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Why We Should Worry about Iran

By Monday, March 2, 2015

Tomorrow the prime minister of Israel will stand before the US Congress and warn the American people about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. He will warn us not to be naive when negotiating with the Islamic Republic or to allow any wiggle-room in a final deal on its nuclear program. He will declare unequivocally that Iran must never be allowed to get a nuclear bomb.

And so he should.

“I am leaving for Washington on a fateful, even historic mission,” Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted on Sunday morning. “I am the emissary of all Israelis, even those who disagree with me.”

But it’s not just Israelis who disagree with Netanyahu. The Obama administration, most Democrats, and even a few Republicans are unhappy with the prime minister. Many think his visit is a political ploy to strengthen his position in Israel’s upcoming elections, to undermine President Obama, or to help Speaker of the House John Boehner (the man who invited him) erode the Democratic platform prior to 2016. These critics believe that Iran is little more than a red herring.

Only God can judge the thoughts and intents of the heart, and only He knows exactly what Netanyahu is thinking. But discerning Christians who care about truth need to go beyond the political noise and understand what this Iran business is all about. What’s really going on here? Who are the Iranian leaders, what do they want, and what does it all have to do with us?

1.Iran wants to take over the Middle East. And it’s doing a good job.

Modern Iran is the most recent incarnation of ancient Persia, a rich civilization that has existed for over two thousand years in the rugged highlands east of Mesopotamia. Iranians are proud of their heritage. They recall the days when Iranian kings and generals held sway from the green shores of the Mediterranean to the dusty plateaus of Afghanistan. They remember empire — and they want it back.

Right now Iranian spies and paramilitary officers are operating in cities and villages across the region with the express goal of reviving their ancient empire. They distribute guns, cash, and military assistance to bad guys everywhere in an effort to expand their reach across the Middle East and beyond.

And they’re winning. Iranian proxies (and by extension, Iran itself) now control no less than four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sana’a — and have all but encircled their enemies. Never before since 1979 has Iran been more powerful.

Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf states watch Iran’s expanding reach and feel their knees buckle. The recent fall of the Yemeni government — a friendly regime in Saudi Arabia’s own backyard — was directly attributable to Iranian backing.

Outwardly, the Iranians are selling themselves as the guarantors of regional stability in the face of Sunni Arab radicals like ISIS. President Hassan Rouhani said recently, “If there is going to be peace and stability in the region, and terrorism is to be uprooted, there is no other way than with the presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

His not-so-subtle meaning is that anyone who opposes Iran’s presence will find themselves bereft of peace. And Iran will make sure of it.

2. Iran wants to subvert the American world order.

There is nothing more frustrating to Iran’s religious and political elite than the fact that America still runs the world. “It is natural that our Islamic system should be viewed as an enemy and an intolerable rival by such an oppressive power as the United States,” said Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei in an 2003 address to university students. “It is also clear that the conflict and confrontation between the two is something natural and unavoidable.”

Iran’s leaders are guided by the spirit of the 1979 Islamic revolution, which they believe created the vanguard for a worldwide Islamist revival. Naturally the continuing strength of the United States, together with its “colonial implant” Israel, present a serious obstacle to the spread of their revolutionary ideals.

The first step in toppling the American order lies in overthrowing America’s friends and allies in the Middle East. Unfortunately for our allies, America doesn’t seem too concerned about this strategy and in fact seems more than willing to cooperate with Iran to ensure its rise to power. Charles Krauthammer recently wrote, “Our regional allies — Saudi Arabia, the other five Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel — are deeply worried. Tehran is visibly on the march on the ground and openly on the march to nuclear status. And their one great ally, their strategic anchor for two generations, is acquiescing to both.”

Many Arabs are finding themselves in a strange position. Abdulrahman al-Rashed, former general manager of the Al-Arabiya media network, penned an article entitled “How Did We End Up Cheering for Israel?” after Israeli missiles took out six Hezbollah terrorists and their Iranian adviser on Israel’s northern border in late January. According to al-Rashed, many Arabs would side with Israel over Iran if forced to choose. “There’s no doubt, in my view,” he wrote, “that if a confrontation occurs between Israel and Hezbollah or between Israel and Iran, many Arabs will pray for the defeat of Hezbollah’s militias and generals of its Iranian ally.”

3. Iran doesn’t mind killing people. 

One place where Iran is fighting hard is Syria, a dark world of death and destruction that has only gotten darker over the past four years. “The Islamic Republic of Iran has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power as long as possible,” says the Institute for the Study of War. A groundbreaking 2013 New Yorker essay by Dexter Filkins exposed the full scope of Iran’s activity in Syria and its use of Hezbollah terrorists to ensure that Assad’s bloody reign continues.

“Syria is the main bone of contention,” said Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s number one paramilitary officer, in a rare speech. “On one side stands the whole world and on the other stands Iran.”

The UN currently estimates that more than 220,000 people have been slaughtered in Syria. That’s about the same number of people who would have died if 9/11 had happened every day for 73 days in a row.

