By Arlene Bridges Samuels
Last week, Iran International television news made history in a first-of-a-kind broadcast by featuring an Israeli prime minister—Benjamin Netanyahu—speaking directly to the Iranian people. On March 9, journalist Pouria Zeraati held an exclusive interview with Netanyahu, in which Bibi praised the protestors’ bravery on the streets of Iran and called the Islamic regime a “common enemy.” He expressed his personal admiration for the Woman, Life, Freedom resistance movement, describing it as “a miraculous achievement” by not bowing down to tyranny.
Netanyahu’s comments are timely, since Iranian protestors have risked their lives to spread their demands for freedom from the hateful Ayatollahs and their nearly 190,000 enforcers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The regime’s ruthless reaction has, since September, led to more than 500 deaths and 22,000 arrests. One hundred and ten Iranians are set to face a death sentence, joining four other dissenters who have already been executed. On March 13 the Ayatollahs alleged that they now have granted amnesty to 80,000 prisoners, including some 22,000 protestors who had been arrested. That remains to be seen.
In his Twitter account, British-based Iranian journalist Zeraati also reported that the Islamic regime has poisoned school children, declaring that the regime’s message is “loud and clear, they will do whatever it takes.” The numbers are frightening to parents, with school poisonings having occurred since November in more than 100 schools. The Iranian Health Ministry claims that 13,000 students have been treated. While difficult to prove, it is easy for Iranians to view the poisonings as direct warnings from the Islamic regime’s oppressive history.
The Israeli Prime Minister made remarks about ancient Persia and future ties between Israel and Iran. In 539 B.C., Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. Looking to the future, Netanyahu envisions a renewed and strengthened friendship between Israel and Iran. He noted that prior to the Islamist takeover, their friendship had been strong. Obviously, his remarks are based on stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons capability—which threatens the Middle East, United States, and the world.
My friend Marziyeh (Marzi) Amirizadeh is an author and Iranian activist who was formerly imprisoned in Iran for sharing her Christian faith and giving out thousands of Bibles. Now that she’s an American citizen, her expert opinion is that many Iranians inside the country watched Netanyahu’s broadcast captioned in Farsi. She reports that the viewers reacted positively and admire Israel’s prime minister. As usual, since the protests began, the Ayatollahs have plotted internet disruptions and blackouts, thereby handcuffing freedom of speech on social media. However, Marzi notes that Iranians watch three major news media outside Iran: Iran International, Voice of America, and Manoto TV.
Netanyahu concluded his remarks with two more messages. To Western leaders, he paraphrased Moses’ demand to Pharaoh—“Let my people go!”—by challenging the Islamic regime, “Let YOUR people go.” He added a no-nonsense point to the Ayatollahs: “We’ll be here long after you’re gone.”
Netanyahu described stopping Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons as the “quintessential heart of my foreign policy.” His clear statement is evidenced by the ramped-up military exercises in the last few months with the United States military. On January 26, the U.S. Central Command and Israel Defense Forces completed Juniper Oak 2023 with a massive military exercise in the Middle East described as the biggest joint drill on record. Now, as of March 12, the Red Flag 23-2 exercise is underway for two weeks, hosted by the United States Air Force at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base. Israel has sent seven F-35I fighter jets and two Boeing 707 refueling planes for the drill. Joint military operations with Israel are common in both Israel and the United States. Israel has participated in five previous Red Flag drills at the U.S. base.
I consider the joint midair refueling as one of the most significant drills, since Iran’s nuclear development sites are 1,200 miles from Israel. One drill focuses on an Israel Air Force (IAF) tanker refueling American fighter jets, with the U.S. in turn refueling Israeli aircraft. These refueling exercises make it possible for the IAF to reach Iran for the purpose of targeting Iran’s nuclear complexes—and only the nuclear complexes.
Clearly Netanyahu speaks for Israel, which has no quarrel with the Iranian population themselves (more than 86 million people). Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, 80,000 Jews lived in Iran. Tens of thousands fled. Reports vary, but few in the Jewish community remain in Iran, and approximately 250,000 Jews of Iranian ancestry live in Israel.
The Abraham Accords instituted dynamic and exciting changes in the Middle East. However, multiple levels of other sweeping changes in that region are advancing. It is essential to remain aware and prayerful for our greatest ally Israel, the suffering of the Iranian people, and wisdom for Israeli and American leaders’ decision-making. While the military alliance between Israel and the United States is vigorous, the U.S. influence in the Middle East is lessening.
One example stands out. China is now a kingmaker in the Middle East. In a secret four-day meeting, they brokered a deal in Beijing between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Chinese leaders agreed last Friday to reopen the embassies in both countries after seven years of weighty tensions. Although the deal revives the Saudi-Iran security cooperation pact of 2001, a hidden element may be at work. The deal is not official for another two months, and much could change. It is possible that Saudis would still rather connect more closely with Israel in order to rely on the Jewish state’s security against Iran. Plus, Saudis are not fond of the current U.S. administration and may be sending a wake-up message to a compromised Mr. Biden.
Aside from the seeming Chinese successes, Russia and Iran have agreed on the sale of Russian fighter jets for Iran’s recently revealed underground air force base. They named it “Eagle 44.” EAGLE 44? I view that as the Islamic regime’s arrogance in appropriating one of the United States’ national symbols.
We live at a time when Isaiah 5:20 is epidemic. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” As believers, let us make sure that we pay persistent attention to our Lord Jesus, the Light of the world, amid darkening world events. We can rely on Him to help us navigate life steadied by Him. We also know that in His time, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus will settle every conflict regarding Israel, His Land, and His people, the Jews. May God have mercy on us as we await that day.
Please join with CBN Israel this week in prayer for Israel and the Middle East:
- Pray for Israeli and all Arab leaders in the Middle East to make wise decisions about the Islamic regime’s threats.
- Pray with thanks for the beneficial bonds between the U.S. and Israeli military.
- Pray for strength for the Iranian people to endure as they seek their freedom.
- Pray for Israel’s internal peace amid controversial opinions about reshaping their Supreme Court.
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her part-time as Outreach Director for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a board member for Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.