"The U.S. does not have the stomach for a long conflict and will soon revert to its traditional policy of 'running away,' leaving Afghanistan and Iraq, indeed the whole of the Middle East, to be reshaped by Iran and its regional allies."
According to Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri, writing in The Wall Street Journal (March 29), this is the constant theme of Hassan Abbasi, "the principal foreign policy voice in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new radical administration" in Iran.
Summing up the view from Tehran, Mr. Taheri states: "Mr. Ahmadinejad believes that the world is heading for a clash of civilizations with the Middle East as the main battlefield. In that clash Iran will lead the Muslim world against the 'Crusader-Zionist camp' led by America."
America is the greatest military power of our age. To many, America seems invincible and has been since World War II. But an increasing number of countries perceive America in quite a different light. Attitudes toward the United States have changed, particularly in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The success of the terrorists that day has emboldened Islamic terrorists around the world who now see the United States as vulnerable.
They are encouraged by the defeat of the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s when the fundamentalist Taliban drove out a world superpower. The Soviet Union collapsed soon afterwards. Now Islamic terrorists see their opportunity to also bring down the world's remaining superpower, the United States. In the minds of many, only U.S. President George Bush stands in their way.
"The Last Helicopter"
"The Last Helicopter" was the title of Mr. Taheri's Wall Street Journal article, a reminder of America's defeat in Vietnam. In April 1975 the last Americans were flown out of Saigon by helicopter as communist troops took the city and moved into the U.S. embassy compound. Tens of millions of people witnessed the last helicopter leaving in a truly historic moment—the first—ever defeat of the United States in a military conflict, shown on television around the world!
Mr. Taheri continues in the same article: "To hear Mr. Abbasi tell it the entire recent history of the U.S. could be narrated with the help of the image of 'the last helicopter.' It was that image in Saigon that concluded the Vietnam War under Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter had five helicopters fleeing from the Iranian desert, leaving behind the charred corpses of eight American soldiers.
"Under Ronald Reagan the helicopters carried the bodies of 241 Marines murdered in their sleep in a Hezbollah suicide attack. Under the first President Bush, the helicopter flew from Safwan, in southern Iraq, with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf aboard, leaving behind Saddam Hussein's generals, who could not believe why they had been allowed to live to fight their domestic foes, and America, another day.
"Bill Clinton's helicopter was a Black Hawk, downed in Mogadishu and deliver-ing 16 American soldiers into the hands of a murderous crowd."
Everything going Iran's way?
Americans tend to forget quickly. Few would put together all the above incidents and see them as an indication of further military defeat and decline in the future. Yet such a view is gaining ground in the Muslim world.
According to Taheri, this view of history sees President Bush as an "'aberration,' a leader out of sync with his nation's character." Radical Islamists believe that the United States is a "sunset" power, on the decline, while Iran is a "sunrise" power, on the rise.
They are convinced that soon the United States will withdraw its military forces from the Middle East, either when a new presidential administration takes office in Washington after the 2008 elections, or as a result of increasing antiwar sentiment at home forcing Congress to withdraw its support of an American military presence in the Middle East.
The leaders in Tehran see the world very differently from those in Washington. From their perspective, everything seems to be going their way. "Mr Ahmadinejad also notes that Iran has just 'reached the Mediterranean' thanks to its strong presence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."
Thanks to Iranian support, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is able to continue his anti-American policies, supporting terrorist movements in both Iraq and Lebanon. To the east, even America's ally in Afghanistan , Hamid Karzai, is strengthening relations with Iran, fearful of an eventual U.S. pullout from his country.
The Iranian government is also meddling in Iraq, fomenting conflict between the majority Shia and the minority Sunni Muslims, seeing a future American withdrawal as an opportunity to further Iranian influence in the country. Iran and Iraq fought a bitter eight-year war in the 1980s that left more than a million dead.
