Iran: Filling the Power Void

Everywhere troops withdraw in the Middle East, Iran moves in.

JERUSALEM—During dinner with a group of international reporters and Israelis at the Golan Heights on Monday, the topic of conversation turned to Israel’s security. “Where is the most dangerous place in Israel right now?” one of the journalists asked a local.

“Jerusalem,” he responded, without hesitation.

With three major attacks this year carried out by East Jerusalem residents, many Israelis are wondering what to do with their capital city. At the prime minister’s weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said that of the 30 Israelis who have died in attacks this year, half the casualties have been instigated by East Jerusalem Arabs.

During the same cabinet meeting, Vice Premier Haim Ramon argued against demolishing the homes of terrorists, saying that what Israel needed to do is rid itself entirely of East Jerusalem. “Whoever thinks the problem of Jerusalem and terror are specific, and that destroying one house or another will help, is burying his head in the sand. The main question is, does the government want Jebl Mukaber or Sur Bahir as part of Israel or not,” Ramon said, referring to the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of two terrorists. “It is in Israel’s interest to rid itself of these neighborhoods and villages, that were never Jerusalem, and that endanger the Jewish and Zionist nature of the city,” he said.

On Tuesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres joined the list of high-profile Israelis who see the division of Jerusalem as inevitable. According to Arutz Sheva, “Peres said that there must be a separation between the Arabs of Jerusalem and the Jews, and that it must be in the form of a wall.”

Even Prime Minister Olmert hinted at possibly dividing Jerusalem in a speech given to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. “Whoever thinks it’s possible to live with 270,000 Arabs in Jerusalem must take into account that there will be more bulldozers, more trucks and the carrying out of [terror] attacks,” Olmert said.

But if the solution to Israel’s security concern in Jerusalem is for Israel to move out, the question that follows is who will move in? “If we divide Jerusalem,” one independent analyst told me this past week, “the bulldozer attacks may stop, but the Kassams will start.”

In other words, Iran sends its Gaza client in—just as it did when Israel pulled out of Gaza—and then terrorism intensifies.

Crisis in Lebanon

During our trip to Israel’s northern border this week, a retired Israeli colonel briefed us on the situation in Lebanon. He said that in light of the turmoil in Lebanon over the past three years, some Israeli strategists were actually arguing that Israel was better off when Syria occupied the country!

Even when the world’s second-leading state sponsor of terror moves out, Iran manages to move in and make matters worse. Syria pulled out in 2005 and Iran ordered its Lebanese client Hezbollah to attack Israel in 2006. And as a result of the kudos Hezbollah gained throughout the Arab world in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War, Tehran’s power and influence in Lebanon has strengthened.

In December 2006, a few months after its war with Israel, two Hezbollah ministers resigned from their posts in the Lebanese government, triggering a rolling campaign of opposition-led civil disobedience. With Hezbollah taking to the streets of Beirut in early 2007, vowing to bring down the government and to form a new coalition, Lebanon teetered on the brink of civil war. This civil strife continued throughout 2007.

By early 2008, many analysts misjudged Hezbollah’s power, believing its civil disobedience campaign was beginning to wane. Based on this assumption, the Western-backed March 14 government introduced two measures intended to limit Hezbollah’s autonomy as an independent military state within a state.

First, the government fired the head of security at Beirut’s international airport—a man with close ties to Hezbollah and who turned a blind eye to weapons being smuggled into the country. Secondly, it attempted to outlaw Hezbollah’s independent, Iranian-supplied telecommunications network.

These measures infuriated Hezbollah’s terror masters in Tehran, who immediately ordered their Lebanese clients to take to the streets with a brutal show of force. Within days of the government’s “crackdown,” Hezbollah gunmen had taken control of Sunni neighborhoods in west Beirut in a bloody coup that resulted in at least 67 deaths.

At a settlement negotiated in Doha, Qatar, in May, Iran demanded that Hezbollah rejoin the government and that it be given the sufficient number of ministers needed to veto all government decisions.

The upshot? In the absence of an Israeli presence—and Syrian troops—Iran has successfully consolidated its hold on Lebanon.

Israel’s withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon in May 2000 allowed both Syria and Iran to step up their involvement in the country. Though Syrian troops withdrew in April 2005, Iran only increased its direct involvement. And now, its Lebanese terrorist client has a stranglehold on the government.

The Timetable for Iraq

What, then, will happen when foreign troops depart another Middle Eastern nation—Iraq?

