If you’ve been tracking the historic discoveries of natural gas and oil in Israel in recent years — and the intriguing connection of these discoveries to ancient Bible prophecy — then you will likely be interested in this week’s headlines:
Here’s an excerpt from the fascinating Wall Street Journal storyon Wednesday: “TEL AVIV—Two years ago, Ratio Oil Exploration LP, an energy firm here, employed five people and was worth about half a million dollars. Today it sits at the center of a gas bonanza that has investors, international oil companies, Israeli politicians and even Hezbollah, Israel’s sworn enemy, clamoring for a piece of the action. Ratio’s market capitalization now approaches $1 billion. The rally at Ratio is thanks to the company’s 15% stake in a giant offshore gas field called Leviathan, operated by Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. On Wednesday, the frenzy got fresh fuel: Noble confirmed its earlier estimates that the field contains 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world’s biggest deepwater gas find in a decade, with enough reserves to supply Israel’s gas needs for 100 years….”
It’s a story that just keeps getting more and more interesting over the past few years, because larger and larger fields of petroleum keep getting discovered.
In my first non-fiction book, Epicenter, published in 2006 (and the updated and expanded Epicenter 2.0 edition that was published in 2008) , I included a chapter entitled, “Future Headline: Israel Discovers Massive Reserves of Oil, Gas.” The chapter described a trail of prophetic clues found in the Hebrew Scriptures that some believe (myself included) indicate that in the “last days” the nation of Israel will be blessed by discovering huge reserves of petroleum that will make Israel quite wealthy. Those clues suggest Israel will be able to “dip his foot in oil” and draw “oil from the flinty rock.” The Jewish people will find “hidden treasures in the sand” and an “abundance of the seas.” This newfound wealth in the last days will certainly be a blessing for Israel, but it will also draw enemies and may very well help trigger the “War of Gog and Magog” when the nations ask the leaders of the Russian-Iranian alliance that comes against the Jewish state, “Have you come to capture spoil [from Israel]? Have you assembled your [military forces] to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold….to capture a great spoil?”
The trail of clues can be found in the following Bible verses:
Are such prophecies now coming to pass? Are such headlines further evidence that we are living in the “last days” before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ? It’s a story worth keeping an eye on, to be sure.
Palestinian President Salam Fayyad says his state will be ready by summer 2011. (photo: Agence France Presse)
UPDATED: Aside from a nuclear Iran, a serious new threat to the peace and security of Israel and the people of the epicenter is rapidly emerging — the prospect that the Palestinian leadership will unilaterally declare their own independent, sovereign state as early as the summer of 2011, and attempt to divide Jerusalem, and that the world will try to force Israel to accept this new state rather than require the Palestinians to sit down and negotiate a fair and just arrangement that both sides can accept.
Make no mistake: a unilateral declaration by the Palestinians is not a recipe for peace. It is a recipe for war. Over 450,000 Israelis live in the West Bank. They are not going to quietly accept a Palestinian government in Ramallah deciding their fate. Nor will these Israeli settlers allow the Palestinian police to forcibly remove them from their villages, towns and cities. Especially Jerusalem. They will fight back. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be under enormous domestic political pressure to back these Jewish citizens with the force of the Israeli military, and should violence intensify, he would likely order the IDF into battle. The results would not be pretty, and the Palestinian people would pay a heavy price.
World leaders, therefore, should be putting enormous pressure on Palestinian leaders to sit down to direct negotiations with the Israelis and find a peaceful solution through diplomacy, lest violence result. Sadly, that’s not what is happening. Instead, world leaders are putting enormous pressure on Israeli leaders to cut a fast deal with the Palestinians or face the prospect of Palestinian state being imposed upon them.
Bible prophecy makes it clear that the nations of the world will, in the last days, divide up the land of Israel. But the Scriptures are also crystal clear that the nations will face the judgment of Almighty God for doing so. “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them to the Valley of Jehoshaphat [“the Lord judges”]. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.” (Joel 3:1-2).
In 2009, Palestinian President Salam Fayyad developed a detailed plan to have a Palestinian state ready within two years, and he has been building the political and economic infrastructure ever since. In April of 2010, during an exclusive interview with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Fayyad said that “the birth of a Palestinian state will be celebrated as a day of joy by the entire community of nations….The time for this baby to be born will come, and we estimate it will come around 2011. That is our vision, and a reflection of our will to exercise our right to live in freedom and dignity in the country [where] we are born, alongside the State of Israel in complete harmony.”
