Within five months of assuming office, United States President Barack Obama articulated his administration’s goal to radically transform America’s approach to the Middle East. On June 4, 2009, he delivered his keynote foreign-policy speech at Cairo University titled “A New Beginning.”
This speech did give the Middle East a new beginning—but not in the way some would think.
President Obama worked hard to court Iran, and in perhaps his most significant statement, he declared: “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.”
This proclamation quickly rippled throughout the region. It appeared to be a go-ahead for Iran—far more than any other country—to militarize and nuclearize. And it also appeared to be consent for the rest of the Middle East to do the same.
The Middle East is the most unstable region in the world, and it is getting worse, even as you read this. It is on a path toward chaos that will spread far beyond that region.
The reality is, this downward spiral is being accelerated by America’s foreign policy—specifically, America’s extraordinary reversal of its foreign policy toward its long-time enemy, Iran.
Iran’s Nuclear Program
The United States has been negotiating with Iran presumably to prevent it from holding nuclear weapons. President Obama called these negotiations a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” and “our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.”
But the nature of the current Iranian regime makes it impossible for these talks to succeed. In fact, every effort the U.S. expends on them only empowers Iran further.
Consider, for example, the Pentagon’s delay in releasing its “Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report on Military Power of Iran.” This report was due to be presented before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee in January but was deferred until early June. Analysts said the delay was part of the Obama administration’s appeasement of Tehran during the negotiations.
The report noted, “Although Iran has paused progress in some areas of its nuclear program and fulfilled its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, it continues to develop technological capabilities that also could be applicable to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missile development.”
According to security experts, the long-range missile technology that Iran is building only makes sense economically, politically and militarily if Iran harbors ambition to become a nuclear weapons power. Dr. David Cooper, chairman of the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, said that such technology “turns out to be a remarkably accurate litmus test about any state’s nuclear intentions.”
Yet the issue of Iran’s ballistic missiles is currently off the nuclear negotiations table. It would be “stupid and idiotic,” according to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to include it in talks or to demand that Iran curb its missile program. Khamenei then vowed to mass-produce even more ballistic missiles.
In his State of the Union address this past January, President Obama assured the world, “Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.” The reality though is that under the Obama administration’s watch, Iran actually increased its nuclear fuel stockpiles by about 20 percent in the 18 months of negotiations, as a May 29 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea) attested.
Iran the Incorrigible
In an April 5 New York Times interview, President Obama said, “[I]t’s simply not the case” that Iran is undeterrable. This mind-set is part of the logic behind negotiating with Iran in the first place.
But in a National Public Radio interview the next day, the president said that to demand that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state before permitting it to have nuclear capacity is “really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment” (emphasis added throughout). He added, “We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing.”
How true! We cannot bank on Iran’s nature changing. We cannot bank on Iran changing its natural tendency to lie about its nuclear program; its virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic nature; its age-long, deep-seated support and sponsorship of terrorism; and its desire to dominate the Middle East. But this truth is not reason to continue negotiations—it is precisely why negotiations will fail.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (odni)—the principal administrator of the 17-member U.S. Intelligence Community, which includes the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation—has long said that Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah posed terrorism threats to the U.S. However, in its annual “Statement for the Record Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” report, released February 26, the odnipraised Iran for fighting against the Islamic State and aiding the Iraqi military. It then removed Iran and its Lebanese terrorist proxy Hezbollah from its list of “global terrorism” threats. Hezbollah, a well-known terrorist entity, was mentioned only as a victim of the Islamic State and al Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front.
Yet the odni also said in its report, “We also continue to assess that Iran does not face any insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon, making Iran’s political will the central issue.”
Doesn’t Iran’s size, power, history and ambition for nuclear weapons make it more menacing than the Islamic State?
Israeli think tank Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said that the weakening of Iran’s threat assessment “results from a combination of diplomatic interests (the United States’ talks with Iran about a nuclear deal) with the idea that Iran could assist in the battle against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and maybe even in the battle against jihadist terrorism in other countries.”
