While the world focuses on the war between Israel and Hamas, another underreported war is playing out at the opposite corner of the Middle East. This conflict is not a local skirmish but one between world powers. It involves the United States and Iran, and the battleground is Iraq.
Since Iran’s Hamas proxies tortured, raped, captured and murdered Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, 2023, Iran has been encouraging its other terrorist proxies to attack Israel and the West. Hezbollah has skirmished with Israel Defense Forces at the Lebanese border. Houthis in Yemen have disrupted Israel-bound trade in the Red Sea (article, page 2). And Iran has also triggered its Iraqi proxy, the Popular Mobilization Forces (pmf) against the U.S. The pmf and its affiliates have either claimed or been implicated in more than 100 attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq and neighboring Syria. The United States has made several retaliatory strikes against them and against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria.
The jihadist groups comprising the pmf were originally rebel organizations fighting the government. But in 2014, with the Islamic State successfully overwhelming both government and Shiite “infidels,” the Iraqi government absorbed the pmf into its own security forces. The pmf officially became a branch of the country’s armed forces in 2016. It is part of what Iran calls its “axis of resistance,” a mostly Islamist association of terrorist groups and terrorist states intent on pushing the U.S. out of the Middle East. Estimates vary as to the pmf’s size, but it commands at least 200,000 soldiers.
In November 2023, Iran demonstrated its control over the pmf and Islamic terrorism in general. Hamas temporarily suspended hostilities with Israel, and other Iranian proxies (like Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another group in Gaza) suspended their attacks as well. The pmf stopped striking U.S. targets from November 24 to December 1—this despite the pmf not being directly involved in fighting against Israel, and the U.S. not being a party to the ceasefire.
That these members of the Iraqi military are so obviously fighting for Iran against the U.S. shows how far Iraq has gone to being subservient to Iran. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. In almost every facet of society—government, politics, economics, the military—Iraq has fallen to Iran, and in a remarkably short period of time.
Much has changed since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. How did the site of one of America’s largest military operations in recent history become the property of Iran, one of America’s greatest enemies and formerly one of the greatest enemies of Iraq itself?
Eliminating an Enemy of Iran
For decades, Iraq was a major regional power and a rival to Iran. After radical Islamists took over Iran in 1979, Iraq launched a war to destroy this new regime. The fighting lasted from 1980 to 1988. Iran somewhat surprisingly fended off Hussein’s invasion, but in 1991, he still had 1 million troops, the world’s fourth-largest military. That year Iraq invaded Kuwait, prompting an American response and the first Gulf War. Hussein also launched ballistic missiles at Israel and was a major sponsor of worldwide terrorism, including certain Palestinian terror groups. Iraq even had a nuclear weapons program. If one was asked in the 1980s or 1990s who the “king” of Middle Eastern terrorism was, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq would have been the obvious choice.
Hussein remained in power after the first Gulf War. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with the United States looking to snuff out Middle Eastern terrorism, Iraq was a logical target—especially after reports that it may still have weapons of mass destruction. In ferocity described as “shock and awe,” the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq with roughly 300,000 troops from neighboring Kuwait on March 20, 2003. They were supported by roughly 70,000 troops from the Peshmerga, a Kurdish militia in Iraq’s north. About a month later, the invasion was over.
One would think America’s new hegemony in the region would have kept Iran contained. The U.S. had at its peak over 160,000 soldiers stationed to Iran’s west in Iraq. There were 100,000 U.S. soldiers on Iran’s eastern flank in Afghanistan. The U.S. had (and still has) a sizable naval presence in the Persian Gulf to Iran’s south, with naval bases in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. And to this day, America stations nuclear weapons in Turkey, Iran’s northwestern neighbor.
The war officially ended with Barack Obama’s pullout of troops in 2011. But when the Islamic State rampaged across Iraq in 2014, the U.S. formed another international coalition and reentered Iraq and Syria to defeat it. The U.S. still has about 2,500 soldiers stationed in Iraq.
