Is America Empowering Iran?
The first weapons used were box cutters. With them, a delegation of just 19 men turned four airliners into guided missiles and declared war on the most powerful nation in history.
We are now two years into that war. On the surface, these two years have been a stunning spectacle of American military muscle and political will. Not only has the U.S. beefed up its domestic security and traipsed all corners of the planet gathering intelligence and executing low-level missions, it has flipped two whole countries upside-down trying to eliminate the enemy.
But look closer, and the cracks in America’s omnipotence become visible—dangerously visible.
It has been an expensive war. The first 18 months of Operation Enduring Freedom (in Afghanistan) required over 85,000 Air Force sorties, not to mention 48,000 airlift and 17,000 refueling missions. Operation Iraqi Freedom deployed almost half a million personnel; over 40,000 sorties were flown, dropping almost 30,000 munitions. But the costs of destroying things are only part of the picture—then comes the clean-up. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, quick military victories were followed by wearisome stabilization efforts hampered by protracted guerrilla campaigns. Rebuilding a nation is hard enough; doing it while under fire is impossible.
Though the American public’s attention has focused on Iraq, the struggle to stabilize Afghanistan continues to drag on. The Taliban (the Islamic government the U.S. displaced)—along with elements of al-Qaeda and other groups—has continued to attack American forces, and those of the American-appointed government of Hamid Karzai. In August, the Taliban actually regained control of significant portions of some provinces in the southeast of the country. While the modest 12,000-strong U.S. presence is thwarting these forces from retaking the country, the insurgents are preventing the U.S. from stabilizing the situation. “The two sides are in a stalemate,” Stratfor wrote on September 4.
Of course, stalemates of this type are costly—both economically and politically. Defense Department figures show the monthly bill for military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan approaching $5 billion—only slightly less than the average monthly cost, adjusted for inflation, of the eight years of the Vietnam War. Estimates for rebuilding Iraq alone range from $180 billion to $245 billion over the next five years. Place these ballooning costs (the Congressional Budget Office estimates a record $480 billion government deficit next year) against the backdrop of America’s terrible job market and slow economy, and one begins to see real cause for concern for a Bush administration facing another presidential election within the coming year.
The fact is, solutions need to be found, and quickly.
The evidence is mounting: While the U.S. would love to retain control over Iraq, particularly its oil, reality is setting in. Neighboring nations seeking to exploit their interests in post-Saddam Iraq are eyeing the situation greedily. So—what sort of deals will the U.S. cut in order to remove from its neck the Iraq albatross in the least ungraceful manner possible?
As we will see, what is unfolding in Iraq is a stunning demonstration of the power of predictive analysis based on Bible prophecy!
Two titanic powers prophesied to exist in our day are locking horns over the future of Iraq. Based on prophecy, the Trumpet has been predicting who the victor will be. Events are playing out exactly according to this outline—yet in a manner more dramatic than even we could foresee!
The major news outlets are completely missing the real story of what is transpiring. You must come to understand the reality, now being made plain by an informed examination of the facts, lying beneath the cold surface.
Last spring it became clear that key nations in the UN Security Council would stonewall indefinitely rather than follow the U.S. into battle. America, with strong support from Britain, rallied its own coalition and entered Iraq, sending the clear message to the UN, We can do this without your help, thank you very much. The quick allied seizure of Baghdad seemed to vindicate the U.S. position.
Throughout the summer, however, the death announcements from Iraq that punctuated America’s nightly news drew attention to the fact that even though President Bush announced the end of major combat operations on May 1, the war still hasn’t really ended. A massive miscalculation had occurred.
Notice Dr. George Friedman’s analysis of this mistake: “Initially, Washington viewed the Iranian-sponsored organization of the Shiite regions as a threat to its control of Iraq. … Officials in Washington also assumed that the collapse of the Iraqi army would mean the collapse of Sunni resistance. Under this theory, the United States would have an easy time in the Sunni regions—it already had excellent relations in the Kurdish regions—but would face a challenge from Iran in the south.
