Iran today cannot be understood without understanding Twelver Shia Islam. It is the largest branch of the Shia sect of Islam. The belief uniting all Shia branches is that only Mohammad’s bloodline descendants are the proper caliphs or leaders of Islam, as opposed to much the larger Sunni sect of Islam (80% of the worldwide Muslim community or umma), who maintain that the Islamic caliph should be the most qualified leader chosen from the umma. (Just as clarification, the term “Shia is the short form of an Arabic phrase meaning ’followers’, ‘faction’ or ‘party’ of Mohammad’s son-in-law and cousin Ali, whom the Shia believe to be Mohammad’s successor to lead the Caliphate.” While “the word ‘Sunni’ in Arabic comes from a word meaning ‘one who follows the traditions of the Prophet’.”)
The Muslims with the mindset that would eventually constitute the hardline Twelver branch of the Shia sect were dissidents within the Islamic umma dating from shortly after Mohammad’s death in 632 A.D. when Mohammad’s closest surviving male relative, his cousin Ali, was passed over to be Mohammad’s successor. Mohammad’s family and his earliest original Mecca followers contended that Mohammad had designated Ali as his successor, but their claim was rejected, and Abu Bakr was appointed by the majority of Muslims, who ultimately became known as Sunnis.
Ali was married to Mohammad’s daughter, Fatima, thus carrying on his family line and serving as the foundation of the Shia faith, Ali was eventually selected as Mohammad’s fourth successor in 656 A.D.; only to be assassinated in 661 A.D. Following his father’s assassination, Ali’s son and Mohammad’s grandson, Husayn, continued to oppose the subsequent Sunni caliph until he also was killed by Sunnis in the 680 A.D. Battle of Karbala, Iraq. The death of Husayn at the hands of the Sunnis elevated Husayn to the status of Shia martyr saint. It was the Battle of Karbala that signaled the final, formal break between the Shia and Sunni sects. Since the time of the Karbala battle up to today, the schism has continually widened and has been marked by much bloodshed, shed mostly by the Shia. For many Sunnis, the Shiites are considered as apostates, and in Islam, apostasy is punishable by death. Throughout the centuries these two sects have been in competition for leadership of the Islamic umma, and the Twelvers have been in the forefront of Shia forces struggling to wrest the dominant position in Islam from the Sunnis. The Twelvers are every bit as militant and bloodthirsty as the most bellicose branches of the Sunni sect like the Wahhabis, Deobandis, and Salafis.
The core belief of the Twelvers is that were twelve divinely ordained, Mohammad-descended leaders known as the “Twelve Imams,” and the Twelfth Imam is the “Mahdi” (prophesied redeemer of Islam), who disappeared in the tenth century and has been in “occultation” for the last ten centuries. It is the fundamental Twelver eschatological belief that this Twelfth Imam Mahdi will one day return from occultation and his reappearance will occasion what in Christian terms is known as “Armageddon.” According to Shia eschatology, the Mahdi’s return will be heralded by world chaos, death, and upheaval in a world at war where two thirds of the world’s population will die by violence and plague. So, the ongoing Twelver desire to acquire nuclear weapons is entirely understandable in view of this apocalypticism that underpins Twelver theology because a foundational aspect of Shia eschatology is: “A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover the people.” In fact, there are Twelvers, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that believe they can actually hasten the Mahdi’s second coming by creating apocalyptic world conditions, such as a nuclear war.
Twelverism can best be understood through this famous explanation from the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the historically preeminent Twelver strategist and theologian:
Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world . . . But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.
Consequently, there is absolutely no reason to doubt the sincerity or intent of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Shia Supreme Leader successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, when he chants “Death to America” along with his frenzied fellow Shia Twelvers. But the spokesman for the Obama regime, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, deceitfully asserted “Death to America” was “intended for a domestic political audience.” However, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) articulated the opposite, rational and truthful point of view: “”When someone chants, ‘Yes, certainly, death to America,’ we should take him at his word, and we shouldn’t put him on the path to a nuclear bomb.”
