Tag Archives: Iran

Building the Last Empire

caliphateWhat’s going on in northern Africa? Why did it concern France so much that they very quickly deployed combative military in the deserts of Mali?  How is what’s going on in Mali and Nigeria connected to events on the borders of India? The answer lies in one word: Caliphate (cal-ee-fet)

A caliphate is an Arabic word meaning empire. It is governed by a caliph (cal-eef) – a ruler.  The ruler is both a political and religious figure.  Historically, caliphate was a name given to successive Islamic empires that spread out from Arabia where Islam was born, through the Middle East and into central and south-eastern Asia and west into the European Balkans, though northern Africa and into Spain and Portugal. Conceptually, caliphate is the trans-border unification of the entire Muslim world (or Ummah) into one empire under Shariah Law to which the radical elements of modern-day Islam aspires.  It was partly the resistance of the Frankish Empire in France that halted the advance of Islam into mainland Europe.

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Not since the 1920’s has Islam been concerned with re-igniting the aspiration to restore the global caliphate and today to the vast majority of Muslims it is synonymous with the glories of Islam past.  Yet a future restoration of a global Caliphate that will appear in what the Quran teaches will be the End Times remains central in Islamic thought and teaching:

Prophethood will remain with you for as long as Allah wills it to remain, then Allah will raise it up wherever he wills to raise it up. Afterwards, there will be a Caliphate that follows the guidance of Prophethood remaining with you for as long as Allah wills it to remain. Then, He will raise it up whenever He wills to raise it up. Afterwards, there will be a reign of violently oppressive rule and it will remain with you for as long as Allah wills it to remain. Then, there will be a reign of tyrannical rule and it will remain for as long as Allah wills it to remain. Then, Allah will raise it up whenever He wills to raise it up. Then, there will be a Caliphate that follows the guidance of Prophethood.

— As-Silsilah As-Sahihah, vol. 1, no. 5

I believe that we are seeing going on in countries ranging from north and west Africa to the western borders of India is the prelude to the building of the Islamic End Times Caliphate. None of the events going on across the Muslim world come as any surprise to me. Both the main branches of Islam – the Sunni and the Shia – are actively engaged in its creation and our news reports are increasingly filled with the tensions and outright violent hostility between secularists and Islamists in predominantly Muslim nations. Even in Tunisia, the birthplace of the ‘Arab Spring‘ only in recent weeks was the leader of the secularist opposition to the Islamist Government murdered. Similar struggles are taking place at this time of writing in Libya, Egypt and Syria.

islamThe Quran teaches Muslims to convert the world to Islam by either persuasion or if that fails then by force.  Both of these ideologies are at work today in a resurgent, confident radical Islam.  One manifestation of the persuasive approach is Wahhabism –  through teaching in Mosques, schools and Universities even here in the UK. Radical groups such as Al-Quaeda and Boko Haram have chosen the forceful way.  Common in the belief and practices of radical Muslims who strive to restore the Caliphate under Sharia Law is Jihad. Jihad means ‘to struggle’.  In Islam it’s interpreted in two ways: the greater Jihad  is a spiritual struggle against the sinful self and the lesser Jihad against the enemies of Islam – the Infidel or faithless ones (anyone non-Muslim). Movements such as Al-Quaeda focus on the forceful way.

The two branches of Islam are divided as to who will rule the caliphate and this in part explains much about what we hear of Muslim-on-Muslim strife such as the ongoing suicide bombings in Iraq despite the fact there are no Western military there in any great number now. The two houses of Islam have been in an undeclared war over control of the hearts and minds of the Ummah (Muslim world) for centuries as I have written about before (here). The Sunnis believe that once this caliphate is created, it’s Caliph, or spiritual/political leader will be elected by the Ummah.  The Shia believe that this End Times role can only be fulfilled by a direct descendant from Mohammed. They believe this person will emerge from among Shia Islam based primarily in Iran and Iraq.    It would take a whole separate post for me to blog on what I have learned about President Ahmadinajab of Iran and his firm belief that he has a personal role to play in ushering in the End Times. It is something I will post on soon.

mosque_interior_083_jpgThere are a couple of thorns in the side of the Islamist dream of restoring the Caliphate around the Mediterranean at least. One is Spain and Portugal. Both became part of the Islam’s caliphate at its zenith. In Islamic thinking, once a territory has been claimed for Islam, it remains forever an Islamic territory and therefore part of the global Caliphate. We should expect to see the rise of fundamentalist Islam in these nations. The Spanish in particular have already been served notice that their infidelity to Islam will not be tolerated in the Madrid bombings of 2004.

