Parviz Radji was the Iranian ambassador to London in the years leading up to the overthrow of the shah in January 1979, a few weeks before British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to office. Before that, Mrs. Thatcher was the leader of the opposition Conservative Party.
In his book In the Service of the Peacock Throne, Mr. Radji recounts a dinner with Mrs. Thatcher before a visit she was to make to Tehran, capital of Iran. The account from his diary entry of Wednesday, April 26, 1978, reads: "I try to impress Mrs. Thatcher with my analysis of the Iranian/Middle Eastern situation but I suspect that I somehow fail. There is, to be sure, 'perfect understanding,' to use the hackneyed diplomatic phrase, on such subjects as the dangers of world communist expansionism, the need for strong defenses, and a firm hand in dealing with terrorism. But on less clear-cut issues, such as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and its anti-Western bias, I don't believe I retain her interest" (1983, p. 172, emphasis added).
As we see here, even some of the greatest leaders can make serious misjudgments. It's easy to understand why in this case. The post-Christian West no longer takes religion seriously, so it is difficult for Western leaders to comprehend the threat that could come to the West from non-Christian religions.
A few months after that dinner, America learned firsthand the threat of Islamic fundamentalism when Iranian students, followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, whose supporters overthrew the shah, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held embassy staffers as hostages for 444 days. For the next two decades Americans would look back and blame the drawn-out affair on the perceived weakness of their president.
Sadly, the West lost an opportunity to prepare for a major assault by the forces of Islamic fundamentalism. Even more sadly, there still seems to be little understanding of the serious threat to the free world that Islamic fundamentalist terrorism poses. Sometimes the problem is simply a failure to connect the dots, to put two and two together.
Increased challenges for allies
For months now there has been talk of forcibly replacing Saddam Hussein as president of Iraq. While talk of the ambitious military action this would require has continued, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has flared up with a new, even more deadly round of violence. Coincidence? Not when you consider that Saddam has offered to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers $25,000, a lot of money to people who have spent decades in refugee camps with little prospect of an end to their misery.
As long as the heightened tensions continue in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it is more difficult for the United States to act against Saddam. To say that this is a victory for Saddam does not detract from the reality that he is a despotic tyrant who poses a major threat to the West. Try telling that to the Europeans, who are busily making money from trade ties to Iraq and other Mideast nations that sponsor terrorism.
Consider also Kashmir, the mountainous region of northern India. Attacks by Kashmir-based Islamic militants on Indian villages and military camps have brought Pakistan (whose sympathies lie with the militants) and India to the brink of another military conflict—one that this time could go nuclear. Any outbreak of hostilities between these two powers will automatically put a stop to any allied efforts to find Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and any leftover al-Qaeda diehards who might still roam the mountains of the Hindu Kush. This will be another victory for the forces of militant Islamic fundamentalism.
A further victory for Islam became apparent during President Bush's visit to Europe several months ago. The deterioration in relations between Europe and America since Sept. 11 is extraordinary. The Bush administration, reacting to the biggest attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor, understandably has made the war on terror a top priority. But many Europeans have a different perspective. A few even think the United States deserved what happened on Sept. 11. Demonstrators accused the president of being a "cowboy," ready to aggressively attack poor and backward nations to pursue American interests.
It's difficult for Americans to understand this attitude. Earlier this year French nationals were killed in a terrorist attack on a bus in Pakistan and German tourists died in Tunisia in an attack on a synagogue. But perhaps the tendency toward appeasement goes back to the end of the colonial period, when Western Europeans began to sympathize with nationalist movements rebelling against the ruling Western powers.
Also part of the equation is Europeans' sense of guilt over their wealth in contrast to the relative poverty of some of their former colonies.
In reality, the Soviet Union was the greatest imperialist power of the latter half of the 20th century. Liberal (socialist) ideas swept across Europe in advance of the Soviet army. But reality has little to do with perception, particularly when many of the news media are dominated by left-leaning reporters with their own agenda. The Palestinians are usually portrayed as poor, oppressed, subject peoples, while the Israelis seem like the big, bad Western colonialists. In reality, Israel is a small country with a small population surrounded by hostile powers having vastly larger populations.
Just as Europe and America are drifting apart, Americans themselves are increasingly divided. Some in the United States realize terrorism poses perhaps the greatest threat to the American republic ever. Increasingly, others believe in business as usual, wanting to return to the party politics of personal self-aggrandizement and the pursuit of their own interests.