Iran’s Nuclear Program
Iran’s nuclear program was begun by Shah Reza Pahlavi in the 1950s under an agreement with the U.S. as a part of the U.S. Atoms for Peace program. Following the 1979 overthrow of the Shah, the program was suspended until the late 1980s when agreements were concluded with the Soviet Union and Communist China to restart the program. Russia picked up in the 1990s where the Soviet Union left off with nuclear technical support in Iran. In December 2002 the U.S. Government first accused Iran of attempting to make nuclear weapons instead of pursuing power generation. In June 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency issued its initial complaint of many to follow that Iran was failing to cooperate and to permit previously agreed upon nuclear inspections. In response to international demands that Iran halt its nuclear program, Iran’s foreign minister issued this statement in June 2004: “We won’t accept any new obligations. Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club. This is an irreversible path.” The issue of Iranian nuclear weapons development has continued to heat up and cool down since then for the past decade.
Following Obama’s reelection in March 2013, the U.S. began a series of secret negotiations with Iranian officials in Oman that were kept hidden from other P5+1 partners (the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany). However, the entire P5+1 were again involved in the negotiations in November 2013 and reached an interim agreement with Iran in the form of a “Joint Plan of Action” for conducting the nuclear negotiations. The original November 2014 deadline in the joint plan for a P5+1-Iran comprehensive agreement has been extended and now has been set for July 1, 2015.
Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program
Another piece of the Twelver effort to complete their plan to build the components to fulfill Shia eschatology that continues apace is their ballistic missile program. Iran has the largest and most diverse arsenal of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and while Israel has more capable missiles, their arsenal of ballistic missiles contains fewer in numbers and types. Most of Iran’s missiles are of Soviet or North Korean origin; however, the Iranian Twelvers are continually increasing their indigenous independent capability to design and manufacture long range missiles. The result has been the “Sajjil” (Persian for “baked clay”) solid fuel, surface-to-surface missiles with increasing range. Additionally, the Twelvers have an ambitious space program that provides their engineers with critical experience in development of powerful booster engines, which would also benefit their missile program. In summary, the Iranian Twelvers are expanding the distances that their missiles can cover with the objective of being able to strike Western Europe and the U.S. They already have Israel and Sunni sect countries within their range.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that long-range ballistic missiles make little sense as weapons systems unless they are mated with nuclear warheads. They are just too expensive to build to deliver conventional payloads because conventional munitions do not yield enough destructive power to guarantee target-kill with ballistic missile accuracy uncertainty. Stated another way, the inherent inaccuracy problem of long-range ballistic missiles makes them unreliable in destroying specific targets because they cannot carry a conventional explosive powerful enough to compensate the circular error probable imprecision of ballistic weapons. Therefore, intercontinental missiles without nuclear warheads are just not cost effective weapons of war, given their high-price. The obvious conclusion is: Any power aspiring to field a long-range ballistic missile force must have nuclear warheads to make their investment worthwhile.
There is one other major consideration before leaving the subject of missile delivered destruction, that is, the “Fractional Orbital Bombardment System” (FOBS). A FOBS payload can be detonated in low earth orbit over a target area or deorbited for atmospheric target attack. Consequently, this type of orbiting weapon is not limited by the booster’s range or accuracy constraints, nor would it necessarily be immediately recognized as a threat vehicle because it could approach the U.S. from the south where there are no early warning systems. Any nuclear power having the capability to put a payload into orbit has the potential capability to launch a satellite into low earth orbit that contains a FOBS Nuclear Electro-Magnetic Pulse (NEMP) weapon. Consequently, when a nuclear warhead is detonated miles above the earth’s surface, the weapon yield produces a gamma ray output that can cause an electrical voltage surge that melts metal conductors destroying electrical devices, plugged-in and unplugged-in. The NEMP damaging effect in terms of area affected and destructive power are dependent on 1) altitude of the detonation and 2) strength of blast. A high yield device detonated 250-312 miles above Kansas would affect the entire continental U.S. A secretly obtained Iranian military document has revealed that there is in fact a Twelver plan for using NEMP to attack the U.S.
Obama’s Iran Policy And Strategy
Although Obama made numerous promises that he was committed to taking action to precluding the Iranian Twelvers from acquiring nuclear weapons as on October 7, 2008, in the second presidential debate:
“We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. And so it’s unacceptable. And I will do everything that’s required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table . . .”
