The Two Faces of Iran

While marketing an image of moderation to the world, Iran has willfully destroyed the possibility for peace in Israel. Why? What are its true aims? And where will its efforts end?

Israel is in chaos. The land is soaking with blood. The Palestinians are boiling with rage. The Jews are infuriating the world. It has been over a year and a half since the tiny nation had any semblance of peace, and diplomats are stumped.

The situation is a tragedy, but perhaps most tragic are the frightful lies and misconceptions being spread which fuel and compound it.

It is not as simple as is often portrayed in the American press: two sides with mutually exclusive yet equally compelling arguments. And the version of the story told in much of the rest of the world, particularly in Europe and the Mideast—that an oppressed, powerless minority of Palestinians are rising in justifiable indignation against their brutal, ultra-militarized Israeli oppressors—is far from the truth.

Common reporting on the conflict is rife with contradiction, willful ignorance of known fact, and wildly incorrect assumptions.

Why? For the incontrovertible reason that it is in the interests of many to spread those errors. The staggering fact is, the U.S.’s idea of Middle East peace—that of Israel coexisting with its neighbors, one of which would be a Palestinian state—is simply not a goal of most nations in the world!

While vain discussion on how to implement this peace ideal continues in earnest, powerful forces are at work on the highest levels of international politics designed to ensure that no peace plan succeeds!Middle East peace is being purposefully sabotaged. These forces are far too potent for the United States, as long as it lamely fumbles over wordings of agreements and contracts, to ever succeed in overcoming.

In this article, we will focus on Iran—the most powerful nation in the region and a true spoiler of Mideast peace. We will uncover Iran’s determination to doom the peace process and to hold Israel in a state of suffocating chaos until it goes under. In the process, we will see astounding evidence that Iran is far from being alone in this vile objective.

Axis of Evil

President George W. Bush was bold and brash when he slapped Iraq, Iran and North Korea with the name “axis of evil.” Bush’s branding of these countries in his January State of the Union address provoked indignation and anger worldwide. In a world of diplomatic nuance and political correctness, a world painted in shades of gray, those three little words represented everything peevish about today’s America.

The world quickly made clear that it wanted no part in a fight with any “axis of evil.” It fact, nations seem to have relished the opportunity to snub U.S. efforts to dictate a global agenda. The North Korean threat was ignored. Iraq, while becoming the apparent next major target in America’s war on terror, received no significant censure from any other country. Iran actually enjoyed an increase in diplomatic and economic stature among nations.

The “axis of evil” episode underscored how out of step America’s thinking is. It demonstrated the flip side of U.S.’s support for Israel: Not only are the U.S.’s friends not the world’s friends, the U.S.’s enemies are not the world’s enemies.

Why? Something sinister is behind the widespread determination to overlook the proof behind Bush’s pronouncement—particularly with regard to Iran.

The “New” Iran

The story of Iran’s glowing status among nations today is remarkable.

Iran has always wanted to be the kingpin of the Middle East. U.S. presence in the region is viewed as exploitative and a major impediment to that goal; also, Iran’s Muslim clergy detests the infiltration of amoral American culture. The State of Israel is also unwelcome, largely for its ties with the U.S. Thus, eliminating both Israel and the U.S. from the Mideast is imperative to Iran’s objectives. Historically, however, Iran’s methods of pursuing these aims have alienated it both from Western powers and within the region.

When, in 1979, the Ayatollah Khomenei’s Islamic Revolution seized Iran, the government of the West-friendly Shah was suddenly replaced by a nightmare of chaos in the streets, assassinations and executions. Iran held America by the throat when Iranian militants took 66 Americans hostage for a tense 444 days. But rather than establishing Iran as a regional leader, Khomenei’s conduct only isolated his country and provoked the U.S. to increase its Mideast presence—precisely what he was trying to avoid.

The standard U.S. approach since that revolution was to blacklist Iran until it ceased to 1) support terrorism, 2) hinder the Mideast peace process, and 3) try to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

When Mohammed Khatami was elected as Iran’s president in 1997, however, that policy began to change. Khatami was seen as the voice of a growing moderate demographic within Iran, crying to be free of the strictures of the revolution. His landslide victory (of nearly 70 percent of the vote, with overwhelming support among women and younger voters) seemed to point to a different future for the nation.

