August 22: Tuesday, Not Doomsday

by Michael J. Totten

TEL AVIV There’s a lot of loose talk in the United States about tomorrow, August 22, Iran’s supposed Armageddon Day for Jerusalem.

Last month Farid Ghadry, president of the Reform Party of Syria, wrote a short article on the Media Line Web site that got this talk started. “The night of August 21 is a very, very important night in Shia'a Islam. What Iran's Ahmadinajead is promising the world by August 22 is the light in the sky over the Aqsa Mosque that took place the night before. That is his answer to the package of incentives the international community offered Iran on June 6.”

Robert Spencer, who founded the Jihad Watch blog, asks a bit breathlessly in the right-wing Human Events journal: “Will Western powers heed Farid Ghadry’s words and move to stop Iran before it is too late?”

Princeton University Professor Bernard Lewis gave this story a bit of heft by writing about it in the Wall Street Journal. August 22, he said, “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.”

Israel-based DEBKAfile gets more specific. Their sources have reportedly found 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.”

DEBKAfile revels in making predictions and getting ahead of the news cycle, so to speak. It’s never a good idea to put too much stock in what they report. As far as I can tell, they are the only Israelis even talking about the possibility of anything happening on August 22. They report that the Israeli authorities aren’t taking this seriously, and they’re right about that much at least.

A high level source in the Israeli government who prefers to remain anonymous told me “I am not very much worried about it. I can’t see Iran doing something like this. They are supposed to give answers to the US about the nuclear program on that date. They will probably say they want nuclear power for legitimate reasons and will buy themselves another six, nine, or twelve months by doing so. Then, eventually, Iran will acquire nuclear weapons and Ahmadinejad will then say 'Look, I already have it. Go on and do what you want to do.'”

Civilians in Israel aren’t taking August 22 seriously either.

Noah Pollak, Assistant Editor at Azure Magazine in Jerusalem, said “I haven't heard anyone talking about it. In Israel, you get numb to rumors of terrorist attacks -- if you actually keep track of the minutiae of anti-terror activity here, you'll find that around a dozen suicide bombings are prevented per month. Even the Israeli press doesn't report on such things very often.” Noah lives in Jerusalem, but he is not an Israeli. He’s American. He has been here long enough, though, to absorb the unflappable Israeli attitude. Instead of planning a road trip out of town tomorrow, he invited me to go on a walking tour of Jerusalem’s Old City with him.

Lee Smith is an American journalist who moved from Beirut to Jerusalem during the Lebanon war. He likewise invited me on a walking tour of the Old City on the ill-fated date. Americans may be the only ones in the world taking this seriously. But that’s only true of Americans far from the scene. In Israel, August 22 is Tuesday, not Doomsday.