ASK Commentary
April 1, 2006 

Iran in Focus

Commentary for April 1, 2006 — The Situation, Now and Future

The nation and people of Iran will have a very “interesting” future ahead of them. Until 1935 the nation was known to English speakers as “Persia,” which is the biblical name for the land and people. That land and people will play a major part in God’s increasingly visible and direct participation in world affairs.

The “Newsletter for April 2006” introduces the article “Iran in Prophecy” where Dr. Martin presents biblical evidence about Iran’s future and how it will impact Israel and the world.

Iran Today

According to the “CIA Factbook,” produced and updated as a public service by the United States Central Intelligence Agency, Iran is a country of some 68 million souls in a land mass slightly larger than Alaska. Iran is a large country with a young and growing population. Its capital, Teheran, is located in the far north of the country. About 51% of its citizens are Persians with several ethnic groups comprising the other 49%. About 89% of the Iranian population is Shia Muslims. Literacy in Iran is very high, almost 80%.

[ By contrast Iraq has a population of 26 million and ¼ the land mass of Iran. Iraq’s population is 60–65% Shia and 32–37% Sunni. Arabs make up 75–80% of the population with Kurds making up the next largest ethnic group. Literacy is 40% nationwide. ]
Between 1980 and 1988 Iraq attacked Iran and the two nations fought a long, indecisive war which ended in exhaustion and a million casualties, with no gain to either side. That war left a scar on the memories of the older Iranian population. Iran wants to solidify its position on its border with Iraq by having a ruling and religiously friendly Shiite governing plurality in Iraq.

Iran’s young population is well educated and anxious to enter the 21st century, not live the life in a modified 8th century Islamic caliphate. It remains to be seen how the younger Iranian population will respond to an increasingly oppressive Islamic religious regime that picks and chooses which elements of Western society are desirable for their people. The people wish to choose their own path consistent with their own view of religious requirements. Those may not coincide with the views of the Iranian government and severe conflict could ensue. Some commentators believe that the Iranian government’s public statements and provocative actions are being done to raise patriotic support for the national government against external threats.

Iran’s western coast forms the northeast portion of the Persian Gulf and geographically forms a potential economic, political, and military choke point at the Straits of Hormuz. According to the CIA website, Iran exports approximately 2.5 million unrefined barrels of oil each day. Iran is the world’s fourth largest oil producer behind Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States. It is also the fourth largest oil exporter. The oil that Iran produces, and all the oil that is transported through the Straits of Hormuz, lubricates and operates the economic engine of the world. Although their oil production costs are higher than Saudi and other Gulf states, the ruling Iranian government has a very positive cash flow with oil prices presently above $60 per barrel.

The world’s oil must continue to flow and Iran’s potential “squeeze” on that flow gives it great potential influence and power. A disruption of the flow of oil would decimate the economies of the entire world, and poor nations would starve because of an impossibly high cost of oil. The poorer nations could not export their goods to markets and they would not be able to purchase needed food.

Iran’s potential power and influence were previously balanced by the presence of the militaristic and dangerous Iraq. The United States invasion and elimination of the Saddam Hussein regime removed that potential of Iraq and left a potential vacuum of power in the region. It also created what is perceived by Iran’s leaders as a future opportunity to enhance their own position and power in the region.

A quick look at any map of Iran shows that it is hemmed in on two sides by an American/British military presence in Iraq and a smaller allied American/European military presence in Afghanistan to the northeast. At present these are, man for man, the most powerful military forces on the planet, outside of nuclear weapons. By this geographical fact alone, Iran feels threatened.

Threat and Opportunity

Europe and particularly the United States are not likely to withdraw their protection from the oil-producing nations of the region, but Iran at present seeks to diminish that protection (which they perceive as a threat) so it can have a hegemony military and political power in the Gulf region and indeed within the entire Middle East.

