By Arlene Bridges Samuels
Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria are members of an infamous club. The U.S. State Department identifies them as the world’s most dangerous terror nations. Their four leaders are a menace to the world as well as to their own citizens. And Iran—with its foothold in Syria and Cuba and a decades-long relationship with North Korea—has the world’s biggest terror imprint.
Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability, both bombs and nuclear-tipped ICBMs, is well known. Yet Iran’s threats live deep in outer space, overland, and overhead, spreading their multi-faceted warfare worldwide seemingly without the world’s notice. Iran’s goals for global domination are powered by Shia Islam’s desire to welcome the Twelfth Imam, their messiah.
American citizens who have no worries about Iran because it’s some 7,000 miles away should consider that there are 101 Iranian embassies worldwide. Many are scattered all over Central and South America, giving land-based access to the United States through our southern border. Indeed, 11 Iranians crossed our southern border recently. And this is not unusual. On March 16, 2021, in a congressional Homeland Security Committee meeting, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, a Democrat, unexpectedly acknowledged that “suspected terrorist migrants routinely travel to the southern border.” His assertion stunned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Additional close encounters of the terror kind are based in Cuba. One of Iran’s embassies is in Havana. Hezbollah—Iran’s most dangerous proxy—is operational there, only 60 miles from Florida. Iran also uses Hezbollah to focus on Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and Paraguay. Money laundering and drug trafficking—among other malign activities—are rampant, and are used to fund Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.
In 2021, Iran’s cyber warfare hackers have already stolen intelligence information from the U.S., U.K., Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and the Palestinian Authority. Their cyber espionage also heavily targets the growing alliances between Gulf State Arabs and Israel, trying to disrupt the historic Abraham Accords that were brokered by former President Trump in 2020.
Iran’s terror-toolbox is well stocked. The world’s most prolific instigator of terror showed off its latest upgraded unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on its annual Army Day in April 2020. The sophisticated Ababil 3 is now a combat-ready weapon. Ababil, meaning “swallow,” is no bird of paradise. It’s already dropping bombs on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil infrastructure, with no significant damage—yet.
On our domestic front, United States security is currently tightening around Fort McNair on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., due to American intelligence that tracks terror chatter from Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. The chatter describes bombing the army base and killing the U.S. Army’s vice chief of staff via small-boat suicide attacks; the same method was used in 2000 to kill American sailors aboard the USS Cole in Yemen.
Among Iran’s terror tactics, hostage taking is not unusual. In a recent article in The Atlantic, author Graeme Wood interviewed Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American student who was released from Iran’s notorious Evin Prison on December 7, 2019. He endured 40 months of torturous imprisonment there.
Xiyue, a brilliant student, had become an American citizen in 2009. His educational resume is gold standard, including graduate studies at Harvard and Princeton, as well as a humanitarian stint with the Red Cross in Afghanistan. He traveled to Iran in 2015 after being granted a visa to study Persian there, adding to several other languages he knew. Wood’s interview reveals that Wang is an unusual and particularly valuable source for learning about the true nature of the Iranian dictatorship. That’s because in Evin Prison he—unlike most hostages—was allowed to interact with the prison inmates.
Before arriving to pursue his studies, Wang thought the United States was at fault for our friction with Iran. He had hoped that Iran’s “moderates” would win the day. Hearing firsthand the stories of inmates, however, Wang found his thinking shift dramatically. He called Iranian “moderation” a “mirage,” declaring, “They don’t want to be our friends. They don’t want to reconcile.” Writer Graeme Wood sums up: “To hope that Iran will stop behaving like an enemy is to hope that it will suddenly decide not to exist anymore.”
Wang also noted that the Iranian regime “needs people outside Iran to press progressive politicians for lifting of sanctions. … They ruthlessly suppress people who do that in Iran.” Indeed, as Wood notes, “If you are in Iran and call for greater engagement, you are a threat to a regime based on its enmity with America, and you end up in a cell in Evin.”
Wang was a beneficiary of President Trump’s decision to get as many U.S. hostages as possible freed from overseas jails. After the Trump administration secured his release, he first landed in Switzerland, where he asserted, “I did nothing wrong. I went to Iran to do research with the permission of the Foreign Ministry, but Iranian intelligence arrested me and forced me into confessing that I was a spy.”
