by Scott Ashley
Iran's nuclear program is constantly in the news. Headlines I've seen recently include: "Iran Suspected of Planning More Nuclear Sites," "Iran, United States: No Hope of a Dialogue," "CIA: Iran Moving Closer to Nuclear Weapon" and "A Nuclear Iran: How Far Will the World Go?"A big part of the problem is that UN Security Council members Russia and China, following the old Middle Eastern proverb "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," have long prevented meaningful economic sanctions that could slow or halt Iran's nuclear progress. China needs Iranian oil too much to risk alienating Iran, and Russia has a ready market in Iran for massive arms sales, so don't look for the situation to change soon.
Why is Iran playing such a high-stakes game? Why is a nation that sits atop a sea of oil—enough to meet its needs for at least several centuries—pursuing an enormously expensive nuclear program that virtually no one, including many Iranians themselves, believes the country needs? Is Iran's nuclear program strictly peaceful, as it has repeatedly stated, or is something more ominous at work?
Iran's threat to the regionIsrael in particular is deeply concerned about Iranian intentions, and rightly so. In December 2001 Iran's former president Hashemi Rafsanjani stated that the Jewish state of Israel could be entirely wiped out by just one well-placed nuclear bomb, while an Israeli nuclear response would cause only relatively minor harm to the Islamic community of nations, not destroy them.
"Rafsanjani thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis," observed Matthias Kuntzel in The New Republic. "It might not be possible to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level of damage Israel could inflict is bearable—only 100,000 or so additional martyrs for Islam" ("A Child of the Revolution Takes Over: Ahmadinejad's Demons," April 24, 2006).
This was the thinking of a "moderate" Iranian president, who added that "it is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality"!
Since assuming office in August 2005, current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made repeated threats to eliminate the Jewish state. Notice a few:
"Israel must be wiped off the map" (2005).
"The basic problem in the Islamic world is the existence of the Zionist regime [Israel], and the Islamic world and the region must mobilize to remove this problem" (2006).
"The United States and the Zionist regime of Israel will soon come to the end of their lives" (2007).
"The world powers established this filthy bacteria, the Zionist regime, which is lashing out at the nations in the region like a wild beast" (2008).
"This regime [Israel] will not last long ... This regime has no future. Its life has come to an end" (2009).
And finally, "Israel is the most hated regime in the world ... With Allah's grace, this regime will be annihilated, and Palestinians and other regional nations will be rid of its bad omen" (2010).
It took Adolf Hitler six years to kill 6 million Jews in Europe. If Ahmadinejad is successful in his quest for nuclear weapons, he could kill 6 million Jews in Israel in about six minutes.
Iran's threat to the Western worldIsrael isn't the only country in the region endangered by Iran's nuclear program. The Arab states in the region, predominately oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, are gravely concerned about Iranian intentions. They know that if Iran successfully acquires nuclear weapons, they will be subject to economic and military blackmail, with no one risking confrontation with a nuclear Iran to come to their aid.
Further, an Iran with nuclear arms—or even advanced conventional weapons—could quite easily choke off the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. About 40 percent of the world's oil flow (and 90 percent of Gulf oil exports) passes through this 21-mile-wide channel to feed the world's energy-dependent economies. Those economies would collapse if the flow of oil were to dry up due to an Iranian blockade (which Ahmadinejad has threatened).
Iran has also developed missiles with a range of more than 1,500 miles, capable of striking not only every U.S. military facility in the Middle East, but also putting much of Europe within range.
"Imagine a world without the United States"Iranian religious leaders have regularly referred to Israel and Britain as "the little Satans" and America as "the great Satan." This is not simply empty rhetoric. They view these three states in particular as the primary obstacles to spreading the Iranian revolution that began in 1979 with the overthrow of the pro-Western shah.
In his first year in office, in an October 2006 speech in Tehran largely ignored by the West, President Ahmadinejad stated his objectives for Iran under his rule. Israel, he said, must be "wiped off the map," and he urged his hard-line Muslim audience to envision a world in which the United States no longer existed.
Mideast specialist Joel Rosenberg describes the speech and its background: "'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' [Ahmadinejad] asked a gathering of leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. 'You had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved.' He urged Muslims all over the world—Shias and Sunnis alike—to prepare for the day when 'our holy hatred expands' and 'strikes like a wave' ...
"It was not just talk. Ahmadinejad was simultaneously making a number of aggressive moves to build up Iran's military and accelerate its bid to go nuclear. That fall Iran purchased $1 billion worth of missiles from Russia, building on years of buying submarines and other advanced weapons systems from Moscow.
"Iran also received a dozen cruise missiles with a three-thousand-kilometer range, each of which was capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Iran's parliament voted to block international inspections of its nuclear facilities. And Ahmadinejad 'placed the military firmly in control [over] his nation's nuclear program, undercutting his government's claim that the program is intended for civilian use'" (Inside the Revolution, 2009, pp. 168-169, emphasis added throughout).
A friend of mine who has visited Iran reports seeing a multistory building in the Iranian capital covered with a massive mural showing nuclear explosions going off all over a large map of the United States. It's not far from the former U.S. embassy, which after its 1979 takeover was turned into an anti-American museum.
What the West doesn't know about Islamic theologyFew in the West understand the teachings of the Koran, Islam's holy book, and the Hadiths, the sayings and actions of Islam's founder Muhammad. This leads to a great deal of misunderstanding and incompre-hension of the intentions of Islamic fundamentalists toward the rest of the world.
In Islamic theology, the world is divided into two spheres—Dar al-Islam, meaning "the abode of Islam," and Dar al-Harb, meaning "the abode of war." The latter refers to all non-Muslim lands, as they must eventually be conquered and absorbed into Dar al-Islam, through peaceful conversion if possible but by force if necessary, so the world will be united under Islamic rule. Though some will deny this is what it says, the Koran lays this out quite plainly:
"Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme" (2:193, Dawood translation). "Idolatry," as defined in Islam, is worship of any god other than Allah—and includes Christianity. According to the Koran, "God's religion," of course, is Islam and Islam alone.
"It is He [Allah] who has sent for His apostle [Muhammad] with guidance and the true faith, so that he may exalt it above all religions, much as the idolaters may dislike it" (61:9, Dawood translation). "Idolaters," again, are those who worship any god other than Allah—including Christians.
Many believe that Islam is a peaceful religion. And it is true that many Muslims do live peacefully and advocate peace. However, the many current wars and areas of unrest where Muslims are fighting for control or to topple moderate Muslim governments—including Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia (Chechnya and the Caucasus region), China, Thailand, the Philippines, Israel and India (Kashmir)—weigh heavily against Islam being a religion of peace.
Inside the dangerous mind of Mahmoud AhmadinejadIran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is one of the millions of Muslims referred to as "Twelvers." The Twelvers, who constitute more than 90 percent of the population of Iran and 60 percent of the population of Iraq, are a dangerous outgrowth of Shia Islam. They are called such because they are followers of the 12th imam, or successor of Muhammad.
This 12th imam was born in A.D. 868 or 869 and disappeared a few years later, in 874. His followers believe that "he merely withdrew from public view when he was five and that he will sooner or later emerge ... to liberate the world from evil" (Kuntzel).
Many Muslims believe this "Hidden Imam" to be the prophesied Mahdi—"divinely guided one"—a sort of Islamic messiah who will reemerge to establish Islam in its rightful place as the dominant, and eventually the only, religion over the entire world.
"Shias believe the Mahdi will return at the end of history—during a time of chaos, carnage, and confusion—to establish righteousness, justice, and peace. When he comes, they say, the Mahdi will bring Jesus with him. Jesus will be a Muslim and will serve as his deputy, not as King of kings and Lord of lords as the Bible teaches, and he will force non-Muslims to choose between following the Mahdi or death" (Rosenberg, p. 175).
"But one thing that is fairly well agreed upon among devout 'Twelvers' is that the Mahdi will end apostasy and purify corruption within Islam. He is expected, therefore, to conquer the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Syria, and 'Palestine,' and then he and Jesus will kill between 60 and 80 percent of the world's population, specifically those who refuse to convert to Islam" (Rosenberg, p. 176).
These are the beliefs that drive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Lest this sound so far-fetched as to be unbelievable, consider the opening words of his Sept. 29, 2009, address to the United Nations: "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe, and peace and blessings be upon our master and prophet, Muhammad ... O God, hasten the arrival of Imam Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his rightfulness."
Another tenet of Islam is that, before going to war against non-Muslims, one must first invite them to convert to Islam and so avoid war. In his speech, Ahmadinejad carried out this obligation, urging the gathered world leaders to convert to Islam:
"We emphasize that the only path to remain safe is to return to monotheism [Islam] and justice, and this is the greatest hope and opportunity in all ages and generations. Without belief in Allah and commitment to the cause of justice and fight against injustice and discrimination, the world structure cannot be put right."
President Ahmadinejad closed his speech by stating that "there will come a time when justice will prevail across the globe"—that time being "under the rule of the Perfect Man, the last Divine source on earth, the Great Mahdi." He then called on the world to be at work "paving the way and preparing the conditions for building that bright future."
This was not the first time he has made such statements; his previous UN addresses included the same themes and components.
Hastening the end of Western civilizationMideast specialist Rosenberg gives more background on the Iranian leader's apocalyptic beliefs:
"Ahmadinejad and his close aides and advisors are driven by the deeply rooted belief that the Islamic messiah will appear soon and that by launching a war to annihilate Judeo-Christian civilization, they can hasten that day ...
"Hasten is a key word here. Ahmadinejad and his team do not believe they are supposed to be sitting around, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the Mahdi. They believe they have been given specific tasks to speed up his arrival, and they are determined to accomplish those tasks, whatever the cost to themselves or their country ...
"On August 29, [2007,] he said, 'The Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution have a pivotal role in preparing the ground for the coming of the Hidden Imam ... We must rapidly develop Iran in order to create the [right] conditions for his coming ... in order to precipitate this great event ...
"'The responsibility that currently rests on Iran's [shoulders] is very heavy; it is the kind of mission [with which] the divine prophets [were entrusted]. It does not permit us to rest or slumber even for a moment'" (Rosenberg, pp. 181-182).
The respected Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri states that President Ahmadinejad "boasts that the [Hidden] Imam gave him the presidency for a single task: provoking a 'clash of civilisations' in which the Muslim world, led by Iran, takes on the 'infidel' West, led by the United States, and defeats it" ("The Frightening Truth of Why Iran Wants a Bomb," The Telegraph [London], April 16, 2006).
Terror groups with nukes?Iran has long been a supporter of terrorist movements. Among those it has funded and supported are Hezbollah in Lebanon; the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria; the Mahdi Army in Iraq; and Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank. Iran's own Revolutionary Guard is classified as a terror group by a number of Western governments.
Considering Iran's long support of terror groups, Western intelligence services are greatly concerned that Iranian nukes could find their way into terrorist hands.
Terror groups wouldn't need long-range missiles to strike against a Western power with a nuclear attack. Nuclear devices could be smuggled across a border in a vehicle or hidden in a shipping container to be detonated in a port like New York, Boston, Los Angeles or New Orleans to take out a major city.
Far more devastating could be one or more medium-range missiles fired from a freighter off America's Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf coasts to detonate a nuclear warhead in the upper atmosphere, creating an electromagnetic pulse that would destroy every electronic device within hundreds of miles. This would effectively send much of the nation back to the 19th century within seconds, with accompanying massive loss of life from widespread starvation, disease epidemics and social breakdown.
The apostle Paul warned that "in the last days perilous times will come" (2 Timothy 3:1). Jesus Christ Himself stated that the time leading up to His return would be "a time of great distress, such as there has never been before since the beginning of the world, and will never be again." He then added, "If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive" (Matthew 24:21-22, Revised English Bible).
We indeed live in dangerous times. We'd better be sure to draw near to our Savior and Creator as never before, diligently guarding our spiritual condition and watching as Bible prophecy begins to unfold around us! GN