The World’s Newest Most Radical ‘State’

An Islamist group just declared itself a caliphate and challenged the rest of the Muslim world to join or be considered an enemy. Here is the stunning story of how it gained such power behind the scenes, how this move alters the Middle East, and what to expect next.

Mosul was the last urban city the United States secured during the Iraq War in 2008. That effort was measured in the blood of thousands of American soldiers and billions of taxpayer dollars.

But it was blood and treasure spent in vain.

On June 10, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (isis) steamrolled into Mosul. isis terrorists took over the airport, television facilities and police stations, sending over a third of the city’s 1.4 million population to flight. They also seized military bases stocked with American-supplied hardware.

Iraq’s much larger army abandoned its positions and fled, discarding vast quantities of military equipment and weaponry, which isis also incorporated into its arsenal. The militants even seized low-grade nuclear material from a university. Not long after the takeover of Mosul, videos emerged of isis militants flaunting their weapons cache, which included a long-range ballistic Scud missile—which, God willing, tweeted isis, would end up “heading toward #Israel” for a spectacular end to the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Clearly, these radical Islamists’ goals extend beyond Iraq and Syria. In fact, on June 29, the first day of Ramadan, they released a statement in Arabic, English, German, French and Russian dropping “Iraq and Syria” from their name, giving themselves the more universal title “the Islamic State,” and declaring the considerable territory now under their control an Islamic “caliphate.” They announced that “[t]he legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null,” and all Muslims must now pledge their allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

One might be tempted to dismiss such grandiloquent claims. However, when isis overran Mosul in June, it looted cash and large quantities of gold bullion. According to Atheel al-Nujaifi, governor of the province where Mosul is located, the group heisted 500 billion dinars (us$429 million) from the city’s central bank and many other banks in the city. That money has made these radical Islamists arguably the wealthiest terrorist organization in the world. It also has made them—flush with stolen cash and supplemental income from extortion, robbery, kidnapping, foreign donors, and newly seized oil fields and refineries—a clear and present danger to the existence of Iraq.

What does isis and its newly declared independent state mean for Iraq, the Middle East and America? Time will tell—but the means by which it got to where it is gives some important clues. And biblical prophecy supplies the long-term picture.

An Early Forecast

As early as September 1990, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry warned that a “king of the south” would rise up, as forecast in Daniel 11:40, from the region around Iraq. Soon after, he pinpointed who it would be. “The king of the south could rule Iraq or Iran or both countries. But it is looking more now like Iran may produce this king,” Mr. Flurry wrote. “It looks very much like the end-time king of the south will rule the radical Islamists! Iran is a natural leader for many of them today. Iran also has a goal to lead this group” (Trumpet, July 1992).

Iran’s rise as the leader of radical Islam is a crucial development in Middle East geopolitics. At one time, Iran was held in check by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; the balance of power prevented either nation from advancing. Yet in December 1994, Mr. Flurry wrote an article headlined, “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” In it, he pinpointed Iran as being the region’s most powerful Islamic nation, and asked, “Can you imagine the power [the Iranians] would have if they gained control of Iraq, the second-largest oil-producing country in the world?”

After an American-led invasion deposed Hussein, eliminating Iran’s primary opposition within its neighborhood, Mr. Flurry revisited the question with another article titled “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” in June 2003. In it, he emphasized two main factors: the unwitting aid America gave to Iran by weakening Iraq; and Iran’s covert meddling in Iraq.

Over the eight years of the Iraq War, 4,487 American soldiers died; $1.7 trillion was spent; and the doors swung open for Iran to exert a heavy influence in Iraqi politics. During this period, Iran increased its influence in Iraq by supporting Iraq’s embattled Shiite government. At the same time, however, Iran mastered its strategy of seeding chaos through funding radical terror—even terrorist organizations seemingly at odds with its ultimate goal of dominating the Middle East. Mr. Flurry’s June 2003 article showed early evidence of this strategy in action, and the Trumpet has continued to document and accumulate this evidence over the past decade.

