One bright morning, in five or 10 years, perhaps during a regional crisis, perhaps out of the blue, a day or a year or five years after Iran’s acquisition of the Bomb, the mullahs in Qom will convene in secret session, under a portrait of the steely-eyed Ayatollah Khomeini, and give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by then in his second or third term, the go-ahead.
The orders will go out and the Shihab III and IV missiles will take off for Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, and probably some military sites, including Israel’s half dozen air and (reported) nuclear missile bases. Some of the Shihabs will be nuclear-tipped, perhaps even with multiple warheads. Others will be dupes, packed merely with biological or chemical agents, or old newspapers, to draw off or confuse Israel’s anti-missile batteries and Home Front Command units.
With a country the size and shape of Israel (an elongated 20,000 square kilometers), probably four or five hits will suffice: No more Israel. A million or more Israelis in the greater Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem areas will die immediately. Millions will be seriously irradiated. Israel has about seven million inhabitants. No Iranian will see or touch an Israeli. It will be quite impersonal.
Some of the dead will inevitably be Arab – 1.3 million of Israel’s citizens are Arab and another 3.5 million Arabs live in the semi-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa have substantial Arab minorities. And there are large Arab concentrations immediately around Jerusalem (in Ramallah-Al Bireh, Bir Zeit, Bethlehem) and outside Haifa. Here, too, many will die, immediately or by and by.
It is doubtful whether such a mass killing of fellow Muslims will trouble Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. The Iranians don’t especially like Arabs, especially Sunni Arabs, with whom they have intermittently warred for centuries. And they have a special contempt for the (Sunni) Palestinians who, after all, though initially outnumbering the Jews by more than 10 to 1, failed during the long conflict to prevent them from establishing their state or taking over all of Palestine.
Besides, the Iranian leadership sees the destruction of Israel as a supreme divine command, as a herald of the second coming, and the Muslims dispatched collaterally as so many martyrs in the noble cause. Anyway, the Palestinians, many of them dispersed around the globe, will survive as a people, as will the greater Arab nation of which they are part. And surely, to be rid of the Jewish state, the Arabs should be willing to make some sacrifices. In the cosmic balance sheet, it will be worth the candle.
A QUESTION may nevertheless arise in the Iranian councils: What about Jerusalem? After all, the city contains Islam’s third holiest shrines (after Mecca and Medina), Al Aksa Mosque and the Mosque of Omar. But Ali Khamenei, the supreme spiritual leader, and Ahmadinejad most likely would reply much as they would to the wider question regarding the destruction and radioactive pollution of Palestine as a whole: The city, like the land, by God’s grace, in 20 or 50 years’ time, will recover. And it will be restored to Islam (and the Arabs). And the deeper pollution will have been eradicated.