The next day of infamy?

August 22 -- remember that date.

It's been mentioned several times recently in the media, most compellingly in an op-ed by author Bernard Lewis published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal.

Lewis's name will surely strike a chord among readers here. A retired Princeton professor, he is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on Islam in the world and has written dozens of books about the Middle East since 1940.

During the Cold War, Lewis points out in his op-ed, "both sides possessed weapons of mass destruction, but neither side used them, deterred by what was known as MAD, mutual assured destruction." Similar constraints, Lewis states, have probably prevented a nuclear exchange between bitter enemies India and Pakistan.

But would a nuclear-armed Iran exhibit any such hesitation, Lewis asks.  His analysis is sobering.

"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, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined," Lewis writes.

"Mr. Ahmadinejad (the Iranian president) 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," Lewis writes. "This was first reported as 'by the end of August,' but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise."

"What is the significance of Aug. 22?" (emphasis added) "This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to 'the farthest mosque,' usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1)." (as depicted in the illustration above).

"This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary the world," Lewis states. "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."

To which I would add, it's worth considering that the alleged terror plot we learned of yesterday may well have been planned for Aug. 22, less than two weeks away.

The wolves are back at the door and tossing them an occasional scrap of meat will not appease their hunger.

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