My own local newspaper in Michigan is back to long articles on the rights of gays and minorities, including Muslims. Perhaps it's simply a case of denial, a refusal deep down to contemplate the realities facing the United States. One American commentator described the United States as the only country that suffers from national ADD (attention-deficit disorder). Nine months after Sept. 11 a growing number of Americans just want to put it all behind them and forget about it.
Fight for survival
Not so for conservative columnist Cal Thomas. In a May editorial titled "U.S. Is in Fight for Its Survival," he wrote about Vice President Dick Cheney's warning one week earlier that "another terror attack on the United States is 'inevitable'" and the warning from the FBI director that it's only a matter of time until suicide bombers attack America again.
Reminding readers that the Senate Intelligence Committee estimates that 100 al-Qaeda terrorist cells exist in the United States, Mr. Thomas asks how the U.S. government will react when the terrorists in these cells "decide to simultaneously blow themselves up in shopping malls, apartment buildings, a mega church, a synagogue and several airports all on the same day, killing thousands of people?"
Continuing, Mr. Thomas writes: "An acquaintance of mine predicts 'vigilante-ism of a kind like we've never seen before' following any new terrorist attacks." In proposing solutions, he adds: "We must find new ways of keeping people out of America who come from regions of the world with a record of exporting death. That means no more 'students' from Middle Eastern countries and no more immigration until we can do a better job of profiling those who come here. If that means stationing troops along both borders, electric fences, high walls, guarding our ports and installing listening devices, so be it."
In summation he adds: "Should another terrorist attack occur, we'd better be prepared to strike at home and abroad without warning, without hesitation and with the full force of American military, political and moral might." The point is that, if America's will to win falters, the advantage then shifts to the terrorists.
The ailing 82-year-old pope also sees the impending threat, though his concern is not focused on the United States. Visiting Azerbaijan the day before President Bush recently arrived in Europe, the pope again reached out to Islam in the hope of averting further religious conflict. With only 150 Catholics in the country, his visit was not to his own flock. It was political. The Catholic Church has all too often been at the center of the 1,400-year-old struggle between Islam and Christianity.
Others see the increasing threat too. First France and then the Netherlands were shocked at recent election results that saw big gains for the extreme-right political parties. They join Austria, Italy and Denmark, making five ancient European nations whose citizens show an increased fear of foreigners and, in particular since Sept. 11, Muslims.
It will be interesting to see who wins the next German election. Germany's Social Democratic government may be replaced by conservatives led by the Bavarian Edmund Stoiber, whose mentor was Munich-born Franz Josef Strauss (1915-1988), once prominent in the West German government.
Russia also sees the threat from Islamic fundamentalists. The deaths of Russian veterans and children in a terrorist bomb blast on Victory Day, commemorating the end of World War II, visibly angered President Putin, who blamed Chechen rebels—Muslims supported by al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
Prophesied Mideast threat
Bible prophecy is interesting in the light of these developments.
Daniel 11 gives us an overview of the Middle East in prophecy. Although most of the chapter was fulfilled more than 2,000 years ago in the centuries after Daniel's death, the last few verses are yet to be fulfilled. With no Jewish nation in the Middle East from the time of the Romans until the restoration of a Jewish homeland in 1948, this chapter reflects a long time gap. Suddenly in verse 40 we read: "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 ..."
A power to the south of Jerusalem is prophesied to attack ("push at," KJV) a power to the north of Jerusalem. Remember that directions are relative. The king of the south in ancient times was Egypt under the Ptolemaic dynasty; the king of the north was Syria under the Seleucids. These two powers often fought over Jerusalem and its environs, as did the later Roman Empire. Their repeated invasions followed the Middle East's ancient invasion routes from the south and the north.
Could the modern king of the south be associated with resurgent Islam? For two centuries the Western colonial powers dominated the Middle East. Since World War II the West has been progressively pushed out of the area as first Arab nationalism and then Islamic fundamentalism took over. The biggest single turning point was the rebirth of the Jewish homeland in May 1948. Immediately five Arab armies surrounded Israel and tried to crush the half million Jews who were the controlling occupants of the new nation. They failed. But their failure has not stopped attempts to destroy the Jewish state.
