Is Iran the New Mideast Superpower?

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Is Iran the New Mideast Superpower?

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"The bottom line is that Iran is our principal enemy in the Middle East, and perhaps in the entire world . . . As for the question of nuclear weapons, it seems hard to imagine that Iran does not already have them. Iranians are not stupid, and they have been at this for a minimum of 20 years in a world where almost all of the major components needed for a nuclear weapon—not to mention old nuclear weapons—are for sale. A lot of these components are for sale in nearby Pakistan.

"And if the Iranians do have a weapon, it is impossible to imagine that, at a moment of crisis, they will not use it. The point is, we have an implacable enemy which has no intention of negotiating a settlement with us. They want us dead or dominated, just as our enemies did in the 1930s and '40s. You can't make deals with a regime like that."

This blunt warning is from Michael Ledeen, a former national security advisor and U.S. State and Defense Department employee who is now a contributing editor at National Review Online and the author of more than 20 books ("Understanding Iran," Imprimis, October 2008, emphasis in original throughout).

Mr. Ledeen clearly feels that no deal is possible with Iran. Others feel differently, including many European leaders and the new administration in Washington , D.C.

Get it wrong and the consequences are enormous: A major conflict could erupt in the Middle East, the central focus of Bible prophecy.

Another warning appears on the cover of a new book by former CIA operative Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing With the New Iranian Superpower: "Over the last thirty years, while the United States has turned either a blind or dismissive eye, Iran has emerged as a nation every bit as capable of altering America's destiny as traditional superpowers Russia and China. Indeed . . . in some ways, Iran 's grip on America's future is even tighter" (2008).

So what is the truth about Iran?

The 1979 revolution set the stage for conflict

It may come as a surprise to most Americans to learn that Iran has been in a state of war with the West for 30 years, ever since the overthrow of the pro-American shah of Iran early in 1979. A major failure of U.S. intelligence led to the Islamic fundamentalists under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seizing power in the country and taking over the American embassy. U.S. hostages were held for 444 days before being released as the new administration of Ronald Reagan assumed control in Washington.

"The simple facts regarding Iran are easy to understand," notes Ledeen. "We are dealing with a regime that came to power in 1979, when the Iranian revolution overthrew the Shah. Immediately thereafter, Iran declared war against the United States, branding us 'The Great Satan.'

"The Iranians have been at war against us for 30 years, and prior to 9/11 the Iranian regime was directly or indirectly responsible for the murder of more Americans than any other country or organization in the world. It also may well be that the Iranian regime was involved in 9/11" (Imprimis).

For some years now, Western nations have been concerned that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon—particularly since Iran has tested missiles that can easily reach Israel or U.S. bases in the Mideast, as well as most of Europe.

Attempts by European governments to end Iran's nuclear program have gotten nowhere. In late November the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been charged with monitoring Iran's nuclear program, released a report concluding that Iran had now produced enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. Experts consider that enriching uranium and obtaining enough for a weapon are the most difficult parts of building a nuclear warhead.

Now the big question is whether the United States or Israel will strike at Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions. Some feel that if America opts not to, Israel will be compelled to, since the tiny nation's very existence has been repeatedly threatened by Iran's leaders. However, the new U.S. administration has expressed a desire to talk further with the Iranians and may try to block unilateral action on the part of the Israelis.

Do further negotiations hold out much hope? "In fact, we have been talking to the Iranians, almost non-stop, for 30 years," observes Ledeen. "There isn't an American president from Jimmy Carter to the present who has not authorized negotiations with Iran.

"The classic case occurred during the Clinton administration. We ended all kinds of sanctions against Iran, let all kinds of Iranians into the U.S. for the first time since the 1970s, had sporting matches with the Iranians, hosted Iranian cultural events, and unfroze Iranian bank accounts. Then President Clinton and Secretary of State [Madeleine] Albright started publicly apologizing to Iran for this and that.

"But when all was said and done, [supreme leader of Iran] Ali Khamenei reminded everyone that Iran is in a state of war with the U.S., and that was the end of negotiations. This is what has happened every single time we have tried talking to or appeasing Iran . . . There is a striking tendency among people in modern Western governments not to recognize the existence of evil in the world" (ibid.).

Bible prophecy foretells a coming clash

According to Islamic theology, a conflict is inevitable between Islam and the West. The Bible also prophesies such a clash.

In chapter 11 of the book of Daniel we find one of the most detailed prophecies in the Scriptures, a prophecy largely fulfilled in the ancient world but with some portions remaining to be fulfilled "at the time of the end" (verse 40).