“The game actually played out very differently” (“An Unlikely Alliance,” www.stratfor.biz, Sept. 2). Yes—the Sunni regions quickly became the battleground of a premeditated guerrilla war. To this day, remnants of the Baathists are causing trouble in and around Baghdad, as are other native terrorist groups. This has absorbed the U.S.’s attention almost completely, placing the Shiite south at a much lower priority—a fact whose significance we will discuss later in this article.
On top of this, terrorists from outside Iraq have entered the country and joined the insurgency. “… Iraq’s neighbors have turned what were initially internal power struggles and convulsions against the Americans into a proxy war, supporting armed factions to ensure the invasion of Iraq ends in failure,” wrote Stewart Bell in Canada’s National Post (Aug. 20). These various ethnic and religious groups are not necessarily working in concert with one another, but are vying independently for control of portions of the country. The lack of coordination among them is actually making them much more difficult to fight.
Counterinsurgency missions are very tricky. Because the enemy works in small groups, squads—even single individuals—with only light arms, it can operate almost invisibly among the greater local population. At the same time, while allied forces are recruiting Iraqis for intelligence and local policing, guerrillas can easily join these forces and thus get inside information on allied operations. If the U.S. takes a heavy-handed approach to wiping out the guerrillas, it generates more sympathy among the local population for the insurgency. As Stratfor wrote, “The dilemma facing the United states in Iraq is to surgically remove the guerrilla force from the population without generating a political backlash that will fuel a long-term insurgency …” (Aug. 13). Thus, the guerrilla war drags on.
The continued violence, most all of which is being absorbed by the U.S. and Britain, has several broader damaging effects.
For one, it necessitates a greater commitment of resources to combat. America’s pre-war cost estimates of how much money and manpower would be required after the war have proven woefully inadequate. The longer that measurable success in pacification and reconstruction eludes U.S. forces, the greater the domestic backlash there is bound to be, especially considering the political climate created by an election year. Clearly, the U.S. needs outside help.
However, the catch is this: The greater the violence, the less other nations want to send their troops in to help. Before the guerrilla war started, it was much easier for countries such as Poland and South Korea to justify sending soldiers in exchange for political or economic concessions from the U.S. “[N]ow it is clear that a deployment to Iraq could mean high casualty rates—making the move undesirable from a military and domestic political standpoint,” wrote Stratfor. “The threshold for involvement has grown much higher, and simple promises of additional trade or political goodwill no longer balance out the potential risks” (Aug. 21). As an example, Japan and Thailand, which had earlier promised to help the U.S., now say they want to wait until the situation simmers down.
An additional complication is the scaling back or pullout of non-governmental and international organizations. August 19, a terrorist car-bombed the United Nations office in Iraq—the most severe in a string of increasingly sophisticated attacks on infrastructure, not coalition soldiers. It signaled a dangerous intensification of the guerrilla campaign, and within a couple weeks, several humanitarian aid organizations, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Red Cross, began slimming down their presence in Iraq—exacerbating the problem faced by the U.S. “The withdrawal of humanitarian groups could develop into a major setback for coalition forces, which have become a focal point for resentment and frustration among Iraqi civilians amid the breakdown of infrastructure and basic services following major combat. Insurgents fighting the occupation play on those feelings to build sympathy for their cause ….” (ibid., Aug. 31).
September 17, the lieutenant general over the coalition announced that attacks were beginning to come from Iraqi citizens—not guerrillas—irritated by the occupying forces.
The bottom line is, America’s go-it-alone approach has reached its limit. The swagger of March has been replaced by the pragmatism of September. Reality within post-war Iraq is forcing the U.S. to swallow its pride and downgrade its ambitions within the region.
Unfortunately for the U.S., the price for bringing other nations into the equation at this point is sure to be uncomfortably high.
Looking for Help
The U.S. has started looking for help from every source it can find—even the one that balked so brazenly at the U.S. going into Iraq in the first place.
Several states have said they would send troops into Iraq only with the sanction of the United Nations. Surely it was a bitter pill for the Bush administration to swallow, but toward the end of August Washington began changing its stance and coming back to the UN looking for help.
