World War III
Posted on: August/04/2015 9:02 am by: Bradley J. Little
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Dateline -- September 18, 2019, Geneva, Switzerland
Given that it is September 2019, it is almost inevitable that comparisons to World War II's "Twilight War" would be resurrected. Yet unlike Winston Churchill's first use of the term in September of 1939, this Twilight War follows the first general exchange of Nuclear Weapons in history. It is truly a seminal point in the history of the world and calls into serious question the future of civilization. We now have three competing centers of energy in the Middle East with poorly understood and diametrically opposed goals. Yet, unlike the previous World Wars, current affairs have two opposing nuclear armed international alliances complicated by the insertion of a brutal and unpredictable wild card in the form of a declared Caliphate.*
Of course, with the announcement of the mutual defense alliance between Russia and Iran in early 2017 there was little surprise that a new Axis would form. This followed shortly after Iran's unilateral renunciation of the P5+1 Nuclear Arms agreement. However, this renunciation did not prevent Iran from capitalizing on the windfall of funds made available through the agreement. Although Iran was not able to forestall the fall of the Assad regime, they were able to foment significant unrest in Gulf and Arab countries. This led to the successful establishment of an arc of influence through the northern gulf extending into the Arabian Sea. Beginning with the annexation of Basra and the Arab swamps, including Iraq's Southern Oil fields, and concluding with the signing of a mutual defense treaty with the Islamic Republic of Zaidiyyah, as the Houthi Insurgency became known, Iran became not only a Nuclear Power but a true regional hegemony. As the world became painfully aware, Iran pushed more and more funds and resources into these areas targeting the Gulf States, primarily Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These allies were forced to withdraw most if not all support in the fight against the Caliphate to focus on their own challenges, real and proxy, from Iran.
Meanwhile, the world seems to have been shocked by the reaction of several Middle Eastern signatories to the Nuclear Arms Non-proliferation treaty shortly following Iran's renunciation of the P5+1 agreement. They should not have been. Under Article 10 of the NPT, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt quickly renounced their membership in the treaty and undertook a joint weapons development program. Some believe that the rapid success this program saw was with the covert participation of Israel (a non-signatory) and certainly, Israel's pronouncement of the "Small Neighborhood Doctrine" established an unspoken alliance. Under the Small Neighborhood Doctrine any use of Nuclear Weapons anywhere in the Middle East in proximity to Israel would be considered an act of war against Israel.
Thus, in late 2017 the world found it once again aligned between two opposing, nuclear armed antagonistic camps. The United States and the West in alignment with Israel, Egypt and the Gulf States, The Allies; opposed by Russia aligned with Iran and the rest of the Axis powers. The Cold War, Part Deux. Not that this was inherently bad. The World was not a bad place over the period of the Cold War. With the exception of regional proxy wars, the Cold War was a reasonably peaceful time characterized by rational leadership. Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Hungary, and Poland are all examples of crisis that rose and ebbed based on the rational leadership of the cold war; no question brutal, but fundamentally rational.
But it quickly became clear that this was not your parents Cold War. The existence of the Caliphate added a level of instability that took the world from an unrealistic optimism in 2010 to World War in less than a decade. As previously stated, the fall of the Assad regime was becoming clear in 2015 and the regime simply ran out of the energy necessary to keep fighting in early 2016, as demonstrated by the draft riots of October, 2015. As a direct result, the Caliphate consolidated a band of control from Damascus to Fallujah and into the Trans-Jordan, while Hezbollah moved from Lebanon north into the coastal plain surrounding Tartous, maintaining a small Alawite Conclave.
As the Caliphate consolidated its position in the West, it moved more aggressively to the East. In what could be seen as an extension of the Iran/ Iraq war, the Caliphate relied on significant Baathist military resources and infrastructure to repeatedly defeat front line IRGC troops and their allies in this effort. In fact, as was seen repeatedly Iran/Iraq wars, the forces aligned with the IRGC have never had success in dislodging the Caliphate from occupied territory. Of course, this was in stark contrast to the efforts of what is now the independent Kurdish Republic. With these successes, the Caliphate was able to occupy a territory from the Mediterranean to the western banks of the Tigris.
As a result of these victories, it was inevitable that the Caliphate would turn its focus to the Land of the Haramayn. With the efforts of Saudi Arabia being pulled ever more forcefully to Yemen and the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia simply did not have the forces necessary to prevent an invasion from the North while standing in the breach against Iran. Quickly advancing along the Damascus/Amman/Riyadh Line, the Caliphate rapidly occupied the two cities with significant assistance from 5th column forces supporting the Caliphate. Today, loyal Jordanian and Saudi forces are confined to a small section of Jordan and KSA in the Al Aqabah area, supported by significant Egyptian forces. With the Caliphate occupying the Two Cities and the Levant, the claims of the Caliph, al-Baghdadi, took on prophetic significance swelling their ranks to a million fighters seemingly overnight. In addition, these additional resources have expanded the conflict throughout the world as the Caliphate has taken on an active effort to bring the conflict to the local level through the use of terrorist attacks.
Unfortunately while the world was focused on these significant issues, most prognosticators completely missed the potential danger emerging from Damascus that threatened the Shiite community. Although not universal in agreement, most believe the weaponized anthrax attack perpetrated on Ghom could be traced to Damascus and the Assad regime. It seems clear that assumptions that the Assad regime had ceased development of Bio-weapons ranks equally with the failure of the International Community to adequately address the Assad's regime use of Chemical Weapons. Both will, no doubt, define great failures of Civilization in the nascent 21st century. With the fall of Damascus, the Caliphate obtained these weapons and was successful in producing enough of the weapon for a massive attack on Ghom designed to coincide with Eid al Fitr in June 2018.
As a result, the Iranians initiated Nuclear Strikes against Aleppo and Amman seven months later with the subsequent retaliation by Israel against Tehran under the "Small Neighborhood Doctrine" in February of this year. With this, forces have continued to mobilize even while the region has settled into the current "twilight war."
Today, Russia, Iran and other Axis powers are aligned against the United States, Israel, Egypt and the European powers. A Nuclear Exchange has eliminated most of Aleppo, Amman and Tehran from the map. Ghom is a ghost town following the use of weaponized Anthrax by the Caliphate. Best estimates are casualties in the region of 4 million dead and 8 million injured, infected or suffering from advanced radiation sickness. Of course, the Caliphate remains an extremely destabilizing force in this tinder keg.
Much effort has been made in establishing fault and assigning blame. Particular focus on the United State's unwillingness to use its economic power against Iran, military power against the Caliphate or exercise its leadership in the region will be an academic endeavor that must await decades. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the challenges of Iran, The Caliphate and Russia were unaddressed in a geography that has relied on US leadership since 1945. The decision not to defeat the Caliphate in 2014; the decision to fund Iran's aggression through repatriated funds in 2015; and, the unwillingness to assist to victim countries facing external aggressions will all be the fodder of historians for centuries. Contributory or causal, the policies that minimized the direct engagement of the United States throughout the period were a clear factor in the destabilization seen today.
Thus, we arrive at where we are. The Twilight War between a nuclear exchange in the Middle East and a worldwide war between heavily armed nuclear powers. Just as the world looked askance at a future that would see the first exchange of a nuclear device, we now have no perspective on what the 21st century holds. Following the fall of Norway and the evacuation of Dunkirk, the seminal 1940 polemic, Guilty Men, was published in England under the pseudonym, Cato. The mostly socialist authors, one of which later served as the leader of the Labour Party, could have been published today.
"False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.‡"
©Bradley J. Little, 2015
Writers Note: This is obviously a work of fiction; nonetheless, each occurrence identified herein has been independently proffered throughout the international press and Foreign Affairs community. My fiction has been to combine them all into one scenario and to add a timeline. The challenge to the informed reader is not to accept this as a probable outcome but to recognize that this is a plausible, if highly improbable, outcome. In 1938 few recognized the risk of World War II as a result of the Munich Agreement. Today, our obligation is to avoid the same mistakes.
The Author: Brad Little is a veteran if the United States Navy and has served in senior civilian positions with the Department of State and Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. He is active in the National Security community, serving as an advisor to both the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Institute for Stabilization and Transformation (IST). He makes his home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, with his wife. He is a highly sought speaker who has spoken on Iraq, the Middle East and Terrorism to a variety of venues, including personal appearances on television, radio and in print.