Council of Foreign Relations member Max Abrahms made a similar observation: “I think that we are looking at a quid pro quo, where Iran helps us with counterterrorism and we facilitate their nuclear ambitions and cut down on our labeling of them as terrorists.” He added, “The world has changed. The Sunni threat has gotten worse, the Islamic State is a greater danger than al Qaeda ever was, and the Iranians have really come up big in terms of helping us out in combating the Islamic State.”
Since 1984, the U.S. State Department has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. But in President Obama’s 2009 Cairo address—in which Iran was the primary focus—he did not even mention the word terrorism. It’s becoming clearer why.
Using the need to combat ruthless terrorist groups like the Islamic State as a pretext, the United States has given Iran a free pass to try to defend Iraq. Now, the nation that was formerly Iran’s greatest enemy in the region is just short of a vassal state of Iran, largely thanks to the United States.
Quds Force Commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani is powerfully symbolic of that influence. Ayatollah Khamenei called him a “living martyr.” Iraqi Member of Parliament Mahmoud Othman observed that Suleimani “walks around Iraq from the north to the south of the country as if he is the country’s real leader.” In addition to the Quds Forces, Suleimani commands the various Shiite militia groups fighting the Islamic State and other Sunni insurgents in Iraq.
One of those groups Suleimani oversees is the Badr Brigade. Iran created it in 1982 to challenge Saddam Hussein. Today, that militia commands sections of the Iraqi Army. When cbs News’s Holly Williams asked how it is that the Badr Brigade could have such power, the Iraqi Army’s 20th Battalion commander, Gen. Ali al-Wazir, said that that power was granted by Iraq’s prime minister, and “everybody knows it.”
In Iraq, Iran has gained access and influence over some of the largest oil fields in the world, as we foretold and explained in our June 2003 cover story, “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?”
Yemen has already fallen to Iranian-sponsored Houthi militants. In February, the rebels overthrew the pro-American Yemeni government in Sanaa.
On January 29, the Wall Street Journal revealed that officials from the Obama administration had approached Houthi commanders and offered to help them hasten their transition to power after taking over the capital.
It was around that time, as Commentary’s Noah Rothman reported May 26, that the U.S. essentially looked the other way while at least four Iranian cargo ships hauled a combined total of over 15,000 metric tons of arms to the Houthi rebels.
In Yemen, and under the United States’ watch, Iran gained a strategic region that can give it control of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. That translates to controlling nearly 10 percent of global seaborne oil supplies.
All this is occurring in spite of economic sanctions against Iran. How much more will Iran accomplish once the Obama administration removes those sanctions, and billions of dollars flood into the country? This economic relief is due to come in spite of Iran’s regular violations of some of those international sanctions and the Obama administration’s awareness of those violations, as a United Nations report on June 9 revealed. The report said that “some member states” made a political decision not to publicize Iran’s violations. And why? To “avoid a possible negative impact on ongoing [nuclear] negotiations.”
The U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would have withheld sanctions relief for Iran until it relinquished its support for terrorism. Yet White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged that “even while these sanctions have been in place, we have not seen Iran significantly scale back their support for terrorism or their destabilization activities in the region.”
The United States may or may not fully recognize the impact of its words and actions, but the nations in the Middle East certainly do.
In looking at what has transpired since President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, it is clear that the seismic shift in U.S. foreign policy it represented has helped set the Arab world ablaze.
Eighteen months after that speech, in December 2010, the Arab Spring began. By February 2012, governments had toppled in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. Uprisings broke out in Syria and Bahrain. Major protests erupted in Iraq, Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and even Sudan. It seemed Muslim youth were in the mood for change, and they brought about chaos and havoc upon themselves.
Now, thanks in no small part to Washington’s rapprochement with Tehran, a Middle East nuclear arms race has begun.
In fact, 12 other Middle East nations have plans to develop nuclear energy or have signed nuclear cooperation agreements. Some of those nations already have a history of harboring terrorism themselves. These nations started actively pursuing their nuclear goals after 2005, when it became known Iran had made advances in enriching uranium. In April 2009, the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia expressed to the world, “If [the Iranians] get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.”
The fears driving these efforts increased all the more after the Cairo speech of 2009. Whereas before, most Arab nations believed America would never let Iran acquire the bomb, the Cairo speech changed that view. The nuclear negotiations have confirmed those fears.