The crucial question is, how much control will the U.S. have to give up in order to bring in sufficient international help?
In early September, the U.S. introduced its resolution to the Security Council seeking a multinational police force. It was instantly met with disdain, particularly from France and Germany.
An editorial in the Indonesian daily Jakarta Kompas well sums up world opinion of the U.S.’s return to the UN: “Some countries … have questioned the U.S. attitude, wanting to share the security and development load with other UN members, but remaining reluctant to share authority, information and policy-making rights. …
“In truth, the United States is no longer in a position to do what it likes. … The United States can no longer conceal the fact that it is exhausted and overwhelmed by security problems. ….
“The international community strongly opposed the invasion, but the combined U.S.-British force went ahead anyway, bombarding Iraq from March 20 to May 1. The attack was seen as a form of arrogance ….
“Now, all of a sudden, the United States asks for the UN’s help in restoring security and rebuilding Iraq. If we recall the United States’ behavior, giving no value to the UN’s voice and role, the world body has strong reason to reject the U.S. request. The UN should teach the United States and Britain a lesson” (Sept. 6, translated from Indonesian by Global News Wire).
Most likely, the two sides will come to some agreement, and the UN will relent and provide assistance in Iraq. But in addition to America’s resultant loss of control, the loss of face for the “superpower” is huge. As bad as the rift within the Security Council was before the Iraq campaign, imagine for a moment how the situation would play out if the U.S. proposes anything even remotely similar in the future.
The United Nations is far from being the only resource the U.S. is tapping for help in Iraq.
At the same time that the Security Council was first eyeballing the new resolution, Stratfor reported that the U.S. had also begun “hammering out a backroom deal” with Russia. Stratfor’s version of an early draft of the deal is this: In exchange for the U.S. honoring Russia’s oil contracts with Iraq and promising to turn the country over to a civilian administration, Russia would support the Security Council resolution and send troops to Iraq under U.S. command. This gives a mere indication of what sort of deals America may be willing to make—and it is far from being the only arrangement of its kind under discussion.
Consider Turkey, historically a strong enemy of Iraq. Turkey wants to make sure that in the postwar commotion, independence-minded Kurds in northern Iraq do not defect and start a Kurdish state, inflaming the sympathies of Turkey’s own Kurdish population. Thus, it has repeatedly expressed a desire to send troops into Iraq. In the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. was adamant about keeping them out, because it didn’t want to lose control of the situation. Now, the idea looks much more attractive.
“U.S. negotiators are aggressively pushing the Turks to send forces into Iraq …” wrote Stratfor on September 5. “But like the Russians, the Turks have their price. Ankara is well aware that a) the Americans need them, b) their troops are ready, trained and motivated to go and c) they can intervene with minimal advance notice. … That means that while Turkey is interested in deploying troops, it only needs to do so on its own terms. For the United States this will most likely involve at least a partial sellout of the Kurds, who so far have warmly embraced the U.S. occupation.” Turkish officials now say the U.S. has offered them command over their own sector of Iraq. On top of this came a promise to Turkey of $8.5 billion in loans. Not bad treatment for a country that prevented the U.S. from using its military bases in Turkey during the war.
Each of these deals comes with its unsavory elements for the U.S. Such is the price to be paid by a country operating from a position of weakness.
But, as unpleasant as these concessions are, the most dangerous deal in the works—one that will likely not be widely publicized—is being foreshadowed by a truly alarming trend occurring in southern Iraq, Shia country. It is here that another significant player is extending its tentacles into the picture, shrewdly but relentlessly tightening its grip on its prey.
Early in the postwar confusion, reports that Iran was making incursions into Iraq prompted U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to brusquely remark that the U.S. would never allow the Islamic republic to take over the newly liberated country. “Indeed, Iran should be on notice: Efforts to try to remake Iraq in Iran’s image will be aggressively put down,” he said (Agence France Presse, May 28).
But it appears that, like so many other items on America’s wish list in Iraq, this goal is slipping out of reach.
