IRAN THREAT AND MIDEAST TENSIONS DOMINATE HEADLINES: Ahmadinejad says Tehran “deepening our ties” with Iraq as U.S. prepares to pull out; Libya to introduce radical Islamic law.

The Iran threat and tensions in the Middle East and North Africa are dominating international headlines — and the situation seems to be worsening by the day.

  • First came the Iran terror plot to kill Americans in our nation’s capital.
  • Then came new information about how aggressively Iran is moving to build nuclear weapons.
  • Then came the capture and death of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
  • Then came the Obama administration’s announcement that the U.S. is pulling all our military forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011, thus creating a vacuum Iran will be eager to exploit.

I’ve been discussing these issues in dozens of radio, TV and print interviews this past week as part of The Tehran Initiative book tour. My main concern is that the mullahs in Tehran smell blood in the water. They see the Obama administration and America more broadly as politically, diplomatically and economically weak. Iran feels increasingly emboldened. The ayatollahs believe the wind is at their back and that Allah is on their side. Their End Times theology tells them that the Twelfth Imam is coming and America will implode soon, just as they once believed it was predestined that the Soviet Union would implode. The less Tehran fears us, the more dangerous they become. That’s what my new political thriller is about at its core: What if an American administration miscalculates, and Iran gets the Bomb — then what?

The weekend brought more troubling developments:

Iran, Iraq and Libya were major topics of discussion on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Let’s start with Iran. Excerpts from the AP story:

  • “Iran should not misread the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as affecting the U.S. commitment to the fledgling democracy, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday. President Barack Obama’s announcement Friday that all American troops would return from Iraq by the end of the year will close a chapter on U.S.-Iraq relations that began in 2003 with the U.S.-led invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Washington has long worried that meddling by Iran, a Shiite Muslim theocracy, could inflame tensions between Iraq’s Shiite-led government and its minority Sunnis, setting off a chain reaction of violence and disputes across the Mideast.”
  • Secretary Clinton on CNN’s State of the Union: “Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries in the region, both in bases, in training, with NATO allies, like Turkey.”
  • Sec. Clinton on NBC’s Meet the Press: “No one should miscalculate America’s resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy. We have paid too high a price to give the Iraqis this chance. And I hope that Iran and no one else miscalculates that.”
  • Sen. John McCain on ABC’s This Week: “There was never really serious negotiations between the [Obama] administration and the Iraqis. I believe we could have negotiated an agreement. And I’m very, very concerned about increased Iranian influence in Iraq.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox News Sunday: “The Iranians don’t fear us at all….At a time when we need troops in Iraq to secure the place against intervention by Iran and the bad actors in the region, we are going into 2012 with none. It was his job, the Obama administration’s job, to end this well. They failed.”

Other Middle East headlines in recent days:

As I wrote on Friday, the Obama administration is determined to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan as fast as possible. I believe this is a dangerous mistake. The White House is leaving the playing field to an increasingly emboldened and dangerous Islamic Republic of Iran. U.S. generals recommended keeping 10,000 to 15,000 American troops stationed on the ground in Iraq past the end of 2011 to continue helping the Iraqi strengthen their fragile young democracy and prevent Iran meddling. However, the President’s unwillingness or inability to successfully negotiate with the Iraqi government to keep any U.S. military forces in Iraq is already sending a signal to Tehran that Washington is even weaker than they thought.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s self-proclaimed “victory” in Libya already seems to be unraveling. The Telegraph is reporting that “Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de fact president, had already declared that Libyan laws in future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its ‘basic source.'” Already, the new government has legalized polygamy, which was banned under Gaddafi.

It is high time the serious Republican presidential candidates deliver major addresses regarding Iran, Israel and the future of U.S. policy in the epicenter. It is also vital for the Church to be doing everything possible to preach the Gospel to every person in the Middle East and North Africa, to train new pastors, to plant new churches, and to encourage and strengthen our persecuted brothers and sisters in the region. Only Jesus Christ holds true and lasting hope and peace for the people of that troubled region, and only the Lord Jesus can forgive sins and provide eternal security in heaven for those who receive Him by faith.

Note: Thanks so much to all of you who participated in “The Gathering Storm” conference by simulcast on Saturday. More than 150 church congregations were involved, and I was really encouraged by the level of interest, the great questions, and the initial feedback we’ve received. Soon I’ll post my notes from the message I gave for those who missed it. God bless you.