Beyond the Cusp

February 22, 2018

Iranian Nuclear War with Israel or the World


After reading Professor Louis René Beres’s article “Looking Ahead: Longer Term Prospects for an Israel-Iran Nuclear War” we found some additional aspects which were either dismissed or ignored. We decided that perhaps we could add some information by looking more closely at the Iranian perspectives and what these should mean to Israeli planners. The one item with which we took the most critical concern was his statement, “In essence, there are no conceivable experts on fighting a nuclear war, not in Washington, not in Pyongyang, not in Jerusalem, not in Tehran.” He also postulated that, “Insofar as a nuclear war has never been fought, what will be needed is more broadly intellectual guidance than Israel should ever reasonably expect from even its most senior and accomplished military officers.” The reality is that senior officers often have educations equal to that of many professors and their minds are just as keen and capable of any academic. We will grant that officers exist who are nowhere near the expert of some academics, but mostly those are junior officers and by the time an officer makes Full Bird Colonel they have at the least a Bachelor’s degree and probably a Master’s degree and many a General will have a Doctorate in at least one field from Military History to Mathematics, Physics and possibly Nuclear Physics. They will all have taken courses in Military Tactics, as even Noncommissioned officers are required to take such courses. They will have been required to take a number of command courses and often have attended some very rigorous military training courses which is how they get those impressive patches such as Ranger, Airborne and even Special Forces or Seals in the United States. So, to be honest, there are likely very few professors or other experts who would be better trained, educated and able to make the decisions and make plans to handle any threat including, or even especially, a nuclear standoff or even an actual nuclear exchange.


Professor Beres also said that there had never been a nuclear war, but that is technically not entirely valid as the War with Japan at the end of World War II was ended by the use of nuclear weapons which kind of means that the War with Japan did turn into the first, and thus far, only nuclear war. That was a completely one sided nuclear exchange as Japan had no nuclear weapons with which to respond which is what made the American use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki so effective. Fortunately, the Japanese did not know that the United States had used every nuclear weapon at their disposal and did not posses a third weapon. Had Japan tested the resolve of President Truman, the American’s next move was to build fifty additional nuclear weapons in the ensuing year and strike Japan with most of them in simultaneous strikes including Tokyo and a number of nuclear weapons into Mount Fuji in the hopes of causing a massive eruption. This was not much of a lesson for a nuclear standoff between two nuclear-armed adversaries. Such a standoff has limited lessons to teach us with only two which come to mind. The minor one has been the battle of the boasting idiots between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. Deciding which one is the larger idiot would be a difficult call but we would have to side with Kim Jong-un if he honestly believes he is a man-god and that his nation is as happy and well off as any other on the face of the planet. All he would need do is look southward to the Winter Olympics in South Korea to see that his nation is in dire shape and has some extreme problems. But then he knows this and this was what caused him to test President Trump and pressure the world with threats trying to force them to treat his temper tantrum by sending his beleaguered nation food and money. The more serious standoff between two nuclear powers was the Cuban Missile Crisis. This pitted the United States and President Kennedy against the USSR and Commissar Khrushchev. This standoff ended peaceably but not before nerves throughout the globe was frayed to the breaking point.


So, let us now look at what the future nuclear situation might be between Israel and Iran as well as Iran and the rest of the world. The first thing which can be stated, is, that Israel would not be the first to use nuclear weapons except in response to an attack using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against Israel. Israel has made this their policy on nuclear weapons and their use such that they would only be used in response to a WMD attack. Now, such a nuclear response might be used on Iran if there were a massive WMD attack emanating from Syria or Hezballah which could be traced as being ordered by Iran. Should Iran launch a nuclear or other WMD attack on Israel then an Israeli nuclear response should be expected against Iran and for Israel to go on alert in case of an attack across the northern border from Hezballah or Syria. This covers every use of her nuclear weapons by Israel except for one rumored plan known as the Samson Option, used as the basis of “The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy,” a 1991 book by Seymour Hersh. The theory put forth presumably from an Israeli intelligence source who told of plans that should Israel be facing being overrun and destroyed by invading armies, then she would respond by launching her missiles at the main population centers of numerous Arab and Muslim nations which was hoped to prevent any attacks by Arab armies. The last organized assault on Israel by national military forces was the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, which was before Israel was assumed to have a nuclear arsenal. Since then the Arab world has not launched an assault on Israel using conventional forces and only through terror forces. There may be a question whether Hezballah, with there over one-hundred-thousand rockets and missiles could be considered to be a national type military force equating any attack by Hezballah into an attack by Lebanon and possibly their masters in Tehran thus including Iran? This is a conundrum for the heads of state and the military in Israel and we are not about to second-guess them and will wait for any announced policy. There has been some mention that should Hezballah attack Israel that Israel now considers Hezballah as being the governance of Lebanon and thus any attack by Hezballah would, at the least, be considered an attack by Lebanon.