Saddam Hussein had been Iran’s biggest enemy in the region. The two sides fought a devastating and inconclusive eight-year war in the 1980s. Thus, Iran certainly saw Hussein’s expulsion as a promising development. Of course, it did come with one lousy side effect: America’s presence in Iraq.
But Iran is canny. It is betting on the fact that the U.S. won’t stay in the region forever—a hope buoyed by the U.S.’s appeals to the international community. Thus, Iran is craftily exploiting every ounce of leverage it has to undermine America’s position, impatient for the day it can have its pick of the spoils of war.
Early on, the U.S. was determined to ensure this did not happen. But that resolve is waning, and Iran knows it. In fact, America’s position has been so compromised, it is now quietly beginning to subcontract its peacekeeping responsibilities to Iran sympathizers.
This is the critical point that most news analysts are missing: the significance of Iran’s ominous and growing position within the new, emerging Iraq.
Iran’s Main Tool of Leverage
In our June issue, we reminded readers of a prediction made almost nine years ago by Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry. His Personal in the December 1994 Trumpet was headlined, “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” In it he wrote, “The Shiite Arabs compose the majority of the population in Iraq. … The Shiite Iraqis have been encouraged to revolt by Iran, which is almost totally Shiite. …
“Can you imagine the power [the Iranians] would have if they gained control of Iraq, the second-largest oil-producing country in the world? If so, there seems to be little doubt that Iran would lead the king of the south (Dan. 11:40).” As we have been pointing out for several months, America’s removal of Iraq’s Sunni leadership—intended in part to put pressure on Iran—ironically could provide the very impetus Iran needs to fulfill its regional ambition.
But how can Iran effectively push the U.S. out—and at the same time prevent any other outside force from gaining control of Iraq? It appears that the answer lies in the leverage Iran holds over Iraq’s Shiites, just as Mr. Flurry wrote about.
Earlier this year, Stratfor predicted the possibility of a “perfect storm” in the Middle East. In addition to a deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations and a prolonged guerrilla war that puts the U.S. on the defensive (both of which have happened), this nightmare scenario would culminate in “an uprising in the Shiite south of Iraq, in which mass demonstrations created an Iraqi intifada” (Aug. 22). As bad as the security situation is presently, America must truly tremble at the prospect of a general revolt among what is now the most stable segment of the Iraqi populace, the Shiites. But the unpleasant reality is, Iran has enough influence, even control, over Iraq’s Shiites to make this “perfect storm” a reality, turning what has become a bad situation into an impossible one.
With the first two elements of this scenario already in place, Washington is put in a dreadfully difficult position with respect to Iran. Rather than now using Iraq as a new Middle East base from which to project power over Iran, the U.S. is forced to play nice with its new neighbor so as not to provoke it. Remember, not even two years ago Iran was number two in the “axis of evil.” Right after Baghdad fell, threatening hints were dropped that Iran had better watch its step. Now—although the U.S. is being discreet about it—Iran is being looked to as an ally to motivate the Iraqi Shiites into establishing order within the area of conquest!
The signs pointing to this appalling reality are abundant.
On the Ground
Of course, Iran is working through standard political and diplomatic channels to position itself to be able to hold stock in the new Iraq. It is recognizing the new Iraqi Governing Council. It is seeking to strengthen economic ties with Iraq, exchanging businessmen and planning a joint Iran-Iraq chamber of commerce. It is talking with Poland (which governs the southeast of Iraq, bordering Iran) about creating a mutual security agreement. While the Polish defense minister, visiting Tehran, praised Iran for its contribution to restoring security in the region, Iran affirmed its desire to cooperate with reconstruction and UN efforts to end the American occupation.
But truly interesting are the steps the U.S. is taking to secure its interests that are demonstrating its new-found dependence upon the Islamic regime.
To take one example: Facing an energy shortage within the bombed-out country, at the end of August Iraq’s U.S.-appointed interim government announced that it would buy electricity from Iran, as well as Syria. The Boston Globe correctly labeled it “a deal that would probably enrich with U.S. funds two countries that top the White House list of states that support terrorism” (Sept. 8).