Obama continued making this type of strong vow for years as when on May 22, 2011, when he sought to reassure the Jewish vote at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee:
“You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons…. So let me be absolutely clear — we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
By the time of the presidential election in 2012, Americans, Israelis, and the world could not and did not doubt Obama’s iron clad commitment to denying the Iranian Twelvers possession of nuclear weapons, even if it took drastic military action to prevent it. It was Obama’s demonstrated dedication to stopping a nuclear Iran that played a integral part in propelling Obama to two presidential election victories.
However, after Obama no longer had to concern himself with answering to the American electorate and he began his second term, he pursued a secret backchannel of communication with the Twelver Mullahs in early 2013, sending envoys to meet clandestinely with the Twelvers in in Oman. It was at this point that Obama slowly began to unravel his long-term policy toward the Twelvers – that is, diplomatic reconciliation and an alliance partnership! While Obama made it clear to the Twelvers his secret policy, Obama’s strategy was to continue to hide that policy and deceive the American people and Congress, since there is certainly no appetite among Americans and Congressmen of both political parties for conceding to Twelver demands.
Obama’s counterfactual, counter-historical, and therefore illogical policy is based on the final report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan congressional commission that urged President Bush in 2006:
to take four major steps: withdraw American troops from Iraq; surge American troops in Afghanistan; reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli “peace process”; and, last but far from least, launch a diplomatic engagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its junior partner, the Assad regime in Syria.
Obama has followed these ill-fated recommendations, which Bush rejected, to the letter, yielding catastrophic results as the Middle East is aflame with religious persecution, indiscriminate massacres with victims numbering in the hundreds of thousands, rapidly proliferating jihadist groups, and bloody Islamic sectarian war. Absolutely nothing on such horrendous scale was taking place in January 2009 when Obama took office. In the midst of this Obama-induced chaos, Obama repeatedly informed the American public that he was exercising “smart power.”
Obama’s Diplomatic Negotiation Fiasco
When the U.S., in conjunction with other partners P5+1, began Obama-lead nuclear weapons negotiation there were six United Nations Security Council resolutions that ordered Iran to discontinue all enrichment and reprocessing uranium. However, in Obama’s apparent desperation to achieve a nuclear agreement and partnership with the Iranian Twelvers, Obama acceded to the Twelvers’ demand for lifting the economic sanctions by agreeing to immediately suspend some of the sanctions guaranteeing them much-need $7 billion relief without waiting for a final agreement or to even ascertain the Twelvers’ good faith.
As foolish as that move was, given the Twelvers well-known history of violating international agreements, Obama even topped this craven diplomacy by granting the Twelvers the “right to enrich.” The Twelvers demanded that Obama unilaterally abrogate the Security Council resolutions that mandated the prohibition of any Iranian enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel, WHICH OBAMA DID! Taken together with beginning to unconditionally lift sanctions, Obama demonstrated beyond a doubt that he craved an agreement and Twelver partnership so desperately that he was willing to shred the Security Council resolutions by offering, up front, an arrangement that would lift economic sanctions on the Twelvers and that would allow the Iranian Twelvers to enrich uranium “in perpetuity.” In effect, through these concessions just to get the Twelvers to sit at the table, Obama had compromised most of the P5+1 negotiating position before the Twelvers had begun to bargain.
But Obama’s agreement-partnership desperation manifested itself in not just nuclear compromises; it also dictated a “hands-off” policy in contesting Twelver activities around the Middle East. The first blatant indication of Obama’s obsequiousness to the Mullahs appeared in 2009 when the Iranian people rose up to protest the rigged presidential election that put the Mullahs’ candidate in office. This public expression of true grassroots anger with the Mullah government was labeled the “Green Movement.” At the time that the Green Movement was confounding the Twelver Ayatollahs, the American people were baffled by Obama’s tepid, perfunctory, non-committal statement about standing with people (unspecified) who were seeking “universal rights,” when this issue was tailor-made for an American president to champion human rights and, thereby, give impetus to the Iranian people’s pressure for regime change. In retrospect, it is clear that Obama refused to support the Iranian people’s resistance to the oppressive Ayatollah government in an effort show the Mullahs his abject servility.
