By Arlene Bridges Samuels
Readers, on January 12, just after I completed my column, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with explosive new intelligence. He stated, “Al-Qaeda has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a result, Osama bin Laden’s wicked creation is poised to gain strength and capabilities.” CBN News will cover this new revelation in depth, but what I have written here will provide historical context for his remarks.
On February 11, 1979, the authoritarian ruling monarchy of Iran became a relic of the past. That day, the exiled Imam Ayatollah Khomeini was greeted with overwhelming public joy. In April, a national referendum officially proclaimed it the Islamic Republic of Iran, locking in the power of the Imams who devoutly adhered to “Twelver Shiism.”
Little did Iran’s citizenry or, indeed, the world realize that Twelver Shiism, the largest branch of Shiite Islam, would set into motion a theocracy as the driving force to welcome in the Twelfth Imam, the “Hidden Imam.” Twelvers call him the Mahdi and view him as their coming Messiah who will set up a worldwide caliphate. Some believe he will even return with Jesus to bring peace into a world of chaos and war.
On November 4, 1979, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the 444-day Iran hostage crisis began—a shocking crisis for America and the world. Television captured the appalling moment when 52 American staff were led out of Tehran’s U.S. Embassy by hundreds of gleeful Iranian students, members of the Muslim Students of the Imam Khomeini Line. Finally, the hostages were set free on January 20, 1981, the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. Since then, the emboldened Shia Twelvers have advanced their apocalyptic goals, laying the groundwork for the return of their Mahdi.
Up until the 1979 Iran Revolution, Israel and Iran had for 30 years shared a generally congenial relationship, including many cooperative initiatives based on each nation’s varying situations after the Cold War ended. Jews, among our favorites Esther and Mordecai, had lived in Persia (Iran) for 2,700 years, considering it a refuge under its ruler Cyrus the Great (sixth century B.C.), who freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity. That cordiality changed with the Shia Islamic revolution, where hatred became the Imam’s predominant disposition towards Israel.
As time passed, Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons went into overdrive. The Imams and their elite Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have run a tight ship. Their dictatorship has produced international terror, including threats to destroy Israel and the United States and now calls for assassinating President Trump. In their Shia theology, they say they want peace, but they are now the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. In fact, some experts believe Iran might use nuclear weapons to bulldoze a path for the Mahdi’s return.
In the last 42 years, Iran’s steps to dominate the Middle East make for a deadly list. My summary here is just a taste of their toxic “accomplishments.”
Iran supplies weaponry to their three proxies on Israel’s borders: Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria. In its effort to set up beachheads nearer to the U.S. mainland, Iran has placed many embassies in Central and South America, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Iran’s leaders are also closely allied with the dictators of Venezuela and North Korea.
Regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the nation has at least seven nuclear facilities, some of which house thousands of centrifuges that spin uranium into weapons-grade material. Their Fars News Agency recently announced adding 1,000 more centrifuges at Fordo, one of their underground facilities. This reflects Iran’s decision to increase their uranium enrichment capacity. They have assorted sizes of precision-guided intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which they want to tip with nuclear warheads. And just last week, the IRGC proudly announced an underground missile base right along Iran’s Persian Gulf coastline.
The Obama-Biden administration aggressively pushed the Iran deal, culminating in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. I think they meant well in wanting to stop Iran, but their strategy was naïve. It prematurely gave Iran many rewards without requiring any substantial demonstrated commitments beforehand to halt their nuclear ambitions. I still worked as staff with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 2015. We were deeply involved in opposing the Iran deal. Although we educated Americans, and specifically Congress, on Iran’s danger to Israel and beyond, we were unfortunately not successful.
My personal opinion about the Iran deal is that the negotiating team ignored the Iranian leadership’s devout Shia Islam underpinning. Its ruling Imams and Foreign Minister Jarif cleverly played their chess game of moderation and promises, never intending to keep them. The theocratic Twelver devotion to a modern caliphate and to the Mahdi’s return took precedence. The result five years later is proof positive. Iran is more dangerous than ever and distrusted not only by Israel but the Arab states in the region.