This leaves Iran and what their leadership might be thinking about nuclear confrontations. It was reported by CNN on September 11, 2015, that the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said during a speech that week in Tehran, state-run media report, which translated as, “I’d say (to Israel) that they will not see (the end) of these 25 years.” That, in and of itself, is ominous enough to rattle nerves or it could be written off to bluster meant to impress the Iranian people. One thing people need to understand about the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is that his life revolves around the Quran and it is the Quran which provides him with his authority, gives him authority to make Iranian foreign policy decisions, and allows him great latitude concerning internal decision making within Iran. The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is all but unopposable when it comes to decision making and his word is as good as law. If the Supreme Leader were to order a nuclear attack on Israel, the missiles would be launched within minutes with almost nobody even thinking of questioning these orders. What is unknown is who, other than the Supreme Leader, is able to order such an attack. This is not as well known and there are suspicions that there are some military high level officers who might also be permitted to give such orders including the leader of the IRGC, the special forces and most fanatical of the Iranian military. These are also the forces responsible for foreign operations including terrorist attacks. For our concerns, we will limit our concerns to address just the possibility for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordering a nuclear strike on Israel or on any other nation.


First, let us look at what logic might be used by the Ayatollah. He would be aware that the United States has extended their nuclear umbrella to Israel which would imply that any nuclear attack upon Israel would potentially result in the United States striking back at the attacker. Between Israel and the United States, there is little comparison between their nuclear capabilities as the United States has a far more capable nuclear capability. The first question is whether or not the United States truly would respond as promised to a nuclear strike on Israel. The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has witnessed a number of United States Presidents and has very probably noticed that the level of support Israel receives wavers from President to President, especially under the administration of President Obama. Thus, it is more likely that the Ayatollah would be more likely to consider taking any actions when the United States has a President who has shown preferably hostility to Israel or possibly only an indifference towards Israel and has pressured Israel over the ill-fated peace process. The real problem comes back to the one book which guides the Ayatollahs and much of the higher officers, especially those of the IRGC, which is the Quran. The one command from the Quran which has appeared again and again when it comes to relations towards Israel are two-fold, first, to kill the infidel wherever one finds them, and second, that the hour (end times) will not begin until you fight the Jews. The combination of these two concepts could lead to problems as the Iranian leading Imams and Ayatollahs have repeatedly proposed that Iran was chosen to bring on the coming of the Mahdi and the End Times. They have claimed that should they cause sufficient chaos and follow prescriptions written in the Quran, that they can cause the onset of the End Times and the coming of the Mahdi. This has often been stated to be solely the hope and ideas held by the Twelvers but some in politics have also adopted these ideas in order to gain greater acceptance by the ruling clerics. Many claim that Iran is not ruled by Twelvers though former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought this threat to a head and since then there have been more and more in the power structure who have been revealed as Twelvers. The prevalence of the Twelvers would make the leadership more aggressive which could be a problem, a definite problem.