Another example of Obama’s agreement-partnership desperation is the apparent fact that Obama has conceded the Twelvers’ hegemony over Syria and has agreed to Bashar Assad serving as the Twelvers’ satrap overseeing their Syrian sphere of interest. Obama’s deference to the Twelvers came after Obama embarrassingly declared in August 2011, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Since the Obama’s colossal strategic misjudgment in Iraq permitting emergence of the Islamic State (AKA “ISIS” and “ISIL”) in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. has for the first time been compelled to conduct air strikes in Syria. But Obama’s embarrassing obeisance to the Twelver Ayatollahs has precluded targeting Assad’s military forces with these strikes, in spite his unequivocal statement that called for Assad’s departure from power. Instead Obama only authorized limited, almost cosmetic air strikes against the Islamic State in order to do just enough to appear to be responding to jihadist threat in order to placate congress, the media, and the American people.
Finally, yet another instance of Obama’s agreement-partnership desperation that illustrated Obama’s pitiful subjection to Twelver Mullahs’ designs occurred in August 2012 when Obama drew a “red line” warning Assad that the use of chemical weapons would bring a punishing U.S. response. But just when it appeared that Obama was about to launch military strikes, he mysteriously cancelled the military action and totally embarrassed himself and the U.S. by childishly denying that he had not set a red line! It was a breathtakingly stupid statement that obviously flowed from Obama’s fear of upsetting the Ayatollahs by attacking their Syrian puppet regime.
On March 31, 2015, which was the supposed deadline for producing an initial political deal preceding the final agreement, it was announced that, although the Twelvers and the P5+1 failed to agree on the Joint Action Plan specified crucial political details on comprehensive sanction lifting, the talks would nevertheless continue in the hope that the final agreement can still be reached by the July 1, 2015 agreed deadline.
The Obama-Kerry “negotiating strategy” is best summarized by an Iranian defector who was a member of the Iranian negotiating delegation until last week: “The U.S. negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.” Again Obama’s agreement-partnership desperation trumps all U.S. national security considerations. Given Obama’s six-year appeasement history, there is no doubt that the Twelvers will have a viable nuclear weapons development program on their terms at the conclusion of the P5+1 negotiations. Actually, the details will be irrelevant because the final results will be Twelver nuclear weapons. The only question will be: ”When?”
The Twelvers’ constant violations of agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency in terms of not permitting inspections and not reporting past uranium enrichment activities, building a heavy water reactor for plutonium production, and construction of secret, hardened centrifuge facilities under mountains are undeniable indications that the Twelvers are determined to obtain nuclear weapons and not nuclear civilian power production as claimed. It is also undeniable that Obama is determined to see that the Twelvers fulfill their nuclear weapons acquisition plan.
It is well for Americans to remember the preeminence of Shia Twelver apocalyptic eschatology throughout the sect’s history as the driving force in their conduct because once they possess the nuclear apocalyptic means to summon the Twelfth Imam Mahdi from his ten centuries of occultation, the decision whether and when to finally fulfill Shia Twelver apocalyptic theology will rest with the Iranian Shia Supreme Leader. So, U.S. national security will be conjoined with Shia Twelver apocalyptic eschatology. Is there any reason to doubt that the Iranian Supreme Leader is not serious when he chants “Death to America” along with his frenzied fellow Shia Twelvers? (See, “The Looming War With Iran”, originally posted HERE)
Col. Thomas Snodgrass, USAF (retired) served over a year in Peshawar, Pakistan, working with Pakistani military intelligence. During his year in Vietnam he daily scheduled 130 U.S. Army and Air Force intelligence collection aircraft. In his final overseas tour he was the U.S. Air Attaché behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland.
In total, Col. Snodgrass was variously an Intelligence Officer or an International Politico-Military Affairs Officer serving duty tours in seven foreign countries, as well as teaching military history and strategy at the Air War College, US Air Force Academy, and USAF Special Operations School during a thirty-year military career.
Additionally, he was awarded an Air Force scholarship to get a history master’s degree in revolutionary insurgent warfare at the University of Texas, as well as being granted a year’s educational sabbatical to teach and to write about international relations as an Air Force Research Associate in the graduate school at the Center for Advanced International Studies, University of Miami, Florida. Following the Air Force, Col. Snodgrass was an adjunct professor of military history for ten years at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona..