The Day the Iranian Nuclear Missile was LaunchedDec 3rd, 2014 | By Daniel Pinner | Category: Columns, Daniel Pinner
D A N I E L P I N N E R
05:48 – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finishes the Fajr prayer in the mosque attached to the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom. As he steps out and sees the rays of the rising sun strike the golden dome, he receives a thought inspired by Allah.
05:57 – The Chief of Staff of the Iranian Army, General Hassan Firouzabadi, receives an urgent summons to meet with President Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran in three hours.
09:00 – General Firouzabadi, President Ahmadinejad, and Supreme Leader Khamenei meet in the palace in Tehran. President Ahmadinejad gives the shortest speech of his career: “As I was praying in the Holy City of Qom this morning, Allah inspired me to realise that this is the day that we finally wipe Israel of the map and destroy the accursed Zionist dogs. General Firouzabadi – in how long can a Shahab-3 missile be armed with a nuclear warhead, primed, aimed, and launched at Tel Aviv?”
09:03 – General Firouzabadi leaves the palace in a semi-daze.
09:21 – General Firouzabadi enters the secret headquarters of Iran’s Nuclear Missile Command in Tehran, picks up a telephone on a secure line, and gives a coded order. Two hundred and fifty miles to the south, in a secret bunker hidden deep under the Zagros Mountains, technicians start arming a Shahab-3 missile with a nuclear warhead.
09:34 – Israeli secret agent Shlomo Yechezkelian, known to his colleagues in Iran as Captain Aziz Kasravi of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, sends an encrypted message from his computer in the Iranian Nuclear Missile Command bunker to Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv. In the bunker in Iran, no one notices. Due to the time difference it is 08:34 in Israel.
08:34 – The siren blasts in an office in an underground bunker in Tel Aviv, and Corporal Yossi Levi, sitting in front of the computer, hits a series of keys on his keyboard. He has been through this three times before in drills so he knows the routine, even though he does not yet understand what the siren means.
08:35 – The Chief of Staff of the IDF receives a TOP PRIORITY alert on his secure line. The code-word RED RIDER alerts him that Iran is in the process of arming a nuclear missile, and the number following tells him that the missile will be ready for launch in two hours.
08:36 – The TOP PRIORITY – RED RIDER 0120 message is received by the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Commander of the Air Force, the Commander of Home Front, the chief of the Mossad, and a few other assorted leaders. A few seconds later, the message is followed by the code-word ALASKA, telling everyone receiving the message to come to the bunker in Tel Aviv without delay.
08:58 – The Prime Minister orders the Commander of the Air Force to prepare the Arrow anti-missile system for immediate readiness. Within seconds, the Commander of the Air Force is talking on a secure line to the OC Air Defence Command.
08:59 – The entire Air Defence Command goes on its highest level of alert ever.
09:02 – At the Egoz Khum (“Brown Nut”) launch site in Ein Shemer, all communication to the outside is cut by order of the site commander. Too late: one of the junior officers had already made a phone call to a certain office in Lloyd George Street in Jerusalem. The operators there swing into action immediately.
09:34 – A lawyer representing Peace Now submits an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem. Israel, he informs them, is planning to intercept an Iranian missile in about an hour, maybe slightly more. However, the Arrow missile defence system is designed to intercept the Iranian Shahab-3 nuclear missile in the skies above Jordan. “Jordan is a country with which we have a peace treaty and friendly relations”, he cautions them earnestly. “The peace between us is, however, fragile and strained, and Israeli violation of their airspace is liable to provoke all-out war. Moreover,” he continues, “if we strike the incoming Shahab-3 missile over Amman, then we risk causing nuclear fallout over the capital city of one of our few friends and allies in the region. There can be no moral justification for killing millions of innocent civilians”. The lawyer grows more passionate with every sentence. “Our peace with Jordan is one of our greatest strategic assets. This government must not be allowed to squander it on an alleged threat from Iran.”
09:42 – The Peace Now lawyer completes his panegyric, and the government lawyer rises to respond. “Your Honours, the very existence of Israel is being threatened by this Iranian strike. The insane regime in Iran…” The President of the High Court interrupts the Government lawyer: “This is not the appropriate place for your racist slurs against the entire Iranian nation.” The Government lawyer resumes: “Your Honours, Iran is preparing to launch a nuclear strike against Israel. We have to defend the country, and the only means we have to do so is the Arrow missile system…” The Peace Now lawyer interrupts: “This is typical right-wing hysteria and panic-mongering. Do you have even the slightest shred of evidence that Iran is launching a missile? And even if they do, then what do you want to do – strengthen the extremists in Iran? Our best hope for peace lies in encouraging and bolstering the moderates there. But you right-wing fanatics are terrified of peace, you all hate peace and glorify war. Cowards! Fanatics! You’re threatening to destroy the entire State of Israel by your militarism!” The Government lawyer tries to present the facts, but is constantly interrupted by the three judges.