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As I write, Egypt and Syria are in turmoil. I also predict the destabilisation of Jordan soon. In Syria what started as a civil uprising against n unpopular autocrat has been hijacked by practitioners of Jihad who want to add  fundamentalist Islamic Syria to the rising Caliphate.  When they succeed, as I believe they will, they will start to turn their focus on Israel.  Egypt, too, is still going through the throws of revolution but the secularists, Christians and Islamists who were once brothers in arms against President Mubarak are now at each others’ throats in the struggle for power. More worrying for me is the man the Egyptians elected to rule them; Mohamed Morsi.  Only in January this year did Western media pick up on his view of Israel. The Israelis and others such as I who watch the Middle East closely, knew of these comments long before.  The New York Times reported as follows:

His scurrilous comments from nearly three years ago about Zionists and Jews, which just came to light, have raised serious doubts about whether he can ever be the force for moderation and stability that is needed. As reported by David Kirkpatrick in The Times, Mr. Morsi is shown in a video from 2010 delivering a speech in which he urges Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. In a television interview months later, he described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

Mohammed Morsi

That neatly brings me to the other thorn in the side of the rising Caliphate…Israel. The creation of any Islamic End Time Caliphate will inevitably be faced by the existence of the Jewish (Infidel) state breaking the chain through the hoped for unified caliphate across the Muslim believing nations that rim the Mediterranean Sea and into Asia. The entire world is heading for an almighty collision when Islamic fundamental ideology and the Jewish state meet each other head on.   Anyone who knows me well enough, knows my interest in and many travels to Israel.  I am a friend of Israel, though not an uncritical one. This friendship does not in any way cause me to be anti-Islamic but it does cause me to watch closely at what is going on concerning that region. I am also a Christian and in the extreme views of the radical Islamists, I fall into the category of the Infidel along with the Jews that must be subjugated or wiped out.  It was among my travels to Israel that I first heard the saying: “First we kill the Saturday people, then the Sunday people”. It is a belief held among many radical Islamists that basically means – first we will kill the people who worship on a Saturday (the Jews) and then those who worship on a Sunday (Christians).  Muslims worship on a Friday.  This short video explains it better than I can from people experiencing this already.

The desire to build the End Times Caliphate among radical Islam is not confined to the nations that were once part of the original empires of Islam but to the whole world. That includes countries such as the UK  where Wahhabism is highly active and where Jihad has also reared its ugly head as on 7/7 in London.  I was just at Euston Station just after the 4th bomb detonated that day.  Though it is barely reported in the national news, Christians are perishing across the world at the hands of Islamic extremists. In Egypt and Nigeria, churches are being bombed with worshipers in them. I am party to these stories and much, much more because I work in Christian media.  Just today, a friend of mine posted up on Facebook an alarming message he’s got wind of posted by Islamist radicals concerning the safety of Christians in Tanzania.  The guy works for a charity that is working to be a voice for Christians being violently persecuted across the world.  I have known this guy some 16 years and can personally vouch for his sanity and lack of any hysterical tendencies.  I’ve not known him to post such a message before but here’s what he said:

aaThis is very sinister and worrying
TANZANIA: “THE COMING EASTER WILL BE ONE OF DISASTER” WARNS “ISLAMIST” EXTREMIST GROUPS. Geita (Agenzia Fides) – “We thank our young men, trained in Somalia, for killing an infidel. Many more will die. We will burn homes and churches. We have not finished: at Easter, be prepared for disaster”; Signed “Muslim Renewal”. Fides was told about a terrifying SMS in Tanzania, received by local bishops and priests , in which Islamist extremists claim responsibility for the murder of the Catholic priest Fr. Evarist Mushi, aged 55 , killed in front of the Catholic cathedral early on Sunday 17 February. 

The Catholic Church in Tanzania is concerned and anxious. Reaction has come also from national leaders: Tanzania’s Prime Minister called an immediate meeting with leading members of the Christian and Muslim communities, but the outcome was not positive. Certain Muslim leaders called for the release from prison of the suspected assassins of a local Protestant pastor, Mathew Kachira, killed on 10 February. Local Catholic Church sources told Fides that clearly, behind these attacks and murders lies Islamist extremism spreading across the country. 

Fides sources also say that some responsibility falls on Tanzania’s president, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, because during the electoral campaign he promised the Muslim population he would change the Constitution and introduce measures in keeping with Islamic Sharia Law. Today the majority of Tanzanians oppose the plan, but Islamist extremist groups, in reaction, have started a campaign of terror. 

