Rise of the New Persian Empire
Under the magnanimous rule of Cyrus the Great, the Persian Empire extended from the foothills of the Himalayas to the banks of the Nile River. It was a vast conglomeration of peoples, creeds, religions and languages tied together in large part by the governing policies of King Cyrus. Cyrus believed that the empire would remain stable if its subjects were allowed to keep their own customs while still paying homage to Persia.
Today, Iran—the progeny of that dynasty—is once more vying to carve out an empire. But this kingdom is being forged and expanded in ways that bear little similarity to ancient Persia. The rising empire relies on fear, extortion, intimidation and bloodshed—conversion by the sword. The advancement of its banner across the Middle East threatens the permanency of those nations that lie in the warpath, and also threatens to plunge the international community into deeper conflict.
Regional turmoil has facilitated Iran’s rapid expansion, and the subsequent threat, across the Middle East. Making matters worse, throughout Iran’s rise America—the nation best suited to check it—has maintained an attitude of indifference at best, and tacit support at worst. The irony is that if Iran’s empire continues, the United States and its allies could suffer catastrophic attacks by Iran’s hand.
As such, it is vital to see where Iran’s empire is expanding, the threat it poses internationally, and how the ramifications tie directly into Persia’s future role in the coming world order.
As Iran’s next-door neighbor, Iraq plays a pivotal role in Iran’s regional ambitions to establish a “Shia crescent” across the Mideast. Iran has slowly started pulling strings within Iraq, gradually establishing itself as the master puppeteer. The installment of pro-Iranian officials in Iraq’s government has been one of the key ways Iran has gained influence. The strings tying former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to his Shiite brothers in Tehran were strung over the course of years. Inevitably this led to Maliki dancing to Iran’s tune, allowing pro-Shiite policies to be foisted on Iraq. Calls of unfair and biased governing emanated from Iraq’s Sunni minority. Those words led to action as violence surged across the Sunni-Shia rift.
Then came the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. Suddenly there was a power vacuum, a divided country, and a weakened government—fertile ground for extremism. Enter the Islamic State.
The fall of northern Iraq to Islamic State terrorists has provided Iran with the perfect opportunity. Under the guise of peacekeeper and concerned neighbor, Iran has used the battle with the Islamic State to gain even more influence and popularity in Iraq.
Iran now boasts unprecedented military involvement in the nation. It conducts airstrikes and trains Iraqi security forces. The foreign wing of its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, fights alongside Iraqi troops. Top Iranian generals now lead ground forces against the oncoming Islamic State.
And the side benefit of this is the fact that Iran’s actions are condoned and even aided by the United States. Washington’s reluctance to become reengaged in the Middle East means Iran’s involvement gets a free pass and a check of approval. At the outset of Iran’s airstrikes, U.S. officials said that they would monitor Iran’s progress, but as Iran’s remarkable involvement continues, opposition from Washington remains nonexistent.
While the White House banks on Iran being a partner in the fight against the Islamic State, it ignores the reasons why Iraq is in chaos today. It was Iran that nurtured the environment for radicals to flourish—it even funded Islamic State in its infancy. It created the current environment for a purpose—that it might get more involved and thereby strengthen the Iranian empire.
To Iraq’s west lies the next link in Iran’s “Shia crescent.” The civil war in Syria long ago morphed into a proxy war between the regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran. And Iran is winning that war.
Much like in Iraq, the Syrian regime has been propped by the finances, weapons and guidance from Iran. Without Tehran’s military aid, Bashar Assad would have fallen to the rebel troops long ago. But cashed up and rearmed Assad forces have successfully beaten back their opponents.
Today Assad lives in pseudo-coexistence with the Islamic State while his main opposition flails in disarray as it attempts to battle both the Islamic State and Assad. The longer this status quo is maintained, the more likely the U.S. will have to look to Iranian-backed Assad as the only viable opponent to the Islamic State in Syria. This is another example of how Iran’s empirical goals are flipping from criticized to condoned by the United States.
