Spent in Vain

What has America’s blood and treasure gained in Iraq? A playground for al Qaeda.

“I left my soul in Ramadi, as well as my fellow Marines.” This is the sentiment of Sgt. Tyler Rock. In an interview with the Trumpet, Rock shared what many U.S. servicemen and veterans are thinking as they see headlines coming out of Iraq today. He is one of thousands of brave men and women who absorbed the horrors of war so that country might be free of dictatorial rule and Islamic terrorism.

“I left a different person than when I went in. But I was okay with that, because I felt that we actually did good in the city,” Rock said. “[Ramadi] will always be a part of me, and may be the most defining moment in my life.”

Considering the effort and sacrifice of Sergeant Rock and all the coalition troops who served in Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad and elsewhere, watching what is happening in Iraq today is devastating. The same cities where Rock’s fellow Marines fought and died are now falling to Iran and al Qaeda.

But Iraq’s story is tragic for reasons beyond the energy and lives of Western troops, and the $1.7 trillion bill America has paid. Washington’s withdrawal from Iraq and the subsequent unraveling of that nation has set in motion dramatic changes—prophetically significant changes—whose effects will extend far beyond the Middle East, even into your life.

Al Qaeda Takes Control

Since the night of Dec. 18, 2011, when the last U.S. convoy rolled out of Iraq, the country has come undone, politically, economically and socially. In America’s absence, the Sunni population has grown increasingly dissatisfied with what it sees as a discriminatory government. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s Shiite-dominated, pro-Iranian administration has been accused of promoting Shiite ideals and ignoring the voice of the Sunni minority. In provinces such as Anbar, whose population is primarily Sunni, the discontent has boiled over into riots. The disorder has been an invitation to al Qaeda, which has surged back into the country in full force.

The chaos-inducing departure of U.S. troops from Iraq was completely exposed on January 3 of this year. On that day, a branch of al Qaeda known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (isil) captured the key Anbar cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. Sergeant Rock and his brothers in arms paid a high price to eradicate al Qaeda’s—particularly from Fallujah. To see those gains reversed so quickly is both embarrassing and demoralizing to those who fought to protect America, advance its interests, and bring freedom to the Iraqi people.

According to the Washington Post, “Roughly a third of the 4,486 U.S. troops killed in Iraq died in Anbar trying to defeat al Qaeda in Iraq, nearly 100 of them in the November 2004 battle for control of Fallujah, the site of America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War.

“Events Friday suggested the fight may have been in vain” (January 3).

America Defeated

With the Sunnis up in arms and al Qaeda capturing territory throughout the region, the mainstream media and Mideast pundits talk about the reversal of U.S. gains in terms of a broader Sunni-versus-Shiite proxy war. The casual observer sees Iran heading up the Shiite camp, while Saudi Arabia rallies Sunni Arabs to counter Iran’s influence. But is the reality as simple as that?

Focusing on the Sunni/Shia, Maliki/al Qaeda struggle, analysts overlook the real conflict: the large-scale assault against American influence in the region.

In this battle for the Middle East, the United States has not only lost blood and treasure in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. It has also taken a backseat to Russia in the Syrian civil war; it has forfeited the relationship it had with Cairo before the Arab Spring; and it has lost the trust of its longtime ally Saudi Arabia because it no longer is able or apparently even willing to prevent Iran’s ascent to power. In addition, the Taliban is rising again in Afghanistan, U.S.-Israel relations are at their worst, and terrorists in Benghazi, Libya, have murdered a U.S. ambassador.

America’s withdrawal from the Mideast has repeatedly left the door open for terrorists to make a comeback.

What a change two years has made in Iraq. Today terrorist flags are flying over Fallujah and Ramadi while Iraqi flags burn on the street corners. The isil has military camps, strongholds and weapons caches throughout Anbar province and in the rebel-held parts of Syria. Terrorists have free access across the 373-mile border between Syria and Iraq, making the task of uprooting the group even harder for authorities.