The local Catholic Bishop of Geita, Bishop Damiani Denis Dallu, told Fides: “All we desire is peace and unity and love to reign among the citizens of Tanzania, irrespective of religious beliefs”. This is also the desire of other Christian leaders, heads of traditional religions and moderate Muslim leaders. The latter, however, the Bishop told Fides “are afraid because they too are targeted by Islamic extremists”

PLEASE LETS PRAY FOR GOD GUIDANCE AND PROTECTION FOR THE BELIVERS, THE CHURCH IN TANZANIA.

[This post is not intended in any way to be anti-Islamic. It s my personal take and interpretation of the world events I see unfolding around me. My views are personal and do not reflect those of my employers.]
BAKU-CRYSTAL-HALL2

BBC to spend 6 figure sum on ‘talent’ show from Iran?

Yes, it’s quite almost true.  The maths is right… just a little off with my geography.  The show will actually be broadcast from just north of the Iranian border….in Baku, Azerbaijan.   It’s guaranteed an audience of around 300 million before a single mic is switched on and it goes by the name of Concours Eurovision de la Chanson. You and I know it better as the Eurovision Song Contest.  OK, well at least I kept you this far, but hold on…this post is not about Eurovision.

(Pictured above: The Baku Crystal Hall, venue for Eurovision 2012)

Embarrassed friends of mine know that over the years I’ve been a huge fan of the contest.  I’m not as much nowadays and in fact I was not intending to watch it this year until the BBC revealed that dear old Engelbert Humperdink will sing the UK’s entry and so the whole thing took on ‘car crash’ appeal.

Next week the contest will be beamed to the whole of Europe and to  Australia, the US, Canada, Argentina, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, the Philippines…..from  Baku, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.  It’s a place I know nothing about so I thought I’d investigate.

On the map, Azerbailan looks to be slap bang on in the Middle East, bordering Russia to the north and Iran to the south. Azerbaijanis (sometimes called Azeris) are closely related to the Turks and the country is predominantly Muslim, though like Turkey with a secular government.  Also like Turkey, there is greater freedom of dress code for women, a more liberal society and Western aspirations. The local currency is the Manat.

With 86,600 square KM, Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region, the area from which white people derive their racial tag Caucasian. The Caucasus Mountains were traditionally the ancient boundary between Europe and Asia and the fact that a small part of Azerbaijan sits north of those mountains qualifies its European credentials – just. There are just over 8 million Azeris according to the CIA World Fact Book (9 million, says Wikipedia). Baku, the capital, is the largest city on the shores of the Caspian Sea and home to around a quarter of the national population. ‘Baku’ is a derivative of the Persian name for the city Bad-Kube meaning ‘wind-pounded city’. The city is prone to strong winds all year round which has a cooling effect on what would otherwise be hot sub-tropical summers but it also suffers from fierce and sometimes snowy winter storms.

Though it has only existed as an independent state again since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, it is a very ancient nation and culture, claiming to be one of the lands where humanity originated. In ancient days it would have been at the heart of civilisation bordering the empires of the Medes, Persians, Assyrians and the Greeks.

It’s an oil-rich nation. Two thirds of the country sits on vast energy reserves and as a result its favour is courted around the world. If you watch the show next week, expect to see lots of references to fire. The theme and emblem of this year’s show is called ‘Light Your Fire’.   In ancient days, Azerbaijan was called Atropatene  after a Governor set in place by Alexander the Great. The current name of Azerbaijan is a derivative of this and means ‘Land of Fire’. It was said to be a land of ‘burning hillsides’ as first recorded in the first century AD that were actually caused by ignited fissures of natural gas set alight by the heat of the sun.   The country became home to the ancient Zoroastrian religion – one of the world’s oldest monotheistic faiths –  for whom fire was a sacred symbol and many temples were built around the natural burning fissures.  The country was subjugated under Tsarist Russian expansionism ans remained part of the Soviet Union until the close of the Twentieth Century.

If you tune in to the opening credits of Eurovision next week, prepare to be surprised by what you see as I have been by some of the videos I’ve dug out on YouTube.

Of course the national tourist office will only be putting the best on display but I must admit from what I’ve seen and read it looks like an extraordinarily beautiful country. Baku, the capital is highly developed.  The country is heavily dependent on its oil revenues and its fortune rises and falls depending on the global price of oil, hence why hosting Eurovision is a hoped for kick-start to an under-developed tourist industry.

Several notes of caution here. While Azerbaijan has a liberal and progressive society, it’s leadership is considered heavily authoritarian and corruption is rife. There has been recent rumblings of social unrest and civil protests have been harshly dealt with.  It also sits on one of the worlds most deadly geo-political fault lines bordering the Middle East and the power struggle between the two branches of Islam that I covered in a previous blog.  Oddly, that while sharing the same side as its southern neighbour Iran in the inter-Islamic faith struggle between Shias and Sunnis,  Azerbaijan and Iran have frosty relations.  Azerbaijan has up to now had positive relations with Iran’s arch-enemy, Israel. The Iranians have accused the Azeris of harbouring Israeli spies, which the Azeris deny. The country was also at war until fairly recently with its western neighbour, Armenia, over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh which is internationally recognised as part of  Azerbaijan but broke away in 1991. That region sits outside the borders of Azerbaijan with a mostly Armenian population. Sovereignty over it was ceded to Azerbaijan by Russia in the 1920’s and today it is a self-proclaimed though unrecognised independent state. An uneasy truce is now in place but the conflict remains unresolved and is a serious impediment to the stability of the entire Caucasus. Armenia has chosen not to participate in Eurovision this year due to this dispute.  There are also territorial tensions between all the countries bordering the Caspian Sea due to the vast oil reserves believed to be beneath the lake.

Azerbaijan also has a very dark side in that it is a source, transit and destination country for sex industry trafficking of women and children and for forced slavery.

The country has around 9 weather zones ranging from sub-tropical in the south to moderate in the uplands, sizzling heat in the Summer and bitter cold in the Winter.

While we in the UK think of Eurovision as a trivial farce, other countries view it as a huge potential boost to national kudos and for tourism as the host nation is profiled to millions of eyes across the world.  The Azeris are taking the contest very seriously indeed. It’s the biggest and first truly global event they have hosted and it is reported that they are spending a colossal £80 million on the event making it the most expensive show in the Contest’s history.  The national tourist office has been busy filming the little ‘postcards’ that will be screened next week giving us a taster of this extraordinary country as you will see from this short clip:

Azerbaijan – the land of magic colours

As for my predictions on a winner for Eurovision?   Well, it won’t be the UK and not because everyone hates us or the song is rubbish. In fact it’s not bad at all.  We were drawn as the opening song in the Grand Final – a position from which no one has ever won, so we can save ourselves from the trauma of the public voting results.   For me, the best songs this year come from Italy, Romania, Ireland, Ukraine, Spain, France and the Netherlands.  However all the hot money is on this one:

“Euphoria” – Sweden 2012

(That said, watch out for a surprise attack on the top spot from 6 Russian grannies…)

 

 

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Why are Muslims blowing each other up in Iraq?

The war in Iraq is over. The Western troops have left. Saddam Hussein is dead. So why are we hearing ever frequently on our news reports that another bomb has gone off in Baghdad or another Iraqi city? Why are we hearing about ‘Sunnis’ and ‘Shi’as so often? Who are they and what’s their beef with each other?

I’m no expert on Islam – just a pleb that would turn to Google first to find out about anything, although I do have an understanding of bits of Islam so I guess this post is going to be very simplistic and nothing an expert on such matters would pay any attention to. But at least I have done some digging around before posting this.

It seems to boil down to a centuries old family scrap over inheritance and control over millions of minds. It’s a bit like when Alexander the Great snuffed it surprisingly early leaving no heir to his empire and so his generals beat each other up (and more) for control over his dominions.

When the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, died in the 7th Century, he left no (male) heir to his estimated following of 100,000 Muslims – a trans-border community of followers called a ‘Caliphate’. On his passing, those left in leadership needed to find someone who could fill his place as the ‘Caliph’ in charge of the religious kingdom. Here’s where the fledgling Muslim world divided and has been divided ever since. A larger part of the community backed a close companion of Mohammed called Abu Bakr to be Caliph while the lesser group chose Mohammed’s son-in-law and Cousin, Ali. Both groups claimed authority from Mohammed that their candidate should be the chosen successor and if you want to read up more about that then visit the BBC guide to Religion here. The Muslims who backed Abu Bakr became known as ‘Sunni’s (meaning ‘one who follows the Sunnah’ – the teachings and beliefs of the Prophet). Those who followed Ali were known as the Shiat Ali (followers of Ali) or ‘Shi’as. The Sunnis did not believe in a bloodline path to succession but in a more political governance based on who was best able to lead. The Shi’as chose loyalty to the bloodline.

In the end the Sunnis got their way and Abu Bakr became Caliph. On his death, the tables were turned and Ali finally got his way….only to be assassinated. The Caliphate then fell back into Sunni hands and the seeds enmity between the two branches of Islam were sown and took root. The real break between the two branches of Islam took place 48 years after Mohammed died when the son of Ali, Hussein (Mohammed’s grandson by his daughter) started to oppose the ‘tyranny and corruption’ of the ruling Sunni Caliph and he and most of his family were then massacred. Hussein was elevated to the position of ‘martyr’. Ali was assassinated in the city of Najaf and Hussein in Karbala – both in Iraq and both cities holy to Shi’as and so the Shi’a branch of Islam found its centre in Iraq and then spread eastward into Iran. When you hear of bombs going off in Iraq other than in Baghdad they may very likely be in Najaf or Karbala and most likely blamed on Sunni/Shi’a inter-communal tension.

 The Hussayn Mosque, Karbala, Iraq

As you can imagine, it’s all a lot more complicated than this and two good articles to read if you want to delve deeper are on BBC Religions site mentioned before and this article in Time World. This is a good one too.

The map below shows how the Islamic world centred around the Middle East divides between Sunni and Shi’a followers. Note the concentration of the Shi’a populations in Iran and Iraq. Note Sunni Saudi Arabia, which houses the holy shrines of Medina and Mecca, and the vast majority of other Muslim lands that follow that branch. Saudi has up to now been the spiritual mouthpiece for the Islamic world – a Sunni one. As we have seen in recent months, Iran, the main homeland of the global Shi’a population is flexing its muscles both inside and outside the Islamic world. The power vacuum left in Iraq after the departure of the West has given rise to a new frontline in the undeclared war between Sunni and Shi’a Islam. Note also the high percentage of Shi’as in Bahrain and Yemen where we have also seen reports of Muslim against Muslim strife. Note also the 40% Shi’a population in Lebanon. Lebanon sits right on the northern borders of Israel and if you have read my previous blog on why I think an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran in these days is a distinct possibility, then you will see how Iranian direct influence in Lebanon brings Israel and Iran nose to nose in a growing climate of antagonism than the global map would otherwise suggest.

Related: ‘Never again Masada’

 

 

 

 

 

Fortress Masada

‘Never again Masada’

Fortress MasadaAmid momentous news from the Eurozone over the last few weeks, another news item may have slipped past un-noticed. It’s possibly the most serious news item of the year and if this storm brews to its maximum potential, it could throw the world into chaos far greater than the present troubles in Greece and Italy.
On the 9th November, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report that raised some alarm which seems to indicate that Iran is and not maybe on the way to developing its own nuclear weapons capability. The IAEA has been monitoring Iran among a number of countries for many years and has reported concerns about Iranian intentions before but what has raised eyebrows in this report is the level of detail the IAEA claims to have now that indicate Iranian nuclear attack capability may be closer to achievement than previously thought.   The IAEA is an international organisation head-quartered in Vienna, that is distinct from but reports to the UN.
 (Picture: Above: Fortress Masada, Dead Sea)
For years a number of countries have raised concerns about Iranian nuclear intentions, mostly in the West, but also others in the region that feel threatened: the Gulf states, Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Most concerned of all is Israel and there’s been some apocalyptic media reporting recently about the level of concern being so high in Jerusalem that Israel, frustrated by the failure of the international community to deal with the threat, may go it alone with a pre-emptive strike on suspected Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.  That really is some Doomsday scenario, isn’t it? An Israeli attack on Iran that could inflame the entire Arab world and possibly draw Russia, America and China onto a collision course with each other?  Yet why is even some of the most reserved media speaking in such terms and how likely is the possibility that we might all be thrown into such a dangerous situation?   In short, entirely possible. Why?Well you need to try and get an insight to the Israeli national psyche to understand why pressing the button on such a scenario is more and not less likely unless the international community really gets to grip with this.
If you ever go on a guided tour to Israel, as I have done many times, you will inevitably be taken to the spectacular Dead Sea desert fortress of Masada. Once you arrive at the top (preferably by cable car in the 35+ degrees heat), your Guide will sit you down in a group under a sun shade and explain to you with great solemnity the meaning of Masada to the Israeli people.  I’ve lost count of the number of different Guides I have had tell me the story of Masada but while the faces and the style of the telling changes each time I visit, one thing that doesn’t is the script. only they don’t read from a script; they speak from the heart.
Jerusalem 70AD
In 70AD, the great Jewish Revolt against the occupying Roman Empire was finally crushed with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem – the heart and soul of Jewish religion and nationhood.  The dissolution of the Roman province of Judaea began in earnest with the population being butchered, evicted or enslaved. One last bastion of resistance was a handful of zealot families encamped down by the Dead Sea at Masada.  Just under 1,000 men, women and children defied the might of the Roman 10th Legion for a couple of years in the very well watered, well provisioned fortress built by Herod the Great. But encamped all around them below, the might of Rome lay siege. Masada with its sheer cliffs was mightily strong and virtually impregnable but with iron-cast patience and determination, the Romans started to build a siege ramp on top of a spur of rock leading to the fortress some 375 feet high in total upon which to transport up the battering rams and siege towers to overcome the defences.  Facing the inevitable as the 10th Legion eventually hove their siege towers into place and the fall of the fortress was barely hours away, the men of Masada, the heads of households, met in the Synagogue under the leadership of Elazar Ben Ya’ir to face the bleakest of choices: to be put to the sword by the Romans and have their women and children raped and enslaved or to die as free people by their own hand and commit the great sins their religion and culture forbade – murder and suicide. Lots were cast to pick the 10 men who would slit the throats of their families, then those who would kill 8 of the 10 and then the one who would kill the last and then himself. So it was that the next day with the gates of Masada reduced to ashes, the 10th Legion breached the defences only to find quiet death, desolation and just a couple of women and children who chose to hide and take their chances.
Below: Masada Synagogue

The story of Masada is not myth. It happened and is recorded in ancient history in the writings of Josephus and then it seems to have vanished from Jewish thinking until the 19th Century when a Jewish scholar and poet called Isaac Lamdan wrote a poetic retelling of Masada at a time Anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe and it is thought that his work more than any other inspired the Jewish revolt in Poland under the cruelty of the Nazis we know as the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  Today, every Israeli schoolchild and every Israeli soldier (and remember national service in the Army is compulsory for all Israelis) is taken to Masada to hear the retelling of the story and contemplate its meanings and lessons.  As my Guides over the years have explained, the legacy of Masada is what differentiates Jews from Israeli Jews – and they in Israel are insistent upon the fact that there is a difference. The Jews of the Diaspora – those scattered around the world have a saying: “Never again”, referring to the Holocaust. Israeli Jews have that but also another deeply rooted: “Never again Masada”.   Here you have a key to understanding the psyche of modern Israel. That psyche says that if we (Israelis) are ever again found in a situation on our own soil where we are surrounded by hostile enemies baying for our blood, we will not quietly slip away and take our lives as they did on Masada but we will come out fighting or change the odds that put us in such a position in the first place.
On my recent visit to Israel in September this year I detected more than I have done from any of my previous trips that Israelis are once again feeling under siege with trouble on every side.  At the time I was out there, there was that historic moment at the United Nations when Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinians on the West Bank, addressed the UN General Assembly for state recognition of Palestine amid overwhelming international sympathy. The ‘Arab Spring’ has seen revolution in Egypt, Israel’s southern neighbour, with an explosion of anti-Israeli sentiment and the storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. In Jordan, Israel’s eastern neighbour, Israeli Embassy staff there too were recalled home amid fears for their safety. To the north are Syria and Lebanon. Syria is now in the grip of civil turmoil so severe that just last week the Arab League took the decision to suspend its membership. In Lebanon…Iranian-controlled Hamas hold sway over much of the country. It was their rocket fire onto the Israel’s northern towns and cities that drew Israeli fire in the last Israel-Lebanon conflict.  To the west…well there is Gaza, again Hamas controlled with their links to Iran and still firing rockets into Israel’s southern cities. Israel’s only other direct western neighbour is the sea. Looking a bit further afield, Turkey, once a close military ally of Israel, has now all but cut relations. Two things at play here – one is Turkey’s ire at the loss of Turkish lives in the Gaza Aid Convoy incident last year, but also Turkey’s seeming drive to re-assert leadership over the Mediterranian Islamic world after the fall of its previous ‘strong man’, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. 
So back to Iran, physically nowhere near Israel’s borders but now potentially with the capabilty of striking Israel with a nuclear arsenal in preparation…allegedly. Does Israel really need to be concerned about Iranian intentions? Iranian President Ahmadinajad has been widely reported in western media as believing that the state of Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’, though this has since been disputed by Iran and others as a ‘mistranslation’ of a speech Ahmadinajad made in 2005 at the ‘World without Zionism’ conference in Asia.   In the BBC’s online profile of Ahmadinajad they write of him and his stance toward Israel as follows:
Holocaust denial:Mr Ahmadinejad has also angered Western powers with his views on Israel.He has called for an end to the Israeli state and has described the Holocaust
as a myth.In October 2005, Mr Ahmadinejad made a statement in which he envisaged the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian state.He was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, and his words were widely translated as a call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, though this translation is disputed. That was quickly interpreted by Western news agencies as an oblique threat to Israel. Mr Ahmadinejad has since stated that his speech was exaggerated and misinterpreted.He denied that he meant military intervention and said instead that Israel’s “Zionist regime” would eventually collapse on its own. During a speech at the UN in April 2009, he commented that Israel was a state founded on racist principles, an outburst that prompted a walk-out by delegates from at least 30 countries but earned him a hero’s welcome on his return home.
So today we have an Israel now feeling increasingly besieged by insecurity, hostility resentment now on every border. Erstwhile ‘friends’ in the region – Turkey, Egypt and Jordan – have all but cut ties and are increasingly moving toward greater Islamisation.  And it would seem that other so-called friends and major allies outside of the region are also less enamored with Israel than they once were as the recent ‘off the record’ exchange between the French and American Presidents at the G20 revealed.  Israel isolated and threatened and now with the looming potential nuclear menace of Iran on the horizon.
Pictured: President Ahmadinajad
Is all this enough to trigger an Israeli strike on Iran?   We need to remember that if it is…and they do…it will not be for the first time they have. On the 7th June 1981 Israel bombed a French-built nuclear reactor in Iraq, ruled then by Saddam Hussein, which it believed was designed to build nuclear weapons capable of striking Israel. This was the first ever military strike against  a nuclear installation the world had seen.  Reporting on the Israeli explanation for the attack at the time, the BBC posted the following on its website:
“The atomic bombs which that reactor was capable of producing whether from
enriched uranium or from plutonium, would be of the Hiroshima size. Thus a
mortal danger to the people of Israel progressively arose.” (Israeli Govt)It (Israel) acted now because it believed the reactor would be completed shortly –
either at the beginning of July or the beginning of September 1981.
The world was a much different place in 1981.  America was prosperous and the undisputed global superpower. Russia did not exist as a sovereign nation with that name but was part of the Soviet Union. India, China and Brazil were considered little above the ‘Third World’ nations.  Europe was wealthy, flush with cash and forging ahead with the ‘European Project’ and the Arab world was in deep winter under the thumbs of Saddam Hussein, Muarmur Ghadaffi, Hafez al-Assad, the Saudi royal family and the new kid on the block – Hosni Mubarak.  Israel got away unscathed with its sortee out of the mind set of Masada then because the pieces on the world’s giant chess board were arrayed so vastly differently than they are today.   In our less prosperous, more volatile,  more insecure 21st Century world where all the known balances of power are undergoing seismic changes before our very eyes, an Israeli strike on Iran today could have cataclysmic consequences if the world does not wake up to the very real prospect.
This post is not about the rights and wrongs of the politics and policies of Israel and the Middle East that has left Israel in such a place of isolation today. It was simply to address the question raised in the media in recent weeks ‘is an Israeli pre-emptive strike on nuclear installations in Iran a distinct possibility?’
Yes, my friends.   It is.
 
Post-script:
Thursday 17th November: Reuters reports developments at the IAEA led by the USA, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany to increase pressure on Iran to address global nuclear fears.
Friday 18th November: Iran remains defiant after IAEA censure.    USA to impose sanctions on Iranian petrochemical industry.
Saturday 26th November: Iran says it is capable of attacking NATO installations in Turkey
Saturday 26th November: Iran says will strike Turkey if Israel/US attack
Monday 28th November:  #Isfahan starts trending on Twitter after Israeli meda Ha’ Aretz reports ‘huge explosion’ heard in the Iranian city where nuclear and missile installations are located.  Iranian media at first report the incident then deny it.   Incident alsp reported by BBC, the Telegraph and Reuters…
30th November: British Embassy in Iran stormed over EU imposed sanctions on Iran following the IAEA Report.  UK targeted because of the banking sanctions imposed by London. British, American and Israeli flags burned in the streets. UK evacuated diplomatic staff, closes Embassy in Tehran and gives 48 hours notice for all Iranian diplomatic staff to leave UK. Iranian Embassy to London forced to close…
1st December: EU imposes tougher sanctions on Iran as a result of storming of British Embassy…
1st December: “Iran is a rabid rogue state that could tip the world into a new Dark Age” – UK media reports…
1st December: US media reports: ‘Israeli Defence Chief says Israel not seeking to attack Iran but may have no choice’…
2nd December: Israeli media organisation, Ha’aretz, reveals turmoil in Israeli government over 1 year window to deal with Iran…
2nd December: ‘The War Against Iran’s Nuclear Program has already begun’ – Israeli media reports
5th December: “Cold war hots up across Mideast” – Reuters
5th December: ‘Paris and London to press EU for Iran oil ban’ – Financial Times
9th December: Iran complains to UN over US drone incursion – Tehran Times
11th December: Hamas sets up rocket production line in Sinai – Jerusalem Post
13th December: Iran says US should apologise for drone ‘invasion’ – Fox News
13th December: Iran indicts 15 ‘spies’ for US and Israel – The Telegraph
26th December: Iran Defence Minister: Israeli Strike would be a Suicide Mission – Ha’Aretz
27th December: Iran to block Gulf oil if sanctions proceed – Al Jazeera
28th December: US warns Iran over threat to block oil route – BBC
1st January: Iran defiant as US unleashes new sanctions – AFP
2nd January: Iran tests West’s patience with show of might in missile launch – The Independent
8th January: Iran uranium enrichment site operational soon – Reuters
8th January: Iran to launch nuclear work bunker in “near future” – Reuters
9th January: IAEA confirms Iran has begun enriching uranium – BBC
10th January: The Times published an exclusive double-page spread on Israel and Iran with the headline ‘Israel expects Iran to test a nuclear bomb within a year’.  Unable to provide the link without paying a year’s subscription for the previlege.
11th January: Iranian University Lecturer and Nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan killed in targeted car bomb atack in Teheran.  Speculation mounts that Israeli secret service Mossad was involved – BBC
23rd January: US Warships enter Straits of Hormuz – Financial Times
23rd January:  EU bans imports of Iranian oil – Reuters
24th January: ‘To avoid war, Iran must stop playing games’ – Daily Mail
29th January: Is Israel using the Iran situation to side-step peace talks? – Ha’Aretz.com
29th January: UN inspectors visit Iran as nuclear tensions rise – BBC
3rd February: ‘Israel to strike Iran in April, May or June’ – Russia Today
3rd February: ‘Iran Threatens to Strike Back Against Sanctions, Attack’ – Voice of America
4th February: Iran will cut oil exports to some European countries – Reuters
4th February: Iran begins naval exercises near Gulf strait – Associated Press/NPR
5th February: Israel’s Netanyahu to visit US as concerns grow over possible Iran attack – Voice of America
5th February:’Obama: Israel has not made decision on Iran attack’ – Reuters
10th February: ‘Why Netanyahu won’t attack Iran’ – Ha’ Aretz
11th February: ‘Iran vows to back Palestinian resistance against Israel’ – Jerusalem Post
11th February: ‘Iran must attack Israel by 2014’ – Jerusalem Post
11th February: ‘Hamas will never recognise Israel’ – Ha’Aretz
11th February: Iran to announce ‘very important’ nuclear developments – Daily Telegraph
12th February: Germany warns Israel against attack on Iran – PressTV
18th February: Hague fears Iran could start ‘new Cold War’ – BBC
18th February: Iran’s pre-emptive measure proves inefficiency of Western sactions – FARS News Agency
18th February: Israel seeks tighter sanctions against Iran – AFP
19th February: William Hagues warns Israel over Iran military action – The Telegraph
19th February: ‘Israel – don’t strike Iran’ – CNN
19th February: ‘Iran may boost nuclear programme’ diplomat warns – BBC
19th February: US, Britain urge Israel not to attack Iran – Ha’aretz
19th February: Iran warships enter Mediterranean as tensions with Israel grow – The Telegraph
21st February: Iran raises tension by threatening pre-emptive action – The Guardian
21st February: Iran threatens premptive action – CNN
22nd February: UN watchdog ‘denied access to key Iran site’ – Al Jazeera 
22nd February: UN nuke expert: no ‘way forward’ with Iran – Associated Press
22nd February: Iran supreme leader denies Iran seeking nuclear weapons – The Guardian
23rd February: Oil prices spiral up as Iran cuts sales to EU – PressTV
23rd February: Fear of Iran is inflating gas prices – CNN
23rd February: Iran set to expand nuclear activity in underground facility – Ha’Aretz
29th February: US sees Iran attacks as likely if Israel strikes – New York Times