While reforms at home have been slim and slow, Khatami has worked overtime to improve Iran’s international relations. His visit in 1999 to Italy was the first for an Iranian leader to Europe since the revolution. Since then he has visited France, Germany and Japan. The British foreign secretary visited Iran in September 2001; Britain’s exports to Iran increased 144 percent last year. Russia says it will keep improving its ties with Iran (which means it will keep supplying Iran with nuclear technology).

These cooperative efforts only intensified after Bush’s “axis of evil” comment. Khatami was warmly received in Austria and Greece this March. In April, Germany expanded trade with Iran. A German company orchestrated the first-ever foreign takeover of an Iranian company on the Tehran Stock Exchange. Belgium and the Netherlands also agreed to greater cooperation with Iran. Khatami said his nation is determined to have friendly ties with all countries. Even members of the U.S. Congress are saying they don’t see any “axis of evil” and want a better relationship with Iran.

Khatami is also stimulating more unity within the region, promoting agreements with, among others, Pakistan and India. Saudi Arabia, the wealthiest Mideast state, is cooperating with Iran on regional security and trade.

Khomenei’s Iran never received such treatment. It is a turnaround of dramatic proportions.

The Two Faces of Iran

Khatami talks a good talk. The suave new diplomacy is romancing the world and giving Iran a new legitimacy. The world seems to want to look again to Iran as a linchpin of Middle East stability, as it had been with the Shah. But this change in opinion seems less driven by actual, demonstrable trustworthiness than by assumptions about Khatami.

What are Iran’s real fruits? Talk is cheap—and sometimes misleading (Matt. 7:16-20).

After all, Iran is a theocratic republic. That means the religious leaders hold ultimate power. Under Iranian law, the Ayatollah (now Khamenei, Khomenei’s successor) can override the president on any action he wishes. The 12-member clerical Guardian Council can scrap any decision of the elected parliament. Islamic leaders head the revolutionary court, the Tehran Justice Department and the special court for the clergy.

The fruits of the conservative clergy are those of virulent condemnation of the U.S. (“Great Satan”) and Israel, stifling political control (i.e. banning liberal candidates by the hundreds from supposedly “democratic” elections), censorship (banning books and closing down errant newspapers), floggings and executions, and hugely unsuccessful domestic economic and social policy.

How can these two faces of Iran be reconciled? On the surface, it almost seems like an identity crisis—conservatives pitted against moderates.

But in truth, while these two political wings may appear from the outside to differ on domestic issues, their goal for regional dominance is one and the same. Their policy toward the U.S. and Israel is identical. Khatami’s smooth moves are actually helping the conservatives to achieve everything they ever wanted.

The progression over two decades from Khomenei to Rafsanjani and now Khatami has given the country a dramatic face-lift. But its goal of regional preeminence is unchanged. “[T]he Grand Ayatollah’s successors soon abandoned the mission of exporting revolution, supplanting it with an approach based on more conventional measures of national interest. Tehran’s path would now be more gradual, seeking to further its regional aspirations less through confrontation than accommodation with its neighbors. The shift, however, has been one of means rather than ends” (National Interest, Spring 2000; emphasis mine throughout).

This helps explain why so little has changed in Iran since Khatami’s election.

Toward the end of Khatami’s first term, there was a large degree of disappointment with his failure to implement the reforms people had expected from him. Khatami blamed his ineffectiveness on Iran’s political system: “I declare after three years as president that I don’t have sufficient powers to implement the constitution,” he said (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 1, 2000).

But not even after his reelection in an even bigger landslide last year (77 percent of the vote)—a powerful mandate from voters by any measure—has Khatami managed any significant reform. In fact, even his choices in cabinet members was conspicuously absent of any radical reformers.

There are only two possible explanations: Either Khatami is more under the thumb of the conservatives than people realize, or he is more sympathetic to their aims than people admit.

Either way, it is a deliberate lie and a sham to pretend, as Europe and other countries do, that Iran is a model of moderation, a stabilizer, a friend of peace.

Terrorism, What Terrorism?

Iran’s new, enlightened approach has been especially interesting to watch in regard to the U.S.’s war on terror.

Iran talks now as though it is in the vanguard against terrorism. Khatami sounds like he absolutely supports the U.S. ideal of eliminating terrorism worldwide. He speaks as though he shares America’s goals. He is seeking to improve ties with front-line states in the war on terror.

The world apparently is taking Iran at its word.

The terrible irony is, Iran’s definition of “terrorism” is vastly different from the U.S.’s. And not just among conservatives—even President Khatami has said, “Supporting peoples who fight for their land is not, in my opinion, terrorism” (National Interest, op. cit.). Thus, while out of one side of its mouth Iran condemns terrorism, it continues to support terror groups in Israel, Lebanon and Syria that sabotage peace and destabilize the region!

