It is March 2017. The on again off again Syrian civil war is very much on again. Peace negotiations in Geneva have collapsed.
Across the border in Lebanon divisions in society magnified by the Syrian civil war have lead to open warfare in the streets. Sunnis are clashing with Alawites and their Hezbollah and Iranian supporters. Hezbollah makes a bid for power, seizes control of the government and orders the Lebanese Armed Forces disbanded. Israel is confronted not simply with a Hezbollah presence in Lebanon but with the specter of a Hezbollah state on its border.
Israel mobilizes its reserves. The Iranians threaten to send uniformed military personnel into Lebanon to confront any Israeli incursion. In a show of strength, the Israelis stage a series of airstrikes on oil production targets inside Iran. The Prime Minister of Israel makes a declaration that if Iran fails to back off there will be all out war.
Without warning Iran detonates a nuclear weapon at a secret test range in the interior of the country. Simultaneously the government of Iran releases video to the press showing what appear to be several operational nuclear weapons. The Iranians declare that they have operational launch vehicles as well and that they are prepared to strike Israel if there are any further attacks on targets inside Iran.
News reports indicate that the Israelis are moving nuclear weapons from storage facilities to aircraft on the tarmac.
The Saudis make a surprise announcement that they have over the last two years purchased from the Pakistanis a dozen fully operational nuclear weapons and the launch vehicles on which to place them. The Saudi Arabian government shows video footage of these weapons and threatens to use them against the Iranians if Iranian and Hezbollah attacks on Sunnis in Lebanon do not cease.
Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is not known to currently possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and has signed treaties repudiating the possession of weapons of mass destruction including the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). | Photo: Biff Henderson | Iran, Nuclear, Map, Weapon, Bomb, Terrorist,
The Iranians strike first. Two weapons carried on Shahab-3 intermediate range ballistic missiles strike Tel Aviv. The first is fused to detonate several hundred meters in the air. This is a deliberate technique to maximize the destructive impact of the blast. A quarter of million people lose their lives almost instantaneously. Another 150,000 suffer burns and other serious injuries.
The second nuclear weapon is fused to detonate after it has struck the ground. This limits the immediate extent of the destruction from the explosion. It also, however, ensures that the maximum amount of fallout is generated.
Together the two weapons effectively kill the city of Tel Aviv. The spread of radioactive fallout drives millions of Israelis from their homes. The news is filled with reports of Israelis streaming out into the Mediterranean on boats, across the border into Lebanon and even attempting to take refuge in Egypt.
A third Iranian nuclear weapon strikes the world's largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Abqaiq processes 13 million barrels of oil a day, 10% of total global consumption. The facility is wiped from the face of the Earth. Nothing remains but smoldering, radioactive ruins. Oil prices double overnight. The economy of the entire world is in peril. Experts predict another great depression.
Israeli and Saudi nuclear weapons strike several targets inside Iran. Tehran is effectively obliterated as are several other Iranian cities. Casualties are staggering. Almost eight million Iranians die in the blasts. Refugees flee into Iraq and Turkey.
Frantic American diplomatic efforts bear limited fruit. A shaky truce is declared. The exchange of nuclear weapons halts temporarily. It is unclear whether this is simply a pause on the part of the belligerents or if the conflict has come to an end.
In the United States Congress a bill is introduced to allow free entry into the United States of Israeli refugees. Experts speculate that the continued viability of Israel as an independent state is in doubt. There is open discussion of the possibility of having to create a homeland for the Jewish people within the territorial boundaries of the United States.
The postmortem begins almost immediately. It takes months, however, before the events that led to this disaster become clear. Intelligence reports reveal that in the fall of 2013, prior to signing an agreement with the United States regarding their nuclear program, the Iranians hid away a quantity of highly enriched uranium sufficient to manufacture several nuclear weapons. At the same facility where this HEU was stored were also hidden components sufficient for the engineering construction of nuclear weapons. All of these items were the product of the secret Iranian nuclear weapons program that had been ongoing for years.
Iran and the nukes
Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is not known to currently possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and has signed treaties repudiating the possession of weapons of mass destruction including the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). | Photo: |
The Iranians then carefully orchestrated a deception campaign using the same principles that a stage magician does. While United States and the international community were fixated on useless examinations and inspections of facilities around Iran the real work on the assembly of nuclear weapons continued forward in secret.
The United States and the other Western powers bought the charade. They declared themselves satisfied with the good faith of the Iranians. They relaxed sanctions. German and French companies flooded back into Tehran to do business.
Other crises began to take precedence over the Iranian situation. We lost focus. American intelligence collection inside Iran remained weak. We failed to detect the final assembly of the Iranian nuclear weapons and were unaware of their existence until the Iranians deliberately revealed them to us.
The Middle East is in flames. Iran declares that it retains an unspecified number of additional weapons. Tensions begin to rise again. There are fears of a second exchange of nuclear weapons'
It's fiction. It's not fantasy. The Middle East is a dangerous place. Nuclear weapons pose an almost unfathomable danger, especially in the hands of a hostile, xenophobic enemy. There are very few threats to world peace as significant as the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons. It deserves our undivided attention and sober, hard-nosed evaluation.
It has instead, under this Administration, become just the latest example of the danger of confusing wishes and hopes with reality and clear-eyed analysis. This President wants desperately to believe in a world filled with starry-eyed dreamers and kindred, open-minded spirits. He translates that desire into policy, very bad policy. He sees what he wants to see. He hears what he wants to hear.
We have reached an agreement with the Iranians for the sake of reaching an agreement. We have made a deal in the vain hope that somehow this will mean that the Iranians will like us now, that they will fundamentally rethink their worldview and that they will abandon their nuclear ambitions.
They will not.
They will bide their time. They will play their cards close to their vests. They will lie, cheat and steal whenever it suits them and they think they can get away with it.
We will pay a price for our carelessness and lack of discipline. The only question is how big that price will be. Let's hope it's not as bad as I described above. Let's hope that's not only in the future, but also just fiction.