Iran is rapidly becoming a regional superpower as further pointed out in a February 2006 article “Iran Makes Its Bid for Regional Hegemony.” Iran intends to use its power to, first, strengthen its own base of power (i.e., solidify its control over the population so it can remain in power), and second, to expand its influence as the leading Muslim power in the world. This latter purpose involves a 13 centuries-old religious and ideological struggle between the (largely Persian) Shiite Muslim sect and the Sunni sect (led by the Wahabbi school) traditionally led and represented by Saudi Arabia. Only 15% of all Muslims worldwide are Shiite.

Iran seeks to end that long religious struggle by demonstrating Shiite religious superiority. That superiority involves non-Koran and non-biblical (mystical) prophecies that the present President of Iraq adheres to and believes in. See the section about Iran in my article “Ariel Sharon’s Political Death and Other Events.” What I wrote in January still applies today.

Iran’s active quest for nuclear weapons is threatening. The surprising and radical political statements against Israel by Iran’s leaders are highly provocative. And, Iran’s cumulative provocative actions such as its continuing military build up, military exercises, and new weapons announcements, are also threatening. All these actions potentially threaten the protection, production, and transport of oil through of the Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz. The world cannot and will not allow the flow of oil to be shut off.

Of course, a stoppage of oil would also decimate the economy of Iran, as well as provoke an attack by the United States and other world powers (however weak those other nations may be) out of economic necessity. In fact the tense and unstable internal political situation within Iraq itself may be a major reason the current religious government is making provocative statements and taking provocative actions.

There is no indication to believe that Iran has any territorial ambitions of gaining Iraqi territory. However, because of the terrible war in the 1980s with Iraq, Iran has a great interest to make sure that a resurgent Iraqi Sunni minority government never gains rulership again in Iraq, as in the days of Saddam Hussein. Therefore, Iran wants influence and limited control over what happens in Iraq to secure its western border, but Iran has no desire to run Iraq. Almost all analysts I have read, people from Iran I have heard speak, as well as military and political logic suggest this to be the case.

[ A civil war between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq is also less likely due to a large percentage of intermarriage between the two religious groups. Most consider themselves to be Iraqis first and religious Shiites or Sunnis second, and they resent Iran’s interference in Iraqi affairs. However, radicals in both groups continue to fight against each other, and against the Coalition forces. This is what is causing the current extreme difficulty in Iraq. ]

However, Iran and the United States announced on March 16, 2006 they would begin public and formal talks on the ambassadorial level, even though at present there are no formal diplomatic relations between the two nations. The topic will be about the various aspects of the Iraq issue. This is a good sign. Remember that nations — even when in conflict or at war — very often talk with one another at various levels. Iran and the United States have been talking often on an informal basis for years. In fact, there have been reports that Iran has helped the U.S. keep track of certain Sunni terrorists that threaten the U.S., Iraq, and Iran. The 1,200 year old Golden Dome Shiite Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, that was bombed in February 2006 shocked even the Iranians who did not blame the U.S., but blamed insurgents.

[ The outrage by most all Islam of the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque is a small foretaste of the horror that would occur if anything would happen to the Al Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock located on the so-called Temple mount in Jerusalem. Even though neither structure has anything to do with the site of the Jerusalem Temples as demonstrated by Dr. Martin’s research, nonetheless the reaction of Muslims around the world would be extreme and riotous. Governments could fall in several Islamic countries in an unreasoning riots and reaction to the news. The consequences to Israel would also be serious as several nearby nations would go on a war footing to redress such an “insult” to a major Muslim holy place. ]

Iran has been striving to develop nuclear weapons for nearly 10 years. They are not yet able to produce them on Iranian soil, in spite of considerable assistance from Russia and rogue scientists from neighboring Pakistan. Building nuclear weapons is a major industrial achievement and not so much a scientific achievement. The science has been known for decades. Furthermore, to develop and produce a reliable delivery system for those nuclear bombs (that cannot be intercepted easily) is itself a major technological and industrial achievement. Whether Iran will ever succeed in building its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems, perhaps only God knows. Other than tests, no nuclear weapons have been set off since the United States used atomic bombs against Japan at the end of World War II. Thus far, nations possessing nuclear weapons consider their custody and use very carefully and in a mature manner.