This is documented, proven fact. The evidence is available to everyone. Iran has vast links to regional terror groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. Even more condemning, American and Israeli intelligence officials say that “Yasser Arafat has forged a new alliance with Iran that involves Iranian shipments of heavy weapons and millions of dollars to Palestinian groups that are waging guerrilla war against Israel” (New York Times, March 24). Illustrating that fact was the interception in January of a shipment of 50 tons of Iranian weapons to Palestinian areas. Yet the press continues to promote the propagandistic image of the helpless Palestinian armed with nothing but rocks and slingshots.

Iran supports Palestinian terrorism without compunction—morally, ideologically and economically. It is taking advantage of a chaotic situation—shaking its head at the tragedy of violence seizing Israel, projecting itself as being committed to peace, while, barely under the table, directly stoking the fire!

While Khatami tends to steer clear of voicing support for Palestinian terrorism, the Ayatollah Khamenei publicly praises suicide bombings: “Palestinians are standing up to the pressures on them and the height of their resistance is manifested in their martyrdom-seeking operations which make the enemy tremble,” he says. “Sacrificing oneself for religion and national interest is the peak of honor and bravery” (Reuters, May 1). Whether President Khatami believes those words is immaterial—the fact is, the bombings fulfill his purpose just as much as they do Khamenei’s. Yet by remaining silent, he retains his stature as a moderate politician, and the lie of a peaceful Iran can be preserved.

Benefits in Bloodshed

The “peace” that Iran is committed to simply does not include the ongoing existence of the State of Israel!

Eliminating Israel is a pillar cause for Iran. Thus, Iran is a committed enemy of Mideast peace. By supporting terrorism, it is deliberately undermining any possible reconciliation and snuffing out any glimmer of a solution.

No smiles or nice words from politicians, no trade agreements or cooperation, alter that fact one iota!

In some of the most torturous moral idiocy witnessed in modern times, the more Palestinian men blow themselves up in Israeli pizzarias and at Passover Seders, the more the world condemns the victimsIsrael!

“Israel, for all its faults, is a democracy and an open society. The Palestinian Authority is a corrupt despotism which has brainwashed its people into believing mediaeval blood libels against the Jews. But Western journalists and intellectuals automatically assume that the Israelis are telling lies” (Melanie Phillips, Spectator, April 20).

This being the case, then the longer that chaos prevails in Israel—the bloodier the bloodbath—the more Iran’s aims are met.

That is, Israel looks more barbaric as it tries to defend itself, and is thus more widely condemned and brought closer to extinction; the U.S. looks more impotent as it tries to stop mad suicidal mob violence by negotiation, and thus loses respect and may be shamed into leaving the region.

Above all, Iran escapes the whole mess unscathed—much closer, actually, to realizing its goal of becoming the king of the Mideast.

Make no mistake—Iran has everything to gain by bloodying to death any and all effort to achieve a Mideast peace plan that includes Israel.

Why Iran Is Getting Away With It

The question is, why would other nations be giving Iran legitimacy?

Why is Europe so conciliatory toward Iran? Why is it willing to overlook its problems, its threat to peace?

One probable, partial explanation is Europe’s reliance on Iranian and Middle East oil. Playing along with Iran’s charade ensures a continued oil supply. By contrast, the Ayatollah is calling for an oil embargo on Israel and its allies—which would certainly include the U.S. The power of this weapon in dictating the behavior of oil-dependent countries should not be underestimated.

Another possibility is that Europe is afraid of Iran. In the past, Iran has blackmailed countries using the threat of terrorism to get what it wants. Evidence has shown that France and Germany capitulated to Iranian threats of terror in the mid-’90s, during Rafsanjani’s rule, by rescheduling debt, boosting trade and even releasing jailed Iranian terror suspects.

Is Khatami’s Iran above using such extortion? Last month, Iran’s plans for developing a long-range missile were uncovered—one that would put Italy and Germany within striking distance. Coupled with Iran’s progress in acquiring, manufacturing and stockpiling chemical and biological agents, as well as its push for nuclear capability, such long-range delivery systems become a real threat.