09:45 – After speaking for less than two minutes, the three judges silence the Government lawyer and begin to confer among themselves.
09:47 – The High Court of Justice issues a temporary restraining order forbidding the IDF to launch an Arrow missile to intercept any suspected incoming missiles, pending further investigation. Recognising the urgency of the situation, they promise a final decision the same day.
09:48 – In the launch site at Ein Shemer, the soldiers are ordered to prepare the Arrow missile for firing, but not to fire under any circumstances until authorisation has been received. The radar system is already sweeping the skies to east.
09:51 – The High Court of Justice orders the IDF to present their best-case and worst-case scenarios in the event that a nuclear weapon detonates in Israel. They also ask for constant real-time updates on any further developments.
09:52 – One of the High Court judges suggests to the Government lawyer that the Israeli Government contact the Jordanian Government to request permission to launch an Arrow missile to intercept the alleged Iranian missile over the Jordanians’ airspace. The Government lawyer tries to explain why the very idea is absurd and impractical, but is warned that his words constitute contempt of court. He withdraws his remarks, and asks for permission to make a phone call to the Government to pass on the judge’s wise recommendation.
09:38 [Iran time] – Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei authorises President Ahmadinejad’s decision to launch the nuclear-armed Shahib-3 missile. The launch command is passed on to General Firouzabadi, who transmits the command to the bunker under the Zagros Mountains.
09:39 [Iran time] – Captain Aziz Kasravi (secret agent Shlomo Yechezkelian), under cover of the whoops of elation in the Iranian bunker, secretly sends a coded message to Mossad headquarters.
“In the launch site at Ein Shemer, the soldiers glare at their radar screens and computer monitors in frustration. The computers are automatically calculating trajectories and flight-plans for the Arrow missile, but the soldiers are impotently awaiting authorisation to launch.”
10:39 [Israel time] – The words GREY THUNDER flash on Corporal Yossi Levi’s computer monitor. Within two seconds he has responded, and the coded message has been forwarded to the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Commander of the Air Force, the Commander of Home Front, the OC Air Defence Command, the chief of the Mossad, the Government lawyer (who is still in the courthouse in Jerusalem), and a few others.
In the launch site at Ein Shemer, the soldiers glare at their radar screens and computer monitors in frustration. The computers are automatically calculating trajectories and flight-plans for the Arrow missile, but the soldiers are impotently awaiting authorisation to launch.
10:40 – The three judges on the High Court receive information that the Shahib-3 missile has been launched, and is being tracked by Israeli radar. Time to target is approximately 8-10 minutes, but not yet definite, because its precise target and trajectory are not yet known. The judges get impatient with the Government lawyer for not giving them the necessary intelligence information. He tries to explain that the rocket-nozzle control system on the Shahib-3 allows the missile to change its trajectory several times during re-entry and even terminal phase, effectively preventing interceptor guidance via trajectory prediction by early warning radar, but he is silenced by the judges.
10:41 – The judges adjourn, leave the courtroom, and reconvene two minutes later in a nuclear shelter situated beneath the Supreme Court building.
10:43 – The Israeli radar operators report that the projected target of the Shahib-3 missile is Ramat Aviv Gimel. Within moments, that intelligence information is transmitted to the three judges sitting beneath the Jerusalem court.
10:44 – The three judges read the report that the target of the Shahib-3 missile seems to be Ramat Aviv Gimel. After less than ten seconds’ deliberation, they agree to allow the Air Defence Command “to take any action they deem necessary to protect the State of Israel and its inhabitants”.
10:45 – At both Peace Now headquarters and at the launch site in Ein Shemer, the mood is grim, for very different reasons. Peace Now issues a press release: “The High Court has once again decided to collaborate with the right-wing extremists in the Government, and have shown that they prefer armed aggression over peace”.
In Ein Shemer, the soldiers manning the Arrow missile launch system finally launch the interceptor missile. They all pray that the six-minute delay imposed by the High Court will yet allow them sufficient time to intercept the incoming Shahib-3 missile, and feverishly watch their monitors while feeding instructions to the Arrow missile, already several miles above Israel, speeding eastwards towards Jordan.
If they do, by some miracle, succeed in blowing the Shahib-3 missile to pieces before it enters Israeli airspace, then the hero of the day will be the totally unknown private who suggested telling the judges that the Shahib-3 was heading for Ramat Aviv Gimel, instead of admitting that they had no idea whatsoever of its intended target.
Daniel Pinner was born in England, and has lived in Israel for more than half his life. He served in the Tank Corps of the IDF, has a degree in Jewish History, and lives in the Shomron with his wife and two children. When he is not writing, he works as an electrician, translator and teacher.