Iran’s latest conquest lies on the southern end of the Arabic Peninsula. Yemen stands as the perfect example of how Iran has used the war against terror to expand its empire and simultaneously gain the support of its former enemy, the United States.
Until September last year, Yemen was divided into two key power blocs. One was the U.S.-backed government; the other was the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (aqap). The latter of the two has withstood America’s drone war for years. Despite that, Washington referred to Yemen as the pin-up example of America’s success in the war on terror. But that all changed in September when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels stormed the capital. In late January, they took the presidential palace and demanded more control of the government. A week later the government resigned.
Suddenly the U.S. finds itself in a catch-22. Does it support the radicals it has been bombing with airstrikes for years? Or does it continue the war on al Qaeda, thereby supporting the Iranian-backed Shiite radicals who just overthrew the government? A strike that occurred only days after the Houthi takeover indicates the latter.
But the implications of the Houthis—a thinly veiled arm of Iran—taking control of the nation should ring alarm bells for anyone opposed to Iran’s burgeoning new empire. Yemen offers Iran immense leverage over other world powers. It all has to do with sea gates. Pre-Yemen, Iran already controlled the Strait of Hormuz, through which flows 40 percent of the world’s oil. Tehran has historically threatened to shut the strait down, sending oil prices skyrocketing and weak economies skydiving. Now Iran has control of the Bab el-Mandeb too—the vital sea gate on the southern end of the Red Sea.
Almost all seaborne trade between Europe and Asia passes through the Bab el-Mandeb. It sees the flow of 3 million barrels of oil per day. The Jerusalem Post compared the seizure of Yemen to Iran gaining a nuclear weapon. Suddenly the Iranian empire has an immensely powerful way of pushing back at any Western nation that tries to slap it with more sanctions or strike at its nuclear program.
While this emerging empire is still new, its capability to reshape international geopolitics now far outweighs any such power held by the ancient Persian Empire.
This new empire is also extending its borders far beyond that of the kingdom under Cyrus. Iran’s ambitions go further than the banks of the Nile. Beyond the limits of the ancient Persian kingdom lies Libya. Today Iran’s influence is being felt here too.
Following the ouster of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya was effectively turned over to radicals. Benghazi, the city that once accommodated the U.S. embassy, is now known as the city of snipers. Terrorists and militia groups—many of whom tote Iranian-made weapons—rule Libya’s streets. But why arm them? What interest does Iran have with Libya?
In the April 2011 Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry explained, “All you need to do is get a good map of the Middle East, with the emphasis on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. … They are the two seas that comprise the most important trade rout in the world. … If Iran gets control of that trade route, it could create enormous damage and chaos in America and Europe almost overnight.” Control or influence in Libya would grant Iran access to 1,100 miles of Mediterranean coastline—posing a significant danger to Europe and any shipping through the crucial seaway.
While unrest across the Middle East gives Iran opportunities to take these vital regions, there are still areas where U.S. power remains a threat to the empire. Bahrain is one example. Situated midway down the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is the home of America’s 5th Fleet. This naval stronghold is vital to America’s presence in the gulf. The 5th Fleet patrols the gulf, as well as the Strait of Hormuz, and relies on Bahrain as a place to refresh, restock and resupply. The 5th Fleet is comprised of a carrier strike group, an amphibious force, a mining demolition force, logistics, subs, and a variety of other military task groups. Needless to say, it would pose a significant threat to Iran should relations turn sour. The solution? Take away the base of operations.
Bahrain has experienced Iranian-fueled infighting since the “Arab Spring” of 2011.The ruling royal family in Bahrain is Sunni, while the majority of the population is Shiite. Violent Shiite protests have been quelled thanks to a military attachment send over from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis don’t want Iran gaining control of Bahrain.
