When America Leaves Iraq …

Americans and Iranians agree: the U.S. should exit Iraq. Here is what will happen when it does.

It is easy to forget how fragile civilization really is.

Sitting in a recliner, belly full, television on, the idea that this might not last hardly enters the mind. The trappings of prosperity are so far removed from the brutal, bloody cruelties of war, the savagery and chaos that have characterized so much of human history, the death-worshiping hatred that is rapidly overtaking whole swaths of the world we inhabit.

It is easy to underestimate an enemy. Clothed in comfort and complacency, it is easy to take him too lightly—his determination, his ferocity, his will, his eagerness to invite death. When such harsh concepts are so foreign, so alien, it is easy to assume his threats are mere bluster.

In the unreality created by hyper-affluence, it is easy to feel untouchable. Easy to believe that simply possessing the strongest military in history is protection enough; that losses are inconsequential; that, should there ever emerge a real danger, the wherewithal to defeat it can be quickly summoned.

These fantasies are luxuries—luxuries born of America’s unparalleled wealth and ease—luxuries that are about to be stripped from us.

America is at war, and it is losing. And it seems to be okay with that.

Though the enemy looks like a many-headed hydra, at its heart is a single nation with ambitions to hasten America’s demise, eliminate Israel, conquer Europe, and preside over a globe-girdling pan-Islamic empire. That nation is Iran.

But America is not fighting Iran—at least, not directly. Today, it is stuck in Iraq. President Bush assessed the situation: “We’re not winning—we’re not losing.” An emerging consensus believes we must get out—as quickly as would be prudent, gracefully if possible, clumsily if necessary. So, perhaps sooner, perhaps later—perhaps not under this president but, if not, then shortly after he leaves—America’s departure from Iraq is inevitable.

While the supposed wisdom in this course of action seems self-evident to many, there is a reason the White House has been so reluctant to evacuate Iraq. Set aside, for a moment, how this act would further trash America’s already battered “superpower” status and the problems this would invite from the four corners of the Earth.

In immediate terms, the day America pulls out is the day it places a crown on Iran’s head: king of the Persian Gulf.

Iran is in a remarkable position. After the U.S., it has far and away the strongest military in the region. Its influence reaches powerfully into Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Israel. It holds the sympathies of Shiite minorities—and even some Sunni majorities—in Arab states region-wide. It has nurtured alliances with global giants in the East and proven itself immune to pressure from the West. In Iraq, it has played its position in a way that reveals its ambition: It will be content with nothing less than, in the words of Dr. George Friedman, “an Iraqi satellite state.” And by all appearances, Iran is going to get what Iran wants. Especially once America leaves.

“We’re not winning—we’re not losing” is only half true when Iraq is viewed in this broader context. After five years of the world’s mightiest military waging a self-declared “war on terrorism,” the world’s premier state sponsor of terrorism is stronger than ever.

It is easy, 6,300 miles distant from Iran, to shrug at this state of affairs. But the story of how little Iran has outmaneuvered mighty America has epic implications.

Underwriting an Insurgency

As you read this article, American soldiers are being killed with Iranian weapons.

Coalition forces in Iraq have seized brand-new Iranian-made arms, including advanced armor-piercing and anti-tank munitions, from Iraqi terrorists. These weapons could not move from Iranian factories to Iraqi Shiite militias so quickly through black-market routes. “There is no way this could be done without [Iranian] government approval,” a senior U.S. official told abc News (Nov. 30, 2006; emphasis mine throughout).

True, America isn’t fighting Iran directly. But Iran is fighting America directly. With deliberate intent, Iran supplies and stokes the chaos in Iraq in order to break what the U.S. is trying to fix.

Why doesn’t the U.S. hold Iran accountable?

Let there be no doubt: Iraqi anarchy—on the scale we see today—is an Iranian project. Tehran’s inroads into Iraq, including its heavy influence over Iraqi Shiite armed groups, trace back to well before allied forces deposed Saddam Hussein in 2003. Through logistical support to Shiite militias, funding for Shiite social programs, and backing for pro-Iranian Iraqi politicians, Tehran has created a Shiite stronghold—the Saudis call it a “state within a state”—in southern Iraq. It has planted thousands of intelligence agents from its special command forces—agents whose mission is to establish Shiite death squads. With these, Iran can keep turning on the tap of violence.