By the fall of 2010, several governments — including Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Turkey — had announced immediate or imminent recognition of a Palestinian state that hadn’t even been declared yet. Other countries are hinting that they, too, are ready to support the “unilateral option” soon. Top officials in the European Union, for example, are pushing an initiative for the E.U. to formally recognize an independent Palestinian state by the summer of 2011.
Indeed, Members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — are so concerned that the Obama administration will support the “unilateral option” that on December 16th they voiced their opposition to such an approach. “The United States House of Representatives unanimously on Thursday approved a resolution opposing unilateral declaration of Palestinian state,”reported Haaretz. “The resolution introduced by Rep. Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slams Palestinian efforts to push the international community to recognize a state in such a manner as ‘true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.’ The resolution calls on the U.S. administration to ‘deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties.'”
Such a unilateral move by the Palestinians, combined with widespread (and likely enthusiastic) international support would undermine six decades of attempts by the international community to reach a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, a unilaterally declared Palestinian state would violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for “a peaceful and accepted settlement.” How could the settlement be “accepted” if it wasn’t negotiated and agreed upon by both sides? A unilateral declaration would also violate Resolution 242’s call for “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” How could the borders between Israel and the Palestinians be “secure and recognized” if they are not recognized by the Israelis?
Moreover, Resolution 242 doesn’t call on Israel to withdraw from” all of the territories” it acquired in the Six Day War of June 1967, only for the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories” acquired in “the recent conflict.” In other words, based on a negotiated peace, Israel might withdraw from all of the territories, or only part of the territories. The key was for the Israelis and the Palestinians to have “secure” borders “free from threats or acts of force.”
Such a unilateral move by the Palestinians would also violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 338, which called for an immediate cease-fire after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and for “negotiations [to] start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and President Fayyad have been resisting true, reasonable, direct negotiations with Israel for months. They are simultaneously moving with confidence towards a unilateral declaration of their state and the division of Jerusalem. Why? Because they know they already have widespread international support. As noted above, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos announced in February 2010 that their two governments were likely to formally recognize an independent Palestinian state in pre-1967 borders within 18 months, regardless of whether Israelis and Palestinians reach a negotiated agreement. Moreover, Kouchner and Moratinos began urging the European Union as whole to recognize a Palestinian state by the summer of 2011.
“The issue before us at the moment is the building of a reality,” said Kouchner. “France is training Palestinian police, businesses are being created in the West Bank… It follows that one can envision the proclamation soon of a Palestinian state, and its immediate recognition by the international community, even before negotiating its borders….If by mid-2011, the political process has not ended the [Israeli] occupation, I would bet that the developed state of Palestinian infrastructure and institutions will be such that the pressure will force Israel to give up its occupation.”
Let us continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, not the division of Jerusalem. Let us pray for the Lord to restrain the Palestinian leadership from making such a disastrous move, and pray that the Lord would restrain world leaders from encouraging the “unilateral option.” At the same time, we need to realize that eventually the land of Israel will be divided by the nations. The only true hope of peace and reconciliation is through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, changing the hearts of Israelis and their neighbors and enemies and drawing them to Himself. Let us be praying, earnestly, therefore, that the God of Israel will shower His grace, love and mercy on all the people of the epicenter this year, that He will reveal His Word to them in real and powerful ways, and He will strengthen and grow His Church at this critical hour.
AT-A-GLANCE: MOMENTUM BUILDING FOR A UNILATERALLY DECLARED PALESTINIAN STATE
2009 — Palestinian President Salam Fayyed issues detailed plan to have a Palestinian state ready in two years
AP reports: “Iran on Tuesday hanged an Iranian convicted of spying for the country’s archenemy Israel, the official IRNA news agency reported. Ali Akbar Siadat had been accused of providing Israel with classified information on Iran’s military capabilities, including details about military maneuvers, bases, operational jet fighters, military flights, air crashes and missiles, IRNA reported….According to IRNA, Siadat confessed to spying for Israel starting in 2004 in return for $60,000, as well as an additional $7,000 each time he met with Israeli handlers. IRNA said he met up with Israeli intelligence agents during “foreign trade” trips to Turkey, Thailand and the Netherlands and that he transferred data through a digital camera, transmitters and laptop.”