In March, Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea. Reports in May revealed that the Saudis negotiated nuclear arms deals with Pakistan. Observers believe that Saudi Arabia funded half of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program with the expectation that it would be easily able to buy back warheads from the Pakistanis.
“We prefer a region without nuclear weapons,” said Abdullah al-Askar, former chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Saudi Arabia’s advisory legislature. “But if Iran does it, nothing can prevent us from doing it too, not even the international community.” Ibrahim al-Marie, a retired Saudi colonel, said, “If Iran declares a nuclear weapon, we can’t afford to wait 30 years more for our own. [W]e should be able to declare ours within a week.”
The Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, said that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons “has changed the whole outlook in the region.” He added that “Iran’s nuclear program poses a direct threat to the entire region and constitutes a major source and incentive for nuclear proliferation across the Middle East, including Israel.”
Egypt is exploring nuclear deals with Russia. In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at a press conference with Egypt’s president that Russia will build Egypt’s first nuclear plant in El Dabaa, 104 miles west of Alexandria. “If final decisions are made,” said Putin, “it will mean not just building a nuclear power plant, it means the creation of the entire new atomic industry in Egypt.”
Jordan signed a deal with Russia for its first nuclear power plant in March. In April, Turkey broke ground on its first nuclear power plant.
Smaller Gulf states are also feeling compelled to keep up with the regional heavyweights out of sheer fear.
The United Arab Emirates began building a reactor back in 2012 in Abu Dhabi and has plans for another.
At a Camp David conference on May 14, President Obama reassured the Gulf states that he would “deny Iran the ability to obtain a nuclear weapon.” On May 19, Obama said that “the protection that we provide as [the Gulf states’] partner is a far greater deterrent than they could ever hope to achieve by developing their own nuclear stockpile or trying to achieve breakout capacity when it comes to nuclear weapons, and they understand that.”
His reassurances fell on deaf ears. The Gulf states are petrified of an aggressive Iran and have seen firsthand how America’s policy is encouraging Iran. Largely responding to U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East is starting to muscle up.
The Arab nations see Tehran’s growing hegemony engulfing the region and will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. As a deterrent, they want their own nukes! The arms race is on, and it’s a mad dash to beat Iran.
Six years after President Obama delivered the Cairo speech, the Middle East has indeed had a “new beginning”—a nuclearized one.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry forecast in August 2009 precisely how that speech would affect our world: “President Obama’s speech is a great turning point in this world. It is going to play a major role in terrifying prophecies of your Bible being fulfilled. It is beginning because of the broken will of America. God is going to shake this world and start by shaking America, Britain and the Jewish nation for their sins!”
Can the current arms race in the Middle East be traced back to the Cairo speech? Was it a turning point? The facts speak for themselves. In spite of what America’s president says today, when the leader of the free world gives his seal of approval for Iran to acquire the bomb, that is a turning point!
The fact is, President Obama has the means and power to shut down Iran’s nuclear program if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to because, he says, who are we to decide whether genocidal maniacs should have the bomb or not?
Has the world become a safer place as America retreats from the Middle East? Does the thought of a nuclearized Middle East make you shake? It should—and it will!
The world is still reeling from the fallout of the Arab Spring; Iran’s belligerent takeover of neighboring nations through proxies; its regional naval hegemony; the rise of the Islamic State; and now, the genesis of a nuclear arms race. President Obama’s foreign policy has made the world far more dangerous.
A nuclear Iran is not just a danger to Israel, or even Sunni Arabs. Iran is a danger to the world at large. Biblical prophecies indicate events are about to grow far worse before they become better. The Middle East is about to explode!
Bible prophecy reveals that it will eventually be a stripped-down, German-led Europe comprised of 10 nations or kings that will act swiftly to defeat Iran and radical Islam (Daniel 11:40-43).
This clash of civilizations is soon to occur, and America’s foolish foreign-policy decisions to allow the Middle East to nuclearize are leading to this event. The shaking of the nations has begun.
If we are prepared to listen to God, we will see how all these prophesied events will soon lead to the glorious return of Jesus Christ. This is the real new beginning the Middle East needs!