One of the tools of chaos Iran helped to forge is now taking on a life of its own—and may well force Iran to take its strategy to a new, deadlier level.

An Iranian Project

Iran has a long history of playing a complex double game with al Qaeda. In February, the U.S. Treasury released a report saying it had “announced the designation of a key Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator who supports al Qaeda’s vital facilitation network in Iran, that operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities.”

Among the specific terrorist groups that Iran supported in order to foment chaos in post-Saddam Iraq was an organization called al Qaeda in Iraq (aqi). aqi’s leader, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, fled to Iran from Afghanistan when Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. A report from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (bka) leaked in 2005 said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ (irgc) Quds Force “provided Al-Zarqawi with logistical support on the part of the state” (Cicero, Spring 2005). The advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran wrote on June 19 of this year that “Zarqawi initially operated under the protection of the irgc and its elite Quds Brigade. … According to intelligence officials, the time Zarqawi spent in Iran was crucial for rebuilding his network before relocating to Iraq.” He received funding, arms and logistical support to rebuild the al Qaeda network he oversaw. The leaked bka report showed that Zarqawi possessed genuine Iranian passports for some of his numerous aliases—a strong indication of collusion at high levels.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was Sunni, and it held virulently anti-Shiite beliefs. A 2007 report by the Claremont Institute noted that Zarqawi possessed a loathing for Shiites, whom he considered heretical dogs. “Yet,” it observed, “his hate did not stop him from accepting Iran’s help, nor did it stop the mullahs from offering it.”

Why would Shiite Iran support Sunni aqi, given the sharp ideological differences between them? When it comes to radical Islamists and their goals, expediency knows no moral qualms. The end always justifies the means. The goal for aqi, from the time it was founded in 2004, was simple. As Gen. Raymond Odierno expressed it succinctly in a 2010 Pentagon briefing, “They want complete failure of the government in Iraq. They want to establish a caliphate in Iraq.” Iran fully understood this goal when it supported Zarqawi and his organization.

Later, aqi became known as isis. Its goals remain the same, if only on a grander scale. And America is treating this organizationnow the self-declared Islamic State—as the region’s new Saddam Hussein that must be removed. However, in a bizarre and preposterous twist, the U.S. seeks to confront the problem—which, unlike Saddam Hussein, was substantially Iranian sponsored and created—by actively seeking Iran’s help, and even by seeking to increase Iran’s involvement and influence in Iraq!

Iran-U.S. Relations

While Iran helped build and preserve isis, recent evidence indicates that Iran might now be moving to confront it.

The “State” of ISIS

Emboldened by its coup in Mosul, isis went on to seize significant chunks of territory in northern Iraq. It seized control of the Iraq-Syria border on June 25, giving it access to both nations for supplies and expansion. It then allied with the terrorist group al Nusra to share control of the border. isis now controls territory extending from northwestern Iraq up to northern Syria.

Disturbing reports of isis’s brutality quickly emerged. A policeman was taken from his house in the middle of the night, and the abductors cut off his head with a knife. Masses of people were beheaded. People were executed, amputated and crucified. isis quickly became the most feared organization in the Middle East.

Then, on June 29, isis declared its territory a caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State, indicating that these two nations are hoped to be only a small beginning of a future Islamic republic transcending national boundaries and ruled by a supreme, politico-religious leader, or caliph—Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The new Islamic State commanded all Muslims to pay obeisance to Baghdadi. In an Internet video posted on July 1, Baghdadi himself declared that his “caliphate” will demonstrate the “meaning of terrorism, and boots that will trample the idol of nationalism, destroy the idol of democracy and uncover its deviant nature.” He called on Muslims to immigrate to the Islamic State and rallied Muslims across the globe to avenge all the wrongs committed against Islam, from China to Indonesia, Central African Republic to Myanmar—all the way to Europe. “This is my advice to you,” he said. “If you hold to it, you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.”