From the beginning of the Iraq war, Iran has used its power and influence to punish the U.S.-backed political project whenever it appears to be settling on insufficiently pro-Iranian solutions.

In the summer of last year, for example, just as it appeared a Sunni-Shiite-Kurd political compromise might succeed, the agreement crumpled. George Friedman traced the collapse back to a sudden eruption of fighting among Shiites around Basra. After some trips to Tehran by influential Shiite Iraqis, Shiite militias attacked Sunni populations, prompting retaliation and a descent into more chaos. “From nearly having a political accommodation, the situation in Iraq fell completely apart,” Dr. Friedman wrote. “The key was Iran.” In other words, Iran made a calculated choice for chaos.

Why? Simply because, in Tehran’s eyes, the new government would not have been sufficiently subservient. “The Iranians had always wanted an Iraqi satellite state, as protection against another Iraq-Iran war,” Friedman explained. “In order to have this, the Iranians needed an overwhelmingly Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, and to have overwhelming control of the Shia” (Sept. 5, 2006). When the new Iraq government started shaping up differently, the mullahs dropped the hammer. “In other words,” Friedman wrote, “the Iranians didn’t like the deal they had been offered, they felt that they could do better, and they felt that the time had come to strike.”

As we wrote nearly three years ago, “Iran is the number-one obstacle to stability in Iraq.” Yet more and more people in the U.S. say the opposite: that Iran is the number-onekey to stability in Iraq.

Why? Again—why doesn’t the U.S. hold Iran accountable?

The answer is, the U.S. fears Iran.

Asking for Help

The serious discussion occurring at high levels—such as the recommendations of the congressionally appointed Iraq Study Group—advising the U.S. to solve Iraq by negotiating with Iran is extraordinarily revealing. At the very least, this proposal openly acknowledges Iran’s penetrating influence in the situation, if not its blame in causing the problem. It concedes the fact that Iran could stop the violence if it chose to.

Over the past few years, the White House has issued occasional muted threats to Tehran, telling it to knock off its support of violence in Iraq, but these harmless statements have gone nowhere. Even tough talk is apparently too dangerous to risk, let alone open confrontation of Iran’s mullahs. America’s silence reveals the extent of Iran’s power.

The fact is, the Islamic Republic’s penetration into Iraq has been profound enough that the mullahs can credibly threaten orchestrating a full-scale Shiite uprising that would turn Iraq—even those areas that are presently stable—into a bloody nightmare.

“Iran’s negotiating options continue to improve,” Stratfor analysts wrote on December 7. “For the United States, Tehran’s stake and influence in Iraq’s future are decisive; Iraq can no longer be resolved without Iran. Diplomacy is no longer an option—it is a necessity. The United States knows this and has already started down this path.”

The irony is painful. America went into Iraq to wage a “war on terrorism,” perhaps, in part, to gain a beachhead from which to pressure Iran. In doing so, however, it eliminated Iran’s worst enemy in the region. Tehran seized the opportunity, leveraging its influence to ensure U.S. forces would fail. Now it appears the U.S. feels it can’t succeed without asking for the mullahs’ help.

Iran couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Iran’s Goal

The idea of subcontracting Iraqi security to Iran assumes that U.S. and Iranian interests overlap. They do not. The one point of agreement is that, ultimately, both the U.S. and Iran would like to see Iraq become a stable nation. But they differ completely in what kind of state it should be.

America, though it would love to leave Iraq a West-friendly, self-sustaining democracy, at the core simply wants to eliminate terrorist threats to itself. Obviously, this goal is mitigated by the pragmatic goal of not having to fight in Iraq anymore.

Iran’s goal is precisely the opposite. It wants allies in the war against the West. In Iraq, it seeks to strengthen its base of operations, lock down its strategic holdings, and deepen its pool of resources, in order to better conduct its larger offensive.