President Trump withdrew from the defective Iran deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. More sanctions were added recently, when Iran announced its increase for uranium enrichment. Also, in 2018, Israel’s Mossad—in another legendary covert operation—broke into a storage warehouse in Tehran. They left Iran just hours later with 110,000 documents, videos, and photographs in hand that proved Iran’s secret nuclear activities. It was a genius intelligence operation.
President-elect Biden is scheduled to take office on January 20, 2021. He has already announced his intention to re-enter the futile Iran deal, reappointing some of the 2015 negotiators. Hopefully, the team is now familiar with Iran’s deceptive chess moves. Already, Israel and the Gulf Arab states have contacted Mr. Biden urging him not to re-enter the JCPOA.
Iran has continued its destructive terrorism and nuclear quest at a great cost to their citizenry, both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. Over the past several years, Iran’s military spending has ranged between $18 and 20 billion annually. The IRGC also receives off-book income through smuggling and other industrial outlets. Much of Iran’s 83-million population is suffering economically, with the World Bank naming Iran as one of the worst-run governments, as well as one of the most corrupt.
The Imams and IRGC are living well. “There are more Maseratis on the streets of Tehran than in Beverly Hills and the ones driving them are children of the country’s mullahs,” comments Reverend Hormoz Shariat, founder of Iran Alive Ministries. Yet drug addiction, depression, and prostitution are rampant. Food shortages are increasing, along with high inflation.
Iranian leadership’s Twelvers, though, are no match for our Lord’s love, redeeming those who seek Him. CBN News coverage reports that “Christianity is growing faster in Iran than anywhere else in the world.” Says Mike Ansari, who runs one of the most popular Christian satellite channels in Iran—Mohabat TV—”We are calling this a pandemic of hope.” He describes the government’s increase in internet bandwidth to keep the population at home, resulting in more Iranian conversions. Around 3,000 Muslims a month have become Christians since the COVID-19 virus hit the country in March 2020.
The callousness of Iran’s Islamic government was in full view when one of its religious leaders said he hoped the coronavirus would spread to speed up the return of the Shiite messiah. Our Lord Jesus, though, whom Iranians call “the man in white,” desires to bring new life. He is appearing to some Muslims in dreams and in person. Iranian ministries are distributing millions of New Testaments, which Iranians call the Red Book. Satellite channels are also reaching new believers on how to form house churches.
Reverend Hormoz Shariat also reports that their satellite TV Christian programs are reaching “an estimated 6 million people.” Iran has closed church buildings, so house churches have proliferated but must remain secret, since members are subject to arrest. Reverend Shariat remarks, “Christians have no church they can physically attend so we are their church.” The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is also a “church” offering Persian-language programs and discipleship teaching.
Iran’s evil Evian Prison is sometimes a destination for believers who were arrested in small house churches or at any demonstration of Christianity. One believer, Alireza Asadi, was among 12 other Christians executed in 2016. In his last post on Facebook he declared, “My new season is much, much more pleasant than the worldly life.” He went on to say that meeting Jesus was the “best experience” in his life.
Some say that in 1979, 500 Iranians were known Christians. Now, estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million secret believers. Elam Ministries, founded in 1990, reports that “More Iranians have become Christians in the last twenty years than in the previous thirteen centuries put together since Islam came to Iran.”
One believer, Reza, with Global Catalytic Ministries, talks about a wonderful vision. “Imagine the most radical nation in the world, exporting radical Islam, as a Christian nation.”
This week CBN Israel will begin our prayers for Iran with a request from Reza:
- Pray “that the dark powers of evil in Iran would be defeated by Christ.”
- Pray for Iran to become a Christian nation that no longer finances terror.
- Pray for small, secret house churches to thrive and remain undiscovered.
- Pray for an infusion of donations to ministries that are making such a significant impact for persecuted Iranian Christians.
- Pray for safety in the Middle East for both Israel and Arab Gulf nations.
- Pray for Iranians who describe Iran as a prison, “a living coffin!”
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.