Friday, July 28, 2006

The Missiles of 27 Rajab

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu,
This year, we are told, the Muslim commemorations associated with their calendar date 27 Rajab will occur on August 22. On this a most celebratory date in the Islamic calendar, best-selling author and Islamic scholar Robert Spencer reminds that the Prophet Muhammed made his ascension into heaven from the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, an event known as the Miraj. “[T]he Night Journey has become firmly embedded in the Islamic consciousness,” Spencer notes, “such that Muslims today celebrate it as one of the central events of Muhammad’s life.” And now, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has selected that as an auspicious date to create a light over the skies of Jerusalem such as the world has never seen since the Miraj.

If as the president of the Reform Party in Syria, Farid Ghadry claims, “Ahmadinejad is planning an illumination of the night sky over Jerusalem to rival the one that greeted the Prophet of Islam on his journey,” then it is difficult to imagine anything other than a full-scale Iranian nuclear attack. As Spencer continues, a nuclear attack on Jerusalem or even an all-out conventional assault against Israel by Iran would be consistent with Ahmadinejad’s oft-repeated denials of Israel’s right to exist and recent predictions that its demise was at hand.” These observations are the latest from a growing list of ominous portents from Iranian and Syrian leaders too horrific to ignore.

Assuming the worst case – a default mental mode for military planners – what ought we to expect to happen the next several weeks? A possible scenario can be constructed based on events of recent weeks and months, although the groundwork for this action has taken years to develop. Let us try to outline what Ahmadinejad and his surrogates in Syria and inside Hezbollah might have on their minds. READ MORE

To begin we review what we know for certain:

1) Iran has been focused on acquisition of nuclear weapons, working for years with the AQ Khan group and North Korea;

2) Iran has for all intents and purposes declared war on Israel and America (though the U.S. has not understood Iran’s commitment), outlining its war policy as one of utter extermination;

3) Iran has worked unceasingly with North Korean scientists and engineers to improve missile technology, resulting in several models of varying ranges and payloads, and with highly improved mobility over SCUDs;

4) Iran has used surrogate movements and states to support clandestinely attacks on Israel and America (the latter inside Iraq);

5) Iran has positioned large numbers of technologically advanced weapons and the troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to assist inside Lebanon and Syria.

We have confirmed that Iran was a sponsor and participant in North Korea’s early July 2006 missile tests, and have shown rather convincingly that the real testing was the ability to deploy rapidly missile units, each capable of firing several weapons independently. The capstone of the test was that multiple missiles fired on schedule, each simulating many, and that the tests were frighteningly successful. Equally important was that the public misunderstood the real purpose of the tests and vastly underestimated the value derived from them.

If we were investigating this as a possible murder case we’d look for motive, weapon, and opportunity. Motive is easy. Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel and America off the map. How do we know? Because he told us, repeatedly, in great detail, and with utmost sincerity. Weapons? We are looking at a slate of which we’re told intelligence analysts were unaware. While this is doubtful, it may be factual that analysts were cautious about numbers of missiles and rockets deployed and the willingness of the Hezbollah enemy to employ them. Those doubts ought to be resolved as hundreds of rockets rain down on Israel and increasingly capable weapons are discovered. Opportunity? Made to order, on order. It was an Ahmadinejad-created opportunity, a directed Hezbollah attack on Israel designed to bring in America and allies. It’s all happening, per Iranian plan, and its right there for us to see.

In a July 27 NY Sun op-ed, premier radio talk show host John Bachelor addresses the opportunity issue. The behavior of Syria, Bachelor notes is meant to provoke Israel and pull America directly into the fighting.” Syria, as Bachelor points out, issued an unacceptable ultimatum to the U.S. “Knowing that America cannot agree…. Syria and its sponsor, Iran, are preparing for the next stage of the escalation.” That next stage he affirms is a “shooting war.” To what point? This is where the weapons come into the picture.

Ahmadinejad has an apocalyptic future vision. Unlike previous nuclear opponents, Soviet Russia and China, for example, for whom a policy of mutually assured destruction was a suitable deterrent, the Iranian leader and his mullocracy lust for as much violence as possible. He openly calls for massive destruction in Israel, Europe, and America, and welcome any and all retaliation as the necessary precursor to activate the mysterious 12 Imam. The suspended-life Imam, buried beneath the Shia Mosque of the Golden Dome, Samara in Iraq, will return to this world as the Madhi, the Caliph to lead hordes of Muslims to global victory, only if preceded with sufficient violence. Ahmadinejad believes this just as certainly as Adolph Hitler believed in his Thousand Year Reich and the superiority of the Aryan race. And in a manner similar to his mentor Hitler, Ahmadinejad is willing to sacrifice his life to achieve his ultimate goal.