Another, more telling, example is America’s approach to Shia militias. The public line is that the U.S. has “zero tolerance” for independent militias in Iraq. But on more than one occasion, coalition forces have looked the other way as armed members of these militias have policed southern Iraqi cities. Notably, the Badr Brigade, the military arm of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim’s political party, handled security at the three-day funeral following Hakim’s murder (see Personal, p. 1, for more on this). According to a National Public Radio report of September 8, the Badr Brigade has worked with U.S. forces, for example going on raids with them to track down Saddam supporters, and the Americans have approved members of the brigade carrying weapons. Najaf, where Hakim was killed, also began a coalition-approved 400-man protection force composed of Iraqi volunteers who worked closely with the Badr Brigade. Ironically, this force was the brainchild of Hakim.
The ties to Iran are strong, and clearly the U.S. finds itself with no other good options. The question is, what will be the Shiites’ price for helping the U.S? Stratfor makes the case that they will want nothing less than the establishment of a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq.
On September 12, it was announced that the assembly to draft a new Iraqi constitution will be elected, not appointed. Stratfor made this analysis: “A democratically elected constitutional assembly means a Shiite-dominated assembly. Apart from the sheer demographics, the ongoing fighting in the Sunni regions will mean a low turnout—whenever the election takes place. … The net result will be a constitution written by Shiites. This raises an interesting question of what kind of constitution will be written. It will undoubtedly be democratic—but democratic on the order of the Iranian model” (Sept. 15).
The analysis continued: “Now, the United States specifically said that it wouldn’t accept a theocratic regime in [Iraq]—but that was when the United States believed it would have a blank slate on which to write. U.S. options have diminished since the days before the war began: Washington now needs the Shiites far more than it needs the United Nations, and the Shiites know it. The Shiites’ price has always been the same—a Shiite regime. The United States seems to be showing every sign of being prepared to pay that price.”
Who could have predicted this is where the campaign in Iraq would leave the United States? Who could have known that an awesome show of American strength in Iraq would, a mere six months later, create a situation where the U.S. is being forced to pander to Iran? It is an extraordinary turn of events—one that is bound to explode into the public view in time, and which, when it fully plays out, will leave the world breathless.
Yet it is also a reality strikingly in line with Bible prophecy. It is that biblical outline that has informed the Trumpet’s warnings for almost a decade now about the inevitable rise in Iran’s dominance within the Middle East. Mr. Flurry’s booklet The King of the South (sent to you free upon request) details the scriptural source of this prediction.
In a September interview with the irna news agency, Iran’s last president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, gave a chilling version of these recent events. “Even though the United States has a physical presence in the countries that surround us, the reality is that the United States is in fact surrounded by Iran,” he said. “God has pushed the Americans into a quagmire in Iraq. If they stay, they will be victims every day, and if they leave, it will be a loss of honor” (Agence France Presse, Sept. 11; emphasis mine).
Is this just bluster? An honest appraisal of the situation reveals the truth in Rafsanjani’s statement. Iran has indeed “surrounded” America, because it is the king of terrorist-sponsoring nations. The only way to win the war against terrorism is to conquer Iran. America has the power to do so, but lacks the will to use that power.
Rafsanjani concluded, “Our enemies such as Saddam, the Taliban and the Monafeghins [speaking of an Iran opposition group] have been swept out of our way, and soon the U.S. will be too.”
Watch southern Iraq! Watch Iran! This terrorist nation has already become a much more formidable foe than is generally realized. Dr. Friedman has drawn this conclusion: “Currently, this seems to be the most likely evolution of events: Washington gets Tehran’s help in putting down the Sunnis. … The United States gets Iran to dial back its nuclear program. Iran gets to dominate Iraq. The United States gets all the benefits in the near term. Iran gets its historical dream” (www.stratfor.biz, Sept. 2).
Of course, those “benefits” to the U.S. will quickly amount to nothing. Iran will be entrenched—and the U.S. won’t have the will to stop it.