In capturing these two cities, isil has gained control over the vast majority of the Anbar province population, along with vast swathes of western Iraq. The province is over 53,200 square miles, about the size of North Carolina—a territory larger than Jordan, Israel and Lebanon combined. Al Qaeda now controls more land than it did before the coalition invaded!

Even if Maliki’s forces manage to retake much of the isil-controlled province, the fact that the terrorists were capable of taking control of the two cities testifies to Washington’s failure to defeat radical Islam in the region.

The rapid expansion of the Sunni al Qaeda has been met by the equally ambitious Shiites empowered by Iran. But while conflict does rage between Sunni and Shiite factions, who is really losing? The civilians whose lives are constantly disrupted by violence are suffering terribly. But from a geopolitical perspective, the big loser is the United States. The common denominator in all the wars between the Islamic groups is the reversal of American gains. By focusing on the back and forth between the Shiites and Sunnis, most forget that the Sunnis and Shiites are both Islamic, and both harbor extremists with deep-seated hatred for America and Western culture.

Look at Egypt. The Arab Spring blossomed and withered. Shiite power rose and fell. Pre-Spring, Washington was well connected to the government of Hosni Mubarak, America’s greatest Arabic ally in the region. Post-Spring, Egypt wants nothing to do with America. The Americans backed the losers and turned against old allies. Now they are on the outside looking in. In Afghanistan, the struggle between the government and the Taliban hasn’t turned the Afghans to America—it has turned them to Iran! (For evidence, see “Pacts of Friendship.”)

Wherever you look in the Middle East, regional turmoil is not just rival Islamic factions vying for power; it is a systematic destruction of American influence. With few allies and little opportunity to stem the tide of radical Islam, America looks on as radicals wash away years of gains made by the U.S. military.

But this grim reality gets worse. Not only has the U.S. allowed the return of al Qaeda in Iraq, but now it is in a position where it is actively supporting those who seek America’s destruction.

Empowering Iran

America’s departure from Iraq and the region serves Iran. The al Qaeda threat serves Iran by forcing Maliki to rely on Tehran for help. Some say the presence of Sunni al Qaeda along Iran’s borders is a threat to Tehran. Not really. One reality widely and willingly ignored for years now is the axis that exists between al Qaeda and Iran’s mullahs. It’s true that the two sects differ religiously. But ideologically and strategically, Iran and al Qaeda are almost in perfect alignment: Both seek to destroy America and purge the region of Western influence.

Iran has a long history of supporting and harboring al Qaeda operatives. In 2005, safe behind Iranian borders, Saif al-Adel posted a lengthy dispatch about al Qaeda’s activities in Iran and Iraq on the Internet. In it he mentioned that he and Abu Musab al Zarqawi planned to make Iraq the new battleground against America from various safe havens in Iran. Zarqawi—who was killed in 2006—ran paramilitary camps in Afghanistan and was responsible for terrorist attacks from Madrid to Kabul. He was also suspected of personally decapitating 26-year-old American hostage Nick Berg in 2004. Iran has a long history of such Shiite-Sunni cooperation against the greater enemy: America.

In this sense, al Qaeda’s victories—and its growth in Iraq—serve Iran.

President Obama has been cautious not to wade back into a war from which he worked to untangle himself since his campaign and election in 2008. To avoid looking like it has completely abandoned Iraq in this latest crisis, his administration has promised Hellfire missiles and drones to Maliki’s government to aid in quelling the violence.

But Washington isn’t arming an independent Iraq; it is arming an Iranian puppet. As David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post, “Iran has waged a brilliant covert-action campaign that turned Maliki and Iraq into virtual clients of Tehran—and in the process alienated Sunnis and pushed them toward extremism” (January 8).

Iran is a master at working through proxy groups, particularly terrorist groups. Kataib Hezbollah, the League of the Righteous, and the Promised Day Brigades are just a few of the Iranian-led militias operating in Iraq and Syria today. Iran has also infiltrated the Iraqi government; the minister of transport once headed the Badr Brigade, another Iranian-backed militia.