Thanks to oil, Iran has money it can use to gain influence. By all appearances, it is also working hard to develop nuclear weapons, which it is already threatening to use against American and British interests in the region. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has also repeatedly threatened to permanently rid the Middle East of the Jewish nation of Israel.
Events building for withdrawal?
Already we are seeing one consequence of a possible U.S. withdrawal—the inability of the various Iraqi political factions to come together to form a functional government. At the time of this writing, it has been three months since the January election and there is still no government, with major disagreement between Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on who should head the government as prime minister.
Many politicians are unwilling to commit because they don't know how long the U.S. military and its allies will remain. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made a surprise visit to Iraq in early April to stress the urgency of the need to form a government. The delay is further aggravating Iraq's security situation.
Added to the lack of a government is the fear among Iraqis of joining the security forces and the police. Already, many recruits have been prime targets of the insurgency. A withdrawal of coalition forces would likely lead only to more blood being shed, with terrorists targeting anybody in the security services or those who have worked with coalition forces.
The problem for the Western democracies with a military presence in Iraq is that no government can commit troops indefinitely. A change of administration in Washington, London or Canberra could mean a change of policy towards Iraq. It is even possible that a change in the makeup of the U.S. Congress following November elections could precipitate American withdrawal.
The insurgents in Iraq know this and are simply waiting, keeping the body count and bad news in the headlines, believing that their time will come.
Withdrawal—an ugly scenario
It's important for people to realize that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would not be similar to the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam more than three decades ago.
Then, it seemed to many that the continued spread of communism was inevitable. But the communist system itself is unworkable and began falling apart at the end of the next decade. Today, however, the reality is that the supporters of radical Islam are growing in numbers. It is an ideology with a fervent following, whose adherents are willing to sacrifice their own lives to further their aim, which is to spread Islam and sharia law throughout the world.
Many are convinced they can bring down America and its allies the way they believe they brought down the Soviet Union. A U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would only strengthen this conviction. The militants would then be free to go for the jugular, attacking U.S. interests around the world, undermining the American economy and the economies of other Western nations.
Simply attacking oil interests close to home in the Middle East would drive up the price of oil considerably and thereby threaten the economy of the United States and the entire world.
A U.S. withdrawal would be seen as a U.S. defeat, not only in the Middle East but around the globe. Many nations would likely take advantage of such a situation and seize the opportunity to settle scores with other less-powerful nations. The absence of a global superpower—a world policeman or fireman to respond to emergencies—could lead to international chaos. The entire world has long witnessed how toothless the United Nations is in such a role.
A warning for our time
Long ago God warned a nation, "I will break the pride of your power" (Leviticus 26:19 Leviticus 26:19And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
American King James Version×). He was warning ancient Israel and future generations of the consequences of national sin, of turning away from God. He also said, "The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies" (Deuteronomy 28:25 Deuteronomy 28:25The LORD shall cause you to be smitten before your enemies: you shall go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shall be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
American King James Version×).
These negative consequences were not a warning to the gentile nations of the ancient world, but to Israel and its descendants. The United States, Great Britain and Australia, the three most significant contributors to the coalition forces fighting in Iraq, are modern descendants of Israel to whom these warnings apply.
As Mr. Taheri pointed out in his article, the enemies of the United States have been emboldened by the flight of American helicopters from Vietnam, Iran, Lebanon and Somalia. The stakes are high. "The enemies that America is now facing in the jihadist archipelago," he explains, "... are dedicated to the destruction of the U.S. as the world knows it today."
For the safety and security of Western civilization, the rest of the world should hope it's a long time before it sees the last U.S. helicopter leave Iraq and Afghanistan.
But realists around the world know this safety and security is tenuous at best. The Bible shows that cataclysmic events will shake this world as Western civilization, Middle Eastern powers and all other human governments finally reach the end of their rope.
Thankfully the Bible also shows that God will step in before humanity unleashes total destruction upon itself. That is truly Iraq's, America's and this world's only hope. GN