To this end, it is positioning itself—quite masterfully—to dominate southern Iraq, if not the entire country. “This not only would give them control of the Basra oil fields,” Dr. Friedman wrote, “but also would theoretically open the road to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. From a strictly military point of view, and not including the Shiite insurgencies at all, Iran could move far down the western littoral of the Persian Gulf if American forces were absent. Put another way, there would be a possibility that the Iranians could seize control of the bulk of the region’s oil reserves” (op. cit.).

For the time being, Iran has absolutely no reason to dial down the violence in Iraq. The bloodshed is turning the American public against the American president, exhausting America’s manpower and will, and increasing the likelihood of Washington trying to strike some kind of deal.

When the time is right, however, Iran will most likely prove willing to talk with the U.S. in order to achieve its goals.

Saudi Arabia—no friend of Iran—is seized with anxiety as it watches this drama unfold. Fearing the extent of Iran’s power should the U.S. engage it diplomatically or exit the region, Saudi leaders have been sending firm warnings to Washington not to do either.

Those countries in the region not aligned with Iran have good reason to be edgy. Throughout the 1980s, Iran and Iraq locked horns in a brutal war that effectively kept both nations from posing a threat to anyone outside themselves. Once the U.S. entered the fray in Desert Storm in 1991, the balance of power began to shift toward Iran. Eliminating the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003 completely removed the primary obstacle to Iran realizing its ambition for regional supremacy. Now—Saudi Arabia says correctly—the U.S. presence, while it lasts, is the dam holding back the Iranian tide into Iraq.

And not only Iraq, but also further afield. For Iraq is simply one front in Iran’s region-wide offensive (see page 6).

Shattering Illusions

It is easy to underestimate the magnitude of this moment for the United States. The new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has described the U.S.’s war in Iraq not as a war, but as “a situation to be resolved,” one in which “You can define victory any way you want.” From the comfort of Washington, so far removed from throngs of warriors filling the streets to topple governments, from savage suicide bombings and rocket attacks, from armor-piercing Iranian-made weapons killing American soldiers, it is easy to be so relaxed.

“We are sleep-walking through the storm, as we have done in the past. We pretend it is not happening or that it is simply because of the incompetency of the current administration or of a member of that administration.” These are the farewell words of a U.S. senator who was just voted out of office in the last congressional election, Rick Santorum. “But how do those who deny this evil propose to save us from these people? By negotiating through the UN or directly with Iran? By firing Don Rumsfeld, now getting rid of John Bolton? That is going to solve the problem? These people are now going to be nice to us because we removed these people who were agitating them or causing problems? Maybe relocating our troops to Okinawa or Kuwait or some other place will get these people to simply leave us alone? Maybe if we just abandon Iraq and Afghanistan to the chaos and slaughter of Islamic fascists, their thirst for blood will be met? Or maybe it is just engaging in one-on-one discussions with Iran and North Korea and other reasonable dictators?

“No, I do not think any of those things will work. And history has proved they have not worked” (Dec. 7, 2006).

Nevertheless, to this point, Americans have had the luxury of indulging such fantasies.

That luxury is about to end. Barring a dramatic, unforeseen repentance by the U.S., the decline of American power and the rise of Iranian power—so plainly, painfully evident in today’s headlines—is destined to continue, climaxing in horrifying fashion.

This end was prophesied in the pages of the Bible millennia ago. The fact that America would possess unprecedented power, but that its pride in that power would be broken—the fact that American influence in the Middle East and around the world would be eclipsed—the fact that Iran, a radical, aggressive power, would in fact emerge as king of the Persian Gulf—the fact that Iraq would succumb to Iran’s power and align with it—even the end that awaits this alliance—all these events were prophesied long in advance. These prophecies are thoroughly explained in our booklets The United States and Britain in Prophecy and The King of the South, both of which are yours free upon request.

The great God provided these prophecies—which the Trumpet has been warning readers about for over 12 years; some of them, Herbert W. Armstrong warned about over 50 years before that—as a means of shaking people from their fantasies—and helping us see reality!

These prophecies reveal in shocking detail that our present prosperity and ease will not last much longer. The realities of human savagery and chaos are about to shatter our illusions and engulf us.

These prophecies vividly remind us how fragile our present civilization really is. And they also show God’s penetrating purpose in allowing these nightmares to occur, and reveal—thank God—the hope of a better civilization to come!