But it’s not just innocent Syrians who have been killed by Iran. It’s also innocent Israelis who have been killed by Iranian-supplied rockets fired by Hezbollah and Hamas.It’s hundreds of American soldiers murdered by Iranian-designed IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s Jews in Argentina, thousands of miles away from the Middle East. It’s innocent Iranians who protest their government’s murderous policies.

Human life means little to Iran’s despotic leaders. No toll in human flesh is too great to sway them from exporting their brand of Islamic justice to the world.

4. Iranian leaders deny the Holocaust. And they’re calling for a new one.

It is well known that Iran’s leaders regularly deny that the Nazi Holocaust happened. They are convinced that the Holocaust was a hoax created by the West to justify the creation of Israel.

And it’s no secret that Iran despises Israel — or the “Zionist entity” as they prefer to call it — and wants to remove this “tumor” from the Middle East once and for all. Ayatollah Khamenei puts it in clinical terms: “Israel is a cancerous tumor. Well, what is done with a cancerous tumor? Besides cutting out the tumor, what remedy is there?”

Such statements are common among both extremists and moderates.

One needs only to do an internet search for “Iran” and “holocaust” to see the country’s long record of holocaust denial and its advocacy for a future holocaust in the destruction of the State of Israel. Just a few weeks ago, Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted a “9 Step Plan for Eliminating Israel” that is softer than Hitler’s approach but still adamant on the complete eradication of Jewish existence in the Middle East.

5. Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon.

Everybody knows it.

History reveals a long record of Iran working to acquire both nuclear material and the long-range missiles to deliver it. The UN Security Council passed 6 resolutions between 2006 and 2010 in an effort to halt what it perceived to be a real-life weaponization program. President Obama has stated numerous times on the record that Iran must never get ahold of a nuclear weapon — something he wouldn’t have said if there was any doubt about Iran’s intentions.

Paired with Iran’s horrendous human rights record and its unquenchable desire for empire, the relentless drive for nuclear weapons is frightening to say the least. Especially for those who, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, live in the neighborhood.

6. Iran hates Christianity.

There are few countries in the world where the gospel is spreading as rapidly as it is in Iran. Open Doors estimates that there are around 400,000 new converts inside Iran; and the house church movement has been growing by leaps and bounds. But conversion to Christianity from Islam is still a crime punishable by death. And since Iran executes roughly one person a day, Christians in the West have reason to be concerned about our brothers and sisters inside the country.

“When you’re Christian in Iran, you can’t speak,” said one young Iranian believer to a reporter last year. “You have to keep quiet and not talk about the truth that you know and that you believe in.”

Negotiating with Iran while thousands of prisoners of conscience, including many Christians, rot inside Iranian prisons is simply unconscionable. This regime does whatever it can to frustrate the gospel, hinder dissemination of scripture, and oppress those who want to embrace the light of truth. And that should bother anyone who cares about freedom.

7. Iranian leaders see themselves as bringing about the end of history.

Iran is prepared to kill and maim its way across the Middle East in order to achieve military hegemony over its foes. But many of Iran’s leaders pursue this vision because they hope to hasten the return of a messianic figure known as the Mahdi who will secure the rule of Allah upon the earth.

It isn’t hard to see how this messianic vision helps fuel Iran’s angry crusade against the West. And it isn’t hard to imagine that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has something to do with its desire to destroy the US, Israel, and anyone else who stands in the way of judgment day.

 

Most commentators this week will focus on infighting between the White House and Congress, or between the US and Israel. But they are missing the much larger point. The real story here is the rise of Iran as an aggressive regional power that is gaining ground, fomenting instability, and getting dangerously close to the nuclear threshold.

Our president has boldly proclaimed that Iran can never have a nuclear weapon. Yet despite a noble strategy of sanctions, sabotage, and assassinations, Iran continues to push forward in its nuclear ambitions. Will we allow this bloodthirsty regime to become even more emboldened? Will we hand off responsibility to Israel and our Arab allies to ensure that existential danger is averted? Has American grown too soft to stand up to evil in the twenty-first century?

If United States wants to preserve any shred of moral authority in global affairs, we must act swiftly and decisively to halt Iranian aggression. We must vehemently oppose any deal that allows Iran to get anywhere near nuclear weaponization. How much more evidence do we need? Iran’s leaders have killed in the past, they are killing now, they express a wish to kill even more, and now stand on the brink of attaining the most destructive killing machine known to man.

How can we justify inaction knowing we have the means to stop them?

Robert Nicholson

Robert Nicholson is Founder and Executive Director of The Philos Project. He holds a BA in Hebrew Studies from Binghamton University, and both a JD and MA in Middle Eastern history from Syracuse University. A former U.S. Marine and a 2012-13 Tikvah Fellow, Robert founded The Philos Project in 2014. His advocacy focuses on spreading the vision of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Middle East based on freedom and rule of law. Robert serves on the Board of Directors of Passages, and is a publisher of Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy. His written work has appeared in First Things, The Federalist, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, and The American Interest, among others. Follow Robert on Twitter: @rwnicholson_

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