The humiliation of the Arab armies led to revolutions in some Arab nations. In 1952 King Farouk of Egypt was overthrown. Six years later the king of Iraq and most of his family were murdered in a bloody military coup that led in time to Saddam Hussein's coming to power. Many attempts were made on the life of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
The British were pushed out of Aden and withdrew from the Gulf states; the French lost Algeria. King Idris of Libya was overthrown in 1969 by the fanatical nationalist Muammar Gadhafi. Ten years later Islamic fundamentalism overthrew the non-Arab shah of Iran. One after the other, pro-Western governments were replaced by more-radical regimes, either Arab nationalist or Islamic fundamentalist.
Now we see the two coming together. Though Saddam Hussein is an Arab nationalist, he was never seen as a religious man—until now. Since Sept. 11 he is increasingly portrayed at prayer on Iraqi television and billboards and is lavishly spending millions of dollars to build the biggest mosque in the world. He offers total support to the Palestinians in their struggle with Israel, as does Osama bin Laden. The distinction between nationalists and fundamentalists is increasingly blurred.
At the same time, cooperation between al-Qaeda leaders and the leaders of the Islamic nations is on the rise as peoples throughout the Islamic world are increasingly incensed at what is seen as Israeli aggression against the Palestinians.
Why now? Satellite television, that's why. Until four years ago there was no Arabic-language satellite TV station. Now there is. Now Muslims across the region can see Palestinians suffering 18 hours a day broadcast from Abu Dhabi. Naturally, there is no film of Israelis suffering daily homicide bombings.
American newscaster Ted Koppel, monitoring the al-Jazeera television network shortly after the September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, was shocked at how anti-American all callers into a four-hour phone-in program were. Graphically illustrated was a simple logic: "Israel is trying to kill the Palestinians. Israel must die. America supports Israel. America must die."
Whether he is dead or alive, Osama bin Laden's perceived victories against the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989 and against the United States in September 2001 have inspired Muslims across the world to push against the West.
This attitude had been building for some time. J.T. Caruso, assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division, told a congressional committee on Dec. 18 that "al-Qaida had supported 'Islamic fighters' in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Chechnya and the Philippines" (Neil Clark, "Colonial Wars," The Spectator (UK), April 13, p. 24). And, yes, your memory is working correctly—the United States was on the same side as al-Qaeda, helping it, in fact, in the first three of those five conflicts.
The future troubles. Islamic fundamentalism is obviously on the rise. Ironically, if the United States can remove Saddam from power, the most likely eventual replacement for his regime will be an Islamic-fundamentalist government—though that could perhaps be forestalled for a while.
The same is true in other nations across Islam. Pakistan is particularly vulnerable in this area. Islamic, or sharia, law is already in force in the country, as it also is in distant northern Nigeria, where Christian meeting places have been burned to the ground with worshipers inside them. The Sudanese civil war continues with the ruling northern Muslims persecuting southern Christians and even taking them as slaves. Indonesia, too, has seen Muslims attack Christians.
Perception lags behind reality
Connecting the dots, we see that Islamic forces across the globe are increasingly cooperating, working together to defeat their common enemy, the West. Those jubilant crowds on the streets of the Islamic world within minutes of the successful terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were not atypical. What we see here is the beginning of another world war, in the sense that the conflict is international, with outbreaks of violence occurring on four continents.
Meanwhile, the West has scarcely moved on since that Iranian ambassador's dinner with Mrs. Thatcher in 1978. Western governments still maintain that the threat is not Islam in general but a few militants in particular. Immigration policies remain largely unchanged, allowing the internal threat to worsen with every arriving plane. Hollywood still churns out entertainment garbage that only feeds the universal hatred of Western values. Little if anything is done anywhere to reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
George Orwell, author of the classic works 1984 and Animal Farm, is acknowledged as one of the great writers of the 20th century. Orwell involved himself in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) on the side of the leftist republicans against the fascists aided by Nazi Germany and Italy's Mussolini. Vainly trying to warn the dominant Western power of the time, Great Britain, Orwell wrote an essay called "While England Sleeps," warning of the impending threat from fascism. Meanwhile, Britain's prime minister was negotiating with Hitler and promising "peace in our time."
The West is still asleep to the crisis that is building daily. Today almost all the wars that dominate our nightly news have a certain commonality that can be summed up in one word: Islam. Events are moving inexorably closer to the emergence of a final king of the South.
We may be seeing the prophesied biblical scenario coming to pass before our eyes. GN