If Iraq is serving Iran’s purposes, it stands to reason that when the U.S. aids Iraq, it is in fact supporting Iran! That is how weak America’s approach has become. This once great superpower, now lacking the stomach for fighting, tries to resolve these problems by sending weapons to a regime that is actively suppressing large parts of the population and acts as a mere puppet for the world’s number one state sponsor of terror!

The Trumpet warned in our November 2001 edition that Iran would outlast America in the Middle East: “[W]e can see unequivocally that the terrorist snake will survive America’s aggression—head intact, and stronger than ever.” The accuracy of this statement is proven by the recent al Qaeda surge.

Days after Fallujah fell to extremists, Melanie Phillips explained the panic it would cause in America. “[A]ll those American and other coalition soldiers who died in Iraq will be soon seen to have died in vain, as America’s scuttling away from the battlefield turns fragile victory into baleful defeat and Iraq stares into the abyss of civil war” (January 7).

Events in Iraq back up what the Trumpet warned about at the very beginning of the war! Notice what editor in chief Gerald Flurry said in June 2003: “It may seem shocking, given the U.S. presence in the region right now, but prophecy indicates that, in pursuit of its goal, Iran will probably take over Iraq. At least, it will have a heavy influence over the Iraqi people.” That is exactly what is happening. The Sunnis are rising up because they see the Iraqi government bending to Iran’s will—away from the United States.

Bible Prophecy Fulfilled

The eradication of American influence in the region and the rise of Iran in its place should not surprise us. After all, God warned about it thousands of years ago.

The Trumpet has often referred to Leviticus 26 as a pivotal prophecy of the Old Testament. We have explained its connotations numerous times over the years, particularly verse 19, where it says God would break the pride of our power. There is still plenty of power in the United States, but the will to use it is shattered. Iraq is a case in point: The U.S. still has the largest military in the world, but has been unsuccessful in making long-term gains in Iraq. In verse 20, God warns, “your strength shall be spent in vain.” All of America’s vast expenditure in these theaters is proving fruitless. Only two years after America’s withdrawal, al Qaeda has retaken the largest province in the country!

Why would God allow this?

Verses 15 and 16 discuss how God will appoint terror over us as a curse! As Stephen Flurry pointed out in his January 8 Trumpet Daily, “He certainly is a God of great benevolence and generosity who will bless those who strive to obey Him and to follow Him. But God will also allow curses to come upon us if we don’t obey—if we disobey His commands, if we drift far from Him.” You can see this again in verse 17 and 18, and expounded in Deuteronomy 28.

In his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Herbert W. Armstrong went through this crucial prophecy in great detail. He explained how God blessed the nations of Israel—primarily the U.S. and Britain—as a result of promises He made to Abraham. But Mr. Armstrong went on to explain: “No longer is God obligated by His promise to continue our undeserving peoples in world prestige, wealth and greatness. Once we had been given such unrivaled position, it was up to us whether we should keep it.”

The reality today is evident. America has squandered the blessings God once bestowed upon it. This pivotal prophecy shows what is truly causing America’s influence in the Middle East to waste away.

Fallujah is just a little preview of what happens when America is pushed aside. Once the last shreds of American influence are gone, radical Islam will fill the power vacuum.

Commentators are now speaking about how American lives have been spent in vain in Iraq—without realizing that they are discussing Leviticus 26! The Trumpet warned about this from the first days of the war! It is all happening exactly as we said it would back in 2003, based on biblical prophecy.

God is sending this message out in love. God doesn’t want soldiers to die on the battlefield. He doesn’t want to curse America. But He promised to break the pride of the nation’s power if we didn’t obey Him. He warned that America’s strength would be spent in vain.

If you haven’t ordered a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy, you need to. This book will explain the rise and fall of the nations of Israel, as well as the glorious future God has in store for all men once they finally turn to Him, and live according to His abundant way of life.