This tiny nation can dually serve Iran’s purposes. If taken by Iran, it could lead to the ouster of the 5th Fleet—giving more control of the Persian Gulf to Iran—and it could also pose a significant threat to Iran’s lone counterweight, Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis are very much aware of the encircling Iranians. While Iran bolsters support for its Shiite allies, the Saudis have been fighting back with Sunni support. No doubt the Saudis thought they would be backed up by a stout U.S. presence in the battle against Iranian expansion. The truth couldn’t be more contrary. With Washington acquiescing to every Iranian push in hopes of salvaging a nuclear deal, the Saudis have had to act alone. The one asset they control is oil. Iran needs oil prices at $130 per barrel to balance its budget. The Saudis have made sure the price sits closer to $50. But with the U.S. relieving sanctions and releasing frozen cash to Tehran, the drop in oil prices won’t stop the growth of the empire.
The Saudis are undoubtedly unsettled by the recent developments in Yemen. The takeover places Saudi Arabia in a Persian pincer. If Iran is to take unchallenged control of the Middle East—as is its aim—Saudi Arabia must be confronted. While well equipped, the Saudi Army has rarely had to prove its mettle in conflict. Iranian forces on the other hand are both well armed and well trained. If conflict looms, the Saudis will need reliable allies. The Trumpet has forecast such an alliance for decades. Watch the Key of David episode “The Psalm 83 Prophecy” for more on this exciting Bible prophecy.
Beyond Syria lies the nation of Lebanon—another extension of Iran. Southern Lebanon is the home of Iran’s most effective terrorist group, Hezbollah. Funded, trained and armed by Iran, Hezbollah has been used to carry out attacks around the globe, most recently in Syria and northern Israel. The terrorists provide a key ally for Bashar Assad and are Iran’s closest and most effective way of attacking Israel.
Relying almost entirely on Iran for its existence, Hezbollah plays a crucial role in the Iranian empire. Its existence ensures Iran has immediate access to Syria and northern Israel. It is the latter of these two that Iran will undoubtedly work to exploit next.
Standing in the empire’s way is the small sliver of democracy known as Israel. With its back to the Mediterranean, Israel survives in defiance of Iran’s regional aspirations. The diatribe of anti-Semitism that flows from Iran on a constant basis is a clear sign of what the Persian empire intends for this impediment. It is a far cry from the view of the leader of ancient Persia who eventually allowed the captured Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem.
Iran harasses Israel through its allies in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and southern Lebanon. On numerous occasions Iran has been caught in the act of attempting to smuggle weapons to Israel’s enemies.
Aside from posing a military threat, Israel holds one thing that Iran, and all Muslims, have long desired: Jerusalem.
The city of peace has been fought over for centuries and today is no different. Its significance and ties to the Iranian empire cannot be overstated. In fact, Bible prophecy ties the fall of one to the rise of the other. Our free booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy can help explain to you the role Jerusalem will play in Bible prophecy. It will be a catalyst that brings about a massive confrontation between the king of the north (expounded in our booklet Germany and the Holy Roman Empire) and the king of the south.
A New Empire to Come
This biblical king of the south is the same personality outlined in this article: the new Iranian empire. Few will take the Bible at its word, but when you compare the prophesied rise of this king of the south in Daniel 11 to the advancement of Iranian interests in the Middle East and North Africa, the rise is undeniable. For decades the Trumpet has shed light on this rising king, and what that rise portends for the world as a whole. The king of the south is rising at a time when man’s way of life culminates in the most terrible events in history.
But those days will be short. Ultimately they are the harbinger to the most spectacular prophecies in history. The terrible times ahead will usher in the return of Jesus Christ, who will establish a new empire, bringing peace to the entire world. As sure as Iran’s brief rise is prophesied, so too is the everlasting Kingdom of God beyond.
Pay close attention to Iran. To better understand its prophesied expansion, request a copy of our free booklet The King of the South.