Consequently Iran has accelerated nuclear weapons development (or purchase) and missile technology. It has a broad array of weapons including several classes of missiles. Some like the Farj Class, as Michael Krauss and Peter Pham note in Foundation for the Defense of Democracy this July, were built “with Chinese and North Korean assistance,” and are capable of slinging a 200 pound warhead between 25 and 45 miles. “Israeli intelligence estimates that several hundred Fajr rockets have been delivered so far,” they say. These can go further and carry more than the generic “Katyushas.” Ken Timmerman notes that the Fajrs carry a 110 pound warhead, but what makes them so fearsome is “the tiny ball bearings packed inside” designed as a terror weapon to kill and maim civilians.

Additionally, the Iranians have smuggled several of the Zelzal Class into Lebanon for Hezbollah use. These are heftier weapons, also known as Shehab Class missiles, derived from the North Korean Nodong Class, built with Iranian financial backing. These can fly up to 1600 kilometers carrying a payload of almost a ton. Even with conventional loads these are formidable terror weapons. Bachelor notes that these missiles are “on their mobile launchers, under Iranian rocket crews” parked in Syria waiting the order to attack. Once given the green light crews will “push over the border crossings, park about 15 meters inside Lebanon, and launch on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

Reinforcing the threat, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, warned that “deeper” attacks would be forthcoming. The Israelis, Bachelor says, have accounted for more than 36 such missiles inside Lebanon. They’ve already killed some, but how may more wait across the Syrian border? Dozens? Hundreds? Using the tactics just rehearsed in North Korea suppose Syria, backed to the hilt by Iran, having provoked an Israeli or American strike which provides them sufficient excuse, then floods across the border. Many specially trained battalions with scores of Zelzals and smaller payload missiles dispersed among them will lead. It is probably that many of the weapons and units are already pre-positioned.

These Zelzal missiles if properly dispersed and simultaneously launched – if, in other words, the tactical model developed by the Soviets, taught to the Iranians, and just practiced in front of the world in North Korea is followed – we could expect that existing Israeli missile defense systems would be overwhelmed. Radars would pick scores, perhaps hundreds of missiles launched from a very short distance away all converging on Israeli cities. It would be impossible for upgraded Patriot or any other deployed system to get them all. The leakers would certainly penetrate. Are they going to carry conventional explosives, a serious enough threat by itself, or will these be the ones that carry the dirty warheads, the small fission devices, or the VX nerve gas? Is this the “day or rejoicing” that Ahmadinejad threatens? Does anyone really want to wait until mid August when this attack is launched to learn?

In this scenario inaction is not appropriate. Nor is the reprehensible laundry list of appeasement initiatives drafted by State Department Arabists acceptable. The options for a diplomatic solution have already expired. State has played its hand, and sterner leadership must take charge. Both Syria and Iran must be faced squarely and confronted with the consequences of their actions before they can attack. Iran is clearly attempting to use an attack on Israel to build momentum for an overthrow of that country combined with a defeat of America in Iraq. Rather than wait defensively America must strike Iran, taking out leadership, nuclear, and missile targets. Simultaneously every Iranian revolutionary group must be supported and turned loose to foment revolution inside Iran.

Syria has to be taken out immediately. Leadership targets - regime, Hezbollah, and Iranian - must be attacked and friendly forces put into the border area for missile suppression. U.S. units watching Syria’s back door can strike and raid, thereby collapsing Syrian resistance. Israeli forces need to continue to press Hezbollah terrorists inside Lebanon to keep them off balance. It is critically important that America and Israel supported by whatever allies have the courage to assist, take the fight immediately to the perpetrators. By waiting for a first-strike we are put in a position of playing a retaliation game after we have already endured unacceptable losses in population and perception. Once America and Israel are seen as weak enough to defeat, then the international jackals will all join in for the kill. This is what our enemies hope to accomplish.

How realistic is this plan politically? Probably not very, and that is what is going to be a major setback, possibly one from which it will be extraordinarily difficult to recover. Complicating American reaction to these events is the paralyzing idea prevalent among many Americans that by solving Iraq our troubles in the region are over. This naïve perception is clouding America’s grasp of the scope, breadth, and reality of the threat. We face a crisis of major proportions. Hesitation may be fatal.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu has been an Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel, as well as a writer, popular speaker, business executive and farmer. His most recent book is Separated at Birth, about North and South Korea.