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Should Israel attack Iran?

An Israeli F-16I fighter jet taxis down a runway at Ramon air base in southern Israel with Israeli flag in foreground, 2004 (Credit: Reuters) I recently returned from leading my annual study tour of the Holy Land.  Israel's future is more uncertain today than at any time since 1973, primarily because of the looming specter that is Iran.

The most recent edition of World Affairs journal carries a fascinating exchange on the question: should Israel attack Iran?  Elliot Abrams, U.S. deputy national security advisor from 2005 to 2009, believes that it should.  He cites Iranian leaders' continued calls for the destruction of Israel.  One Iranian military strategist recently noted that Iran could kill 60 percent of the Jewish population in Israel by targeting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa with its Shahab 3 ballistic missiles.

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Osama bin Laden, one year later

A child holds an image of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during an anti-American rally organized by the Pakistani religious party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam in Quetta May 2, 2012. About 300 Pakistani Islamists take part in the rally on Wednesday. Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago, on May 2, 2011, by a United States special operations military unit in a raid on his compound in Abbottabad. (Credit: Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)It's been a year since Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Newly released documents obtained from his compound indicate that the former al Qaeda leader was fearful of other terror groups. He wanted to focus exclusively on the United States, and especially wanted to take down planes carrying Gen. David Petraeus and President Obama.

Bin Laden dreamed of blowing up oil tankers, hoping to devastate the global economy. He was not informed in advance of the attempted bombing of Times Square in May 2010, and was skeptical of Anwar al-Awlaki's work to inspire jihadists in the English-speaking world. He was frustrated that the Iranians "do not wish to appear to be negotiating with us or responding to our pressures." And he worried that the Arab Spring would be a "danger" for the future of al Qaeda.

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Arab Spring, one year later

Demonstrators take part in a protest marking the first anniversary of Egypt's uprising at Tahrir square in Cairo January 25, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)I am writing this article from Israel, where I lead a study tour each spring.  From this vantage point, the status of the Arab Spring after a year is especially relevant.  What is the future for this conflicted region?  What is its continued significance for the West?

In this essay I propose to use a tool of analysis known as the "metanarrative."  George Friedman's Stratfor has popularized this interpretive approach.  In geopolitical terms, a "metanarrative" is a nation's overarching mission.  Understanding the metanarratives at work around the world today can help us explain global trends and predict political developments.

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Should America attack Iran?

The Iranian flag superimposed on top of the United States flag (Credit: original source unknown)Should America attack Iranian nuclear sites?  A recent exchange sponsored by Foreign Affairs highlights three options.

Matthew Kroenig argues that we should attack Iran now.  He recently served as Special Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Defense for defense strategy and policy on Iran.  Here is his argument:
  • Deterrence has failed to halt Iran's nuclear program.  Some scientists estimate that Iran could produce its first nuclear weapon within six months of choosing to do so.  If action is not taken soon, it will be too late.
  • Some states in the region are already shifting their allegiances to Tehran.  Others are discussing their own nuclear initiatives to counter Iran.
  • A nuclear Iran could threaten our interests in the Middle East for decades to come, requiring a very costly military deployment in the region.  We would also need to extend our nuclear umbrella to our allies while strengthening their ability to defend themselves.
  • We have identified Iran's key nuclear assets and can destroy them with surgical strikes while minimizing civilian casualties.
  • If we do not attack, Israel will.  Their forces are less likely to destroy Iran's nuclear capacity, however, while their aggression is more likely to provoke war in the region.

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Is 2012 the end of the world?

2012 mayan apocalypse calendar on world map (Credit: photlook via 21, 2012, will mark "the ending of time as we know it." That's according to Jose Arguelles, whose 1987 The Mayan Factor sparked a frenzy that will only escalate this year. On that date, the Mayan calendar completes a 5,126-year cycle. What happens then?

Some warn that Planet X, or Nibiru, will collide with us or otherwise wreak havoc. Astronomers disagree: such a close object, if it existed, would already be visible in the night sky.

Others predict that a geomagnetic reversal will transpose the north and south poles, with cataclysmic results. However, such reversals take as much as 7,000 years to complete and do not start at any particular moment.

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