Now reunited with his wife and young son, Wang is back at Princeton and has resumed his doctoral studies. He is relentless in speaking out on the facts he learned during imprisonment. He supports keeping sanctions in place, remarking, “The Iranian regime is stalling for leverage.” Wood adds: “Once it is weakened and beggared, negotiation can begin.” Wang opposes the Biden administration’s proclivity to restart negotiations with Iran after the failed 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
About his interviewee, Graeme Wood emphasizes the importance of having Xiyue Wang’s perspective. “Because Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations for more than 40 years, virtually no Americans—including those working on Iran policy in the U.S. government—have significant experience in the country.”
It’s advisable to remain prayerful and informed about Iran, its apocalyptic Imams, and its beleaguered population, many of whom are persecuted Christians. Seventy percent of Iran’s population is made up of “under-thirty-fives” who have lived under nothing but a dictatorship since 1979. The Imams are still devoted to world domination at the cost of their own citizens’ well-being.
Nevertheless, the good news in the middle of the bad news is that Iran’s young people are coming to know Jesus in record numbers. In fact, their encounters with Jesus are reportedly more numerous than any other nation in the world, although persecution is an ever-present reality. Among ministries reaching out to Iranians is Heart4Iran.com, which is supported by The Christian Broadcasting Network. Satellite TV broadcasts day and night, pouring God’s saving grace into the atmosphere. It’s a steady stream of good news Gospel warfare opposing the occupation of evil cyber warfare, with plentiful social media response on the ground.
New Iranian Christians surely need the hope of the Gospel message. Open Doors, described as “a community of Christians who come together to support persecuted believers in more than 60 countries,” lists Iran as one of the top 10 countries where Christians are “the most persecuted.”
Outside Iran, governments and organizations are locked in their own brand of conflict: political warfare. The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), not surprisingly is standing by the JCPOA. The Biden Administration has made it clear that they want to renegotiate the flawed 2015 Iran deal, but its complexities have overtaken any definitive measures thus far. Early on, the Gulf Arab states, fearful of Iran’s growing net of terror, asked President Biden to keep the sanctions in hopes that this step would make way for authentic diplomatic progress.
In the meantime, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin recently visited Germany, France, and Austria to meet with their leaders. Rivlin traveled there to emphasize Iran’s escalating threats and ask European allies to stand with Israel to oppose lifting Iran sanctions. Iran continues to defy the 2015 JCPOA—defiance that is worsening under the Biden administration.
Thankfully, the U.S. Congress is still in Israel’s corner with its bipartisan achievements. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) works with the U.S. Congress to strengthen and expand the U.S.-Israel relationship that helps both nations, especially in security. A recent example: 70 Democrats and 70 Republicans sent a letter to the U.S. State Department clearly summarizing the need to address the broad range of Iran’s threats. Some of these I mentioned earlier in my column.
At this writing, the U.S. Congress has extended an invitation to Israel’s President Rivlin to come address a joint session. I hope the visit materializes. President Rivlin is popular in Israel. When elected by the Knesset in 2009, he received 90 out of 120 votes. He is a proud “Jerusalemite” whose family has lived there since 1809.
I’ve heard him speak twice at his official residence when I attended the Government Press Office’s Christian Media Summit in Israel. As he welcomed us, he spoke with kindness, authenticity, strength, and wisdom. It was easy to see why he is so popular. He is fulfilling his role with excellence, saying, “The president is the face of the State of Israel around the world: not a representative of a specific ideology but of the collective creativity and history of the Jewish people.”
Join CBN Israel this week in praying for Israel, Iran, and the Middle East:
- Pray for the Biden Administration to make wise decisions about Iran.
- Pray with thanks for Israel’s intelligence sharing for U.S. security.
- Pray that the U.S. Congress keeps working together for the U.S. and Israel.
- Pray that God might strengthen the faith of Iranian Christians suffering persecution.
- Pray that the U.S. and Israel will continue to work toward peace in the Middle East.
Finally, relying on 1 Timothy 2:1-2, please also pray for Israel’s election results from May 23 and ongoing decision-making: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
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.