That white patch in the upper-right is a sometime lake and salt-flat, if I’m remembering correctly. It’s the Kavir-e Mighan (or Miqan, or Miyqan, or MeiQan, depending), except this page says it’s the Shur Gel. I don’t remember; I do remember seeing plumes of dust rising hundreds of feet into a hard blue-white sky, the only sign of a convoy of trucks driving across it, lost somewhere in the shimmering heat-haze.
There’s a university in Arak, now: the Islamic Azad University of Arak, founded in 1985, some 23,000 students, degrees in drama, agricultural science, Islamic theology, English literature. —Actually, there’s several universities: the Arak University of Medical Sciences, the University of Arak, the Tarbiat Moallem University of Arak, a campus of the Iran University of Science and Technology. I don’t know how old any of those are. I don’t remember any of them; I remember a small town and dust and open sewers and the incongruities of an American-style suburb thrown up away from all that, platted blocks of yellow grass and red-brick houses and the high-rise apartment towers off over that way.
If I’m remembering correctly, the suburbs were at the southern end of Arak; we looked out on the mountains to the south and west. We’d drive up there and go tromping about. I spelled my name in flat rocks with letters taller than myself in the snow, but when we got back in the car and drove back down to our house and I got out and looked back, I couldn’t see them. When we went out into the country for the last day of Nawruz, I remember it looked a lot like this:
And I remember we could look out the window of our car and see farmers threshing wheat the way they had for centuries:
But if nothing changed for centuries, a lot can happen in thirty years.
Thirty miles to the northwest these days there’s a brand-new heavy water production plant. Heavy water is water made with deuterium atoms, rather than simple, light-water hydrogen; it’s used to moderate neutrons in nuclear reactors that run off natural uranium, rather than enriched uranium. Just the ticket if you’re trying to get a nuclear program off the ground.
I haven’t seen the list of 400 possible sites the president plans to attack in Iran, but I can tell you the Arak heavy water facility is on it. I don’t know if it’s hardened enough to require a nuclear bomb. If so, it’ll (probably) be a B61-11, which could generate between 25,000 and 1.5 million tons of radioactive debris—depending on the yield “dialed in”—some thirty miles northwest of a house I lived in, thirty years ago.
If not, it’ll just take a lot of conventional ordnance. —And I know, I know: who cares? The Russians loved their children, too. So did the Iraqis.
I just can’t help but take this personally. I’m only human.
—cross-posted to Sisyphus Shrugs