This is what American policy-makers are currently debating in relation to the long-term security and stability of that country. Several weeks ago, after criticizing Sen. Barack Obama’s 16-month timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, John McCain suggested that Obama would change his mind after being briefed by commanding officers in Iraq.

But as Obama ended his world tour last weekend, he told Fox News that the trip actually helped reinforce his foreign-policy views. “There was a lot of confirmation of my strategies—that we need to get more troops into Afghanistan, and that the Iraqis are willing to take more responsibility,” Obama said.

It now appears that John McCain might be the one who is changing his views. Last Friday, the Republican presidential hopeful told cnn that Obama’s 16-month troop withdrawal plan was “a pretty good timetable,” though he qualified the comment by saying the plan should be based on the facts on the ground.

Earlier this year, McCain’s campaign was hammered by Obama’s people for saying he would keep U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years, if necessary. Since then, McCain has said he favors withdrawing most of the troops by 2013. A week ago, while in Kennebunkport, Maine, with George Bush Sr., McCain mentioned the end of 2010 as a possible point of return for American forces.

Now, 16 months is looking “pretty good.”

Even President Bush is talking about a “general time horizon” for withdrawing troops, which is an additional sign that Obama’s strategy of defeat may be gaining the upper hand in the political debate. “There’s no doubt, particularly as Bush has adopted policies in the direction of Obama, that that gives Obama bragging rights,” former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton told the New York Times. Obama told the Associated Press that his campaign is “pleased to see that there has been some convergence around proposals that we’ve been making for a year and a half.”

At the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick says any residual differences there were between the policies of Obama and the Bush administration have disappeared over the last month:

While Bush and his surrogates have been quick to make a distinction between his “time horizon” and Obama’s “timeline” for withdrawal, it is undeniable that by introducing a “time horizon” for withdrawal he has made it more difficult to argue against Obama’s planned withdrawal “timeline.”

Essentially, this means that whoever the next president of the United States is, we can expect to see a fairly rapid drawdown of troops from Iraq. Whenever the evacuation happens—and it increasingly looks like it will take place sooner rather than later—it will be seen throughout the region as a triumph for Islamic extremism. And Iran, as we have often said, will consolidate its influence over Iraq.

Filling the Power Void

Viewed in isolation, each of Tehran’s power moves may not seem too threatening. But add together its actions through Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon—and what it is currently in the process of consolidating: control of the West Bank and Iraq—and you have an imperialistic power that is bent on dominating the Middle East.

Reza Hossein Borr, writing for Global Politician, added all Iran’s moves together and concluded (emphasis mine):

The shift of power to Hezbollah in Lebanon consolidated the Persian Empire in the Middle East. … [B]y plotting, clandestine agreements, smart political maneuvering and military strategies, the Persians have been able to reintroduce their empire again …. First it was Iraq which was the major barrier towards the advancement of Persians in the Middle East. The United States of America removed that formidable barrier for them and paved their way for [their] further march [into] the heart of Arabs lands. … The Shia crescent has been realized. …The hidden agenda is always more important than the open agenda which is open for discussion …. The Hezbollah of Lebanon, like the Mahdi Army of Iraq and Hamas of Palestine, always had hidden agendas that were not visible until they materialized militarily [and on the] political scene. …The Hezbollah is moving openly towards becoming the most important and the most powerful military and political group in Lebanon. … They changed the balance of power in Lebanon completely. Friends and foes know that. It is the balance of power that decides the fate of countries and not negotiations or moral principles. Negotiations only consolidate the military victories as the Doha agreement officially admitted the victory of Hezbollah and submitted to its demands. …The Arab leaders … know that they have lost Lebanon to Iran as they … lost Iraq to Iran. They know that the Persian Empire has been consolidated. From Afghanistan to Lebanon, this is the Persian Empire. They know that there will be a next one to fall in the lap of the Persian Empire. Who will that be?

Iran could have been stopped dead in its tracks anywhere along the way of its continuing power projection—if another power had the will to confront it. Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has written, “Weakness sowed the seeds of World Warii. Hitler could have been stopped easily when he marched into the Rhineland. You can’t negotiate evil away” (Daniel Unlocks Revelation).

America and Israel’s approach to Iran and its clients has been simply that: negotiate the evil away. This broken national will is actually a curse on these nations from God because of their disobedience to Him (see Leviticus 26:19; also our articles “A Nation of Cowards?” and “Israel’s ‘Will to Withdraw’” by Gerald Flurry).

As a result, Iran’s onward march will continue until a power takes a different approach: confrontation. Our booklet The King of the South outlines who that power is prophesied to be.