The United States and Great Britain developed atomic weapons and the means to deliver them over 60 years ago. Just yesterday the U.S. announced a new 700 ton conventional bomb (non-nuclear blast equivalent) that could be used to reach and destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities in spite of their dispersal around Iran or their underground construction.

For its part Iran claims to have developed a new missile that could be used to attack very large targets — such as huge oil tankers filled with crude oil in the Persian Gulf. Just in the last few days Iran began conducting naval exercises in the Persian Gulf involving over 1,000 small craft equipped with various weapons, and the government announced that Iran has independently developed a new missile that cannot be seen on radar or stopped. See “Iran stages war games near Iraq border.” (Read the other articles on the website.)

Thus both sides have the capability to threaten the other. Such posturing aside, Iran needs these on-the-record talks to clarify the U.S. positions vis-à-vis its future position on Iraq. The U.S. wants Iran to publicly state its intentions toward Iraq. The fact that Iran and the United States are holding public bilateral talks is a very positive sign.

All parties are proceeding with extreme caution. Missteps in this game of power politics could have major consequences to severely cripple the world economy. And, the consequences would be felt very quickly.

Iran in the Past

Power politics has always been dangerous. We know from the Bible and history that it was common for empires to uproot major portions of conquered populations and force them to move from their homelands by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and several other empires. Those transported populations were, in effect, held hostage, or the intent was to destroy their culture and society. In ancient times slavery was common and genocide was not exceptional. All nations seem to have done it when it was their turn to “rule” over others. Historically the uprooting of nations seems to have stopped. (Although in the United States it was done to various American Indian tribes even to the late 1800s.) In modern times armies cause and force refugees by the millions to migrate away from the scene of fighting.

The Persian Empire was somewhat different. Iran at one time ruled the known civilized world in ancient times. The Persian Empire inherited much of the area ruled by the Neo-Babylonian Empire which rose to worldwide extent during the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Iran in their time of supremacy actually allowed previously captive peoples to return to their homelands. While this was done for the good of the Persian Empire and trade, and not for the good of the captive peoples, it nonetheless occurred.

The dynasty of the Persian Empire was founded by Cyrus, termed the Great, who was accorded that appellation that God said first applied to King David (2 Samuel 7:9; 1 Chronicles 17:8). Alexander the Great was so impressed by the legacy of the Persian ruler that he visited and honored the Tomb of Cyrus the Great. (See “Cyrus the Great.” Click the links to learn more.) The location of his tomb is known to this day, and is in fact being restored. In February Iran announced the “Restoration of Cyrus Tomb Resumed.”

It was the goal of Cyrus to unify the world, and create a Persian Peace in that Persian ruled world. It succeeded for a time until the Persian Empire was itself supplanted by the Greek-Macedonian Empire under Alexander. Dr. Martin in the article “Iran in Prophecy” shows the biblical fulfillment “in type” by the historical Cyrus, who was a man prophesied about in the book of Isaiah, one hundred years or so before he was born.

Iran in the Future

Another “Cyrus” will come in the future to totally fulfill the prophecies contained in the book of Isaiah. Those prophecies dovetail with others in the books of Zechariah, Daniel and Revelation.

The current situation of Iran is background to “Iran in Prophecy.” I hope that knowing the current political, military, and economic realities about Iran will cause you to look at the prophecies in a different way than you thought in the past.

Iran in the future will be powerful again. It will be intimately associated with Israel and shall, ultimately, use its great power at the end of the age for good. As surprising as that may seem today, look to the future because God’s hand in world events will cause sudden changes in the minds of men and nations.

David Sielaff

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