On paper, U.S. objectives “to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger,” as George W. Bush said in a March 2003 speech, seemed fulfilled. Iraq has a parliamentary democracy with somewhat stronger democratic institutions than most of the Arab world and, after the Islamic State was defeated, much less internal conflict than neighbors in the greater Middle East such as Armenia, Gaza, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
And yet, Iraq’s army is taking orders from Iran to attack the U.S.
Paper vs. Reality
Since 2011, Iraq has relied on Iran for about 40 percent of its energy needs. Its government has stated a desire for more energy independence, but even the United States gives Iraq sanctions waivers to purchase Iranian oil worth billions of dollars just to keep Iraq’s society and economy from falling apart.
Iran also appears popular with many Iraqis. Iraq held elections for provincial councils on Dec. 18, 2023, the first time since 2013. At the time of this writing, preliminary results suggest the Shia Coordination Framework, Iran’s sponsored bloc, won 101 out of 285 seats, making them the election’s biggest winners. With a government as dysfunctional as Iraq’s, cheating was likely involved. Voter turnout was roughly 41 percent. Regardless, Iran’s candidates enjoy the support of enough of Iraq’s 43.5 million people when the rest of the voter roll doesn’t care enough to try to stop them.
Iran is literally responsible for getting the current prime minister into power. The pmf helped Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani win the prime ministership. His subsequent recruitment efforts have swelled pmf ranks to the point that it now equates to about half of Iraq’s military. Iran’s presence keeps its candidates in power, and those candidates, once in office, ensure that Iran’s influence continues to grow.
On paper, Iraq is an independent nation. But in reality, it has fallen to Iran.
A Bold Bible-Based Forecast
In the December 1994 issue, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote an article titled “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” At that time, Saddam Hussein still ruled. Iraq was the biggest bully in the Middle East. Iran, in contrast, was an isolated pariah state with a new regime and relatively little regional or global power.
Mr. Flurry wrote another article soon after the 2003 U.S. invasion with the same title. Hussein was on the way out, and the U.S. was becoming the main power player in the country. It would remain so for years afterward.
Both in 1994 and 2003, the idea that Iraq would become subservient to Iran seemed unlikely. Yet this is exactly what has happened.
“Saddam Hussein was the only leader that Iran feared,” Mr. Flurry wrote in his 2003 article. “Now the U.S. has taken him out of the way. But does America have the will or strength to guard the spoils of war? Prophecy states that it does not. Have we now cleared the way for Shiite Iran to rule over Shiite Iraq?”
Daniel 11:40 prophesies of two power blocs expected to clash in the end time: a “king of the north” and a “king of the south.” Biblical and secular history show the king of the north to be a united group of European nations. For decades, Mr. Flurry has identified the king of the south as a radical Islamist bloc led by Iran. (For more information, request a free copy of his booklet The King of the South.)
Verses 42-43 show Iran will not be alone in its exploits. The Trumpet expects countries like Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia to fall under Iran’s sway.
But Europe won’t be alone, either. A related prophecy in Psalm 83 spells out several Middle Eastern countries that will align with Europe. Verses 6-7 list a conglomerate of peoples whom Mr. Flurry identifies in The King of the South as the ancestors of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
The Psalm 83 alliance will fully form only after Europe neutralizes the Iranian threat. Among all the other Arab states mentioned, Iraq is conspicuously absent. Mr. Flurry asks in The King of the South: “Is this because [Iraq and Iran’s other allies] by this point have already been defeated or are controlled by the king of the north?”
Iraq could have taken many other directions since 1994. It could have remained under the totalitarian fist of Saddam Hussein or a handpicked successor. The United States could have stayed in Iraq long term, as it has in South Korea or Western Europe. Iraq’s oil wealth could have transformed it into a prosperous country that wouldn’t need or want Iran.
Instead, Iraq has fallen to Iran, just as Mr. Flurry predicted nearly 30 years ago.
The spread of jihadism is not good news. But Iraq’s fall to Iran does give a glimmer of hope. The same Bible that prophesied of Iraq’s downfall also shows the end result of the Daniel 11:40 clash. Daniel 12:1-3 show this course of events concludes with the return of the Messiah to put an end to war, terrorism and all other social ills. This ultimate “regime change” promises Iraqis and the whole world the real freedom so long denied to them. And it is coming soon.