Israel and Iran

Israel and Iran


What would possibly push a greater threat would be a Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah who came under some suspicions of impropriety or other weakness which might lead them to make a desperate grab at ending the rumors replacing them with a far greater news story. The Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah could be completely above all suspicion; but should the economic situations worsen leading to greater demonstrations and complete civil unrest and the regular military side with the people and the Ayatollahs believe they are losing control of the nation and may soon be deposed, then having nothing further to lose they might take equally desperate moves. Either threat could lead the Iranian leadership to throw everything they have in their arsenals at Israel and potentially also the United States. But no matter what the immediate future will bring, eventually the Ayatollahs will decide to use any weapons they have and in the not too distant future, that will mean nuclear weaponry. The Quran will eventually force the leadership who will be pressed by the IRGC commanders to press their revolution and Israel and Saudi Arabia are the two targets highest on their list. This means that sooner or later the Iranians will launch weapons at Israel. We will grant that this would not happen until Iran had struck Saudi Arabia and taken over Mecca and Medina, the two holy cities of all Islam. They also have desires to take over Egypt and would have to take Turkey so as to place somebody to rule there as President Erdoğan still has dreams to reestablish the Ottoman Empire and as he will support Iran, that will only last for as long as the Iranian dreams of reestablishing the Persian Empire do not interrupt his idea for the Ottoman Empire. There is no way for the two empires to coexist as the Persian Empire included all of Turkey and much of the Ottoman Empire plus, the Ottoman Empire also included Mecca and Medina, something the Iranians already have their own ideas about. The one place where Turkey and Iran will agree is on attacking Israel, providing that Israel will only be striking back at Iran and Turkey can remain unscathed. The problem is that at some point in the future the Iranian Supreme Leader and Grand Ayatollah will call for an all out attack to destroy Israel and should Israel see a fair number of ballistic missiles headed for Israel launched from Iran, Israel will no longer have time for diplomacy, Israel will need to reply anticipating that the Iranian missiles are tipped with WMD’s and most likely nuclear weapons. We can only hope that before such an eventuality comes to fruition that the people of Iran succeed in replacing their theocratic dictatorship with a true democratic governance which represents the people’s desires and write a constitution which will revitalize the Iranian economic situation and liberate the people from the Ayatollahs and their oppressive rule. We need remember that before the return of the Ayatollahs in 1979, Israel and Iran were friends with embassies and good relations and vital trade. A return to such would be good for Israel, good for Iran and good for both Iranians and Israelis as well as the rest of the Middle East.


Beyond the Cusp


October 29, 2017

America at the Tipping Point


The citizens of the United States are separated by a division approaching that of the period before the Civil War. There are still a good number of people who have not raced to the far extremes of the political battle but they are being shut from the conversation. Those at the fringe edges have gained in numbers during the campaigns with Bernie Sanders at one end and Donald Trump pictured as the other extreme and Hillary Clinton actually less extreme though with other difficulties she was unable to overcome. The election of Donald Trump as President simply sent more people heading for the exits from rational, polite discourse into frenzied and often irrational vindictive and vicious name-calling with nobody permitted to be in the center. The political climate became take no prisoners, you are with us or you are the enemy of all that is sacred. Discourse became poisonous with assaults thrown from both sides and reason tossed in the trash. Even the news became polarized with many of the stories making nearly unbelievable accusations and claims proved to be exactly that, unbelievable accusations and claims which were proven with time to be false, the fake news with both sides being guilty of such falsehoods and unproven claims. All of this simply served to further push the sides apart until almost none permitted to remain neutral. The only path for remaining neutral, or at least not at the fringes of reason, was to stay silent and wait for the storm to pass. And the reasonable people remained silent and waited and are waiting and the heated rhetoric simply has become more vindictive, extreme and unreasonable. The storm is not passing.


There is some good news hidden within this heated storm. Both political parties are falling victim to their most extreme elements pulling them further and further from the center. Many Republicans have taken up the position that President Trump is being unfairly accused of being a monster without feelings and a novice who will soon force World War III or at least a nuclear war with North Korea or anybody else he can insult and thus will defend even his most indefensible actions. On the other side, there are those who would believe anything reported or rumored act of the most insane acts with the flimsiest of evidence. If there were a report on Facebook that President Trump had murdered a Gold Star Mom for talking back to him, they would repeat it till the cows come home and refuse to believe reporting that such never occurred as a cover-up. When everything settles from such exchanges, it is only because the adversaries fell asleep at their keyboards. But that would be fine as others around the globe would pick-up the argument and keep it nice and warm for when they awaken and start right where they left off. These arguments continue day and night and even when one claim for either side is finally beaten to death and disproved, that is fine as there will be another one coming along any moment. At any given time there must be at least ten, fifty, hundred, thousand, who can count the number of news stories being touted at any given moment as the new cycles, fake and real, just continues to feed the flame wars online.


The radicalizing of the conversation, and thus the political populace, is drawing the parties to the extremes. There has been discussion of a litmus test for Democrats that they support Senator Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for all single-payer health care. On the other side, the Republicans are divided between Trump supporters and those who are trying to be identified as the core of the traditional party with Senator McCain as their leading spokesperson. The moderates in both parties are being left out of the political discourse and this could be the opportunity for a centrist party representing those who have been left behind, the political center. Come the next Presidential elections in 2020, the Republicans will in all probability be running President Trump for re-election. Whom the Democrats run may define the party for the ensuing four to eight years. Their choice will be between the Senator Sanders wing of the party, the Clinton wing of the party, the Obama wing of the party or the some other group unheard from at this time. In the meantime there will be the 2018 elections which could decide the Senate and, as usual, the House of Representatives. With the extremes of the current discourse, it should be a wild and wooly ride. Imagine an election on top of the current atmosphere with campaigns exaggerating the already diverging differences and you can see how everything is going to get really absurd.