The significance of that declaration becomes clear when viewed in context with biblical prophecy (sidebar, “Radical Islam’s New Top Target: Rome”). Baghdadi’s next immediate target, however, appears to be Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.

But here is a startling truth. isis has become so unbelievably violent and brazen that Iran now looks tame by comparison. This fact is not lost on the Iranian mullahs.

On June 16, in a startling turn of events, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said America was “open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran.” The U.S. “would not rule out anything,” he said. Because of isis’s dramatic rise, its radical nature and its threat to the Iraqi government that America installed, the U.S. is turning to its long-time mortal enemy—a nation that it has assured its allies it would contain—to intervene militarily in Iraq.

It is a win-win situation for Iran. If it sends in troops, it can literally conquer Iraq and install its own puppet government. If it instead chooses to hold off, Iraq descends into a destructive civil war that will leave it even more ripe for conquering and geopolitical domination.

Iran’s point man in Iraq is Major General Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, the special forces of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, and considered a terrorist by the U.S. This man has taken a lead role in efforts to mediate Baghdad’s political crisis since isis overtook Mosul in June. “According to Shiite officials, the general has been organizing Iraq’s military and Shiite militias to fight the insurgents while at the same time trying to organize Shiite factions on the formation of the next government,” reported the Philadelphia Media Network on July 23. After meeting with Iraqi politicians during a 10-day trip in June, Soleimani returned to Tehran with a list of Shiite Iraqi candidates for the presidency, the Times of Israel reported. It is expected he will soon inform Iraqi Shiites of Iran’s top choice of the post. Four years ago, using similar means, Iran successfully secured support for Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s current prime minister; it could likely do so again for its new candidate of choice.

What an opportunity for Iran to exploit. And it is far from being a coincidence that this opportunity came via a radical Islamist organization Iran helped create.

Iran will take advantage of this situation when it thinks the timing is right. It knows the American people will not stand for military intervention in Iraq again. And President Obama doesn’t want to be known as the president who lost Iraq to radical terrorists, especially after declaring the “end” of the Iraq War in 2011. He told the American people, “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” So America’s leaders appear to view their last remaining option is to solicit help from a nation in the region with the military capability of defeating isis—Iran.

When this option surfaced, Western media jumped on the Iran-is-suddenly-our-friend bandwagon. As journalist Souad Mekhennet wrote for the Washington Post,isis is the best thing to happen to Iran-U.S. relations in years.

But nevertheless, the Iranians aren’t in a hurry. They are content to let the situation deteriorate to the point where the West begs them to intervene.

And no wonder—Iran has lots more to gain in Iraq from all the chaos.

Nuclear Relations

Consider America’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. America’s official position is that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and negotiations with Iran to prop up Iraq will be handled as separate issues. But only the most naive believe that is possible.

Iranian officials have publicly stated that they believe the crisis in Iraq should make regional and global powers more accepting of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. “What some Iranian officials already have said is that the crisis in Iraq should give them greater leverage on the nuclear matter,” said William Tobey of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in a June 19 testimony given at the House Armed Services Committee. Iran will not “kneel in submission” to the West, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif vowed on July 2, three weeks before the nuclear negotiations deadline. Two weeks after that, John Kerry said that he would be open to extending the nuclear talks with Iran again, something he had previously said was unacceptable.

Clearly it is the U.S., not Iran, that is in submission. Iran has little reason to acquiesce to American demands. Without Iran’s help, oil-rich Iraq descends into utter chaos, taking what is left of American prestige and the global economy with it.

Because of the isis crisis and America’s lack of will to fix its mess in Iraq, it is now in the astonishing position of turning for help to the terrorist-sponsoring rogue state that regards it as the Great Satan.

So expect the Iranian nuclear negotiations to go nowhere, and expect Iran to increase its control over Iraq and its government. Expect more chaos as Iran leverages its influence through radical Islamic terrorists. And expect the “king of the south” to emerge substantially empowered, awash with more oil, power and weapons than ever.