The prophecy deals with two dynasties, the "king of the South" and the "king of the North" (references to both begin in verse 5). These two governing dynasties were the successors to Alexander the Great, the Greek king who conquered the Middle East—including Persia, ancient Iran. After his early death his kingdom was divided up among his four generals, exactly as Daniel prophesied more than two centuries earlier.

For much of the time covered in this prophecy, the king of the North ruled from Syria, to the north of Jerusalem, over a vast territory that sometimes stretched as far east as Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. The king of the South, meanwhile, was based in Egypt to the south of Jerusalem.

These two monarchs and their descendants frequently fought each other. Whenever they did, the Jewish people were trampled in the middle. For a century and a half their conflict continued, culminating in the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem by the northern ruler Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C. Not long afterward, the northern kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire.

The prophecy then jumps to the modern day. There was no Jewish political state in the Holy Land from the time it was destroyed under the Roman Empire until 1948 when the state of Israel was established. The prophecy is about the Jews and the two hostile powers that affected them in the past and will again affect them in the future.

The modern successor of the king of the North is set to be the leader of a revived Roman Empire, the prophesied "beast" power of Daniel 7 and Revelation 17:12 Revelation 17:12And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
American King James Version×
: "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast." We know this to be an end-time event as these nations "will make war with the Lamb [the returning Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will overcome them" (verse 14).

The king of the South, it appears, will be the head of a powerful Islamic nation or alliance that may include Iran. These powers are prophesied to clash in Daniel 11:40-44 Daniel 11:40-44 [40] And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. [41] He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. [42] He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. [43] But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. [44] But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.
American King James Version×
.

This clash will affect the Holy Land: "At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land [the Holy Land], and many countries shall be overthrown" (verses 40-41).

Jesus Christ restated the importance of the Middle East to Bible prophecy: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near" (Luke 21:20 Luke 21:20And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near.
American King James Version×
). He also confirmed the veracity of the book of Daniel when He quoted from it in Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×
: "'Therefore when you see the "abomination of desolation," spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place' (whoever reads, let him understand)."

God, speaking through the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, states unequivocally that Jerusalem will be the center of global conflict at the time of the end: "For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem" (Zechariah 14:2 Zechariah 14:2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
American King James Version×
) and "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem" (Zechariah 12:2 Zechariah 12:2Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
).

Watch Iran in the near future

Ironically, it is the United States and Great Britain that inadvertently helped create the new Iranian superpower in the Middle East. By invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein, they removed Iran's greatest enemy and the buffer to Iranian power.

"Iraq is lost. Iran won it," writes Robert Baer (p. 29). "The Iranians know we'll leave sooner or later . . . there's a growing confidence in Tehran today that the United States will finally have to come around to recognizing Iran's true stature in the world as the only important player in the Middle East—a superpower, even. Iran is confident that America will have to accept the inevitable, that we've been wasting our time with the Gulf Arabs, and that we have to come to terms with Iran" (p. 31).

At this moment Iran is struggling economically due to the falling price of oil, which is a direct result of the global economic downturn. Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli of the Middle East Media Research Institute wrote on the organization's Web site Oct. 30, 2008, that Iran desperately needs to force the price of oil up or face serious economic consequences.

One way to do so, he explained, would be to start another conflict in the region—and the Iranians have plenty of options.

"First, Iran could escalate the conflict in Iraq to a degree that would deny the market a supply of 1.5-2.0 million [barrels per day] of much needed Basra light crude. The Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, with his Iran-paid Mahdi Army, is a potent troublemaker to carry out such a mission in the service of Iran.

"Iran could use its many agents in southern Iraq to sabotage the oil pipeline that carries Iraqi oil to Um-Qasr port. In a desperate move, Iran might cause an incident with one of the U.S. naval ships patrolling Iraq's oil platforms.

"Second, Iran's Revolutionary Guards could sabotage an oil tanker in the Gulf of Hormuz on some flimsy argument that the tanker has violated Iran's territorial waters. Such act would raise the political tensions to high levels and greatly increase insurance premium to suffocating levels or discourage oil tankers from transporting Gulf oil.

"Third, Iran could instigate a conflict between Hizbullah and Israel that could plunge the Middle East into a new round of a military conflict that might also involve Syria (Iran's strategic ally in the area). Armed conflicts in the Middle East quickly translate into higher oil prices, with or without global recession."

Regardless of whether Iran turns out to be the catalyst that leads to the fulfillment of these end-time prophesies, all readers should remember to keep their eyes on the Middle East and especially Jerusalem, the center of Bible prophecy. GN