Coverage of the covert war inside Iran to stop the mullahs from getting the Bomb is growing. Earlier this fall, I posted two stories on the covert war underway inside Iran, based on reports in the New York Times, AP, and the BBC.
More recently, Newsweek devoted an entire cover story to the topic, which I commend to your attention. Excerpt from the Newsweek cover story: The covert operations that target Iran’s nuclear program suddenly came to light with explosive violence and stunning implications for the future of warfare on Nov. 29. On that Monday morning, dawn had just broken over a bustling Tehran so deeply shrouded in smog that many commuters wore face masks to protect against the fumes and dust in the air. On Artesh Street, among rows of new and half-finished apartment blocks, the nuclear physicist Majid Shahriari was working his way through rush-hour traffic with his wife and bodyguard in his Peugeot sedan. A motorcycle pulled up beside the scientist’s car. Nothing extraordinary about that. But then the man on the bike stuck something to the outside of the door and sped away. When the magnetically attached bomb went off, its focused explosion killed Shahriari instantly. It wounded the others in the car but spared their lives. A clean hit. Only a few minutes later and a few miles away, in a leafy neighborhood in the foothills of the Alborz Mountains, again a motorcycle pulled alongside the car of another scientist, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani. A longtime member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Abbasi Davani was named specifically in a United Nations sanctions resolution as ‘involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.’ Sensing what was about to happen, he stopped the car, jumped out, and managed to pull his wife to safety before the bomb went off…..”
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Messiah, please be praying for the people of Israel and the epicenter:
Please keep praying that the Prince of Peace, will comfort and care for Kay Wilson, the Israeli believer in Jesus who was brutally stabbed last weekend.
Please pray for her family and friends as they comfort her and seek to help her recover physically, spiritually and emotionally. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…rejoicing in hope, perserving in tribulation, devoted to prayer…rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:10,12,15)
Please also keep praying for the family and friends of Kristine Luken, the American evangelical Christian who was murdered by the same attackers as she hiked with her friend, Kay.
Please pray for the Israeli authorities to investigate and prosecute this case aggressively and professionally.
Please pray the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice, and that they also find Jesus as their Savior and Lord. “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Please pray, too, for the believers in Israel, for courage and wisdom and for the name of Jesus to be lifted high in Israel and throughout the epicenter this Christmas season. “Jesus said, ‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32)
The Hebrew Prophet Micah wrote, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity….He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He wil be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace.” (Micah 5:2-5)
The Hebrew Prophet Isaiah wrote: “…[in] Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who walk in darkness will see a great light…..For a child will be born to us, a son will be given will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:1,2,6)
VIOLENCE RISING ON GAZA BORDER — On Tuesday, a rocket fired from Gaza landed next to an Israeli kindergarten and wounded a 14 year old Jewish girl walking nearby. At least 14 rockets and mortar rounds have been fired from Gaza against innocent civilians in southern Israel just this week. The attacks are accelerating so quickly that even the U.N.’s Middle East envoy felt compelled today to condemn the attacks and support Israel’s right to self defense. Israeli Air Force jets have stepped up bombing of terrorist strongholds in Gaza. But more may be coming. Two years after the IDF’s “Operation Cast Lead” incursion into Gaza to punish Hamas for thousands of rocket attacks, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister is now hinting at the possibility of another Israeli military action into Gaza, an “Operation Cast Lead 2.” Palestinian leaders are worried about the possibility of another war, but can’t or won’t keep Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza under control. Please pray for the 14 year old girl and her family, and for others wounded on both sides of the border. Please pray for security on that border. Please also pray for the Lord comfort people on both sides and draw them close to His heart this Christmas season.
AMERICAN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN MURDERED BY ARAB TERRORISTS IN ISRAEL — An Israeli believer in Jesus was badly wounded in an attack by Arab terrorists over the weekend, while her friend, an American evangelical Christian tourist, was murdered. “Slain U.S. tourist was a spiritual Christian with deep ties to Israel, say friends,” reads one Israeli headline. “Kristine Luken was stabbed to death while hiking with a friend in the hills near Jerusalem on Saturday night.” The story has made international headlines. “She has always from the first day I met her had a love for the Jewish people. She felt nowhere more at home than in Israel,’ Naomi Harralson, a friend and former colleague of Luken, told ABCNews.com. ‘Her relationship with God was everything to her.’ It was a relationship so meaningful to Luken that she left her job at Patrick Henry College [in northern Virginia] in 2009 to move to the United Kingdom to work with an evangelical Christian ministry,” and then visited Israel.
