put their faith in G-d defending the world.

Strategic decision based on the teachings of a G-d of infinite compassion and love, as Judaism teaches there is - would be one a sound one for Israel. The rest of the world - maybe, maybe not. Israel has the bad reputation it has because I fear they choose a modern secular approach and look to false gods (like money perhaps) first for security rather than to the only true Power in creation. (But that is nothing new - been going on for 3,000 years.) Of course if there was no G-d, then there is no point to an Israel, so again, why start a war?

Anyway - peace to you and eveyone who reads UC.

Ain't buying all the secert council & WWIII push.War is always about commodities.
Question is, do we side with friends with Democracies or friends with oil?

Rick Redfern captured it succinctly in a "Doonesbury" strip. He said that Israelis and Arabs were fighting over "this god forsaken piece of real estate. Always have, always will."

Unfortunately, the Israelis seem to want to drag us with them. Who is most likely to say No to this: Obama, or Romney?

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