A final consideration in Europe’s dealings with Iran may be the Muslim contingent on the Continent. According to Investor’s Business Daily, some analysts say Europe’s perhaps 15 million Muslims are being looked upon as an enemy within (April 19). In 1995, nato said militant Islam was as big a threat to the region as communism had been. Europe has become something of a refuge and a breeding ground for extreme individuals. One analyst said, “Islamic terrorists see Western Europe as the safest haven anywhere. The more extensive the legal protections of human rights, the more likely [terrorists] would feel comfortable with it.” Every suspect in the September 11 attack had ties to Western Europe.

What hatreds might be stirred up within Europe’s Islamic population if the Continent took steps to censure Iran for its actions?

But regardless of those possible reasons for the deference Iran receives, at the heart of the matter is a sickening truth, supported by Bible prophecy, that explains Europe’s true motives.

The Ultimate Goal

Polls indicate that a majority of the U.S. population has more sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians; a recent Pew Research Center poll puts that majority at about 75 percent. Many Americans see Yasser Arafat as a terrorist, not a statesman. They thus disagree with the voice of the mainstream U.S. press, which confuses the issue by creating moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli defense measures.

The U.S. is virtually Israel’s only friend in the world. Being the most powerful nation, its voice prevails in present discussion about Mideast peace. Only because of America is the ideal of a two-state peace in Israel still being considered.

Elsewhere in the world, Israel is spoken of as being the cause of all ills in the Middle East.

As we wrote in last month’s Trumpet, anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide—the burning of synagogues, physical attacks on Jews. In Berlin, one police official advised Jews to avoid wearing outward symbols of their religion, for safety reasons.

Europe would like to pass these incidents off—a slight embarrassment to the otherwise enlightened Continent. But the xenophobic, fascist-tainted rhetoric is increasingly entering public political discussion, even in mainstream political parties. The issue is becoming too popular for even a middle-of-the-road European politician to avoid.

Consider a comment by the French ambassador to Britain, at a recent London dinner party. After calling Israel that “[expletive] little country,” he said, “Why should we be in danger of World War iii because of those people?” (Washington Post, April 26).

Those people—the same people that Europe sought to disinfect itself of just half a century ago.

What is becoming increasingly plain is that the sickening, terrifying specter of the Holocaust is rising again in Europe.

Why is Europe dealing with Iran?—when Iran is destroying any possible foundation for a two-state peace in Israel—when it is a known supporter of Palestinian terrorism designed to purge the Jew from the Middle East?

Because Europe’s ultimate aims—in this respect alone—are actually the same as Iran’s!

Europe wants Israel gone.

Palestine the Prize

Clearly and documentably, most of Israel’s neighbors crave its demise as a state. Among all the variations of ethnicity and religion in the region that have kept the Muslims from uniting, this is one goal that the vast majority of them can agree upon.

The irrefutable conclusion, then, is that for the U.S.’s peace ideal to work, Israel must have defensible borders and superior firepower. It must be a peace based not on contracts but upon might—a cold-war kind of peace. Any other plan for peace—by conceding land and trusting the Muslims’ good will—is a sham and will absolutely result in the demolition of the Jewish state.

Do people really believe that Israel—a nation with not even 5 million Jews, crowded by hostile religious regimes with combined populations approaching 400 million—will survive if it puts its future in their hands? Do they really believe that the Muslims’ frothing hatred of Israel will subside if Israel only backs down a little?

Perhaps some people do think that way. But we must conclude there are others—including many controlling the levers of national and international power—who in fact desire, right alongside the Middle Eastern Muslims, an end to the Jewish state! People who—perhaps secretly, perhaps not—share the Muslims’ contempt for the Jews, and are using the sham peace process to accomplish their goal under a cloak of legitimacy.

Israel—with Jerusalem at its epicenter—is the the most prized territory in the world. Thus, while it is being wrestled over by Jew and Arab, Iran is hungrily waiting for the opportunity to take over, to fulfill its enduring ambitions in the region.

And circling farther overhead—almost out of sight to all but those with the eyes to see—is the vulture of Europe, the bastion of Roman Catholicism, which longs to rectify the unfinished business of the Crusades, in which it lost possession of its most Holy City.

As the situation plays out—the Jews being demonized, the U.S. being exposed as impotent, Iran growing to regional prominence, Europe appearing as an alternative mediator—we are actually seeing, with startling precision, advanced stages of the prophesied climax of end-time events.

Watch! From the ataxia seizing the land of Israel today will suddenly emerge a furious, bare-knuckled rivalry. Ultimately, when Israel and America are wounded beyond help, there will be revealed the true clash of interests between Iran and Europe—the king of the south and the king of the north (Dan. 11:40-43)—both seeking, to the death, supremacy in the Middle East.