“The victim’s friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, reported Luken missing on Saturday after the two were attacked by two Arab men with what appeared to be a bread knife in a forest near the Jewish farming community of Mata, approximately 12 miles southwest of Jerusalem,” reported CBS and AP. “Wilson, a naturalized Israeli citizen from Britain, told Israeli reporters from her hospital bed Sunday that she and Luken were resting in the woods when the two alleged attackers approached them asking for water.”
The Joshua Fund stands with our brothers and sisters in the epicenter. We are calling on followers of Jesus all over the world to pray for Kristine Luken’s family and friends, for the Lord to hold and comfort them, and to pray for a speedy recovery for Kaye Wilson, and for the Lord to bless her and her family and friends, as well. Please pray for all followers of our Lord Jesus in the land of Israel to be strong and courageous despite such violence, especially as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Messiah in Bethlehem Ephratah. Please also pray that the Israeli authorities will aggressively and professionally investigate these terrorist attacks, and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice swiftly.
DECEMBER UPDATE FOR DONORS TO THE JOSHUA FUND — Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support. Here are some of the projects The Joshua Fund has been working on in recent weeks:
Helping 100 Jews in Europe immigrate to Israel — One of the most important opportunities in the life of a Jewish person who lives outside of Israel is the chance to “make Aliyah,” or immigrate to the land of Israel. The Joshua Fund has partnered with a ministry to assist 100 Jewish people in making Aliyah. Those we are helping are from the former Soviet Union and Europe. We consider each person’s need when funding their request for assistance to make Aliyah. For some, money is used to assemble all of the information needed to prove that a person is Jewish and has the “right of return” to Israel. This may involve tracing a family history, doing research, and having all of the paperwork filled out correctly. For others, money is used to transport people to the Israeli Consulate to secure permission to make Aliyah, or to help families get to an airport (to get them on a plane to Israel). It also can cover temporary accommodations immediately prior to their flight; can help with support visits or calls to families who are in the process; procure suitcases and other basic items needed to travel; and to help them transition to a new culture once they’ve arrived in Israel. The Lord said through the Hebrew prophets that He would call His people back to the Land from where they had been dispersed throughout the earth. The Joshua Fund is blessing the people of Israel and helping fulfill that promise by providing funds to those who cannot afford to return to Israel on their own.
Building a bomb shelter in Galilee — The Joshua Fund recently approved the funding of a large bomb shelter in the Galilee Region (northern Israel). The shelter, when constructed, will serve the village as a command center for local officials, and will be able to accommodate 100 people (families and children) from the next round of missile attacks.
Providing food for the needy — The Joshua Fund’s warehouse in Israel continued to supply seven distribution centers throughout the land of Israel. In 2011, we hope to double the number of “storefronts” that we support. Last month, TJF purchased about 20 tons of food for distribution through these centers. We also provided funds to one of our partners to about 10 tons of food for distribution to the poor and needy.
Chanukah Gifts for pregnant women and new mothers — The Joshua Fund was able to supply 99 Israeli women with supermarket vouchers (gift cards), through one of our wonderful allies in the Land. Many women were grateful that they were able to buy something extra for their family for Chanukah. The vouchers were a tangible expression of how much these women are cared for.
>> To support the work of The Joshua Fund with a generous, tax deductible, year end donation, please visit our new website, www.joshuafund.net.
I’m excited to announce that The Joshua Fund has just launched a brand-new website at www.joshuafund.net. Special features include:
A new video blog — the first video is my “Year End Assessment of the Iranian Threat”
A new video archive — includes the 5 recent sermons I gave on “Why Israel Matters” and dealing with the threats of Replacement Theology and Radical Islam (message topics include: “Are The Jews The Chosen People?”; “Were The Jews Given The Promised Land?”; “Why Does The World Hate The Jewish People?”; “Does God Love Israel’s Neighbors?”; and “How Can The Church Bless Israel and her Neighbors?”)
A new audio podcast archive — includes Janet Parshall’s recent radio interviews with me (originally heard on over 500 stations in the U.S., but now available for you to listen to anytime day or night)
Details on TJF’s “Prayer & Vision Tour to Israel” and 2011 Epicenter Conference — register today and give the gift of Israel to someone you love
The Joshua Fund’s quarterly newsletter — with details on the latest educational and humanitarian relief projects TJF is funding
Secure, on-line giving section — Please make a generous, tax-deductible year-end donation to The Joshua Fund today!
It’s 1:12am in Denver, and I’m awake with my wife, Lynn, our oldest son, Caleb, and my nephew, Luke. We’re watching the first total lunar eclipse — a startling blood red moon — during the Winter solstice since 1638. The next one like this doesn’t occur until December 21, 2094.
It’s particularly interesting in light of two Bible prophecies:
“This was the year the Earth struck back,” reported the AP. “Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 — the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined. ‘It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves,’ said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010.”
Are we seeing End Times Bible prophecies come to pass? It’s an interesting question. When the disciples asked Jesus of Nazareth what signs they should expect in the “last days” before His return, the Lord described wars and rumors of wars, persecution of the believers, the rise of lawlessness, apostasy and other severe troubles. He also warned them that, “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven….There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:11,25-26)
That said, consider how serious and bizarre this year’s natural disasters were, according to the AP story:
“Through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared to 15,000 in 2009, according to Swiss Re [a global reinsurance company]….By comparison, deaths from terrorism from 1968 to 2009 were less than 115,000, according to reports by the U.S. State Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”
Some 220,000 people died in the earthquake in Haiti alone.
“Disasters caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 — more than Hong Kong’s economy — according to Swiss Re.”
“While the Haitian earthquake, Russian heat wave, and Pakistani flooding were the biggest killers, deadly quakes also struck Chile, Turkey, China and Indonesia in one of the most active seismic years in decades. Through mid-December there have been 20 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher, compared to the normal 16.”
“This year is tied for the most big quakes since 1970“
“In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, about the size of Wisconsin. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more people than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined.”
“A volcano in Iceland paralyzed air traffic for days in Europe, disrupting travel for more than 7 million people. Other volcanoes in the Congo, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines and Indonesia sent people scurrying for safety. New York City had a rare tornado.”
To His faithful disciples, Jesus said in Luke 21:28: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
In other words, the Lord wants true believers in Him to get ready and be prepared for His return. He doesn’t want us to be surprised or caught off guard. He doesn’t want us to be doing things for which we would be ashamed when He comes back for us. This Christmas season, therefore, let us rededicate ourselves to living lives worthy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — lives of holiness, prayer, worship, sharing the gospel message, making disciples, caring for the poor and needy, and blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.
May the Lord bless you as you draw near to Him and prepare your heart and your lifestyle for His return!
Will Israel launch a preemptive military strike against Iran to stop the current regime from building nuclear weapons, and if so, how soon? That’s a question I have been asked throughout this fall’s book tour for The Twelfth Imam.
As we end 2010, my sense is that the Stuxnet computer virus which has infected more than 30,000 Iranian computers and brought Iranian enrichment of uranium almost to a standstill for the time being, the recent assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, the near assassination of another top Iranian nuclear scientist, and the effect of new economic sanctions are all having a significant impact. Anything is possible, of course, but some experts I’m talking to believe that there is a little more breathing room, and an Israeli strike would be generally unlikely before the fall of 2011, at the earliest. That is speculation, to be sure. The threat is very real. But some progress has been made against Iran this fall, and for this we should thank the Lord and the hard work of U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies.
Last Thursday and Friday, I attended a conference on “Confronting The Iran Threat,” organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Below I report on their on-the-record assessments of the current Iranian regime, the Twelfth Imam, the Green Movement, and the prospects for war.
Most interesting for me was the opportunity to have a private lunch with one of the more interesting speakers at the event, a gentleman named Uri Lubrani, who at the age of 82 serves an Iran advisor to Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon. Lubrani previously served as an Iran advisor to the Israeli Ministry of Defense and was Israel’s Ambassador to Iran before the revolution in 1979. He knew the Shah personally. He warned Israeli officials in Jerusalem that a revolution was coming. And he actually flew out of Tehran international airport on February 1, 1979, just hours before the Ayatollah Khomeini arrived back in Iran to crowds of millions shouting, “The Holy One has come! The Holy One has come!”
My personal conversation with Lubrani was off-the-record. But here are several of the comments he made to the conference attendees:
Assessing the Iranian President’s character: “Ahmadinejad is not…a clown. He is a clever, sophisticated, son-of-a-b—-.”
Assessing Ahmadinejad’s statements that he is in contact with the Twelfth Imam: “I believe Ahmadinejad really believes what he says. As mayor, he paved a road from the [Jamkaran] mosque to the capital so the Twelfth Imam could travel straight to Tehran.”
Assessing the Twelver End Times theology held by the Ayatollah Khamenei: “You have a totally irrational [religious] philosophy that is driving the Ayatollah’s regime in Tehran.”
Assessing Russia’s growing ambitions in the Middle East and growing alliance with Iran: “Russia is aspiring to be important in the world again.”
Assessing Turkey’s swing away from the West and towards Russia and Iran: “I detect in their rhetoric that they want to be a Middle East power….They believe the Ottoman Empire should be resurrected.”
Assessing the Iranian threat: “Iran is on the warpath, and has been for some time.”
Assessing the need for the West to launch preemptive military strikes against Iran in the near term: “I’m against military action [at the moment]. I think it would be counterproductive….The Iranian people are the West’s greatest ally.” Lubrani urged U.S. and Western leaders to do more to support the “Green Movement,” the pro-democracy movement in Iran. He is hopeful that there can be an overthrow of the Iranian regime by these pro-democracy forces before the need for military force arises.
One of the panels at the conference was entitled, “Increasing Threats, Diminishing Options: Should The Military Option Be Employed Against Iran.” The speakers were Israeli Major General (reserve) Yaakov Amidror, former head of the IDF’s Research & Assessment Division; Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic who published the first interview with Netanyahu upon becoming Prime Minister in March 2009 (“Netanyahu To Obama — Stop Iran, Or I Will”), and wrote an influential cover story in September 2010 entitled “Point of No Return” on whether Israel will hit Iran soon; Reuel Marc Gerecht, former CIA operative; Ken Pollack, former Director for Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, now with the Brookings Institution; and moderator Cliff May, former NYT reporter and now President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Key points made during the panel:
General Amidror: “Technically, Israel will be ready [to strike Iran] if and when the decision will be taken….[but] no one is eager for war with Iran….If war with Iran comes, American planes will be used — the question is will it be American pilots or Israeli pilots flying those planes?….It would be a dirty one, a long one, one no one wants to be in….We want to postpone as long as possible….If you ask me for my assessment — and that’s what I have done for 25 years, doing assessments — I believe it is almost impossible to stop Iran without military force.”
Jeffrey Goldberg: Noted that he had written in his last article that there was a better than 50 percent chance of Israeli hitting Iran by summer 2011. Now he believes the initial apparent success of the Stuxnet computer virus in slowing down Iran’s nuclear program, and “active programs to deny Iran of its nuclear scientists” (ie, assassinations), has worked to “elongate the timeline.” He believes Israeli officials now believe they have a little breathing room and that all things being equal, the “timeline” for an Israeli strike against Iran would now be “the end of 2011.”
Reuel Gerecht: “I’m skeptical that many of the worst case scenarios [about a U.S. or Israeli-led war against Iran] are likely….Hezbollah would respond with everything they have [ie, missile attacks against Israel]….I’m seriously doubtful that you’d see much of a [negative] reaction throughout the Middle East….Main Iranian reaction would be terrorism [against Israeli and Western interests]….The repercussions are quite sustainable, especially compared to the Iranians having the Bomb.”
Ken Pollack: “I’m a skeptic on the use of force against Iran….because I don’t think the math works out…..Will a strike work? I remain very skeptical…..I would give more credit to the [Obama] administration for sanctions that I would have expected.” He said evidence suggests the economic sanctions against Iran are having more impact on Iran’s economy — and creating more division within Iran’s government — than he’d expected. Worried that an Israeli strike against Iran would unify the Iranian government at a time when currently it is splintering.
During the Q&A session, I asked Jeffrey Goldberg to assess whether Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu would order a preemptive military strike against Iran if diplomacy, sanctions, covert actions and other measures weren’t enough and Israeli were endangered by another Holocaust. Goldberg replied, “Netanyahu doesn’t like to make decisions….but I think he would feel as if he failed Jewish history if he failed to stop Iran [from getting the Bomb] if nothing else works.”