Washington is keeping a sharp weather eye out for Tuesday, August 22, which this year corresponds in the Islamic calendar to the date on which many Sunni Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on his winged horse Buraq to “the farthest mosque”?, which is traditionally identified with Jerusalem.
According to the Muslim legend, on that day, a divine white light spread over Jerusalem and the whole world.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that information rated “highly credible”? has reached US undercover agencies of a secret report presented to Iran’s supreme ruler Ali Khamenei by Abdollah Shabhazi, one of the heads of the Supreme National Security Council. He claims to expose a mega-terror plot against Jerusalem scheduled for August 22, which aims at killing large numbers of Jews, Arabs and Christians.
This atrocity will reportedly arm the United States and Israel with the pretext for hitting Iran’s nuclear installations, as well its capital, Tehran, and other big cities.
Shabhazi says the US and Israel need to launch a military campaign to restore the deterrent strength they lost in the Lebanon war.
The massive attack will reportedly focus on the Old City of Jerusalem and its eastern suburbs. The Iranian report claims that the plotters, who are not identified, are eager to recreate the divine white light whish spread over Jerusalem in the year 632. It does not rule out the use of a non-conventional weapon.
DEBKAfile reports that the authorities in Israel do not appear to be taking this threat seriously, unlike Washington – and Tehran.
Deeply impressed, Iran’s rulers launched a large-scale are, sea and ground exercise Saturday, Aug. 19. The maneuver, dubbed the Blow of Zolfaghar (the sword used by Imam Ali), involves 12 divisions, army Chinook helicopters, unmanned planes, parachutists, electronic war units and special forces. State-run television reported a new anti-aircraft system was tested “to make Iranian air space unsafe for our enemies.”?
The massive military exercise will spread over 14 of Iran’s 30 provinces and last about five weeks.
DEBKAfile adds: The point of this massive display of might is in fact to place Iran’s armed forces on the ready for the contingency of a US-Israeli offensive on August 22 as per Shabhazi’s prediction. The exercise will be moved to Tehran to prepare the capital for a potential assault.
August 22, furthermore, is also the day of Iran’s formal reply to the incentives packages on offer from the West in return for halting its uranium enrichment projects.
For weeks, Tehran was under pressure from the United States and Europe for an earlier reply, but insisted on August 22.
Prof. Bernard Lewis, the great scholar of Islam and the Middle East offers the background in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 8:
“In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time – Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam”¦ Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as “by the end of August,” but Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement was more precise.”?
Revolutionary Iran habitually links fundamentalist symbolism to political events.
Prof. Lewis explains the significance of Aug. 22 and adds ominously:
“This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.”?
The Shiites do not recognize Rajab 27 as the date of Muhammad’s purported flight to Jerusalem but celebrate Mabath to commemorate the day they believe Allah appeared before Mohammed in a cave and told him he had been chosen as the prophet to spread the divine message across the world. Mabath is marked by Shiites in Iran and other parts of the Middle East with great ceremony.
Claiming to represent the true Islam, the Shiite rulers of Tehran are expected by Washington to mark the date by demonstrating their military superiority for all Muslims to see.
In addition to Bernard Lewis’s hypothesis, speculation is rife in Washington about what Iran has in store for next Tuesday. Tehran may announce success in producing enriched uranium of a higher grade, meaning it is no more than six months away from a weapons-grade capability. While providing justification for UN Security Council sanctions, Tehran prefers to believe that this announcement will be its passport for admission to the world’s nuclear club and its attendant privileges, including the right to enrich uranium independently.
In the meantime, the Iranians are putting on a spectacular show of military bravado to show the world and reassure their own people that they are not afraid of threats.