Trump vs the World

Trump vs the World


Taking measure of the political playing field, the noise from the opposing end zones is grabbing all the attention such that the quiet and calm suggestions emanating from the middle of the field is completely inaudible. Things are almost comical which might make a circus a far more applicable comparison. As a three-ring circus, the spotlights would be on the far two rings while the center ring would be completely dark and not part of the show. We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Election Day and that should prove to be interesting to say the least. There have been rumors of nation-wide protests to be launched across the United States with some calling for ever increasing protests in an effort to force President Trump from office. The people calling for these protests are from “The Resistance” and other groups even more radical who are making this sound like President Trump vs. the World. They play their hand as if they really were the true force of the world and their position was the one which was pure, holy and true. They act just as if they were on a mission from the Almighty and their charmed belief was sufficient to carry the day. To say their grip on reality might be a tad less firm than they believe would be an understatement. The problem is the Trump all the way come heck or high water group is any more centered would be just as insane. The difference is those supporting President Trump will not be demonstrating come the anniversary of Election Day, they will be home cheering on the police and, if things escalate, the National Guard troops. Does anybody honestly believe that between now and a week from now that the discourse will have subsided? Where that would be desirable, it is highly unlikely and, if the past is any indicator, things will start peaking and heating up even further this week and next. If there are national protests on November 8, we can hope against hope that they will be non-violent. Unfortunately, some of the more radical groups are not calling for peaceful protests, they want rioting and as much disruption as possible as that is how they expect to bring about change. Such change usually proves to be far less desirable than what is envisioned, as that which brings about change, their change is often for the worse, and it demands that the authorities must resort to tactics which are never desirable. We can only hope that these coming days pass with as few incidents as possible and that they bring a normalcy back to the political debate. We can only hope.


Beyond the Cusp


July 23, 2017

The Subject Best Left Untouched Today is Korea


Korea gets stark coverage in the news; a short article here and there often buried with a headline every couple of weeks with sparse follow-up. There actually is a good reason, there is no good coverage or any way Trump can be blamed or criticized as he has taken measured steps increasing pressure slowly without crossing any critical lines as of yet. The distance from where everyone and everything currently stands and those aforementioned lines has shrunk to a very small distance. Kim has not altered his trajectory launching larger and longer range missiles with his latest calculated to be capable of reaching Alaska and potentially the West Coast of the United States mainland. Kim is pressing all the buttons which distress the Pentagon and make some of those older men with the largest number of medals on their uniforms excessively nervous and rightfully so. On the other side, President Trump has ordered three super-carrier groups to the area in and around the Sea of Japan, sufficient airpower to neutralize all known North Korean launch and nuclear facilities and destroy the vast majority of the rocket and projectile artillery placed just north of the demilitarized zone (see map below) all of them targeting Seoul, the South Korean Capital and home to near twenty-seven-million people. This has been the big threat held by the Kim family as they have ruled, or should we say ruined, North Korea making it a virtual hell on Earth for the entire population with the exception of the elites who live lives as if they were the monarchs and royal court over their medieval serfs who live at their pleasure.


Demilitarized Zone Between North Korea and South Korea

Demilitarized Zone Between North Korea and South Korea


The founder of North Korea was Kim Il-sung who was a believer in the myth of Communism and how it could make everyone live better under its socialized dictatorship with central planning and everybody receiving an equal portion. Just like most Communist dictatorships, North Korea failed with an ever-shrinking economy which remains now based on selling what meager oil and other natural resources they have most often to China. Much of the industrial base went to the manufacture of military hardware and development and little in consumer goods. Such placement of the investment in military hardware and the military left little for the people. Subsistence farming became a larger and larger part of the economy in the hope of feeding the people. Kim Il-sung died unexpectedly from a sudden heart attack on July 8, 1994, and was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il. Things continued in their steady decline throughout his years leading the militaristic country of North Korea. But at least things appeared sane, Russia and China assisted the nation and they threatened to attack South Korea and annihilate Seoul on a semiregular basis in order to gain some form of relief from the West, meaning the United States, which was regularly met by whoever was in the White House as it beat risking the war resuming in the Korean Peninsula. The North continued to press their demands that the Korean Peninsula be united and all the Korean people be ruled by their rightful rulers, the Kim family. The trades with North Korea were always the same basic deal, the United States sent tons of food and other provisions and of course a fair amount of funds all in return for a promise not to cause any disturbances, or in simple terms, peace and quiet and little if anything else which is a large quantity of basic nothing.


The original Korean War was fought with the free world with the backing of the United Nations due to a Security Council vote which took place, conveniently, after the Soviet Union walked out in a show of solidarity with Nikita Khrushchev who walked after slamming the table with his shoe, fighting the Communists, largely the Soviet Union. The forces backed by the United States had been pushing the Communists back when the other Communist nation decided to join the fight, one might say the eight-thousand-ton gorilla in the zone, the Chinese came over the border with forces of hundreds of thousands of soldiers pushing the Americans and their allies almost off the peninsula. The American forces rallied and in the end they decided to call it quits and draw a line on or about the 38th Parallel and rather than end the war, just allow it to stall for the time being, an armistice. Kim Jong-Il died on December 17, 2011, and was quickly succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un. This is where the problems set in. There are many who claim that Kim Jong-un might be unbalanced, a little unstable and frankly dangerous and a potentially dangerous threat. Add in President Donald Trump and things get really dicey.


The Kim Family


Kim Jong-un is attempting to use the time honored tradition of threaten the world and the Western nations will come up with the goods sooner or later. The problem is, he is basically selling the same nothing for something to a businessman, and that will not fly. President Trump’s answer to Kim Jong-un’s threats has been to slowly build the United States presence sending super-cruiser groups to attend training exercises with allies in the area including South Korea, Japan and others. President Trump attempted to resolve the situation by requesting the North Korean allies in China to talk the situation down. The Chinese and the Russians instead gave the United States an ultimatum to break off their planned operations with South Korea and potentially end their support for the South Koreans. This is all simply another attempt to isolate the South Koreans and allow for North Korea to do the same thing to South Korea as happened to South Vietnam after the United States removed their support. The Cold War is back and as healthy as it ever was and Russia is hoping to make President Trump back off in North Korea as if they can push him around there, they will then do more threatening to force the free world to allow Russia to retake as much of their former satellite nations as they are able. That would bring the end to the freedom in the Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and potentially Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and even the Czech Republic, and this is simply Eastern Europe. Then there is Central Asia where Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and a few other nations north of Afghanistan. Once again, should Russia force President Trump to trip and retreat in the Korean Peninsula and then continue the pressure in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the break where the West would no longer back further and instead would be up in arms, just as in World War II, might very well be Poland again.


This hugely dangerous game of chicken is showing no signs of either side blinking and has every sign of reaching a breaking point. If North Korea launches an actual and undeniable ICBM capable of reaching any point on the globe and then start placing satellites into low Earth orbit, with some crashing back to the planet even striking within the United States or Canada, then all bets are off because telling the difference between a crashing weather satellite and an incoming ballistic missile is impossible. The one and most trusted way of knowing the difference is asking the launching nation and trusting their answer. This is not exactly something in which North Korea would be considered a trustworthy nation as far as truth is concerned. Further, once North Korea reaches such ability for launching ballistic missiles and the miniaturized warheads to place atop of these missiles, then everyone need decide whether they can live with a nuclear armed North Korea or would defanging the rogue nation be the only viable option. These two scenarios are on a crash course with reality and the decisions reached by President Trump and his advisors will be weighty and potentially threatening the peace in Asia. The results against the North Korean nuclear missile threat will also go a long way in resolving the war in Syria and whether or not the killing simply continues endlessly. The decisions made in the standoff on the peninsula will send ripples around the world. What is the right move for President Trump? Should he again return to the days when the United States stationed ballistic nuclear missiles in South Korea or place them in Japan or Taiwan as a message to China and Russia that their nuclear mischief in North Korea had its consequences for them equal or greater than the threat the North poses to the Western World? Let’s just say that we had all better wish him decent advice, certainly better and more useable advice than he appears to have received about the Middle East and Israel. If he is as ill prepared to judge Kim Jong-un as he appeared to be with Mahmoud Abbas and his pack of lies, then the world had best tighten their seat-belts, because a misreading of the ripples in this crisis result in a huge conflagration or an alteration in the power centers of the world, largely from Washington the power would flow to Moscow and Beijing. Best of all, everybody tread quietly and carefully as a misstep will be ruinous for all involved.


Beyond the Cusp


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